Adebisi Layiwola, the Principal of Dowen College, Lagos, has told a coroners inquest that the school was in the process of investigating an allegation that Sylvester Oromoni Jnr was bullied when it got the news of his death.
The principal gave this testimony on Tuesday at the proceedings to unravel the circumstances behind the controversial death of the 12 year old student.
Mrs Layiwola who was testifying as the 10th witness in the proceedings said she has been the principal of the school for the last four years.
According to her, “When the uncle of the deceased came to the school, we were still in the process of the investigation. He received a call from the sister of the deceased in my presence, that the deceased’s case had taken a bad turn. It was not long after, he received another call that the boy had passed on,” she said.
At this point in her testimony, the Dowen College principal broke down in tears and the coroner ordered a 10-minute break to allow her regain her composure and continue with her testimony.
While answering questions during cross-examination by counsel to the Oromoni family, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, the principal testified that there was no cult in the school .
“On the cult allegation, there is no cult in the school. In October, I was informed that the deceased was told to describe the nudity of his sister by some students.
“We called the students who were involved but we did not really talk to them about being in a cult. We spoke to them on the issue of bullying. We also set up a panel to investigate and make recommendations.”
“Due to the sensitive nature of the case, the boy in question was given an internal suspension, for two weeks.
“He was made to apologise to the sister and the deceased. He also went for counselling,” she said.
Mr Falana also asked if the witness was aware that some parents had withdrawn their children from the school because of bullying allegations.
“No. I cannot remember,” the principal replied.
When asked if she was aware that a parent came to Maroko Police Station to complain that her son was bullied.
She said: “Yes it is true. The boy has been withdrawn after Sylvester’s case, and the boy that bullied him was expelled after the death of the deceased.”
“In your school, do you have PTA?” Mr Falana asked.
“No, we have a parents’ forum,” she replied.
“Has the forum ever discussed allegations of bullying in the association? The lawyer asked.
“I cannot remember, no,” she replied.
Do you have a CCTV camera in your school?
“We have now,” she replied.
“Was it after the death of the deceased?
Yes, came the reply.
The school principal also testified that she did not see the deceased until November 23, 2021, adding that the condition of his health necessitated his admission at the school’s sick bay, with medical personnel treating him.
“The medical doctor told me the deceased had pain in the hip. I was not in school on Nov. 21 and 22, 2021. As a principal I work with different competent people.
“I did not see the deceased on those two days because I was not given a report on him immediately and his case was not critical,” she said.
Mr Falana also asked if the witness asked the students whether they gave the deceased a substance to drink.
She said: “I did not ask them.”
“Would you be surprised that a black substance was found in the deceased body?” Falana asked.
The witness responded: “I would not be surprised because I am not a pathologist.”
“Up till now, has your school sent a letter of condolence to the school?” Mr Falana asked.
Yes, she replied.
“It was sent to them via our normal means of delivery. It was delivered by email and WhatsApp,” she said.
The principal said the next day, a call was placed to the deceased father.
“I called the father to commiserate with him immediately after the death occurred,” she said.
“Based on the mismanagement of the affairs of the school, are you aware that the members of the school’s board have all resigned?” Mr Falana, asked.
No, she replied.
“Has the board been dissolved?” He asked.
She replied, “no.”
“Won’t you be surprised to learn that members of the board have announced that they are no longer members of the board?”
“No, I won’t be surprised,” she replied.
The principal was also confronted with information that the school’s doctor, Mojisola Bisiriyu worked with the American hospital at the same time she claimed to have been employed by Dowen College.
As proof of this assertion, Mr Falana tendered two documents in evidence, a news article and a website printout, one to show that the board at Dowen college had been dissolved and the order to show that the school’s doctor was in the employment of another company contrary to her earlier testimony that she worked at Dowen College, on Mondays to Fridays
Counsel to the School, Anthony Kpokpo objected to the website publication being admitted in evidence. He submitted that it could not be taken as proof of employment and wondered how the court could establish its authenticity.
Mr Falana simply replied that a google search would yield the information to anyone. He asked the court to dismiss the objections and admit both documents.
Magistrate Mikhail Kadiri admitted both documents in evidence after giving the assurance that the court would study them carefully to determine their relevance to the proceedings.
He adjourned further proceedings to March 7 and 8.