The Police Report released on the cause of Sylvester Oromoni’s death is a sad reminder of a nation in dire need of integrity and official honesty. It revealed that the 12 years old died of natural cause. “Death was caused by septicemia, following infections of the lungs and kidneys arising from the ankle wound.” The police said the first autopsy result carried out in Warri attributed cause of death to acute bacteria, pneumonia due to severe sepsis. While the second done in Lagos hinged the cause of death to septicemia, lobar pneumonia with acute pyelonephritis and phyomyositis of the right angle.
Down College, five suspected students and its detained three house masters were exonerated too. “At the end of diligent investigation carried out so far, there is no evidence to establish a case of torture, bullying and forceful application of poisonous substance against the suspects. Allegation that the deceased was being forced to join a cult group was also not established.”
Relying on the document sent by the police to the Director of Public Prosecution, Lagos state for legal advice; the DPP concluded that there is no prima facie case of murder, involuntary manslaughter and/or malicious administering of poison with intent of harm against he students and house masters. Hence they can not be prosecuted. They were all released on bail.” The police urged those who disagree with the report to seek redress in court. But the damage has been done already.
The law confers on only the Lagos State Coroner the power to determine the cause of Sylvester’s death and others in like manner not the police. Therefore, what interest does the police have and seek to protect in the matter? Are we a nation with officials bereft of integrity and good conscience? It would be recalled that the death of Sylvester Oromoni sparked public outrage after a video on his hospital bed revealed those behind his ordeal. He passed on days after. Exonerating the school and those the deceased mentioned as bullies bent on initiating him into an occultic group and the school officials who from all intents and purposes abdicated their responsibilities as guardians is questionable and unconscionable.
Sylvester’s father has vowed to fight on even if it has to take him the next thirty years to get justice for his son. The entire family seem to be in sync with their head. The deceased mother had called on the wrath of God to “fall on those who killed her son. Arise and avenge the death of my son. Arise and fight this battle in Jesus mighty name I pray.”
It is common knowledge that all sorts of vices have found their ways into both private and public schools. Untimely deaths of innocent kids arising from the carelessness of school authorities are becoming one too many. But resolving the root cause(s) of these deaths and applying adequate sanctions where necessary has become knotty. A number of students have died in school related negligence since the last five years in Nigeria. And what we witness has been successful attempts to cover up the truth.
Barely one month after the death of Sylvester, one Bright Chidalu Onyekuluje died at St. Michael’s Boys College, Ozubulu Anambra State. The 11 year old lost his life when he took ill but the school authorities insisted that he has to finish exams first. They failed to inform his parents of his health condition. And he died as a result. Chidalu’s parents wants justice to prevail.
Also in June last year Keren Happuch Akpegher a boarding student of Premiere Academy Lugbe, Abuja was murdered. After failed attempt to cover up the truth by the school; extricate and exonerate self from the death of their student; it was confirmed and established that the 14 year old girl was raped and a condom left inside her private part right inside the school. Under the nose of an academy where parents pay through their noses to get the best of education for their kids. The wheel of justice is grinding slowly for the deceased students while the schools involved play Ostrich and have quickly moved on with academic activities as if nothing happened.
Private schools are more concerned about their reputation than the truth and justice when any avoidable scandal breaks out. So they do everything humanly and inhumanly possible to sway cases in their favour. They pull their strings with a simple phone call to those that matter and the fire is extinguished. But it is always hard to buy public opinion with money and influence on clear issues of negligence and carelessness. They have the money and the connect but the truth is far valuable than ruby. Truth can be hidden but only for the time being.
Nigeria is nation where truth can be bought by the highest bidder and purposely turned on its head. An animal farm where some are more equal than others. The sad end of the 12 years old Sylvester should serve more than nine lessons.
There are good schools in our states of residence. Therefore our children and wards should be enrolled in those schools very close to us. It is easy to reach out to kids any time especially in emergency situations. Parents should be very close confidants and best friends of their children. It easily opens the door for children to freely share concerns agitating their minds with parents.
How can parents be filling guarantors form on childrens’ behaviour and yet to be damaged school chairs while nothing is said about children’s safety and obligations of schools. Parents should also extract written agreement from schools on the safety of their kids. It has to be a two way responsibility. All schools should be protective of students under their care. Therefore laws governing establishment of public and private schools should expressly hold schools responsible in the event of any form of negligence bothering on lives of students under their care. Call your kids in boarding regularly and never miss visiting days.
Frankly speaking it has become glaring that lives no longer matter anymore in Nigeria. Citizens are hacked to death by individuals, terrorist bandits/kidnappers or even by security agents on a daily basis without any serious consequences awaiting these perpetrators of evil. A country where over 200 innocent citizens were murdered in cold blood within a space of two days by known marauding terrorists cannot be said to be sane.
If no drastic measure can be taken against mass murder of many people since 2015, one can see through the veil what becomes of dead Sylvester Omoroni. It is very unfortunate that the dead who saw it all cannot stand in the witness box to testisfy against his bullies. Did Sylvester actually die of natural cause? Who killed Sylvester Oromoni jnr.?
After the United States awarded the family of George Floyd the sum of $27 million over his untimely death caused by a police officer, President Joe Biden had to kneel down in front of Floyd’s teenage son to apologise on behalf of the American people. An act of uncommon humility from the most powerful president in the world. Can this ever happen in Nigeria?
Surprisingly most of these million naira paying schools never produced the best in WASC, NECO or JAMB. Societal status and high-powered relationship networks are important but lives matter most. May the souls of Sylvester, Keren, Chidalu and other students who died but were never heard of rest in the bosom of the Lord. Amen.
***Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a media and communication specialist, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org