The magistrate presiding over the coroner inquest into the controversial death of 12-year-old student of the Dowen College student, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr., has berated the deceased’s family over the violation of his order banning parties and their counsels from making public comments on the court proceeding.
The hearing has been moved from its former venue – Epe Magistrate Court- to the Old Secretariat, Ikeja, Lagos.
Anthony Kpokpo, the counsel for the school, on Monday, told the magistrate, Mikhail Kadiri, that the JSS 2 student’s father, Sylvester Oromoni, had granted a national newspaper an interview explaining his absence in last Friday’s sitting.
In the interview conducted by the Punch newspaper, the aggrieved father said he decided not to appear to testify in court that day because the other parties had failed to file their witness’ statements on oath as required, despite their own side availing the others theirs.
The court was also informed that another family member had tweeted about the same proceedings but didn’t reflect the accurate narration of the hearings so far.
In his response, the family’s lawyer, Andrew Efole, from the chamber of a senior lawyer, Femi Falana, apologised for the Oromonis’ conduct. He said he wasn’t aware of the developments.
The magistrate after checking the interview on his mobile device noted that Mr Oromoni’s responses sounded like he was advised by his lawyers to be absent in court, and that such comments were a slap on the face of the court.
He said that if the family’s intention is to leave the matter of how their son truly died to public opinion, then there was no point in holding the inquest, which was instituted at their instance.
The proceeding was stalled again by the absence of the deceased’s father and sister who had been billed to testify on Monday.
Mr Efole explained to the court that the 13-year old witness fell ill and was being treated for a malaria-related ailment and that her father was tending to her at their family home in Warri, Delta State.
“The mother isn’t fit to attend to her, as she is still traumatized over the loss of her last born, and the older children aren’t around as this is a school period,” he said.
The family’s lawyer also urged the court to order the other parties to present their witnesses to give evidence so as not to allow the day to go to waste.
But this drew stiff opposition from lawyers for the state government, Akingbola George, and Godwin Omoaka (SAN) representing one of the five senior students accused by the Oromoni family of bullying their son to his death.
They argued that all the witnesses for the family must testify in full before other parties, in line with the court’s directives.
Though the magistrate acknowledged that Mr Falana’s Chambers had written to the court about the absence of their next witness due to ill health, he wondered why the father was also absent, noting that his presence was necessary to provide more information as to the circumstances surrounding the death of his son.
The coroner said: “I do not understand why a party that requested an inquest is the one stalling the proceedings.”
The counsel for the Nigerian Bar Association, who is observing the inquest, Bernard Onigah, urged the court to make a final order on the conduct of all parties, so that anyone who attempts to frustrate the proceedings will incur a stiff penalty.
The matter was adjourned to February 1.
Dowen College, recently riddled with controversy, was closed down by the Lagos State Government last year following the controversial death of the 12-year-old Master Oromoni.
While the Oromonis accused the school, staff, and some of its students of being complicit in their son’s death, the Lagos State Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) absolved them of complicity.
However, the late Oromoni’s parents and their lawyer, Femi Falana, faulted the DPP’s verdict, saying it was premeditated and unacceptable.