By Adetutu Audu
In November 2021, when the news of the death of Sylvester Oromoni of Dowen College, Lekki, first broke, and trended on the Social Media, many had thought it was one of those news that would soon fizzle away.
However, two months after, the story is still gathering storm.
Both the school and the government have made moves to get to the root of the matter.
The police did their investigation on allegations of cult activities around the boy’s death. Five student suspects from the school were arrested and interrogated. There was also a post-mortem on the corpse by pathologists.
Yet, nothing pointed to the claim that the young boy was murdered, at least from the report of the pathologists who handled the post-mortem.
As part of finding lasting solution, all the board members voluntarily threw in the towel.They retired from their assignments as overseers of the school to allow for some other professionals who could take the school to its next phase. That itself would not have been an easy decision to take.
It also took far-reaching decisions about restructuring its polity and warned that it would not hesitate to wield the big stick if any of its staff is found wanting in this new move.
But an intrigue is playing out from the end of Oromoni’s parents. When they alleged that their son was murdered by some cult boys in the school. In particular, public sympathy swayed in their favour especially seeing the video of the late Sylvester writhing in pain which brought a sense of revulsion.
Many are still holding to the narrative that the boy was murdered. They have refused to shift ground. They believe the authorities are covering up something, that there is foul play.
Few days ago at the coroner inquest going on in Epe, Lagos, a second prosecution witness, Peter Odewo-Oritse, an operations manager at KenBen Nig. Ltd., a company in Warri, Delta State, owned by Oromoni’s father confirmed some of past interventions on this matter.
While answering questions from the lawyer to the Lagos State Government, Seun Akande, he confirmed that the deceased had an enlarged liver but was not immediately taken to a hospital. This was reported by Channels Television.
The Oromoni family doctor, Aghoho Owhojede, according to the witness attended to the boy in Warri. Based on the doctor’s instructions, a scan and an x-ray were later conducted on him which revealed he had a liver enlargement.
The witness said Oromoni’s parents initially arranged with Dr. Owhojede to take their son to the Delta State Teaching Hospital, Oghara for treatment but added that he was eventually taken to one Vicar Hospital on Nov. 30th where he was said to have later died.
The witness also testified that the boy and his mother had first gone to church for prayers before the medical tests were carried out.
At the January 21st sitting, the first witness, Clifford Tejire had told the Coroner Magistrate how he went to Dowen College on November 23rd to pick the late Sylvester from school.
He confirmed that though the boy was in great pains, and his condition worsened, he was not instructed by the parents to take him to the hospital.
From all indications, there is a clear case of tardiness from the end of the parents which is what I have been harping on.
But then, how did the issue of liver enlargement come into place? Was it as a result of poisonous substances injected into the system or that the boy has had the issue long before now?
The conclusion of the post-mortem is that “there is no evidence to establish a case of torture, bullying and forceful application of poisonous substance against the suspects.
“Final result of the post-mortem and toxicology examination conducted both in Warri and Lagos agreed that the deceased died of natural death,” the then Lagos police boss, Hakeem Odumosu reportedly said
It is however worrisome that the counsel to the Oromoni family, Mr. Olawale Taiwo from the Messrs Femi Falana Chambers requested on Friday, January 28 for an indefinite adjournment on the matter according to reports.
Though the request was turned down by the Coroner Magistrate, the mere request for an indefinite adjournment bothers so much on the integrity of the claims of the Oromoni family.
Is it now that witnesses are making submissions on the sequence of the event that the matter should be adjourned indefinitely?
The first two witnesses have so far confirmed some of this writer’s past submissions. It is now left for the discerning public to take it from there.
The parents of Sylvester may not be telling the world the whole truth about their son. It will be glad to continue to dig deeper into this matter. What the world needs to know is if the boy had a medical history that led to liver enlargement.
The Oromoni’s family doctor, Doctor Aghogho Owhojedo, testified as a third prosecution witness, at the coroner’s inquest investigating the controversial death of the Dowen College Student.
The doctor treated the late Sylvester Oromoni Jnr from 26 November when he arrived in Warri till 30 November, 2021 when he finally died.
Owhojedo testified that he did not see any evidence of physical assault on the 12-year-old boy.
