BY TAIWO FAROTIMI
It was a tragic occurrence for the two families. Modupe Olomo and her husband, Oluwaseun Olomo, had a dream of giving the best education to their children, and so be happy together thereafter. But on her way home from work on June 3, 2019 tragedy struck, she had an accident on a commercial motorcycle around Ile Zik, Ikeja along in Lagos. She was rushed to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, where she later died. While the two families were mourning their daughter, nobody could really tell why what had been a friendly relationship between Modupe’s family and that of her in-laws turned toxic.
By the time she was buried a few days later the fault lines had become so glaring that her children who were taken to her mother, Elizabeth Iluyomade, two days after the accident were not released to witness the burial of their mother.
Their maternal grandmother raised issues over delay in giving information about the death of her daughter on the day the accident happened and refusal of Oluwaseun to surrender to her the cloths Modupe had on till death. Pastors representing both sides were said to have made efforts to mediate until a compromise was reached for the burial. But later Iluyomade complained that her pastor was not on the programme for the burial. Iluyomade worships at a Pentecostal church while Olomo and his late wife worship at the Catholic Church. The mass for Modupe’s burial was done at the Catholic Church.
By the time Olomo went to take the children back to school and his mother in law declined, it became apparent that perhaps that was why she did not allow them to attend the programme for their mother’s burial.
Since last June, the tango between the families had recorded between it counter-petitions, allegations of threat and abuse, two court cases, allegations of denial of justice and a media war that has provoked a libel charge.
Less than three months to the anniversary of Modupe’s demise relationship appears to have collapsed between the two families that they are accusing each other of death threat. Yet, that was after the court granted Olomo custody of the children, and their maternal grandmother the right to visit them once in a month. Iluyomade is complaining that Olomo has absconded with her grandchildren even as she wants circumstances surrounding the death of her daughter investigated. Now, Olomo is not only struggling to protect the children even as he is afraid for his life, his name, according to the lawyer, is being dragged in the mud. Already, there are fears that the court may have to arbitrate once again. This is because Iluyomade is believed to have taken the matter to the media through which Fadesere said the image of Olomo, his client, has been dented. The lawyer suspects some desperation in the steps being taken by the woman, and so has approached the court on the issue.
Two things happened last week concerning the matter. D. J. Fadesere, counsel to Olomo petitioned Mrs. B.O. Osunsanmi, the magistrate who presided over the case of request by Iluyomade for the custody of the children last year. Fadesere said the environment, created by the publications, had become too “unhealthy and toxic” for his client and the two children-Fiyinfoluwa, 5, and Folakemi, 2, to be at the Agege office of the Ministry of Youth and Social Development so the grandma could see them. According to the lawyer, Iluyomade had taken the matter to ‘public glare’, with photographs of Olomo and the children adorning the Internet, thus exposing them to danger. Fadesere said the children were at his chambers on the eve of Friday [last Friday in February] scheduled visit, but his fears was that they could be attacked, particularly because Olomo had received threat calls following the publications on the issues in the media.
That experience must have heightened Iluyomade’s apprehension. To start with, she had complained that Olomo changed address from where he and her daughter had resided while she was alive, thus raising fears that he had absconded with her grandchildren. Oluwaseun, who sounded depressed when contacted, directed the reporter to his lawyer. The Crest also gathered that Olomo’s neighbours had reported cases of some suspicious persons coming around to ask information about his apartment furoreand movement. Afraid that he could be harmed, his neighbours advised that he stayed away for some time, as he may not be always lucky. Fadesere would not disclose information about his new abode, apparently afraid that the address will once again be published in the media, and therefore put his client’s life in danger.
The battle for the custody of the children started before the allegation of sexual abuse came up. Iluyomade said, “My opinion was that since Olomo, my son-in-law is a Uber driver, who will not be available to take care of the children, it is proper to have custody of the children for now”. The lawyer said Olomo was not comfortable with that suggestion because each time he visited the Ago Palace home of the Iluyomades he did not like the state he found his children. Besides, while their grandmother would not release them to return to school for which reason they lost opportunity to participate in third term examinations, she also did not enrol them in any school. “The children were just at home watching cartoons and playing around the compound,” he said. Olomo had told the court that his mother, paternal grandmother of the children concerned, will be with him to care for the children.
If that was the case, there appeared to have been no way that Olomo would have lost custody of the children. But another reason then came up to prove that Olomo was not a fit and proper person to leave the children with. Iluyomade said she noticed that Folakemi was ill at ease and took her to the hospital for examination only to discover that she had been abused. The story was also that the doctor asked to examine Fiyinfoluwa and, as they claimed, they discovered that he too had been abused. The report from Mirabel Centre states that both children were penetrated by whoever the abuser was.
The argument then was that the father was the one who abused the children. Now, Kofo Olabalu, the woman’s lawyer also deposed that even if he was not the one who defiled the children, he could still not be trusted with them, since he was careless enough not to have detected and has therefore failed to point to anyone who could have done it. The matter was taken before the court, and the minors also were in court to ‘participate’ in court proceedings, where Fiyinfoluwa denied that their father ever abused them. Now, prior to the court appearance, the children had been away from their father for about three months. They had been with their maternal grandmother, who made the allegation, before they were taken to Welfare Home. After studying the proceedings at the court, the state director of public prosecution advised that the trial of Olomo on allegation of defiling his children be discontinued, because, as he said, there was no evidence to back it up. Y. G. Oshoala, director of public prosecution stated in its advice, “After carefully considering the facts available in the duplicate case file, this office is of the view that there is no prima facie case of Defilement of a Child and Sexual Assault by Penetration contrary to Sections 137 and 261 of the Criminal Law Cap.C.17, Vol. 3, