The Imo State Government said it had started investigation into the death of Queendaline Ekezie, a 15-year-old pupil of Army Day Secondary School, Obinze, Owerri, who collapsed and died during an intense punishment by soldiers in the school.
The state Commissioner for Education, Gertrud Oduka, on Thursday said government officials were in touch with the deceased’s family, adding that due diligence would be done in the case.
She said, “We don’t want to issue a statement in a hurry. We have launched an investigation to ascertain the actual cause of the death of the pupil. Some senior officers of the ministry are in the girl’s village. The matter is a sensitive one and we are being careful.”
It was reported that Queendaline, a Junior Secondary School 3 pupil, and her colleague, Delight Aguocha, had got to school late on Thursday, February 15, 2018.
They were said to have met two soldiers on the school premises, who insisted that they frogmarched as punishment for the lateness.
The soldiers reportedly asked them to repeat the punishment three times, as the victim collapsed and was rushed to an army hospital where she died.
Our correspondent reported that the victim’s father, Hyginus, passed out on hearing the news.
He was reportedly taken to a hospital in the community for treatment.
Hyginus, who had returned to his house in Umuoso, in the Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State on Thursday, said there had been pressures on his family to let go of the case.
The victim’s father, who spoke in Igbo, told one of our correspondents during a visit to the house that his relatives asked him to forgive the soldiers who allegedly killed his daughter.
While noting that he wanted a peaceful resolution of the matter, he said no date had been fixed for Queendaline’s burial.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians, who read the report online and other social media platforms, expressed anger at the incident, saying the soldiers should be brought to book.
A reader, Winy, said, “Tears of sorrow flowed in my eyes while I read what led to the death of this young girl. Oh, what heartless soldiers! Even when this girl was tired and crying, was that not enough for them to release her from the punishment? The wicked soldiers must be arrested to face the law for this act.”
Another reader, Juwon, who urged human rights lawyers to take up the matter, asked the victim’s family to sue the soldiers.
“I respect and do not fear Nigerian soldiers. But these two soldiers are lazy and undisciplined. How can you tell minors to do such a hard and suffocating punishment? The family should sue the two soldiers. I call on human rights lawyers to please help the family to prosecute the case,” he said.
One Ajayi Olupono said lack of punishment for soldiers who abused their powers was responsible for the impunity in the army.
“Fellow country people, what happened to the soldiers who killed like this in the past? Nothing! Only exemplary punishment can stop and discourage more untimely deaths like this,” he added.
A commentator with the alias, Reality of Life, however, called for caution, saying the victim could have been sick before the time and the punishment only aggravated her health condition.
“I guess the girl was sick, but not known to her or the parents. The punishment only triggered the ailment. Inadequate test, if any, was conducted, and improper handling at the hospital also catalysed the resultant effect– death. Obviously, the girl was not fit before the punishment. The same thing could have happened if she was to join others on the playing ground that morning for a physical exercise,” he said.
A reader, with the alias, Dencom, faulted a sibling of the victim for demanding compensation.
“No, no, this case should not be swept under the carpet of ‘family affair’ settlement. There must be justice for Queendaline. The irresponsible, heartless soldiers must be fished out and prosecuted for manslaughter. If not, this kind of military recklessness and brutality will continue,” he added