The doctor stated this while answering questions from counsel to one of the accused Dowen College Students, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Omoaka.
In the proceedings, which lasted over 7 hours at the Coroners Court sitting in Ikeja, Dr. Owhojedo said he treated the late Sylvester at the Oromoni’s home in Warri because his condition was not life-threatening when he first saw him on the 26th.
“Because you felt his condition was not critical, you disagreed with his father when he requested that you admit the young man to the hospital? the counsel asked
“No, that is not correct”, replied the doctor.
“So why did you not admit him? the counsel questioned.
“The deceased father called me and said his son sustained injuries while playing football. The child was given first aid in school at the sick bay and there was no evidence of fracture or dislocation, on his upper or lower limbs.
“His body was very hot as he had a high temperature of 38.7oc. The private ward was not available at that time and since there was no fracture or dislocation, I managed him at home on an ad-hoc basis, a nurse was with him,” the doctor explained.
The counsel asked again, “On the 26th when you examined the young man, did you see any evidence of physical assault on him?
“No, I did not” came the physician’s reply. He however admitted that the late Sylvester was in pain from the 26 to the 30th of Nov. 2021 when he died.
Speaking further about the care administered to Sylvester, the doctor explained that he “took blood samples and did a test for full blood count, random blood sugar, and typhoid fever.
“That result showed he had malaria fever and we treated him for malaria from the 26th to the 28th with a nurse in attendance. I equally noticed the redness of the upper lips which may not be a result of malaria, so I referred them to St. Louis Diagnostics for scan and x-ray on the 29th.
“The result got to me late on the 29th and revealed that the boy had enlarged liver.
“Enlarged liver can be caused by heart failure, trauma (beating), sickle cell disease, ingestion of a harmful or toxic substance, sepsis and sometimes severe malaria.
When asked if he took any sample from the boy’s body to determine if he ingested anything, Doctor Owhojedo said, he got the information on the 29th that the deceased was given harmful substance to ingest and he told the parents that the initial information given to him was wrong.
“I told the parent to take him to a toxicology screening and that was when we took the decision to take him to the Delta State Teaching Hospital, Oghara,” the medical practitioner stressed.
The counsel went on to ask Doctor Owhojedo if he accepts that between the 26th and 30th Nov, Sylvester’s condition gradually deteriorated, but the physician was of the opinion that the deceased got better a bit but not as good as was expected.
He added that “based on the history given to me, that he sustained an injury while playing football…If I had been told he took harmful substances initially or much earlier, I would have initiated a transfer much earlier and a toxicological screening much earlier”.
When asked if an injury while playing football can lead to the introduction of infection, in this case, sepsis into the body if not properly managed, the doctor replied: “Yes it can”.
“Would I be correct to say and would you accept that Sylvester Oromoni did not die as a result of blunt force trauma?” the defense counsel questioned,
“Yes”, the doctor replied.
Counsel to the Lagos State Government, Mr Akin George also cross-examined the family doctor who admitted that the late Sylvester Oromoni, was not taken to a hospital for treatment but was taken to church by his family for prayers.
Dr. Owhojedo also testified that he attended the same church, God’s Grace Ministry International Church, with the Oromonis.
“What was your response to the treatment at a church as opposed to a proper medical facility? the counsel asked.
“I am aware that the church is not a treatment centre. I am not against prayer, I will prefer a combination of both prayer and medical treatment,” the doctor replied.
He said that the late Oromoni could not be taken to the teaching hospital because his condition deteriorated and he passed away.
“Which hospital was he ever taken to before he died? George asked. “He was treated at home,” the doctor responded.
The Coroner, Magistrate Mikhail Kadiri, adjourned proceedings till February 7th when the father, Sylvester Oromoni senior and his daughter, are expected to testify.
It is important to commend the Lagos State Government for going the whole length to get to the root of the matter.
In all these, five teenagers have been wrongly accused and equally detained. This Dowen College five boys deserve an apology and also need to see a professional therapist because of the long term effect of this incident on them.
One of them has locked himself and refused to come out or speak with anyone since they were released by the police. The pain , stigma and mental instability he is struggling with for so long is pushing him over the edge.
The Dowen 5 need to come out of the pain and stigma to live a normal life again.