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Whitney Adeniran: Chrisland School Violated Lagos Child Protection Policy – Witness

The trial of the principal and some staff members of Chrisland School, Opebi, over the death of Whitney Adeniran, a 12-year-old student of the school, resumed on Monday at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja with the testimony of a deputy director from the state’s Ministry of Youth & Social Development, Yakubu Abisogun.

Abisogun, who is a level 16 social welfare officer, told Justice Oyindamola Ogala that his ministry found out that Chrisland School, Opebi, violated the Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy of the Lagos state Government in its preparedness for the School’s Inter House Sports Competition at the Agege Stadium where the late Whitney was said to have been electrocuted.

While being led in evidence by the Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP), Dr. Babajide Martins, the witness also testified that, “there are over 1,722 private and public secondary schools in Lagos so our activities are structured in a way that the schools are divided into 6 districts based on the location of the school.

“We have social workers attached to each of these districts and they work directly with the Guidance Counsellors of the School to identify social related problems that may come up in their jurisdiction and each of the school has designated safeguarding and child protection officer selected among the staff of the school”.

“We got the information of Whitney’s death through social media on the 12th Feb. 2023.

“We have a Safeguarding and Child Protection Alliance Group in the state and it comprises all relevant agencies that render service to children in the state and ensures child safety.

“My ministry, the Ministry of Youth and Social Development, The Ministry of Education, the Quality Assurance team from the Ministry of Health, the Lagos State Safety Commission, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, DSVA are all represented in this group which we formed and it was from that group that I got the information about Whitney’s death”, the witness said.

He said the group immediately called for an emergency meeting and the purpose was a fact finding interview that was conducted by the group with Chrisland School.

He said the group found out that, “About 556 students of Chrisland school attended the inter-house sports competition and 377 were actually prepared to participate in the competition. Over 500 of them were transported to the venue by the school”.

We discovered that, “the Safety and Child Protection Policy has been violated by the fact that over 500 students were going for the event without safety clearance and this was clear from their interview”.

Our findings also showed that the school has no designated Safeguarding and Child Protection Officer attached to it as required by Section, 4,5,6 of the Safeguarding Child Protection Law 2016.

“The availability of such a person might have prevented what happened on such a day, because he takes lead responsibility in terms of risk and every other information surrounding the event of such a magnitude that comprises over 500 students but Chrisland had none”, the witness testified.

“For the population of over 500 students, the emergency preparedness of the school was nil because they had only one nurse to attend to the students. There was no doctor”.

“No available ambulance to convey the children in case of any accident or emergency.”

“There’s no retainer medical hospital in proximity to the event”.

The witness further told the court that certain precautions which should have been taken before the inter house sports includes; having the medical biodata of students participating in the event to know their status.

“There must be a child protection officer available, there must be an ambulance in case of casualty, there must be a safety clearance that will explain the emergency preparedness of the organisers.

“In our findings, the school did not comply with these precautions and we got all this information from the statements we got from staff and management of the school who attended the interview meeting,” the witness said.

Justice Ogala adjourned the case till Wednesday, March 13, 2024 for continuation of trial.

On the 9th of February, 2023, Chrisland School, Opebi, Lagos, organized an Inter-house Sports at the Agege Sports Stadium for its students and during the Inter-house Sports, one of the Students- Whitney Omodesola Adeniran aged 12 years was said to have been electrocuted.

She was said to have being given first aid by the nurse on standby and subsequently rushed to the Agege Central Hospital, Lagos where she was confirmed dead by the doctor on duty.

The 2 count charge which was filed on behalf of the state government by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Dr. Jide Martins disclosed that the defendants all negligently killed Whitney Adeniran by not ensuring her safety.

The charge also discloses that they all acted in a reckless and negligent manner that endangered human life.

The offences are contrary to Sections 224 & 251 of the Criminal Law, C17, Vol.3, Laws of Lagos State, 2015

If found guilty, the offences carries a penalty of life imprisonment and two year jail terms respectively.

In March 30, 2023, the Lagos State government arraigned Chrisland School Limited, and some of its staff members before Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

The affected staff are the principal, Mrs Belinda Amao, the Vice Principal, Nwatu Victoria and a teacher in the school, Kuku Fatai. The other defendant is a vendor at the Agege Stadium, Ademoye Adewale.

When the 2 counts charge were read to the defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.

While the legal team of the Lagos State Government is led by the DPP, Dr. Babajide Martins, the defence team has four Senior Advocates of Nigeria-Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Mr Yele Delano (SAN), Chief Richard Ahonaruogho (SAN) and Mr Olukayode Enitan (SAN) leading other counsel.

This case has raised concerns about issues of the safety of children in public and in public places.

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