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Coroner shielding Dowen College from indictment, Oromoni family alleges


The family of Sylvester Oromoni has accused Mikhail Kadiri, the coroner, of shielding Dowen College from indictment by overlooking evidence indicating complicity in the death of their son.

Oromoni died in controversial circumstances at 12 in 2021 while schooling at Dowen College in Lekki, Lagos. The coroner commenced the hearing in January 2022 and concluded in October 2023 after calling 32 witnesses.

His parents alleged that he was bullied, beaten up, and fed a chemical substance by five of his male colleagues. Dowen College dismissed the claim, insisting that the late student sustained injuries while playing football with friends.

“He had to rise twice and retired into his chambers to cry more than the bereaved. The coroner claimed that my son died of natural causes. The coroner deliberately delayed the case to cover up the cause of the tragic death of my son as I will explain below,” the family said in a statement.

“As a father, my quest for justice is not to bring back my deceased son but, most sincerely, to ensure that all other students in Dowen College and other schools do not suffer the same fate. Having solemnly promised my son that justice would be done, the dubious verdict of the Coroner will not discourage me from pursuing the cause of justice.”

The Oromoni family had countered Dowen College’s claim, arguing that their son had no pre-existing health challenges before the incident.

In January 2022, an initial autopsy by Clement Vhriterhire, consultant pathologist at the Central Hospital Warri, Delta state, established that Sylvester Oromoni died of “acute lung injury due to chemical intoxication in a background of blunt force trauma”.

The Lagos Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) conducted a second autopsy which revealed that Oromoni died “naturally” of sepsis.

The case went to court for two years and Kadiri adjudged that Dowen College, its students, and officials were faultless in the death of Oromoni.

The coroner affirmed that Oromoni died of sepsis emanating from an infection of the lungs and kidney caused by an ankle injury.

Kadiri attributed Oromoni’s death to parental and medical negligence contrary to the claim of bullying or chemical poisoning.

Femi Falana, counsel to the Oromoni family, said the coroner overlooked some “uncontradicted evidence” while giving his verdict.

The family, in a reaction addressing the Lagos state government, accused Kadiri of suppressing evidence in what they termed a “cover-up”.

Evidence alleged suppressed

1. PW4 (my daughter) testified that her deceased brother (my son) was bullied in October 2021 by PW22 and two other students when they called him and ordered him to describe her private part to them.

When the deceased refused to oblige PW22 and his clique, they threatened to deal ruthlessly with him. Even though the incident was reported to the school management, no action was taken against PW22 and his colleagues.

2. Barely a month later i.e. in November 2021, my son was again bullied by 5 students. Before he passed away on 30th November 2021, my son had told his mother and one of my staff, Mr. Peter Odeworitse on the 29th day of November 2021 that he was bullied and given a poisonous substance to drink by PW22, PW23, and PW25 among the 5 assailants. The two other names – PW24 and PW26 were obtained from the School Record Book and social media according to the school and the police.

3. The bullying encompassed physical assault as rightly described by PW29. He said in his evidence that he saw PW23 flogged my son with a belt in the room on the 3rd floor while my son was crying and cuddled himself with his hands while others laughed at him.

PW29 further testified that he informed the Principal of Dowen College, Mrs. Adebisi Olayiwola and the Vice Principal about the torture of the deceased by some senior students and that he was asked to write a formal statement which he did and submitted to the Principal.

4. The statement of PW29 was admitted as an exhibit by the Coroner. The Principal never said anything about the disclosure in the statement of PW29 until she was confronted during her cross-examination when she was recalled as a witness. She admitted that the school did not investigate the incident.

5. PW21, a former student of Dowen College gave evidence at the inquest and said that my son had told him that he was bullied and given a substance to drink and that the substance was terrible. PW21 has since been withdrawn from Dowen College by his parents because of the bullying of students.

6. Another student of Dowen College (PW17) testified that PW22 threatened to beat up my son. Hence he and his set mates warned my son about the threat.

7. Evidence was led to establish that a senior student once smashed the head of a junior student against a zinc in the school. No action was taken against the student involved in the murderous attack on the junior student.

8. In October 2021, a JSS 1 student of Dowen College was beaten up by other senior students and the video was posted on social media and the school did nothing about it. The mother of the victim reported the bullying of her son to the Maroko Police Station on December 3, 2021. The police report was admitted in evidence by the coroner. The student was later withdrawn from the school by his mother.

9. PW23 was once suspended for 2 weeks for eating popcorn and spitting the same on the face of a teacher in class.

10. On another occasion, PW26 was suspended for assaulting another student.

11. DSP Bamidele Olusegun, a police officer who gave evidence on behalf of the police stated that one of the students informed the police that my son was tortured by senior students.

12. There was abundant evidence that junior students were usually taken to the 3rd floor by senior students for unmerited punishment and bullying. One such incident was when a student was asked to carry a suitcase on his head as a form of punishment and was dehumanized when the senior students made a video of it and posted it on social media. No action was taken against the senior students who bullied the junior student.

13. In her statement to the police dated 2/12/2021, the school principal stated that the 5 students who bullied another student had been expelled from Dowen College. Through the School Record Book tendered by Mr Valentine Igbokwueze and the testimony of PW20, it was revealed that the 5 students were not expelled from the school.

14. During the proceedings, the students and even the Principal of Dowen College admitted that bullying takes place in Dowen College and gave two instances.

15. During the proceedings, the Coroner questioned the principal and other management staff of Dowen College for not punishing the students who were indicted for bullying my son and other students. But in his lengthy verdict, the Coroner refused to recommend any measure to end bullying in Dowen College.