When Mr. Pius Okafor’s wife was delivered of a male child on November 10, 2011 through caesarean section (CS), his joy knew no bounds. Although he already had three female children, the coming of the boy was something special, for obvious reasons. As a typical African man, he desired a son, who would take over from him.
The Okafors, friends and well-wishers had taken the infant to church for thanksgiving. To underline the circumstances of his birth, they named him Christopher Akachukwu (Hand of God). According to Okafor, who hails from Amaeze Ikpocha village of Arondizogu, in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State, the decision to go for the fourth child, after his wife had had three children, all through CS, was a risky gamble. His faith in God, however, emboldened him, coupled with his desire to have at least one male child.
Fortunately for him, the male child came. Baby Akachukwu, was growing happily and Okafor decided to register him at the crèche section of the Little Wonders Palace (LWP), to join his older sibling, who was at the playgroup of the school. He paid N12,000 per month, as fees for the child. LWP, comprising crèche, pre-school and nursery, is owned by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Royal Diadem Parish, located on No. 2, Victoria Street, Off Osolo Way, Isolo Lagos. It turned out that this decision was on a journey that brought eternal sorrow to the family.
According to Okafor, even when one of his family friends noticed that the once-bubbly and vivacious boy was becoming dull and lethargic, he still didn’t give it any serious thought. Neither did his wife, who is a staffer of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA). However, on June 8, the worse happened. The joy of the Okafor family turned to sorrow, as little Akachukwu died in controversial circumstances in school.
The infant, whom the father said was hale and hearty when he was taken to school, was confirmed dead at 3pm.
How the baby died: Narrating how it all happened, Okafor said: “On June 8, I took my seven-month-old baby to the Little Wonders Palace Crèche along Osolo Way. He was born on November 10, 2011. Before I left for the school, my wife was playing with the baby seated on the floor of our sitting room, but she later left before me. I went to the school, in company with my wife’s niece. She was carrying the baby, while I carried the elder one, who was in the playgroup.
In the afternoon, about 2:56pm, I got a call from the school that my baby was critically ill. I asked the caller, Mr. Ademosun, the Head of Admin what the problem was, but he couldn’t give any meaningful answer.
I asked if the baby had convulsion and he said no. I told him that the baby was okay when I took him to the school. After about seven minutes, I got another call from the Medical Director of St Emmanuel’s Clinic, where they took my baby, saying that my child was brought into his hospital, but unfortunately, he was confirmed dead on arrival.
“I called my wife and asked her to proceed to the hospital. I didn’t tell her that the baby was dead. I just told her that the baby was taken to the hospital because I knew she would not be able to withstand the shocking news. She was there before I got there and we saw the body lying dead. I asked the care-giver what happened and she said she was about to feed the baby when he suddenly closed his eyes and started jerking and she screamed for help. Another care-giver, however, told me that it was when the woman was feeding the baby that he suddenly closed his eyes and passed out.”
However, according to the medical report from St Emmanuel Clinic, which was signed by Dr Callistus Eze, “the complaint from his care-giver was that the baby was closing his eyes unusually, as he was being fed his lunch. Examination revealed a well-nourished male infant, who was obviously lifeless on getting to the hospital at the time.
There were no breathing moments, no pulses felt, no heart sounds were heard and the pupils were dilated and unresponsive to light. He was certified dead by attending doctor as a ‘Brought-In-Dead’ (BID) body at 3:00pm.” For Okafor, his world literally came to an end when he saw his baby’s lifeless body at the hospital.
He pulled himself together and tried to console his wife, but she remained inconsolable, wailing and weeping profusely over the irreparable loss. So many things ran through Okafor’s mind. He asked the care-giver a few other questions like: if the baby was crying while on bed, but she said no; if the baby was running temperature and she said no or if she noticed convulsion and she said no.
At this juncture, Okafor said, what came to his mind was autopsy and not even reporting the matter to the police. “I took the body to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba for autopsy in company with Mr. Ademosun, the school’s head of admin and one of my uncles. I didn’t bother to report to the police. After the autopsy, the doctors said they would conduct another test, the toxicology test, which is an embodiment of the entire autopsy report. That was conducted by the Toxicology Department of LUTH. I paid for the test. At that point, I demanded the body for burial because it was exactly one week after the baby’s death.
They prepared a temporary death certificate and wrote ‘primary and secondary causes of the death pending the outcome of the toxicology report.’ But then samples had been taken for the two tests. It was only Mr. Ademosun from the school and three of my relations that accompanied me to the Atan Cemetery in Yaba, where the baby was buried,” he explained. The grieving father said he only informed the police when the hospital demanded Corona’s form from him.
“To get the comprehensive report from LUTH, I was asked to produce the Corona’s form and that was when I went to the police. I opened a file at the Aswani Police Station and from there we went to the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Yaba to see the Chief Corona.
