It is unfortunate that the cause of the death of Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, a 12-year-old Junior Secondary School student of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos State, is still mired in controversy despite some autopsy reports on the incident. While the authorities of the Dowen College have claimed that the lad died from injuries sustained while playing football, the family has insisted that his death was as a result of severe torture from some senior students in an attempt to initiate him into a cult group.
Initially, the Lagos State government shut the school until the investigation by the police is concluded. Five students and three workers in the school were apprehended. The five students, all minors, were charged with conspiracy and homicide at the Yaba Chief Magistrate’s Court and were later remanded in a juvenile home.
However, a few weeks ago, the Lagos State government acted on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ms. Adetutu Oshinusi, and surprisingly absolved all the accused of murder of the student, including the three officials of Dowen College held in custody over the death.
The DPP had reasoned that based on the autopsy reports from Lagos and Warri, she could not establish a prima facie case of murder and therefore they were released on bail after three weeks of being in the custody of the police at the State Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department, Yaba. In the course of investigating the case, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, Hakeem Odumosu, also revealed that the autopsy report released did not show that the late Sylvester Oromoni Jnr was murdered.
A toxicology test was also ordered on the matter. Some days later, another autopsy report from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital traced the cause of death of Oromoni to Septicaemia following infections of the lungs and kidneys, among other things. It ruled our blunt force trauma and said that the death was natural.
Consequently, the family of the deceased and their lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), rejected the autopsy report and the verdict of the Lagos DPP. According to Falana, “the report was loaded with medical jargons that failed to address the allegation that the deceased was forced to drink a concoction and tortured for refusing to join an unlawful society.”
Apart from alleging massive cover up in the case, Falana insisted that as at January 4, 2022, when the legal advice was issued, there was no DPP in Lagos State. Similarly, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NAN) has also faulted the autopsy report. The body observed that “the results contradicted allegations that he (the victim) took a harmful substance and was assaulted before his death.”
In the face of the raging controversy over the death of Oromoni Jnr, it is good that the Lagos State government has instituted a coroner’s inquest into his death. This is in line with the earlier request of Falana on the issue. While the matter is still ongoing, the reopening of Dowen College should be put on hold until the matter is resolved. There should be no attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet or shield those involved in the killing of the lad. Doing so will be inimical to our justice system as well as the memory of the victim.
Therefore, let the coroner inquest be transparent and without any interference by those in government. With rising cases of bullying in schools, government should put necessary measures in place to make schools safe in the country. At the same time, proprietors of private schools must at all times ensure the safety of their students by taking appropriate measures to curb bullying and cultism in schools. Perhaps, this is the right time to revisit the safe school initiative and make it work. There is need for new stringent laws against bullying in schools.