Since the media report on the ugly incident of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, who was allegedly bullied to death by his schoolmates, many concerned Nigerians have been asking the question, “who should be held responsible?”
The ulterior motive in Oromoni’s case is said to be his refusal to join a secret cult.
Murder is an offence under Section 316 of the Criminal Code and Section 220 of the Penal Code, respectively.
However, there are no more than four instances when killing can be lawful. Killing is lawful when: a sitting governor assents a death warrant issued by a competent court following an accused’s conviction; a person is killed in self-defence, in the defence of another person, or the defence of property from unlawful aggression by another person.
It is also lawful when: a person is killed in the course of a valid arrest or a process to prevent a lawfully detained person from escaping, as long as necessary reasonable force is used; a person is killed as a result of law enforcement agent, using reasonable and necessary force to put down a riot, insurgency, or mutiny.
As to who should be held responsible for Oromoni’s death, Section 30 of the Criminal Code states, “Any person who commits the crime of murder is subject to death penalty under section 319 of the Criminal Code”.
However, the issue at hand is the criminal liability of an accused individual(s) who is under the age of majority (17/18). A person under the age of seven, as well as a person under the age of 12 but not less than eight years, is not criminally responsible for an act or omission unless it is proven that, at the time of the act or omission, the accused could know that he or she should not do the act or make the omission, or is reasonably presumed to have sufficient knowledge of the act or omission.
In negligence cases, where the defendant fails to fulfill the legal standard of care, a breach of duty may be proven. The claimant must show that the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care. Although the breach of duty test is largely objective, there may be minor variances.
If the parents of the perpetrators move them abroad, as it was rumoured, to avoid criminal liability, they will be liable for accessory after the fact of the murder, which is punishable by life imprisonment if convicted under Section 10 of the Penal Code.
In criminal law, an accessory is a person who becomes equally responsible for another person’s crime by knowingly and willfully assisting the criminal before or after the crime.
In law, an accomplice is a person who, by knowingly and willfully assisting another in committing a crime, becomes equally culpable. An accomplice can be either a helper or otherwise. The accessory assists a criminal before the crime is committed, whereas the abettor assists the perpetrator during the act.
Late Oromoni gave the names of five of his schoolmates who were responsible for his agony before he died. It is therefore commonplace to predict that he died as a result of the torture and poisoning he endured.
So can the testimony of a dead or dying person be relied upon by the court?
Apparently, the law generally empowers the judge to weigh and attach probative worth to shreds of evidence tendered.
However, in this case, the major evidence the court may rely on is the testimony of late Oromoni, which is labeled as “dying declaration
A dying declaration may be oral or written. Generally, the law assumes the testimony of a dying man as the truth; on the premise that a dying man cannot tell lies.
This suffices to make late Oromoni’s testimony admissible as the autopsy conducted affirms that he was indeed beaten and poisoned. Also, the declaration of a dying person needs not to be corroborated.
As we await the court’s decision in this matter, it is my earnest wishes that Oromoni’s soul rests in perfect peace.
Habiba Mamudu Abdullahi,
Mass Communication Department,
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger state