A Mother’s Fight for Justice

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Okon Bassey writes that Mrs. Deborah Okezie, the mother of 11-year-old Don-Davis Archibong, a junior secondary school one student of Deeper Life High School, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, is bent on getting justice after her son was allegedly sexually abused and molested by some senior students

A mother’s love knows no bounds and for Mrs. Deborah Okezie, that love has been sorely tested recently while trying to get justice for her son, 11-year-old Don-Davis Archibong, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) 1 student of Deeper Life High School, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital. She recently took to social media to protest the alleged sexual abuse and molestation of her child by two senior students of the school.

The Deeper Life High School, Uyo is one of the two campuses of the a co-educational secondary school owned and run by the Deeper Life Bible Church, pastored by one of Nigeria’s influential preachers, Pastor Williams Kumuyi.

Matters Arising

According to the aggrieved mother, her son was removed from the junior student hostel to senior students’ hostel where he was subjected to serial bullying, stigmatisation, intermittent starvation, as well as sexual abuse.

Citing dereliction or negligence of duty, especially by the boarding house master and the school principal, the mother said she first confronted the school principal and she expressed surprise but promised to look into all the complaints. However, she expressed shock that it got worse as confirmed when she went to pick her son for the Christmas break and close of term on December 19,2020.

She said they were kept in suspense for about two hours before the boarding master could release him and that was until she threatened to forcefully enter the hostel, in fear that maybe he had passed on and the school authority lacked the courage to inform them. When Don Davis eventually came out, he could not walk alone and he was assisted by some persons.

Upon enquiry from their son for the reason for such delay to release him, he told his parent that he had been subjected to some medication that morning of December 19, 2020, to activate his strength and energise him while other students were being released to their respective parents.

According to his mother, he was rushed for treatment in a private hospital in Uyo for wounds he got from weeks of sexual molestation from his seniors believed to have assaulted him using toes and fingers to poke his anus.

“They will remove his boxer and push their legs and hands into his anus. Look at a child I sent to school, he came back with a broken anus. They frequently starve and beat him up by the senior students,” she revealed in a viral video.

Initial Reaction of the School

Okezie, in the social media video that has gone viral, alleged that the principal of the school, Mrs Ndidi Solomon led a team of officials of the school to visit her in a private clinic in Uyo where the victim was receiving medical attention then and pleaded with her not to escalate the matter so they can settle the medical bills for the treatment of the child, an agreement that soon went south.

According to Okezie, she was forced to post the video and photos of her emasculated child on the social media in order for justice to be done.

In the video she posted on facebook, Okezie lamented that the principal and the school management were desperately working to sweep the matter the carpet.

“The school principal, Ndidi Solomon called me and pleaded with me not to escalate the matter, and that the school was going to pay for the treatment. Now, she has turned out to deny, and telling people that they should ignore me, that I was trying to blackmail the school that is why I’m bringing it on social media, so that the whole world would see”.

She alleged that the principal had removed her from the school’s whatsApp group platform for daring to bring the matter to the public.

Don Davis’ Story

Days after he was taken to the hospital for treatment, Don Davis with support from his mother, regaled Nigerians with his gory story in the hands of his purported victims.

In a Facebook live with his mum, Don Davis said he began to suffer physical assault from one of the teachers because he was bedwetting. ”When I got to Deeper Life school, because I bedwet, Mr Akpan uses belt on me. He uses any thing he sees, even if it is iron, belt, or he can even use stone. Because I bedwet, they transferred me from JS1 dormitory to SS1 dormitory.

“There were two boys named Ola and Shalom, they used to put their hands inside my anus, bring out feaces and then use that same hand to beat me. For two weeks I did not have my bath.”

When asked why he didn’t report the assault to the school authorities, Don Davis said Ola and Shalom, both SS1 students, threatened to kill him if he should ever report them.

Deeper Life Reacts

Following the hullabaloo the surrounding the story, the authorities of the Deeper Life High School issued a statement on the incident on their stance and interim measures taken prior to a full scale investigation.

The school said: “We will like to categorically restate that Deeper Life High School is built on the core values of godliness and excellence and will not tolerate any immoral act or molestation of any student.

“We believe parents and guardians enrol their wards in our schools all over the country because of the strong perception that ours offers a sure-footed platform for moral armament and academic excellence.

“We want to assure the general public that investigations into the case have commenced and no culprit, whether staff or student, will be spared if found culpable at the end of the exercise.

As an interim measure and to underscore the seriousness we attach to higher superintending values, the school principal has been suspended summarily even as further investigations continue.

“We firmly assure the discerning public that the overall outcome of the investigations will be made known and appropriate disciplinary actions will be meted to all culprits in this unfortunate act that admittedly threatens to case unnecessary aspersions on a unique institution that has been a shining example to all over the years.”

State Government Mediates

Reacting to the Okezie’s post on facebook, the Akwa Ibom State government directed the State Commissioner for Education to investigate the matter. A statement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Ini Ememobong reiterated the commitment of the state government to the protection of children in the state.

