In muffled tones infrequently betraying days of repressed emotion and panic, Sylvester Oromoni, the father of 10, mourned the death of his 12-year-old son who was the middle-class family’s lastborn. The late boy, named after his father and fondly called Junior, passed away while nursing multiple internal injuries alleged to have been sustained after he was bullied by his fellow students.
In hospital footage that his family shared with TheCable Lifestyle, an unclad Sylvester Oromoni Junior was seen writhing in pain. His teeth were stained dark red with blood. His legs were swollen and his belly was bloated. At the boy’s side was his mother cursing under her breath and decrying the handiwork of those who “hit my boy like this”. After days of struggling to save Junior’s life, the pupil of Dowen College Lagos would later lie stone dead before his father.
The details surrounding the case would remain shrouded in uncertainty for 24 hours. Perry Oromoni, his nephew, took to Twitter to share his account of what transpired, alluding to how the deceased was attacked for vehemently declining to join what he termed the secondary school’s “cult group” dominated by older boys at the institution located in Lekki.
In a follow-up statement, Dowen College had debunked the claims and gave its own account of the events that claimed Junior’s life. It said one of the school’s hostel officials had informed the management on November 21 that Junior was injured while playing football with his colleagues. The school also disclosed that he was given first aid by a resident nurse and returned to his hostel after he expressed relief. It said Junior started complaining of pain in his hip the next day.
Dowen College said the student was attended to, a second time, by a doctor at the school’s sickbay. It added that the doctor later called Junior’s mother to inform her of the situation and thereafter recommended that he be picked up. It claimed that, after an initial delay, the student’s mother sent a guardian who took him for an x-ray. It denied that the boy was beaten and debunked the allegation that there existed a clandestine group priding themselves as a cult.
“Preliminary investigation showed that there was no fighting, bullying, or any form of attack on the boy. He made no such reports, neither to his sister who is also a student, nor any other students, prefects, house parents, medical staff, or any of the management staff. The school has 2 regular nurses and a qualified medical doctor that promptly attends to students. [We] will not tolerate any acts of cultism which is why there is nothing like that,” the school had said.
Parents, officials in panic amid conflicting reports
TheCable Lifestyle visited Dowen College at midday, seeking an audience with Adebisi Layiwola, the elite school’s principal, who was said to be in an emergency board meeting over the issue. At the reception/lounge, parents could be seen pacing in and out to check their wards. An official engaged this reporter in a heated verbal exchange on suspicion of making secret footage as a staff member of the school chided one of the students said to have bullied his colleagues.
Officials of the education quality assurance office in Lagos emerged from the premises but declined an interview.
Five boys were alleged to have been involved in the bullying, three of whose names were mentioned online.
In an outpour, Junior’s father said: “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.”
Oromoni’s family said Dowen had temporarily suspended the boys involved after the family’s eldest son took it up. He said Junior was also switched to a new hostel but the bullying and intimidation persisted 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 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,” he said.
“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.”
Junior’s final ‘confession’
Oromoni said 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 bereaved said the deceased only managed to sleep one hour when sedated and would wake up screaming in pain. The father added it was on November 29, when he was away for a government function, that Junior “opened up”.
Oromoni said Junior, before his death, revealed he neither played ball nor tripped as claimed. 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.
It was also claimed that Junior was fed a liquid substance described as “a chemical” for refusing to join the group.
Autopsy next as accused students ‘withdraw’ from school
Oromoni alleged that the principal frowned at him for releasing the deceased boy’s picture to the press. He said she had premised her argument on the deceased being 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.
The boy’s father said: “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?”
TheCable Lifestyle understands that the family petitioned Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos commissioner of police, on December 2.
Another petition addressed to the inspector-general of police (IGP) will follow on December 6 for a full-scale probe.
“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.
Investigation still ongoing, says Dowen principal’s aide
In-between the multiple storey buildings that represented different sections of the school were students loitering around in their crisply ironed blue coats, white shirts, and neckties. They stood in groups and spoke in a carefree manner along beautiful stretches of hedgerows.
Jerry Adeyemi, Dowen’s director of admissions, spoke to TheCable Lifestyle on behalf of the principal in the presence of two alumni members who took to the school just after the news broke.
“As you read in the press statement, everything is explained,” Adeyemi said. “We’re in contact with the family. The notice of the police has been called. The ministry of education is here. We’ve had an interaction. An investigation was done. We spoke to his mates, seniors, and juniors. They said there was no bullying in this particular incident. I’ve been here for more than 23 years. There is no cultism in Dowen College. Students will laugh if you mention it.
“The school is not located in a bush where a cult would typically meet in secrete. We’re in an estate where there’s no room for secrecy. Parents will naturally come and go. Everyone is concerned. It’s expected. We are all worried.”
He said the withdrawal of the accused boys was “for their safety” since their names were “mentioned” online. He said they only had to go home temporarily, not withdrawing from the school as claimed by the bereaved parents.
According to the director, who is the student affairs head, some staff of the school reported to the police station.
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