National News

CORONER’S INQUEST: Sylvester Oromoni was never hospitalised, family doctor reveals

Aghoho Owhojede, doctor to the family of Sylvester Oromoni, the deceased student of Dowen College in Lagos, has testified that there isn’t evidence to establish the 12-year-old consumed any chemical substance.

Oromoni died last November after he was alleged to have been beaten by five colleagues for refusing to join a cult.

His father had claimed he was attacked and fed a liquid chemical that eventually led to his death.

Dowen College had, however, dismissed the claim and alleged that the boy sustained injuries while playing football with colleagues.

Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos police commissioner, ordered a probe into the case while the school was sealed off.

Two autopsies were carried out on the deceased — one by the Delta police and the second by the force’s Lagos command.

The first autopsy had revealed that Oromoni died of “acute lung injury due to chemical intoxication”.

After the probe, Odumosu said findings had been forwarded to the state’s department of public prosecution (DPP).

A Lagos magistrate court then granted bail to the five students charged with the alleged murder of the boy.

The police also released a housemaster and other staff of the school, saying the court order to detain them elapsed.

The DPP’s verdict after the second autopsy established that Oromoni died naturally — and not by chemical poison.

The case had been before a magistrate court in Epe, Lagos where a coroner was examining the cause of death but was subsequently transferred to the Ikeja high court where the sitting continued on January 31 and February 1.

Family doctor testifies

Dr. Aghogho Owhojede, on Tuesday, also said the late Sylvester Oromoni, a 12-year-old student of Dowen College, was not taken to a hospital for proper treatment.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Owhojede, who has been the Oromoni family doctor for 15 years, testified before an Ikeja Coroner’s Court seeking to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of the student.

Mr Owhojede was questioned during Tuesday’s proceedings for over seven hours (9.30am to 5.15 p.m.) by counsel to Dowen College, two accused students of the school, Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Bar Association.

During proceedings, the medical doctor said that he treated the late Master Oromoni for acute malaria at the family home in Warri, Delta, from November 26, 2021, to November 30, 2021.

Answering questions from Akin George, counsel to Lagos State Government, Mr Owhojede said he attended the same church, God’s Grace Ministry International Church, with the Oromoni family.

The doctor told the court that ailing Master Oromoni was taken to church for prayers for an unspecified number of days by his family.

“What was your response to the treatment at a church as opposed to a proper medical facility?” Mr George asked.

“I am aware that the church is not a treatment centre. I am not against prayer, I will prefer a combination of both prayer and medical treatment,” the doctor replied.

The doctor said that on the day Master Oromoni died (November 30, 2021), he had referred him to Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara, for further treatment.

He said that the late Master Oromoni could not be taken to the teaching hospital because his condition deteriorated “and he passed away”.

“Which hospital was he ever taken to before he died?” Mr George asked.

“He was treated at home,” the doctor responded.

“Can you confirm that the deceased was not taken to any hospital for treatment?” Mr George further asked.

“No, he wasn’t, my lord,” Mr Owhojede said.

Family doctor continues…

The doctor told the court that when he assumed care of Oromoni after he was moved from Lagos to Delta by his parents to be treated, the boy was suffering severe distress with scans showing that he had an enlarged liver.

He said he had decided to manage the boy’s health from home because he concluded, at the time, it wasn’t critical.

Owhojede, who said he had administered pain relievers, added that the private wards at his clinic were also full.

“The father called me that his son was injured while playing football in school and was given first aid at the sickbay. An X-ray was done and there was no evidence of fracture. He was in pain. His body was very hot,” the doctor said.

“I asked if there were private wards available. The answer was no.
Since there was no fracture or dislocation and I was told the pain was due to play at school, I concluded I could manage him from his home on an ad-hoc basis.”

Owhojede said Oromoni started feeling better on November 28 after being treated for malaria but his health later deteriorated.

Conflicting claims as lawyers question Owhojede

Owhojede said Oromoni’s white blood cell count escalated from 6,800 on November 26 to 17,500 before he died.

He also said his packed cell volume (PCV) dropped from 34 to 21 percent while the blood sugar of the deceased crashed to 54 from the 107 recorded at the point of him assuming care of the boy.

[WATCH VIDEO] How 12-year-old Ijaw boy was beaten to death for refusing to join cult in Lagos school 

Anthony Kpokpo, counsel to Dowen College, questioned Owhojede who, in his deposition filed before the court, declared that Oromoni had, on November 30, been rushed to his clinic where he was confirmed dead on arrival (DOA).

In his testimony, Owhojede restated that the boy was alive on arrival but passed away shortly after.

Owhojede said, when the result of conducted scans came on November 30, he told the family that Oromoni was suffering more than an infection and referred them to Delta State University Teaching Hospital for toxicology tests.

The doctor said he fetched them an ambulance and left the family with his nurse but Oromoni’s pulse weakened.

He said he later asked that the boy be brought to his clinic to be stabilised before being taken to the said hospital.

“After I gave the referral, I was told his condition deteriorated. I told them to bring him to my clinic to stabilise him before proceeding to the hospital. They did. The pulse was weak. We did ABC resuscitation,” he said.

Asked which hospital was Oromoni taken to, the doctor backtracked saying, “we were in the process when he died.”

No evidence of assault, Oromoni’s doctor admits

Questioned by Godwin Omoaka, counsel to one of the five students accused of attacking Oromoni, Owhojede stated there was no sign of assault when he examined the boy despite having mentioned beating in his witness statement.

He said he didn’t test for Hepatitis B or C despite mentioning they weren’t ruled out after his abdominopelvic scan.

He said, after the boy’s pain persisted, he ordered repeat radiology to check for undisplaced fracture from football.

The doctor said it was at this point that he was informed that the boy confessed to being fed a chemical substance.

“He confessed that he didn’t play ball but was assaulted by five students who forced him to drink an unidentified substance.

The father was the one who informed me he was beaten. The mother said the same thing,” he said.

“I didn’t witness the alleged assault. or when he was given the substance to drink. It was on November 29 that I was told he was fed a corrosive substance. Then, I told the parent that the initial history they gave me was wrong.

“I told them to do a toxicology screening to find out what he took and the antidote. That was why he was referred to the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara. I was first told he sustained an injury.

“If I was informed that he took harmful substances earlier, I would have initiated the transfer and the toxicological screening. I asked about the red lips and buccal cavity but I was told it’s from a soft drink.

“The redness was visible throughout the treatment of the deceased.”

Father, pathologist’s testimony up next

Owhojede, questioned repeatedly, admitted that an injury sustained during football can lead to an open cut and the introduction of infection like sepsis, the ailment that was stated as causing Oromoni’s death in his second autopsy.

Despite agreeing there was no proof, he refused to dismiss that the boy died of “blunt force trauma (beating)”.

Mikail Kadiri, the magistrate, adjourned the sitting to February 7.

Earlier, unfiled witnessed depositions alongside the absence of the deceased’s father had stalled the case.

Kadiri asked Falana & Falana Chambers to ensure the attendance of Sylvester Oromoni (Snr).

According to him, the evidence of the pathologist will be taken on February 8.

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