Daily Trust (Abuja)

15 December 2012

Nigeria: Controversy Trails Death of 11-Year-Old Boarding Pupil

The manner in which an 11-year-old boarding pupil in a school died in Nasarawa State is causing ripples between the parents and the authority.

Mr. Peter Hamza, 47, was away on official duty in Jalingo from Abuja when a call came from his wife that their 11-year-old son, Sam Peter Hamza, a boarding student of Saint Peter's College in Garaku village along Keffi/Akwanga road did not sleep in the hostel on the night of Tuesday, November 27. The NIPOST staff ordered his wife to proceed to the school to search for the boy, which many described as "quiet and humble."

Hamza, who spoke to the Weekly Trust in tears after he has buried his son, narrated that on "Wednesday November 28, my wife called me that our eldest son who is also a student in the same school told her that our younger son didn't sleep in the hostel on Tuesday night. I was on official assignment in Jalingo when she called me. So I instructed her to go to the school to find out what was really happening.

"She called me when she got to the school that the school authority was not even aware that the boy was missing until she told them what she was informed by our eldest son. It was when my wife got there that they tried to make effort to find out what was happening. At midday when there was no news about his whereabouts, I then asked my wife to go and report to the police. The police were then invited as it was assumed before then that he disappeared from school. The reason why he might have disappeared was that the previous day he, alongside six others, were flogged and punished by a teacher and later that same day, he was also punished by a prefect for not standing properly.

"In the course of investigation, some students said he has been complaining about the beating and punishment in the school, especially from some senior students who were always harassing him for one thing or the other in the school. It was further learnt that he said he was afraid of telling the school authority, because if he did, he might be punished again for daring to complain.

"When all these were revealed, I told them it was unacceptable to me, because how can a boy who was barely 12 years old be subjected to that kind of severe punishment all in one day? It was that very evening that all these happened that another set of prefect came and started flogging them and all the students there took to their heels and that was when my son ran away and took a different direction. That evening he was not found on his bed."

Narrating further, Hamza said "when I came back from Jalingo I went straight to the school and requested to see the Principal. I was told by the security man that he had travelled. I knew that was not true and decided to wait until I see the Principal and my son produced. I refused to leave and stood at the gate from 9pm to 6am and in the process the Principal, a Reverend Father, came out to go and conduct the early morning mass and I approached him. He then apologized and said that he wasn't feeling too well and had to take some medication which made him sleep and that was why he asked that anyone who asked after him should be told he travelled.

"It was after I started blowing hot that I would not take it lightly if my son wasn't found that he became serious about the issue. The Principal now ordered some students to go into the bush and some of us went into town with some students and teachers to also look for my late son Sam. It was around 2pm when some of the students were playing football that Sam's lifeless body was found. In the process of playing football, the ball went towards where the open soakaway behind the school kitchen was. When a student went to pick the ball, he saw the dead body of my son floating on the soak. The police were then invited and they took pictures before taking his body out. They said it was a clear case of murder because blood was gushing out of his nostrils and there was a cut on the neck. They then removed the body and took it to their own hospital at Akwanga and not even Keffi which was even closer to a general hospital."

On the allegation that one of the eyes of his late son was removed and so was his heart, Mr. Hamza answered thus...."Well the Pathologists have not turned in his report yet, but one of the attendants at the mortuary said it is because the body spent more than a day in the water that one of the eyes went in. Concerning the autopsy also, the school hasn't really been helpful. We called in a pathologist to carry out an autopsy to find out the cause of the death of my son, we were charged N300,000. Before then the Bishop in charge of that area gave me his number and asked that we keep communicating in case anything comes up. I then called the Bishop of the school to inform him the amount we were charged, but I don't have that kind of money, but I will try to raise something. To my surprise, he said it was not their business, because it was me who wanted to know the cause of the death of my son and so the school has nothing to do with that. When he said that, I said no problem and hung up," Mr Hamza narrated.

The DCO of Garaku, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Usang Mbam in charge of the case said he has no authority to speak on the matter but referred Weekly Trust to the ASP Ocholi Cornelius, Divisional Police Public Relation Officer (DPPRO) to the state police command. Ocholi told Weekly Trust on phone that the case was being investigated and some arrests had already been made.

He said "we are doing all we can to unravel the mystery behind 11- year-old Sam's death. It is a case of murder and the Police are doing all the necessary investigations".

However, all efforts to get the Principal of St. Peters College, Garaku, Nasarawa State) Fr. Saaondo Marcellinus proved abortive as all calls made to his lines were said to be switched off by the mobile network feedback machines.

Eleven-year-old Sam has since been buried by the family. Mr. Hamza said the killers of his son must be brought to book and is appealing to the Inspector General of Nigeria that justice should prevail in his son's death.

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