She demanded to see me before signing the form for the Investigating Police Officer (IPO), Sgt Ade, for onward conveyance to the Head of the Morbid Anatomy Department of LUTH, Prof Banjo. Having signed the form, the IPO took it to LUTH and the hospital management gave a copy of the report to him,” he stated. Okafor said he would have allowed the sleeping dog to lie, bearing in mind that no amount of monetary compensation or apology would bring back his dead son, but the attitude of the school management left much to be desired.
He said it was only Ademosun that accompanied him to bury his son at the Atan Cemetery, Yaba, Lagos. After that, according to him, he never heard anything from the school authority until he called them to demand the report of what led to his son’s death. He said the school’s management kept telling him the report would be ready this week, next week, until finally, they gave the report to the police. According to him, it was from the Aswani Police Station that he read the report of his son’s death, as presented by the school.
The content of the report, he said, made him almost go berserk. The school management report of July 6, signed by Dr. Segun Fagbuyi, Dr. Kayode Adegboyega and Mr. Olusolan Mesele, a copy of which was made available to Saturday Sun said:
“A committee was set up by the management of LWP to enquire into the immediate facts surrounding the death of baby Akachukwu Okafor in the crèche on June 8. In that regard, we interviewed the staff of the crèche and recorded their statements. We were not privy to any medical document, either as the cause of death or as to the medical condition of the baby; we made no inquiry into these issues nor did we make any commitment on them. “At about 3pm, the care-giver decided to give the baby another meal of cereal i.e.
Cerelac, having given him pap in the morning, but immediately she carried him; she noticed that he had a very high temperature. She would have brought the temperature under control by bathing him with lukewarm water, but for his mother’s general instruction not to bathe him, as it would lead him to having cough, she didn’t.
She proceeded to feed the baby, preparatory to administering Paracetamol, which the parents usually placed in his bag to bring the temperature down and had only given him a spoon of Cerelac when she noticed he was not taking the food and decided to add water and try again to feed him. In the process, the baby’s eyes shut and he became unconscious.” Commenting on the report, Okafor said that it was baffling.
“In their report, they said the baby was slumping and running a very high temperature before they took him to the hospital. They also said that it was about 3pm that the care-giver wanted to feed him when I was called from St Emmanuel’s Clinic, where the baby was rushed to before his death at 2:56pm and the hospital report said the baby was confirmed dead at exactly 3pm. Even what they said led to the death of my child was not what the care-giver told me at the hospital the day my baby died. I asked her if the baby was running temperature and she said no.
So, trying to cook up another story was what made me decide to let the world know the truth,” Okafor submitted angrily. He is also not happy that it took the Province Pastor, Tunde Netufo, over one month to visit him and his family over his son’s death. And his reason for staying that long was tight schedule.
“It was one month after the incident that the Province Pastor, Tunde Netufo, came to my house. He claimed that was the time he had chance to visit. He was in company of the head of admin of the school, Mr. Ademosun. My mother-in-law even took it up with the man for saying he was too busy to have come. They were highly insensitive to my plight. I didn’t intend to make any case out of this, going by my faith as a Christian.
If the report had said exactly what the care-giver told us, I would have left everything to God, but when I looked into the report, it was a different thing entirely,” he said. Report from LUTH Dr. O.R Akinde, a pathologist at the LUTH, who signed both the medical and toxicology report on June 13, stated: “I certify the cause of the death, in my opinion, to be severe cerebral edema due to marked anaemia and toxicology evidence of Diazepam in body fluid.”
Diazepam is a tranquilising drug used to reduced anxiety and tension and as a muscle relaxant and sedative. Okafor said the medical and toxicology report is a confirmation of the widespread rumours that most crèches are involved in the use of sedatives on the children under their care and that his son was a victim of such unethical and wicked practice.
The school, on its part, is of the opinion that the cough mixture and other drugs the baby’s parents fed him that morning was what the report detected. School’s position When our reporter visited the school, to get first hand information from the authorities, regarding all they knew about the death of Baby Akachuwu Okafor, silence was what he got. When he met the Head of Admin, Pastor Ademosun and asked him to react to Okafor’s allegation, he said:
“Actually, I don’t have anything to say on that for now. The matter is already with the Aswani Police. All you want to know about the case is with them, including our own story. When you go there, ask after Sgt Adesoji and he will give you everything you need.”
However, a few days after our reporter’s visited the school and head of admin declined comments, he visited The Sun corporate headquarters, in Lagos, alongside the care-giver to narrate their own side of the story. In her account, the caregiver, Mrs. Banjo said: “They brought Akachukwu to our crèche in February this year.
At a point in time, they were feeding the baby Golden Morn and I advised them against that. I told them that the baby was not mature to take that kind of food, as it could increase the cough he already had, as the baby was coughing.
I remember they told me they don’t sleep at night. Before his death, the parents would bring antibiotics and that was what I was administering on the baby until when I complained that I was not comfortable with giving that kind of drug to the baby.
