The coroner investigating the controversial death of Dowen College student, Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr), has warned parties not to make any public comments on the matter.
The coroner, Magistrate Mikail Kadiri, gave the warning on Saturday at the opening of the inquest at the Magistrate Court sitting in the Epe area of Lagos.
Counsel to the Oromoni family and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, immediately agreed and stressed that the coroner should be allowed to take charge of the entire proceedings without any external influence.
He said that it was only the court that was competent to speak authoritatively on the cause of death and pledged to inform the family to fully cooperate with the coroner’s directives.
Falana then told the court that the family’s requests to the Chief Pathologist of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and the Commissioner of Police, to be given copies of all reports and statements obtained during the police investigation and medical examination on the late Sylvester Oromoni junior, were yet to be granted.
A Chief Superintendent of Police, Oseni Rasak, who responded on behalf of the police said he did not know if there had been any directive by the Commissioner of Police on the issue.
Counsel to the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Akingbola George, on his part, denied Mr Falana’s claims that the legal advice exonerating the Dowen College staff members and students was leaked to the press.
He submitted that the Directorate of Public Prosecution forwarded the legal advice to the Police State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, and the court as required, stressing that anyone interested could apply through those quarters for a copy.
The Chief Pathologist of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Associate Professor Sunday Soyemi, who attended the proceedings as a witness in the case aligned himself with the position of the state counsel.
He added that the autopsy report had been transmitted to the coroner who ordered the procedure.
After listening to the parties, the coroner has ordered the police to immediately release to all parties, copies of statements obtained during the investigation.
He also directed all interested counsels to make the necessary applications for the certified true copies of all relevant documents in the court’s possession.
Magistrate Kadiri said he would consider the request by the Oromoni family for the court to inspect the Dowen College facilities, including the sickbay where late Sylvester was allegedly treated in November 2021 before he was handed over to his parents.
Counsel to Dowen College, Anthony Kpokpo, however, pointed out that the student died In Delta State.
The coroner has adjourned proceedings to January 21, 27, and 28, for Falana to present the evidence of his witnesses.
Meanwhile, the five students who were initially accused of complicity and exonerated by the DPP were represented by counsel in court.
Mrs Ifeoma Esom represented Michael Kashamu, Imah Ayi-Ekpenyong represented Benjamin Favour, Izuchukwu Ohajinwa represented Anselm Temide, Eze Ajiboh represented Edward Begue, while Olumide Akinnini represented Kenneth Inyang.
Another counsel, Bernard Onigah, represented the Nigerian Bar Association which sought to be joined as an interested party in the matter on grounds of public interest.