“The state government has noted with great concern, the complaints by a parent whose child is a student of Deeper Life College, Uyo. The complaints gleaned from social and traditional media, relate to the maltreatment and abuse of their child, which occurred at the said school”.

“Consequently, the Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has directed the Honourable Commissioner for Education to immediately investigate these complaints and take necessary action. The state government is committed to the protection of children wherever they may be within its jurisdiction.”

Afterwards, the state government said the outcome on its investigations into the alleged molestation of victim would be released soon.

He said the panel of inquiry up the state government by would limit itself only to the administrative aspect which it has locus standi.

Ememobong said, “the investigation is ongoing . The allegation borders on criminality. Therefore, the panel of the state government by the Ministry of Education would handle only the administrative part. The part they have locus on. Very soon a full and comprehensive report will be coming out.”

Police Step In

But in the latest development, the Akwa Ibom State government transferred the case to the police for a more discreet investigation. A statement from the Commissioner of Information and Strategy, noted that government is committed to unravelling the truth behind the sexual abuse allegation of the 11-year-old boy, stressing that any who is found of wrongdoing would be prosecuted.

The state government urged members of the public to be patient since the executive council had met over the matter and the case transferred to the police for a thorough investigation.

Emmemobong disclosed that the sexual abuse case of the 11-year-old boy had also

been placed under the care of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Akwa Ibom for further medical investigation.

He said the victim’s parents and other interested parties had given their consents for the boy to be taken to the referral centre at Immanuel General Hospital, Eket.

The Information and Strategy Commissioner said the then Commissioner for Education, who has been investigating the alleged sexual abuse on behalf of the state government, was advised by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to hand over the case for the police to investigate. The commissioner of education has since been replaced by Nse Udo Essien.

He revealed that apart from the police, other organisations like the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, Mirabelle Center, FIDA Akwa Ibom, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Response Unit of the Ministry of Justice, Akwa Ibom State, are interested in the case.

Police Investigation

Acting on the petition from the aggrieved mother, the Akwa Ibom State Police Command commenced investigation into the matter. The police, in a statement issued January 5, 2021, said Okezie, alleged that her son, Master Don-Davis Iniobong was inhumanly treated, sexually molested and suffered starvation. The petition was against Mrs Ndidi Solomon, aged 45yrs and three others.

Based on the petition, the Police Public Relations Officers of the state police command, SP Odiko MacDonald said the Commissioner of Police, CP Amiengheme Andrew ordered a discreet investigation into the matter and m enjoined all parties involved to exercise restraint pending the outcome of the investigation.

He assured the people of Akwa Ibom State that no stone will be left unturned in unraveling the truth, and that the outcome of the investigation will be made known to the general public.

Arraignment

Days after, a few staff of the Deeper Life High School, including two minors, were arraigned but six of them were eventually granted bail pending

January 20, 2021 when there will be a further hearing on the case by the presiding Magistrate of the court in Uyo.

Meanwhile, the magistrate therefore issued warnings to all the parties involved in the case to keep off from vulnerable media comments that may negatively affect the court proceedings.

Four of the accused persons were granted bail of N500,000 while the two minors (accused senior students of the school), were released to go meet their parents.

Those arraigned include Mrs. Ndidi Solomon (School Principal), other staff members include Joseph Nseabasi, Akpan Johnson, Egor Wilson, Joseph Ikenna. They were arraigned at the Magistrate’s Court based on four count charges such as sexual molestation, maltreatment, starvation, and negligence.

When the case was read, counsel to the accused applied for bail for them, noting that the alleged offence is bailable.

Demands

Meanwhile, earlier, the lawyer to the parent of the boy, David Okokon of Eagle-Eyes Network Chambers, wrote to the school demanding the payment of N100 million, as compensation for the dehumanising torture and indignity that Davis was subjected to and for his medical checkup and medication.

The counsel, in the letter dated December 22, 2020 equally demanded that the Deeper Life High School Idoro, Uyo to publish a public an unreserved apology to his client in two national newspapers; PUNCH, THISDAY and any other two local newspapers circulated within Akwa Ibom State and its environs.

Captioned “Gross Child Abuse, Palpable Molestation, Serial Bullying, Criminal Starvation, Malicious oppression and Dubious Maltreatment of Master Don-Davies Archibong (11years old) by the Principal and Boarding Master of Deeper Life Secondary School, Uyo”, The letter reads in part, “we are solicitors for Mr and Mrs Iniobong Archibong, resident in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State hereinafter referred to as our client. We have the firm explicit and unequivocal instructions to write to you on the above subject matter.

“It is indeed provocatively heartbroken, morally suicidal, religiously hypocritical that our clients’ 11-year-old son was torrentially bombarded with physical, and inhuman torture of debilitating dimensions with resultant castration of his human person, dignity, and childhood innocence.

“We respectfully demand the payment of N100,000,000 within 21 days upon the receipt of this letter as compensation to assuage the dehumanising, horrendous torture and indignity our clients’ son was subjected to and for his medical checkup and medication.”