There was apprehension in Kubwa, a satellite town in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Wednesday, following the death of three pupils of Local Education Authority Primary School, Kubwa 2, after reportedly eating biscuits.
The snack was allegedly shared to the victims by an unidentified classmate on Wednesday.
Two pupils were said to have died at home in the night, while the third victim collapsed and died at the Kubwa General Hospital on Thursday.
The deceased, who were primary four pupils, included Na’imat Yahaya, 14, and Yahaya Garba, also 14. Both died after returning to their homes in Kubwa.
The third victim, Moses Sunday, a primary one pupil, was said to have been taken to the hospital along with two other pupils, namely Aisha Isa and Hasiya Haruna.
The deceased were said to have been buried on Thursday by their family members and sympathisers.
The incident spread panic in the community as parents besieged the school and forcibly took away their children.
Our correspondent, who visited the school, saw the teachers discussing the incident while the headmistress was giving an account of the tragedy to officials of the FCT Education Secretariat, who were at the school on a fact-finding mission.
Journalists were barred from the briefing and the head teacher, whose name could not be immediately ascertained, declined to comment on the incident.
Nigerian Union of Teachers officials, who also visited the school, declined to speak to journalists.
The distressed mother, Fatima said that she rushed the 13-year-old to the hospital when she learnt that she ate from the biscuits at the school.
She explained that her daughter, a primary three pupil, informed her that she was given the snack by “a Muslim sister.”
Fatima, who spoke in Hausa, said, “There was a party in the school where my daughter was given biscuits with other pupils. We discovered that some pupils died at night.
“So, I asked her if she ate the biscuits and who gave her. She said it was shared to them by a Muslim sister and so I was satisfied with her explanation. But we were asked to take her to the hospital because some pupils died, so I decided to bring her here (Kubwa General Hospital).”
Fatima stated that she gave Hasiya some herbal concoction at home when she complained about stomach pains, adding that she was apprehensive when she heard that other pupils had died.
“When I heard that Na’imat (Yahaya) had died, I quickly brought my daughter to the hospital, but since we got here, nobody had attended to us,” she complained.
But the Chief Medical Doctor of the Hospital, Dr Lasisi Akinola, feigned ignorance of the incident, saying the hospital had admitted some sick pupils which he described as usual.
“We receive sick pupils and people all the time, so there is nothing unusual about that. I know we have the corpse of a pupil who died after a fight with another pupil, but I don’t have information on what you are talking about,” he stated.
The FCT police spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah, said the police had opened investigation into the incident, adding that the case would be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department.
Confirming the incident, the FCT Administration Education Secretariat, in a statement by its spokesman, Tony Ogunleye, said three pupils lost their lives, while two others were hospitalised “in circumstances that are still under investigation from relevant authorities including the Nigeria Police Force and the Health and Human Services Secretariat of the FCT.”
It added that the school, had been closed down for the rest of the week to enable investigating authorities to carry out a thorough assignment.
“It was reported that some pupils consumed biscuits purchased outside the school premises and consumed after school hours which might have adversely affected their health. Until investigations are complete, the cause/causes of the children’s deaths remain speculative.
“So far, there has been no evidence of deliberate foul play, but investigations are ongoing. Parents are advised to remain calm and be assured of the safety of their children in all FCT schools. Secretary for Education, Senator Isa Maina, commiserates with the families of the pupils in this difficult time as his prayers and thoughts are with them,” the statement noted.