Wednesday 22 May 2024


Babatunde Folorunsho (Baba Oni Lace): The first Yoruba man to be publicly executed for armed robbery in Nigeria

Mr. Babatunde Folorunsho, along with Joseph Ilobo and Williams Alders Oyazimo, was publicly executed at Bar Beach, Lagos.

Babatunde Folorunsho was a notorious armed robber and a hardened criminal who terrorized Nigerians in the 1970s with his gang. His reign of crime coincided with that of Ishola Oyenusi, known as "Doctor Rob and Kill," another infamous Nigerian criminal.

Folorunsho earned the nickname "Baba oni lace" (Mr. Lace) due to his affinity for lace outfits, which he even wore during his robberies. He was one of the most wanted criminals in Nigeria at the time. Despite being relentlessly pursued by the Nigerian police and local guards, he managed to evade capture for a long period, during which crime rates soared, exacerbated by the aftermath of the civil war.

However, Folorunsho's luck ran out in 1971 when he was apprehended by the police during a robbery operation. He was charged with robbing Mr. Alfred Marshall of a car. His capture was met with national jubilation.

On April 8th and 13th, 1971, Babatunde Folorunsho was tried and found guilty of highway robbery by Judge James Agboola Ojomo, who sentenced him to death by firing squad.

On July 24th, 1971, thousands of Nigerians gathered at Bar Beach, Lagos, to witness the execution of Babatunde Folorunsho, Joseph Ilobo, and Williams Alders Oyazimo. This public execution was unprecedented in the country.

As the robbers arrived at the execution ground in a lorry, the crowd was filled with anxiety and excitement. In chains, the robbers walked to the stakes. Babatunde Folorunsho, known as "Baba oni lace," wore his characteristic lace outfit. Unlike Folorunsho, Joseph Ilobo resisted his fate until the end, protesting vocally.

At the point of execution, Ilobo addressed the crowd, exclaiming, "Are all these people here to see me die? Ah! This is a wicked world. I have not committed any crime." Williams Alders Oyazimo, a sub-lieutenant in the Nigerian Navy, also proclaimed his innocence tearfully. He stated, "If you search your conscience, you will know that a naval officer of my status will never go in the dead of the night to steal. I’ll die today, innocent of the crime for which I am condemned."

Military chaplain Col. Pedro Martins asked the condemned men to pray for forgiveness, but Oyazimo maintained his innocence, saying, "Father, I am innocent. My blood will cleanse my family and my children will prosper." His final words moved many Nigerians, making the moment particularly poignant.

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