The students were granted bail before the expiration of a 30-day remand order. The police officer who investigated the controversial death of Sylvester Oromoni Jnr on Monday told a coroner that the investigation of the five senior students of Dowen College were not concluded before they were released.
Mikhail Kadiri, the coroner, is conducting an inquest to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Oromoni Jnr in December 2021.
Bamidele Olusegun, a police officer, attached to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, said the students were released despite a protest letter issued by the Lagos Police Command to the chief judge of the state seeking a revocation of the bail.
The students were granted bail before the expiration of a 30-day remand order.
A portion of the letter that was read by the witness in the court stated: “It came as a rude shock that the investigation was not allowed to be carried out.”
He also said the suspects were not brought back to the station for the conclusion of the investigation.
Mr Olusegun said, during his cross-examination led by Femi Falana, who is representing the Oromoni family, that while the police were recording more statements from the five accused students where they were remanded at the boys’ home in Oregun Lagos, their parents were arguing their bail applications before the chief magistrate that initially ordered their remand.
The letter of protest signed by Fayoade Adegoke, a deputy commissioner of police, dated December 22 is now an exhibit in the matter.
History of bullying
In the police interim investigative report dated December 23, 2021 (another exhibit), the witness said that claims that the deceased was allegedly bullied, tortured by the suspects, and forced to drink an unknown substance were unsubstantiated.
But it included among its findings that a suspect had in 2019 been suspended by the school for inappropriate behaviour which includes spitting on a teacher.
Another senior was also found in 2019 to have been suspended for bullying and physically assaulting another student who has since left the school.
The witness also acknowledged that the school did not reprimand another suspect who beat up the deceased in October 2021 because he was asked to describe the private parts of his elder sister who also schools at Dowen College.
He said that a parent once reported a case of bully against her son by some students at the Maroko police station.
Mr Olusegun also told the coroner that the police report concluded that “it is evident that some group of students constitute themselves into a clique that bullies and intimidates fellow students in the school…that the three school housemasters – Valentine Igbokwueze, Ahmed Ayomo and Adesanya Olusesan – are negligent, passive and failed to take decisive action when cases of inappropriate behavior are reported to them.”
This position was also reflected in an interim legal advice dated December 30, 2021, issued by the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions stating that “There are sufficient facts to establish the alleged offence of criminal negligence against the three staff as well as one Celina Uduak, Mr Adeyemi and Dowen College for failing to address bullying and protect their students.”
The police officer said it couldn’t proceed with prosecuting the school and the indicted staff after a second legal advice issued on January 4, 2022, stated that they would not be charged for the said offence after all, owing to lack of evidence.
The court sitting in Ikeja for the inquest adjourned to February 22 for Dowen College’s, lawyer, Anthony Kpokpo, and others to cross-examine the witness.