As usual with many schoolchildren in the first half of the month of May every year, Ayomide Adeghalu looked forward with hope and excitement to this year’s annual Children’s Day celebration. Unfortunately, his hopes were violently thwarted by personnel of the Ondo State Security Network organization, Amotekun, whose excesses took the life of the 14-year-old schoolboy. The incident reportedly happened in Ondo town in Ondo West Local Government Area of the state.
Reports in the media said Ayomide, who was living with his stepmother in the Ogbonkowo area of Odojomu in Ondo town, was sent to hawk food. After returning home, he was unable to account for N500 that was missing from the sales. Angered by the boy’s inability to explain how the money got missing, his stepmother decided to punish him in order to unravel the truth. After being subjected to several hours of severe punishment by the stepmother, the boy was handed over to operatives of Amotekun who also tortured him in their attempt to forcefully obtain information about the missing N500. In the process, Ayomide became unconscious and was taken to the Specialist Hospital in Ondo where he was confirmed dead by the doctors on duty.
Lamenting the death of her son, the mother of the deceased, Mary, said Ayomide had never complained of any ailment to her. Mary said, “It is sad for me to learn that he was tortured to death by some security officials over missing N500”; adding that she divorced Ayomide’s father a few years back.
Although reporters failed to get the reaction of the state Commander of the Amotekun Corps, Mr Adetunji Adeleye, it was learnt that the case had been reported at the Fagun Police Station in Ondo and Ayomide’s remains were deposited at the morgue.
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No matter how much was missing from the sales of a petty street-hawking business undertaken by Ayomide, the extent to which his stepmother went in the matter was unnecessary. Even if the boy were believed to be dishonest, there are many ways through which parents patiently handle children’s pranks at home without necessarily handing them over to a security organization, in this case, for further punishment. The stepmother may not have handed Ayomide over to Amotekun if the boy were her biological child. Of course, she would have first thought of exhausting all available correctional approaches, which she refused to do in Ayomide’s case.
Similarly, there was no reason whatsoever for Amotekun to have accepted Ayomide, a minor, into its custody. Personnel of the Amotekun are not known to have received any formal training from which they would have acquired the necessary skills that would empower them to render professional counselling services; a missing element that sufficiently explains why they resorted to torturing the minor to death.
Now, tomorrow May 27, 2023, is Children’s Day in Nigeria and Ayomide Adeghalu would be missing from the Day’s activities including match-past, parties, sporting events and all the fun that comes with it.
While we call for a diligent probe by the police into the death of Ayomide under Amotekun’s custody, everyone involved in the torture that led to his death must be arrested and prosecuted; and if found culpable, sentenced according to provisions of the law.
The fact that Ayomide died in the hands of Amotekun operatives over an alleged pilfering of N500 only is a good reason to, once again, call for a review of the operations of all state-owned security outfits in the country. It further makes the need to allow the much sought-after state police to become a reality. Rather than create more problems in an attempt to solve one with state-owned security groups, state police is in this context a better option.
Ayomide’s case is one that yet showcases the plight of the Nigerian child whose rights, unlike his counterparts in other climes, are far from being preserved let alone enforced. Were Ayomide’s rights well-preserved, he would have been in school; not on the street hawking food. Given all that the Nigerian child lacks as a matter of right, it is doubtful if there’s anything in his life that is worth celebrating. He typically lacks access to quality education, good healthcare delivery system, clean water, and functional sporting facilities.
Although basic education in Nigeria is free and compulsory, about 20 million of the country’s children aged between 5-14 years are not in school; increasing the population of illiterates in a country that should have, given its resources, wiped out illiteracy before the end of the twentieth century. Even children who manage to make it to public schools do not get the best of education because of infrastructural deficits. Developing the Nigerian child into a sound citizen equipped with skills for self-fulfillment in a knowledge-driven world is a basic right that must be guaranteed by both the home and the school. There is a need to also look critically into the violation of the rights of children and ensure that violators are punished.
The issue of child labour, which is now rampant, must be looked into and addressed. It must be stated clearly that they are Nigeria’s future and they must be allowed to grow in a conducive environment with all their rights protected. Happy Children’s Day to all Nigerian children!
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