•Dowen College Expresses Regret Over Student’s Death
Mr. Peter Odeworitse, the Operations Manager of KenBen Nig Ltd owned by father of the late Sylvester Oromoni, has told Coroner, Magistrate Mikhail Kadiri, sitting in Epe, Lagos State that the deceased (Oromoni junior) confessed to him that he was tortured by school seniors.
Odeworitse revealed this in his evidence in an ongoing coroner inquest to determine the cause of the death the 11- year old Sylvester, a student of Dowen College in Lagos State.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, counsel for the Oromoni family, Andrew Efole, led the witness, Odeworitse in his evidence. His statement on oath has already been documented before the court.
Odeworitse told the court that upon their arrival in Warri, Delta State on 26th of November 2021, Mr. Oromoni (deceased’s father) called the family’s doctor, Aghogho Owhojede, to come and attend to his son, and that the boy was treated for malaria for three days.
The witness added that a scan and an X-ray were conducted on the deceased based on the doctor’s instructions on 29th of November, which later revealed, amongst other things, that the boy had an enlarged liver.
While Odeworitse was being cross-examined by the Lagos State government counsel, Mr. Akin George and Mr. Seun Akinde, the witness said the parents initially arranged with Dr. Owhojede to take their son to the Delta State Teaching Hospital, Oghara for further treatment. But, he added that he was later taken to one Vicar Hospital on 30th of November, where he was said to have died that day.
Odeworitse further revealed that the late Sylvester and his mother had gone to their church for prayers on the 29th of November before the medical tests were carried out.
“They go to church every Monday for prayers. I saw him in the car upon their return, still in pain, he wasn’t that fit to go to church. I was the only one that went to meet him inside the car.
“I walked up to him in the car and asked the driver to excuse us. Sylvester Junior said five senior students assaulted and tortured him but he only mentioned three names in full (names withheld). I went to tell his mother what her son told me and she was shocked.
“The mother was waiting for the doctor to take him for scan. When we returned, he was taken to his mother’s room to rest. Then his mother asked if I asked for the name of those that tortured him, in the presence of his mother, he mentioned three names,” Odeworitse explained.
The witness was asked if he videod or recorded where and when the deceased mentioned names to him and he said no. He was also asked whether he examined the boy’s body based on the information the deceased revealed to him, and he answered no.
The witness was also asked during further cross examination if he knew that the late pupil could have been showing signs of hallucination or disorientation, which are reportedly among the symptoms of severe sepsis (a serious medical condition caused by the body’s response to an infection) found to have been one of the causes of his death, as stated in the result of the autopsy conducted on him in Lagos. He said he didn’t know about that.
Another counsel, Anthony Kpokpo, representing Dowen College, cross- examined Odeworitse on the manner he extracted information from the deceased on the alleged torture by some senior students in his school.
The witness told the court that he didn’t tell the family doctor about the alleged torture. He also said he recorded a video of the young boy on his way to do the medical tests, as he had already confessed by then, and that it was the mother, Rosemary Oromoni, that instructed him to send the video to her son’s school to present the body pains he was feeling.
Odeworitse, who said he was at the Oromonis’ Warri home when the deceased was brought in from Lagos, was asked by another counsel, Izuchukwu Ohajinwa, about the boy’s condition when he saw him.
“He was screaming and shouting, he couldn’t walk and was complaining of pains in his waist, chest, shoulder and leg. There were blisters on his upper lip. His father told Tejire, the previous witness, to take him upstairs.”
A mild drama ensued when another counsel, Imah Ayi-Ekpenyong, representing one of the alleged senior students, asked the witness whether he was a civil servant as indicated in his police statement. Odeworitse replied that it was a police officer that wrote the statement for him.
“Because I was still in shock (after Sylvester’s death), I gave him all the information which he put down for me.”
Ayo Shabi from the chambers of Anthony George-Okoli (SAN) also appeared in the hearing on behalf of the Ijaw Youth Council, Lagos Chapter, seeking to join the inquest.
The court said it would hear their application at its next sitting. At the last proceedings, the first witness, Clifford Tejire said he went to the deceased’s school, Dowen College, on 23rd of November, 2021 to pick him up after he purportedly sustained injuries while playing football.
He added that though Sylvester was in great pains and his condition worsened while he was in his care in Lagos, he wasn’t instructed by the parents to take the JSS 2 student to hospital but to bring him over to Warri.
Meanwhile, the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Dowen College, Lagos, Dr. Olumide Phillips and other board members have stepped down.
The news of their retirement was contained in a statement signed by Tomi Borisade on behalf of the school. A new board described as comprising seasoned professionals is expected to take over from them. The new leaders are expected to run with the vision of the school and reposition it for greater heights.
The decision of the board members to step down, according Borisade, was informed by the need to inject new blood into the running of the school.
The statement announcing their exit reads in part: “More significantly, the founding members of the Board of Governors including the Founder and Chairman, Dr. Olumide Phillips, who have worked tirelessly over the years to develop outstanding children both in and out of the school, have chosen to retire and pass the baton of change to a new generation of seasoned professionals who will run with the vision, leadership passion, commitment and values they have worked rigorously to establish.
“This will also enhance communication and effectiveness with the Parents Teachers Forum. Their good works cannot be allowed to go in vain and they are keen to ensure that.”
The school also expressed regret over the unfortunate loss of Sylvester Oromoni, praying that his soul should rest in perfect peace.
“May God grant the Oromoni family the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. We pray that we will never experience such an unfortunate incident in our community again. Sylvester’s demise has left all of us at Dowen College deeply saddened.
“Our students, staff, and community have been affected by the news surrounding his passing and we find ourselves navigating unchartered waters.”
The school said, earlier in the statement, that “for over 24 years, Dowen College Lagos has been able to build a strong exemplary educational institution with high moral values and a culture of enviable track record.”
Going forward, the statement informed that the school had thought about how best to serve the interest of the public and continue a better oversight function within the school.
To this end, the school informed that it was reviewing its policies with parents, staff, and students to ensure strict compliance and adherence to best practices.
The college said it would not hesitate to relieve anyone responsible for administrative lapses in the discharge of the duties of their positions.
“We are keen on ensuring that this type of situation never arises again.” The school has also decided to bring in external consultants to work with its management over the next few months to ensure that high standards and best practices are upheld and implemented where they are needed.
According to the statement, the consultants will assess the policies, processes, and practices of the school and work to reassure stakeholders of the quality and standards of education it provides.
“We have been working with the Lagos State Ministry of Education and taken on board their guidance and suggestions with regard to various areas of improvement.
“We will implement infrastructural changes to the hostels and school facilities to enhance safety and oversight within the school premises.”