Mr. Sylvester Oromoni, the father of the 12-year-old student of Dowen College, Lagos, who died after allegedly being tortured by fellow students for refusing to join their cult group in school, has broken his silence.
In an interview with The Cable, the distraught father who was said to have betrayed his emotions while he spoke, said his family watched their last child die in their presence. He said the students whose names his son mentioned before he died were reported to the school authorities for bullying the last term but that the alleged bullying continued afterwards.
“My son suffered. His birthday is next tomorrow (Dec 4). I’ll celebrate it. I’ll have a cake baked. I’ll cut it on his behalf. The boys they mentioned were also reported to the school last term when they bullied Junior and collected all his foodstuffs; clothes. I have two daughters, one of whom earlier graduated. I had to remove the second after this incident. They asked this boy to describe the sister’s privates and this got to us.”
Mr Oromoni said when the alleged bullying started the last term, the school authorities temporarily suspended the boys involved after his eldest son took it up and reported the matter. He said his deceased son was also switched to a new hostel but the bullying and intimidation continued into the new term.
“They put fear in him so much so that, when you ask him, he might keep to himself and say, ‘they will kill me’. This way, we didn’t know what to do. I considered removing him but reconsidered since his sisters were still in the school. The new incident came to my knowledge on November 21st after the school called my wife to notify us that our son was in the school clinic, injured. My senior son, who was to make a London trip, came to see us in Warri.
The next day, we sent a family friend to help pick up our son since he was the only person in Lagos and take him to the hospital. When he got there, he panicked, pointing out that he doubts it’s a football injury as the school claimed. He said the boy couldn’t stand because his waist was bent and swollen along with one side of his belly. His mouth was black. I asked, ‘is this really a football injury?’ He was taken to my house in Lagos but couldn’t sleep at night.
I asked my eldest to fly to Lagos on November 24 while I took a trip to Asaba, from where I’d also make for Lagos. On getting there, he screamed. This is beyond football injury. Come to Lagos now,’ he told me over the phone.”he said
Mr Oromoni mentioned that the family flew the deceased to Warri where blood tests and an x-ray were conducted. He said Junior also underwent typhoid/malaria treatments but his mouth started peeling in excess of malaria drug side effects. The father said his son only managed to sleep one hour when sedated and would wake up screaming in pain. He added it was on November 29, when he was away for a government function, that his son was able to disclose what happened to him.
Mr Oromoni said Junior, before his death, revealed he neither played ball nor tripped as claimed by the school authorities in a statement released. He also alleged that the deceased stated that five boys had barged into his room, put off the lights, and beat him up in the presence of other students.
”Junior said, ‘mummy, I didn’t play ball; I didn’t fall.’ He jumped off his hostel bed. They kicked him, matched his waist. Other students ran off. They threatened to kill them all if they spoke a word to the school staff. They warned Junior to say he sustained injuries while playing ball. They threatened him. If you ask the roommate, they’d all lie. They matched his ribs and waist. All that pain for a 12-year-old,” he said, trailing off into a soft sob over the phone.
The father said Junior suffered liver enlargement due to congealed blood. He said, before he could make a return trip to Warri towards facilitating Junior’s transfer to the teaching hospital, the boy drew what became his last breath.
Oromoni alleged that the principal frowned at him for releasing the deceased boy’s picture to the press. He said she argued that the deceased was a minor. He also said he looks forward to an autopsy, arguing that Dowen should be more concerned about going after the boys Junior had named as his assailants before death.
“They even released a press statement. Was the principal there when the boy played the said football game? Can they identify who he played with? Where was the housemaster when he was playing it? The woman too is confused. Clearly, she’s trying to protect the school’s image. But a mother of children wants to hide the truth?”the father said
It was also claimed that the deceased was fed a liquid substance described as “a chemical” for refusing to join their group.
He mentioned that the police have been petitioned and an investigation into the unfortunate incident is going. He added that some of the parents of the accused students are making plans to fly abroad.
“I won’t reveal the steps we’ve taken to seek justice. The parents of the boys are wealthy. They withdrew them. The school called the parents to pick their wards; interviewed them. Some of the parents are planning to fly the children out of the country. How can Dowen allow those boys to leave the school without informing the police? The boys are five in number: four are in SS2 while one is in SS1. When the result comes, Nigerians will know the truth” the father said
The state police command is yet to comment on this development. Meanwhile academic activities in the school have been suspended for two days.