ABUJA KILLER CRECHE: POLICE COMES UNDER CRITICISM OVER HANDLING OF CASE

…as school nanny remains in police custody

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Controversy has continued to trail the manner the police handled the death of a six-month-old baby in a crèche in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Autopsy has since proven that the baby died of asphyxiation. However, the grieving parents insisted that further police investigation should be carried out, in order to find out how the baby developed asphyxiation.
The management of Britmax International School, operators of the crèche, has also received knocks from the public for its several alleged moves, which have cast a shadow of doubt on the integrity of those who have questions to answer concerning the case.
The baby, Michelle Onoja, on January 11, 2019, was allegedly taken by some staff of the school to an undisclosed hospital without informing her parents.
Later, when the baby’s mother was called to the school, the condition of the child was already bad. When she was rushed to another hospital, she was confirmed dead.
When our correspondent went to the school to speak with the management, it declined comment, saying that the matter had been taken over by police.
The police were accused of making attempts to compromise the matter by allegedly putting pressure on parents of the baby to reconsider their decision to seek legal redress. The police have also remained suspiciously silent.
Our investigation revealed that one of the nannies, working in the crèche arm of the school, has been in custody of the detectives of the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (SCIID), FCT, since the incident.
Michelle is said to be the second child of Mr. and Mrs. Onoja, residents of Jubilation Bethel Estate, Lokogoma, where the school is also located. On the fateful day, the mother took the baby to the school and handed her over one of the nannies in the crèche.
A worker with the school, a lady, who our correspondent met at the school reception area, refused to mention her name.
She disclosed: “The school has nothing to say on this matter. The matter has been taken over by the police. Please direct your enquiries to the police.”
It was also discovered that the baby’s parents have secretly moved out of their apartment in the estate to an unknown destination, making contact with them difficult.
Another twist to the ongoing story, which caused doubt and suspicion, was the fact that the school authorities took the baby to the hospital without informing her parents. There was also allegation that the recordings of the CCTV in the crèche were deleted.
It was further alleged that the school management tried to compromise autopsy result.
An attempt to get the police to give details of the incident also proved abortive as the FCT Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mamza Anjuguri, was said to be on a course outside Abuja.
His second in command, Adamu Tanimu, was not also available to comment on the matter. But when contacted on the phone, he promised to gather facts on the matter and get back.
He said: “On this matter, I do not have enough knowledge of it. I don’t have a full picture of it. I will confirm from the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Galadimawa or Apo. I will make calls to confirm and get back to you.”
A mother, who has children in the school, spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity. She disclosed that the nanny, who worked with the crèche, was still in police detention.
The baby’s mum, before disappearing, had posted on Facebook, events leading to the death of her baby and how she got to hear about it.
On January 11, 2019, about 8a.m., Michelle was dropped at the day care facility, crèche, in Britmax International School and left for her place of work. At the time of dropping her, there was nothing wrong with the baby.
About 2.18p.m., the mother called the nanny taking over from the first caregiver to know the welfare of the baby, so she could go and pick her. She called, but nobody picked her call.
According to the post, “The mother then received a call at 2.19p.m. from the school secretary’s number, who is a woman. The caller, however, turned out to be man. He told her to come to the school immediately. When she got to the school, which is less than a minute’s drive from her house. When she got there, she saw about five women and two praying over Michelle in the bed. The mother asked what the matter was, but nobody responded.”
The further states: “When Michelle’s mum carried her, she noticed blood stains on her nose and food particles around her hair and nostrils. She became seriously agitated and wondered what could have resulted to the blood stains on her daughter’s body. She tried sucking out whatever was the blockage, but realised that the best thing was to rush her to the hospital.
“At the point of entering the car, one of the persons around, whom she later understood was the school accountant made a remark that they had just returned from hospital. She was shocked. On hearing this, it dawned on her that the school had earlier taken her daughter to the hospital without her knowledge. Yet none of the other people around could tell her anything; she even asked the nanny what happened, but the nanny didn’t say a word. When asked about the teacher, they replied that had already left the school to the police station, even before the mother knew her child was dead.
“On getting to the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja, Michelle was received at the emergency unit. Doctor attended to her, but to no avail. The doctor remarked that if Michelle had been brought on time, she would have been saved. Following the circumstances of Michelle’s death, the mother lodged a complaint at the Apo Divisional Police Station (DPO). The Investigating Police Officer (IPO), Mr. Arome, was detailed to investigate the matter. Based on the blood stains, the mum advised the police to demand for a preview of the CCTV to enable the police unravel the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of her daughter.”
It was gathered that when Arome asked for the CCTV on January 12, 2019, he was told that the camera had been wiped out. This information further increased the parents’ suspicion that their daughter might have been killed. The parents sought to know if the school had medical personnel in its employ only to be told there was none.
Since the IPO could not access the CCTV, the parents decided an autopsy should be conducted on Michelle to unravel the true cause of death.