Following growing backlash that has greeted the exoneration of some staff and five students of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, who were arrested and questioned over the death of Sylvester Oromoni, a 12-year-old pupil of the school, on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Adetutu Oshinusi, the Lagos State Ministry of Justice has now moved the official to another department – Directorate of Citizens Rights.
Oshinusi had in her recommendation to the police on the matter on Tuesday called for the release of the Dowen staff and students suspected to have a hand in circumstances leading to the death of Oromoni, insisting that autopsy result showed that the victim died of infection and not as a result of being physically tortured as claimed by family members.
The legal advice addressed to the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of State Criminal Investigation Department and Chief Magistrate Olatunbosun Adeola, stated that the interim and final autopsy reports issued by the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and toxicology report of post-mortem samples established the cause of death as Septicaemia, Lobar Pneumonia with Acute Pyelonephritis, Pyomyositis of the right ankle and Acute Bacteria Pneumonia due to severe Sepsis.
Oshinusi stated further that based on the findings; there was no prima facie case of murder, involuntary manslaughter and or malicious administering of poison with intent to harm against the suspects including Favour Benjamin (16), Micheal Kashamu (15), Edward Begue (16), Ansel Temile (14) and Kenneth Inyang (15).
“To hold otherwise would amount to sniffing for an offence and a speculative act which is not permitted in law. It is trite law that suspicion no matter how grave cannot be a ground for conviction,” part of the advice read.
But after the victim’s family rejected the verdict of the DPP and insisted on a coroner inquest through their lawyer, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the Lagos State Government apart from acceding to that request also quickly replaced Oshinusi in a desperate attempt not to appear partisan.
A new Director of Public Prosecution, Dr Babajide Martins, who was Head, Office of the Public Defender, has since been named by the state government as confirmed by a memo signed by Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of the state, Ms Titilayo Shitta-Bey.
However, reacting to the legal advice by Oshinusi in a statement on Tuesday, Falana had said that her position did not put to rest allegations of murder levelled against the suspects.
He said, “However, the report has not laid the allegations surrounding the gruesome murder of Sylvester Oromoni to rest.
“The report is escapist and hasty as the authorities are aware of the fact that the Chief Coroner of Lagos State has ordered that an inquest be conducted into the circumstances surrounding the unnatural death of Sylvester Oromoni.
“The inquest which commenced before the Coroner on December 16, 2021 has been adjourned to January 15, 2022 for further hearing.”
Also reacting to the exoneration of the Dowen College staff and students, a handful of groups across Nigeria have continued to demand for justice, warning the Lagos Government and police not to comprise but ensure those responsible for Oromoni’s death were punished.
For instance, on Thursday, members of the Ijaw Youth Council staged a protest in front of Dowen College in Lagos, insisting that the school could not resume like others when justice was yet to be served on the matter.
The group condemned the legal advice issued by Oshinusi.
“We are expressing our anger and grievances with the fake and corrupt report released by the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution that this school where cultists are being trained is cleared. They cleared the same people that killed our son without trial, without concluded investigation; they said they cleared this school to open.
“If they open this school, the whole Ijaw nation will come here, let them try it and see.
“Our son cannot die and their children will walk in here, it’s not possible, we want justice, justice is not done served,” one of the group’s leaders said.
Also on Thursday, the National Association of Nigerian Students demanded justice on the matter.
According to the students union, there were frantic efforts by powerful individuals to ensure the reopening of Dowen College without regard to the weight of the allegation against students and teachers of the school over the death of Oromoni.
NANS warned the Lagos State Government to ensure the college remained closed, threatening to not only tag the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, an enemy of humanity but to also “mobilise all our armless battalion to the streets of Lagos and march in our thousands to seek for adequate justice for slain Sylvester if the school is re-opened anytime soon”.
Succumbing to multiple internal injuries allegedly sustained from being tortured and bullied by senior pupils at Dowen College, Oromoni’s death in December 2021 has continued to raise dust across and beyond Nigeria with calls for justice growing by the day.
Despite attempts by some influential persons to have the matter swept under the carpet, the noise generated by his death has refused to settle, instead gathering momentum at every turn.
Observers believe that the coroner inquest beginning on January 15 will lead to a fresh direction towards justice.