Contrary to expectations, the January 7 press conference by Lagos State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, did not move the Sylvester Oromoni case closer to a satisfactory resolution. It hardened the lines between those who say they want justice for little Sylvester Oromoni and those who they say are standing in the way of justice.
According to the Police Commissioner, the submission of Dr S. Soyemi, the consultant pathologist who led a team of pathologists to carry out a second autopsy, showed “there was no evidence to establish a case of torture, bullying and forceful application of poisonous substances.”
Odumosu said all suspects denied the allegations of torture, bullying and administering of poisonous substances on the deceased. He added that the allegation that the deceased was forced to join a cult group was also not established, as the students interviewed denied the claim.
The Police Commissioner left more questions than answers in his wake. For instance:
Why is the police apparently relying solely on the testimonies of the accused to establish their guilt or otherwise concerning allegations of bullying, torture, administering of a poisonous substance and forcing the victim to join a cult? Does the police expect the accused to willingly admit their guilt? Did the police invite other occupants of the school dormitory where the torture incident allegedly occurred to testify? Did they invite those with whom Oromoni also allegedly played football before he fell I’ll? How many witnesses were invited, at what point during investigations, what did they say and why is there no mention of their testimonies in Commissioner Odumosu’s press statement? If they were not invited, is it normal police, investigative or legal procedure to leave out eye witness accounts?
The second autopsy report, according to the police commissioner, says there was no evidence of trauma to the ribs/lungs of the deceased. The initial autopsy says the very opposite. How was this discrepancy resolved between the two consultant pathologists; and among the committee of 11 medical experts representing all stakeholders who witnessed the second autopsy? Does witnessing an autopsy by other medical personnel mean their concurrence with the report of the lead pathologist? Was there a second or minority opinion?
In real terms, what is the difference between the following: (a) “Acute bacterial pneumonia due to severe sepsis” as found by the toxicology report and (b) “Septicaemia, lobar pneumonia…” as found by the second autopsy? How do they differ significantly from “acute lung injury due to ?? chemical intoxication” as found by the first autopsy? Are they not saying almost the same thing in different medical jargons? Are they all simply not referring to SEVERE LUNG INFECTION?
How did the second autopsy report come to the conclusion that the fatal sepsis which killed the victim emanated from a leg injury only? How severe was the leg wound found on Sylvester and for how long was it nursed to lead to such a catastrophic outcome? Is it common or possible for a leg injury sustained while playing football to kill a 12 year old boy in robust health within days? Was the leg injury treated in the course of the boy’s hospitalization in both Lagos & Warri? By who? Why did he not respond to treatment? If it wasn’t treated, why?
Even if there was Sepsis from a leg wound, does it rule out the possibility of further Sepsis from ingesting an unknown (possibly poisonous) substance? What does the toxicology report say specifically about the strange “dark substance” said to have been found in the victim’s bowels during the first autopsy? What was that substance? How could it have gotten into the boy? How harmful or otherwise is it? And how do medical experts explain the swelling & blisters which appeared on the boy’s lips shortly before his demise?
What was the boy’s general state of health before the incidents that led to his expiration? Was he sickly or relatively in good health for his age? What do his medical records from childhood say? Can they help explain why he succumbed rather quickly or do they point to the possibility of a trauma as claimed by his relatives?
Answering these and other related questions will make police investigations more thorough. It will help all parties and the general public arrive at a more logical, sensible and just reconstruction of what truly happened. It will also lead to a fair and equitable resolution. Anything short of that is an affront which will haunt our society for some time to come.
There should be no hurry to close the casefile on this gut-wrenching tragedy. The search for TRUTH, not vindication or vengeance, should be the sole purpose of all efforts, persons and offices involved. The accused school boys are also people’s children; our children. They cannot be thrown under the bus. They also deserve justice and closure to have any chance of living normal lives in the future. Only truth can set us all free, rest the soul of the departed, liberate the accused, assuage the bereaved, instruct the future and hopefully prevent such a tragedy from happening ever again.
May God give us the wisdom and courage to seek the truth, find the truth and face the truth.
Victor Anazonwu, a journalist and author, writes from Lagos