…..Police officer mourns daughter’s death
……. School closes today, to resume January 4, 2022
THE daughter of a police officer, Yekini Bello, has been confirmed as one of the two students of the Bab Fafunwa Millineum School, Ojodu, Ojodu Local Council Development Area, Lagos, who died yesterday afternoon in an accident involving a truck.
Many other students were injured in the accident, which witnesses said occurred when Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) and Vehicle Inspection (VIO) officers were allegedly pursuing the truck driver, who, in an attempt to evade arrest, lost control and rammed into a group of students of the school.
A witness, who described himself as a carpenter, narrating the event to our reporter, insisted the LASTMA and VIO officials caused the accident by pursuing the heavy-duty vehicle, which crushed the students in, according to the carpenter, his bid to escape paying a bribe.
“I was coming from Omole Phase 1. What happened was caused by LASTMA and the VIO. There was nothing like brakes failure. And then policemen were shooting at school children yesterday. Come and see the tear gas,” he gesticulated to the gutter where the reporter saw a canister.
The ICIR visited the school yesterday morning and till afternoon when its reporter left there, the school’s officials, as well as government officials who came about 10am, failed to offer details on the exact number of casualties. The Lagos State Police Command, however, maintained that only two lives were lost in the tragedy.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Adekunle Ajisebutu, a chief correspondent of police, said in a statement titled, ‘Fatal Motor/Pedestrians Accident At Ojodu Involving Students’: “As a result of the accident, two males died on the spot, while seven females and five males totalling twelve victims sustained varying degrees of injuries.
“Traffic personnel from the Motor Traffic Department of the Ojodu Police Division immediately visited the scene. Corpses of the dead students (identity not yet known) were evacuated with the support of officers of the FRSC and were deposited at the morgue of the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, for autopsy.
“The injured victims were taken to God’s Apple City Hospital, Ojodu Berger; St. Michael Hospital, Ojodu; and the Lagos State Emergency Hospital, Toll Gate.”
By 8.15am today, The ICIR observed residents, aggrieved parents and some touts expressingtheir threat to shut down the school and disrupt academic activities. But our reporter gathered that the students were in the midst of the first&-term examinations and reason eventually prevailed. Many parents were seen physically dropping their children off at school or escorting them by hand to school, apprehensive and reluctant to leave their wards alone.
Bello, who lost his daughter, Motun, told this reporter that news got to him by about 5pm yesterday that someone had pushed his daughter in a bid to escape a reckless trailer that was being chased by road traffic law enforcement officers.
“I was expecting her to come back home on time, but I didn’t see her. I then got information that an accident had occurred here. Like every parent of the students here would, I got panicky. This morning, I showed the ID card to the principal, who said she was not among the victims, but at the end of the day, she was there. It was the person that was coming from her back that pushed my daughter away, and while she was about to regain her balance, she fell on the road and the trailer crushed her. Her name is Motun Bello.”
A sympathiser, who simply gave her name as Mrs Odunsanya, yelled that the school should be shut indefinitely. She could not get over the loss of a student she claimed was her son’s classmate.
“It is my son’s friend, and she is dead. I saw the body on the floor. They should not allow them to write any exam. I heard that two students died; they should honour them by allowing their fellow students here to go home,” she protested.
Parents monitoring situation in school
Many parents stayed back in the school after bringing their children to monitor the tense situation to ensure the children were safe. Ajala Rasak Ishola, an engineer who led his son to school, waited to observe the situation. Ishola told The ICIR that he brought his ward to school to be assured of his safety in the school premises.
“I am bringing him to school to confirm his safety. Occasionally, students complained of accidents that happened because of road safety and something must be done about this.
“Secondly, look at the road here. It is an open drainage. It is expected to be a covered drainage, which would create space for students to walk. Even if it is not during school hours, for pedestrians as well. Look at the uncovered drainage from Berger to Ogba; a covered drainage of a kilometre will help pedestrians stay off the road. This can happen to someone else if they are not students,” he explained.
The engineer stressed the importance of the government to take safety as serious.
“It is not fair at all what happened to the students yesterday. We just need to look for ways forward. There is no need of withdrawing my ward. Government officials need to be talked to about what they are doing concerning this.
