From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
On Monday, February 7, 2022, little Obinna was taken to school, hale and hearty, as usual by his mother, Gift Ohanezeze.
The one-year, seven months-old boy was barely three weeks old in the school as he was a new in-take.
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But on the fateful day, danger was lurking. And his 28-year-old mother, a graduate, had no premonition of what was to befall her. She would have probably made him skip school, at least for that day.
Obinna’s teachers at the school, Arise and Shine Nursery and Primary, an unregistered home care, located at Camp 74, Asaba, Delta State, one Emeka Joshua, allegedly flogged the hell out of the minor, inflicting bodily harm on him, which might have eventually led to his death six days later at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC).
At the close of school on the fateful day, the mother picked him up, without an inkling about the severe punishment her son had gone through in the hands of his supposed care givers.
She only discovered the bruises at home, and raced back to the school where she was told by the proprietress, Mrs. Ogbo that it was too late in the day, and that she should come the following day to find out what actually went wrong.
The sobbing mother who narrated an account of how her child was allegedly flogged to death, insisted that the minor was manhandled by three teachers, including the proprietress, her son, Emeka who is the prime suspect, and one other teacher.
Flogged like a goat
According to her, the testimony of Obinna’s classmates gave credence to the level of torture her son was subjected to by the supposed caretakers.
“The next day, Tuesday, I took him back, that was when I could even see him properly, the bruises were uncountable. As I was making noise, creating a scene for the teacher to come out, pupils from the class came out and told me that ‘our big mummy and uncle, and one aunty tied Obinna with white hanky hand and leg, and were flogging him like a goat.’
“I now asked who is the big mummy, they pointed at the proprietress. I met her and she didn’t deny it, she said Obinna was stubborn, that was why. And I said who held him by the hand and leg, the son (Emeka) came out, looked into my face and said he was the one. My younger brother said he should come out, and he slapped my brother,” she said.
She stated that the proprietress did not bother to check on the child throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, adding that at about 4:00a.m on Thursday when the pains became very severe, the child was rushed to the hospital.
“We went to Live Valley Hospital, when the doctor saw him, he said the boy had internal injury, that he was flogged. The doctor started giving him drugs, normal drip, there was no malaria drugs, even the child was treated for malaria two months ago in the same hospital. The doctor said it was not malaria, that it was due to the cane.
“He was not responding to treatment, so we called the police, and they acted swiftly. We were later referred to FMC as his condition deteriorated. Getting there he was already in coma, they tried their best but he gave up,” she narrated.
Foiled escape of suspects
Meanwhile, as the news of Obinna’s death filtered out, the proprietress of the said school attempted to escape from town with her entire family but was caught at the park where she had already boarded a bus to Onitsha.
The police team led by the Divisional Police Officer who went to her house for the arrest discovered that her apartment was empty.
“We saw the woman escaping with the family. She was stopping a bus, telling the driver to take her to Onitsha. The driver said he wanted to get more passengers, she said she would pay for the empty seats.
“As she entered, my grand-mum dragged her down and she (suspect) said the tension was too much that she wanted to go so that they will not come and meet her, that she heard the boy is dead. She said she wanted to look for a place to hide before. We were there when the DPO drove down to take her to the station,” Gift further narrated.
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Obinna did not die of flogging –Suspect
However, the prime suspect, 24-year-old Emeka who is the son of the proprietress though admitted flogging the child, insisted that the punishment could not have led to his death.
The suspect who was led away by detectives at the police command’s headquarters in Asaba said: “I did not flog the child to death. I flogged the child as little as I can, the child was not killed by the flogging, he was not killed by my hand, let them go and check this thing very well.”
When asked about the child’s offense, the suspect said “he pushed another child down, and that child hit his head.”
CP vows to uncover cause of death
Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Ari Muhammed Ali while confirming the incident and the subsequent arrest of the proprietress and her son, Emeka, said the matter would be duly investigated to ascertain the real cause of death, and urged members of the public to remain calm.
“We have opened up a full blown investigation. Post mortem examination will be carried out to ascertain the medical cause of death but for now as it were, it is alleged that it was the beating that killed the boy. Whether or not it was the beating, it is left for the medical doctor to confirm through the autopsy.
“At the end of investigation, the case would be charged appropriately to court. For now, I want to urge members of the public to exercise restraint while this matter is being given utmost attention,” Ali said.
Delta shuts down school
In the meantime, the state government has sealed up the premises of Arise and Shine Nursery and Primary School.
The government said the school was operating illegally ab-initio, as it had no approval of the authorities of the Ministry of Primary Education in the state.
Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu told journalists that the purported school was an unregistered home care.
Flanked by his Primary Education counterpart, Chika Ossai and that of Humanitarian Services, Bridget Anyanfulu, Aniagwu said the state government was very much interested in the matter “because as a government we care for the life of any person who lives in Delta State whether you are a Deltan or not.
“Even the wife of the governor had led a team to visit this particular home that many people are calling a school, and also the mother of the victim. And we will ensure that the state government follows this matter to its logical conclusion observing the tenets of the law.”
Rights group urges proper monitoring
Reacting to the development, a non-governmental organisation, Advocates for Children and Vulnerable People Network condemned the act, and called on the state Ministry of Education to up the ante in terms of guaranteeing quality assurance and monitoring of schools.
Chief Operating Officer of the group, Ebenezer Omejalile who spoke on its behalf urged government “to roll out the big stick by evaluating the so-called private schools across Nigeria by the quality assurance department.
“Our government should make children their priority instead of making them guinea pigs in the laboratory of unqualified school operators.”