I gave the baby antibiotics provided by his parents consecutively for two weeks before I complained. “On Tuesday May 22, I advised the mother to take the baby to hospital for proper medical treatment instead of continued administration of antibiotics on him and she left with a promise that she would do that. But on Wednesday, May 23 and Thursday, May 24, they didn’t bring the baby to school.
I called her on Thursday morning to know how the baby was faring with the ill-health and whether she had taken him to the hospital, as we discussed, but she told me that she was in her office. I was surprised because I know that it is not healthy to have too much antibiotics in a baby’s system. Then the following day, which was Friday, May 25, she brought the boy, but this time, she changed the antibiotics to cough mixture.
And from then on, they stopped bringing antibiotics for me to give to the baby; they changed to cough mixture. “On June 8, the day the baby died, a young lady, who lives with them, was the one that brought the baby to school. The baby was sleeping and I asked her to put the baby on the bed because I was talking with somebody.
She laid him on the bed and left but later the mother called to inform me that I should give the baby morning food because she didn’t do that before she left for work that day. And I did that around 11am, but I discovered that the baby was very dull. I felt that it could be because of the cough mixture they were giving him, as it makes babies to sleep. That day she told me that she had administered the cough mixture in the morning and that I should repeat it in the afternoon.
After the first food I gave the baby around 11am, I didn’t give him the drug because of the one his mother had given him in the morning. I put the baby in the walker after feeding him around 11am so that he could stretch out his body because he was very dull, but as soon as he entered the walker, he slept and he was laid on the bed again.
At about 3pm, I felt the baby should take another meal and I prepared the Cerelac because after I complained that the baby was too young to be taking Golden Morn, they changed it to Cerelac. So, when I carried him, his body was very hot, but I couldn’t administer any drug not even Paracetamol because he needed to eat before any drug could be administered.
I tried to give him food, but he was not taking it very well, so I asked somebody to give me water so I can mix the food to make it liquid for him to be able to take it. By the time I gave him the first one, the person that assisted me with the water alerted me that the baby I was giving food had closed his eyes.
I shouted and attracted the attention of Pastor Ademosun, who rushed downstairs and took the baby to the hospital, where he later died.” Asked if she knew the name of the cough mixture she was given to administer to the baby, she said no. Speaking about the baby and her job, she said:
“The boy has been with me from February till June 8 when the sad incident occurred. His elder sister was with me from February 2011 to April this year when she left for pre-school. I have been taking care of children for a very long time and I know when a baby is sick.
The other day, his father went to the police station to complain that the baby wasn’t disturbing me in the office but he disturbed them in the house.” She maintained that exposing the baby to a higher cereal and antibiotics could have contributed to the baby’s death, as she maintained that the baby was too young to have been fed with the cereal and antibiotics.
Though she could also not remember the kind of antibiotics she was giving to the baby, as directed by the parents, she said the crèche and the school have never recorded any death since existence. Still on the baby’s death, she said: “I didn’t hold the boy in the morning when they brought him for me to know how he was feeling that fateful June 8 because he was sleeping.
I just asked the lady that brought him to lay him on the bed. Even when he was feeling drowsy, as I was feeding him, I immediately concluded that it was the drugs the mother gave him in the morning that was affecting him. We have never recorded any death since we started running the crèche. The mother instructed me not to bathe the baby with water. In fact, I don’t know the total health history of the baby. In the crèche, it is only their child that I don’t bathe. I would bathe all the other children and dress them well before they go home.”
“A week before the death of the child, his father came to the school and was fighting with the nanny that the air-conditioner should be switched off. But he saw the air-conditioner when he brought his child for registration. Many of them have air-conditioners in their houses and cars and that’s what they pay for in the crèche.
Why shouldn’t we put on the air-conditioner? I wanted to tell the mother that they should take their child to another place if this place was not comfortable to them. Before they came, I had 16 children in the crèche and they were enjoying themselves; everybody felt okay. And that baby could have been among the fourth set to have graduated from the crèche and nobody had ever complained of cold.
“If the baby’s mother could be truthful, she would attest to the fact that I warned her on two occasions about the antibiotics. I complained of the cereal and it was changed to Cerelac. I equally complained about the antibiotics and it was changed to cough mixture, but I don’t know the name of the mixture.”
Pastor Ademosun added: “We don’t use any drug on the children apart from what the parents give us. I am saying that experts should look at the post-mortem and see what happened. It is the drugs the parents have been administering on the baby that really affected him.”
The police angle The Investigating Police Officer (IPO) at the Aswani Police Station confirmed the incident, but stated that it was at the moment being treated as Sudden Unnatural Death (SUD). He said: “The man didn’t even report the death of his son to us until after one month when the child had already been buried. That is why we decided to treat it as SUD until the result of the autopsy was out. We have asked the two parties to go and settle and come back to us.
We are still expecting them to come and tell us whether they have settled or they want to go to court. Already, we have the autopsy report from LUTH, which said there was Diazepam in the deceased’s system. So, if they could not settle, then we will change it to murder and forward it to the Police Homicide Unit, Panti, Yaba because we cannot handle murder case here. That is the situation now.”