Dowen College, five students responsible for Sylvester Oromoni’s death, family alleges

Dowen College, five students responsible for Sylvester Oromoni’s death - Family Dowen College, five students responsible for Sylvester Oromoni’s death - Family

Counsel for the family of the late Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr.) sparred severally on Monday, with lawyers representing other interests in the ongoing coroner’s inquest that was set up mid-December 2021 to inquire into the 12-year old’s controversial death.

This was during the evidence of the deceased’s father, Sylvester Oromoni.

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The prolonged verbal exchanges bordering on legal technicalities led to the delivering of at least three rulings by the magistrate, Mikhail Kadiri, during the more than seven-hour long proceedings in Ikeja, where the exercise is now holding.

At the resumption of Mr Oromoni’s evidence, His counsel, Mr Efole tendered several exhibits including suspension letters from the deceased’s school, Dowen College issued to some senior students over previous bullying incidents in 2019, as well as statements of persons made during the police investigation in December 2021 of the alleged bullying of the late JSS 2 student by the same seniors and three others.

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But, counsel for the school, Anthony Kpokpo objected to the line of examination-in-chief by Mr Efole.

Mr Kpokpo said, “There is no reference to the exhibits in the witness’ deposition. The witness has always been in control of these documents, and had an opportunity to refer to them in his deposition but chose not to. His counsel (Mr Efole) is now trying to get him to pad his deposition with the missing gaps of these exhibits just admitted. The implication of this is that there will no end to this examination in chief. The witness has just read out a paragraph of an exhibit that has just been admitted, what’s the point to that? Except Mr Efole is saying that these exhibits require crutches.”

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But, Mr Efole replied that particular sections of the documents must be specified by the witness to guide the court, which is an adjudicator in the case at hand.

In its Ruling, the court said Mr Efole should have filed a further affidavit incorporating all the documents to be relied on as exhibits. But the magistrate added that because the nature of the proceedings is inquisitorial, he would allow all evidence that could assist him in the case. The court however limited the evidence of the witness, saying it would study all the documents on its own as it is its duty to do so.

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During Cross examination by a senior advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Omoaka, representing one of the accused students, he asked the witness to confirm whether the young boy was taken to the hospital between November 24, 2021 when he was taken away from school and November 30, when he died.

Mr Oromoni said his son was initially taken to a diagnostic centre in Lagos for an X-ray done on his right leg. He added that, he was treated at home upon his arrival to Warri, Delta State on November 26.

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“He was taken to hospital and our family doctor said there was no private ward and he was taken back to the house. Later he was taken to St Leo Diagnostics for x-ray and scan.”

Mr Omoaka also asked the witness about the TV and online interviews he granted upon his son’s death, which he confirmed. The counsel then sought to play the video clips via YouTube, which elicited another round of arguments by various counsel.

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Mr Efole objected that they haven’t been served the exhibits, labeling the act as an ambush.

In his response, the senior advocate said, there is nothing to be served, as these materials are already in the public domain on YouTube.

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“Dowen college frontloaded one of the videos in a disc so we are playing it directly from the source. We wanted to avoid a situation where we will be accused of manipulating the videos because they are editable videos. Section 34 of the coroners law says we aren’t bound by strict rules of evidence and the whole world including the lawyer objecting has seen the interviews which also helped to shapen public perception about the case.”

Another counsel, Akingbola George for the Lagos State government said, “this witness even admitted to all the pieces of evidence that the SAN is presenting. There is no controversy about this exhibits, they are most relevant to the very business of this sitting. so, I submit that counsel should not bring in the technicalities of the rule of evidence in order to stall this proceedings that have been moving expeditiously for the very fact that the witness has no objection and he is the author of the documents.”

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Mr Kpokpo also said that a cross examiner isn’t bound To front load a document with which he intends to contradict a witness.

The court held that even though there was undue reliance on technicalities by the Oromonis’ counsel, Mr Omoaka should provide the other parties with copies of the exhibits for use during the evidence of the witness.

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Further hearing is fixed for Tuesday, February 15, 2022.

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