The House of Representatives has called on the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Baba, to take over the case of alleged torture and eventual death of a Junior Secondary School 2 pupil of Dowen College, Lekki, in Lagos State, Sylvester Oromoni.
The House also called for stricter regulation of schools and their boarding facilities by the Federal Government.
While the father of the 12-year-old pupil who shares the same name with his son had alleged that the junior Oromoni died from the injuries sustained during an assault by five of his colleagues who wanted to initiate him into cultism, the school had claimed he died after sustaining an injury during a football match.
At the plenary on Tuesday, a member of the House, Unyime Idem, moved a motion of urgent public importance, titled ‘A Call to Condemn the Trend of Inhumane Treatment in Nigerian Boarding Schools Across the Country and Comprehensive Investigation into the Activities of Nigerian Boarding School System.’
Adopting the motion, the lawmakers “condemn in strong terms, the recent incidences of inhuman treatment and abuses happening in the boarding schools across the country,” urging the Federal Ministry of Education to set out guidelines for the operations of boarding schools across the country.
The House also mandated the “Inspector-General of Police to immediately commission and take over the investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of the identified heinous crimes.”
Furthermore, the House mandated its Committees on Education, Youth Development, and Women Affairs and Social Development to follow up with the investigation, set up a committee to brainstorm and come up with modalities and report to the House within two weeks.
Leading the debate on the motion, Idem said, “These recent developments call for the attention of the lawmakers. These children that are being molested; these children that are being wasted, they are our constituents. We cannot watch this kind of situation happening in our constituency.
“If proper measures had been put in place, we would not be having this. There would have been a proper way of monitoring the activities of these children.”
Another member, Obinna Chidoka said, “It is very important to send a strong signal that our children cannot be treated this way. There was one case in Kwara that trended, where they were giving corporal punishment to students.
“On the criminal aspects (of the Dowen College case), the IGP should investigate thoroughly and give feedback.”
Also, Babajide Obanikoro, who noted that the incident occurred within Eti Osa Federal Constituency in Lagos where he represents, said, “In this particular matter, there are five students that are involved. They are a flight risk; their names should be placed on ‘no flight’ list. And the school, as shut down by Lagos State, should remain shut until the school is cleared of all the allegations.”
In his submission, Victor Akinjo said, “There is nothing wrong with private schools because we operate an almost private economy, but there is something wrong with the regulators. You cannot leave the boarding schools without proper regulations.
“It is the responsibility of the regulators to do proper oversight; to do what is right and save Nigeria from this embarrassment. It is a huge embarrassment for those schools to be turned into a cultists’ medium (sic).
In the motion, Idem recalled the incident leading to the death of 14-year-old Karen-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher of Premier Academy, Lugbe, Abuja on June 22, 2021, which he described as “one that left many heartbroken.”
“Her parents narrated how their daughter was sexually assaulted and later died of complications as a result of a condom left in her private part. Six months later, there is still no news of a suspect being arrested,” the lawmaker further recalled.
Idem partly said, “The House is cognisant that following the two recent cases, some Nigerians on the social space have been voicing out their bitter experiences with the boarding school system of operation.
“The House is cognisant that the Federal Government should, without delay, launch a national campaign; the campaign should include advocacy, public sensitisation and social mobilisation, as it will take the joint effort of government, school managements and parents to curb ugly happenings in our boarding schools. All hands must be on deck to curb the spread of this new trend.”
Meanwhile, the House adopted a separate motion moved by another member, Mark Gbillah, which was titled, ‘Suspected Rape and Murder of 14–Years Old Miss Keren–Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher.’
Adopting the motion, the House urged the Nigeria Police Force to “thoroughly investigate mysteries surrounding the death of Keren, allegations of harassment and threat to the life of Keren’s family and the leader of a coalition of gender-based violence and his family.”
The House also asked the police to “carry out a DNA test, recover spermatozoa and test Premiere Academy staff to identify anyone liable and bring him to justice.”
Furthermore, the House mandated its Committees on Woman Affairs; Human Rights; and Police Affairs to invite stakeholders to investigate the “circumstances surrounding the death of Keren–Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher.
The joint committee is to also probe the “allegations of the unwillingness of the Nigeria Police Force to initiate an investigation into the death of Keren; allegations of harassment and threat to the life of Keren’s family and the leader of an NGO and his family; previous cases of sexual harassment at Premiere Academy Abuja and other incidents of violence against women in Nigeria; probable lapses by other relevant agencies handling the incident.”
The panel is to report back within six weeks for further legislative action.
Moving the motion, Gbillah recalled how Akpagher, a 14-year-old SS1 boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja, was allegedly raped and eventually died on June 22, 2021, from medical complications as a result of rape.
The lawmaker also recalled how Keren was reported to have taken ill on June 16, 2021, without adequate medical care by Premiere Academy, until the mother took her to a hospital in Wuse Zone 6 in Abuja on June 19, 2021, where she eventually died three days later.
He said, “The House is worried that the medical examination before her death revealed a condom lodged in her private part, which had a milky effusion with the presence of dead spermatozoa within the fluid, which had caused an infection that developed into sepsis.
“The House is alarmed by the unwillingness of Premiere Academy to uncover the truth behind Keren’s death and the management’s media denial of previous cases of sexual harassment of students in the institution contrary to documentary evidence.
“The House is also alarmed by the lack of proactive and thorough investigation by the Nigeria Police Force, even after formal correspondence to the police by the deceased family’s lawyers and the allegations by Amnesty International of harassment and threat to the lives of Keren’s mother, Vivien Akpagher, her family and the leader of the coalition of gender-based violence responders and his family over their public campaigns and advocacy demanding justice for Keren.”