Sixteen pupils of Ibafo Community High School, Ibafo, Ogun State, are in police custody after a fight between teachers of the school and the pupils on Thursday, October 20, 2022, which led to the destruction of the school property.
Parents and siblings of the 16 students and other parents took to the streets on Friday, October 28, 2022 over the detention, lamenting that their children were underage and unlawfully kept in the police custody. The protesting mothers also visited The PUNCH.
Speaking to one of the parents, Mrs Suliyat Kolapo, she stated that her 16-year-old daughter was arrested over the theft of a waste basket in the school after the fight. She stated, “When they came to arrest her on Saturday, they claimed that she was in possession of a waste basket and in all honesty, she never brought home anything of the sort. It’s her seventh day in custody. They took her away in handcuffs. The government should please come to our aid.”
She noted that her daughter started menstruating at the police cell, adding that she was called by the police to bring her underwear and menstrual pads.
Another parent, Mrs Kemi Lateef, told Sunday PUNCH that her 16-year-old daughter, Aliyat Lateef, was among those detained.
She noted, “On Friday, my daughter ran home saying that they were being pursued by the police over a fight that broke out in the school, and that her best friend was arrested. In the early hours of Saturday, October 22, the police visited our home and took away my daughter in handcuffs over theft and destruction of school’s property.
“Truthfully, she informed me on Friday that she took one of the books which was thrown out by the pupils fighting in the school to read and claimed that she kept it on the floor after reading the story book.”
A businesswoman and mother to one of the pupils, Mrs Salmat Adediran, stated that her son was arrested on Friday after the fight. She stated, “When I got to the school, the teachers assured me that Bolu (her son) was not part of the fight and was recklessly picked up by the police when they were raiding pupils involved in the fight.”
The parents noted that efforts to secure the release of their kids were futile, Adediran stated, “We have met with the school authorities, visited elders in the area to intervene in order to have them released but all proved abortive. However, we were summoned to a Parent-Teacher Association meeting on Friday, October 28, 2022 where it was concluded that the damage to the school property was to the tune of N2m. It was agreed by the parents of the affected and parents of pupils who were not affected that every pupil will pay N700 each.’’
She explained that after the meeting, they were assured that their kids would be released from custody, adding that the situation didn’t change.
She said, “After the meeting, we got to Ibafo Police Station and the DPO informed us that they were not releasing our kids and the principal should be contacted. However, the principal was contacted and we were directed again to the DPO. It now appears as if we are being played. Also, we were assured that the principal would meet us later at the police station but all was a facade. After eight days, our underage kids are still in police custody.”
However, our correspondent who visited the school on Saturday observed that some of the school property were damaged. Some of the damaged items were being replaced and the school undergoing renovation.
Reacting to the development, the principal of the school who gave his name only as Mr Sunmonu, denied that the pupils were in detention. He asked our correspondent to contact the Ibafo Police Station for confirmation.
He said, “You don’t need to ask me if the pupils are there; go to the Ibafo Police Station to find out if the pupils are there or not. You don’t need to ask me that kind of question. The best thing for you is to reach out to the DPO of the police station and ask him what happened.”
On a second call, the principal admitted that a contribution of N2m to replace the damaged items was agreed upon at a PTA meeting.
He said, “I can’t give any answer because you are not a stakeholder. The stakeholders were there on Friday when we had a meeting and everything was decided there.”
Reacting to the issue, a human rights lawyer, Ugwumadu Malachy, noted that the police action was condemnable.
He said, “If there’s an allegation of destruction of public property; that amounts to a malicious destruction of public property which is a bailable offence. If from last week Friday till now, they have apprehended schoolchildren and kept in detention without a charge referred against them, that detention have become illegal and violates the rights of the children by reason of the days they have been kept in custody without a charge on the order of the court to remand them.”
“The rights to liberty of every Nigerian are guaranteed under Section 34 & 35 of the Nigerian constitution. You cannot under the guise that you’re investigating an offence allegedly committed by any citizen and keep them beyond 48 hours. At most, we find it completely unacceptable without the orders of the court.’’
He noted that the parents of the schoolchildren should file a legal complaint against the actions of the school and the police.
He added, “The constitution stated that citizens of this country cannot have their rights trampled upon without a redress. The parents can provide legal representation to their kids and then approach the police station for the unconditional release of their kids. If they have a case against them, they should charge them to court and in the absence of that, they should be released. The parents should provide legal representation for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights to liberty and to movement. However, if the police are convinced that they have committed wanton destruction, they should charge them to court, and either way, they should refer to the law and refrain from taking laws into their own hands.”
Malachy also said that civil societies could fight the detention of the schoolchildren on behalf of their parents because it was illegal.
Another lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, noted that the prolong detention of the schoolchildren was illegal and unconstitutional.
He said, “If the pupils have committed any offence, there is a process under the law in resolving that, particularly because they are pupils. They are not meant to be detained beyond 24 hours. If the police are saying they have committed an offence, they should be taken to court.”
Effiong noted that under the Child Rights Law and the Children and Young Persons Act, children were given special treatment under the law.
He noted, “I don’t understand the basis of the police keeping them but whatever the excuse was, it is condemnable. While the destruction of the school property should not be condoned, the pupils involved should be sanctioned by the school after a thorough investigation and fair hearing.
“It is wrong for the police to detain them and they should be released immediately. I expected that the police will invite their parents to take them on administrative bail. There is no justification for keeping children in custody for 10 days, nothing justifies that. The school authorities should see to the immediate release of the schoolchildren.”
Effiong noted that if there was a legal process the school wanted to pursue, the matter should be taken to court.
Reacting to the development, the Divisional Police Officer, Ibafo Police Station, Alabi Olusoji stated that he would not give any information on the phone over the matter.
He stated, “Some of these parents are not serious and they don’t know what they are saying. Come to my office on Monday and I’ll provide you with adequate information. However, if you insisted that it was urgent, call the state PPRO for confirmation.
“I don’t even know you, you have never called me before and you are calling me about pupils who destroyed school property, destroyed principal’s office, stole money as well. If you want anything, come to my office on Monday. You cannot be asking me this type of information over the phone.”
Contacted, state police spokesperson, Abimbola Oyeyemi, noted that he was not aware of the detention of the pupils. He promised to find out and get back to our correspondent.