Mr Israel Ajibola, the father of Heritage, a 200-level student in the Department of Linguistics and African Languages, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State; who died after falling into a septic tank in a private hostel on the campus on February 9, 2022, has talked about the incident and how he has been affected.
He speaks to GBENGA OLONINIRAN one year after
It’s been one year since the demise of your daughter. How has the situation been for you and the family?
We are just trying to cope by the grace of God. It has been so tough on us but we just have to try and come up on our feet, but then, it’s not easy. We are just trying to recover from it.
What were your thoughts about your daughter’s decision to rent an apartment in the private hostel?
It was on January 7 last year that I paid. I told her mother to follow her to the school to look for better accommodation for her when she got to the 200 level. When she moved round the school, the only available place she saw then was the BVERS hostel, and I was made to understand that for each room in that hostel, they (the hostel managers) collect almost N100,000 per student, and four of them (other occupants) lived in a room.
They had their bunks there – four beds in that small room. It’s almost N400,000 for one room. That was the way they collected the money then. I made a transfer (of the money) immediately because her mother told me the place was so nice and good and that the environment was nice, not knowing that they had that kind of thing (septic tank) in that environment.
For how long did she live in the hostel?
It was on January 23 that she went to school because she didn’t go immediately. The incident happened on February 9. She didn’t even spend up to two weeks in that hostel before the incident happened. It was not a good experience.
What was the reaction of the owner of the hostel when the incident occurred?
Immediately it happened, they (hostel managers) were trying to come around. They came the following day trying to see me. They tried to commiserate with the family that they regretted what happened. Even their accountant was weeping. How will they allow an environment to be like that, putting just a plank on a septic tank?
That was where my daughter stayed. As a new student in that environment, she didn’t know how the place was. When I was later at that place, we were told that the plank had already been eaten up by termites, so she mistakenly stepped on it. How could that be in a student environment? They tried to commiserate with the family but they didn’t do the needful. It was later when they were being summoned by the family lawyer, that they saw that they had created a problem for themselves. They were just trying.
What do you mean?
They wrote a little cheque for the family, but I said I was not particular about the money they were trying to raise. But I want my girl to be immortalised in that place to compensate my family. But since it looked like they didn’t want to have a roundtable discussion with the family, we have taken them to court.
Has the management of the university done anything about it?
Immediately after the incident happened, the school’s management took it up and took them to court. The criminal case was filed in Osogbo while the civil case was filed by the family in Ile-Ife. I was told they (hostel managers) raised a cheque for N2m to compensate the family, but their carelessness and selfishness and what they have caused the family is beyond that.
The OAU management took the first step because when I was there, I had the privilege of seeing the vice chancellor, so we discussed it with the management of the school. They (OAU) said they also regretted it because that shouldn’t have happened in that kind of a place. They have a transfer arrangement between them (hostel managers) and the university management, and after 30 years, the hostel can be returned to the institution.
What is the university management charging the hostel managers with in court?
They are charging them with negligence, and even one of them was arrested and detained. He was later released, but the matter is still in court. Our lawyer is following up with the proceedings. A doctor goes there to give his autopsy report.
What are you seeking in your suit?
The hotel managers didn’t want to do the needful but came around and just cried. Is that what we are talking about? As a matter of fact, we are seeking a sum of N100m. We want the place (the hostel) to be named after the girl. Those are the two major things we are requesting from them in a court of law. The civil case will be heard again on February 21.
What will justice mean for you as a person concerning your daughter’s death?
When the judgment is hard on them, they will take precautions and not risk the life of our children again. We are also thinking of running a foundation for the girl because she meant so much to the family. She happened to be my first child and expectations were so high of her. She was so brilliant that she gained admission at the age of 15. She was loved by everyone. We don’t want her name to just go like that.
Source: The PUNCH