“This period of the year, there should be serious safety concerns. How can you be chasing a vehicle all the way from that point until you get the vehicle arrested at Ogba? If it had not stopped, it would continue killing people until it was caught. Is that the way to apprehend an offender? Something needs to be done about this.”
Sule Samuel too had to follow his daughter to school to be assured of her safety as well. He noted that he didn’t know much of the story as her ward’s safety was his major concern.
He said, “Honestly, I don’t know what happened. I just returned from work this morning and my daughter told me that they shut the school and killed some students but she left before it happened. I am hanging around to see if there would be any issue. They are writing exams but I met the principal who said they would still continue their exams. In fact, I called before I came. The principal did not pick but my daughter said yes, exam would hold. That was why I followed her. If she is not safe, I will go back home with her.
“Two of my children finished from here and did fantastically well. It is not as if they are not brilliant here. There are miscreants as well. I brought them from a private school but today, the two that finished from Bab Fafuunwa did very well, I won’t lie to you. To me this is not a setback, things unfold and I believe it will all be resolved. I suggest they should have an alternative gate out of the school like a back door because they could be discussing on the road and not know what is happening around them.”
The school management declined to comment on the turn of events as they tried to calm the situation. The timely intervention of the Commissioner for Education in Lagos State, Folasade Adefisayo, brought some structure to the already tense environment after which the school management dismissed students to go home and resume on January 4, 2022.
That moment led to another protest as the students journeyed down the road to Berger with placards protesting their dead and injured colleagues. The police made efforts to douse the tension by shooting teargas at students, sympathisers and reporters who joined the procession. This demonstration culminated into a gridlock along the Berger-Ogba road.
School will shut till January 4, 2022 to enable students, parents mourn the deceased
Adefisayo, in a press briefing, said the school would reopen next year to allow the students and parents mourn the dead.
She said, “I think we need the children to calm down and grieve, so they would stay at home until January 2022. The second term starts on the 4th of January, 2022. They have started some exams, when they come in next year, they would do normal tests to make up so they would have a CA. It is not a major examination like WASCE, so they would do it when they resume. It would not affect the curriculum. You know they have already finished classes, it would not disturb coverage of the scheme.”
The commissioner refused to comment on the number of casualties and other details, noting that a press release would be issued at 12pm today setting out the details of the story properly. There was no such release till 5pm.
The Chairman of Ojodu Local Council Development Area, David Odunmbaku, confirmed that some injured students were admitted at God’s Apple City Hospital, Ojodu-Berger, and were responding to treatment.
“I have been there this morning (at God’s Apple Hospital) and I can tell you that they are stable and the reason why they were moved yesterday was because they went for an x-ray in a different hospital – the Ifako-ijaiye Hospital. They are back now and are receiving treatment.”
Adedamola Richard Kasumu, representing Ikeja 2 Constituency at the House of Assembly, said a press release on the accident was not issued 24 hours after because the state government had to get its facts right. He urged journalists to await the content of the press statement and vowed to conduct an investigation into the role of the road law enforcement officials alleged to have caused the accident.
The Sector Commander, FRSC, in Lagos, Olusegun Ogungbemide, in a breakfast programme today on Channels Television, described road safety officials as professional in their conduct and would not chase vehicles to apprehend erring drivers.
Similarly, in a statement today, the FRSC explained that its men were called upon by passers-by to help intervene after the crash had happened.
“About seven of the victims were rescued and immediately taken to the Lagos State Emergency Centre, Ojota, by FRSC personnel, while another road user helped in carrying about seven others also to the same emergency centre.
“The general public should disregard the disgruntled information being circulated by some unscrupulous elements that FRSC men caused the crash,” the statement read.
President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with parents, relations and friends of the students who lost their lives in the accident.
President Buhari, in a statement issued by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, prayed that God would comfort the grieving parents and relations and grant the injured quick recovery.
Also, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has expressed deep sorrow over the death of the students.
In a condolence message signed by his Chief Press Secretary,. Gboyega Akosile, today, Sanwo-Olu described the demise of the students as “sad, unfortunate and avoidable.”
The Governor sympathised with families of the bereaved students, their relatives and friends, as well as management, staff and students of the school.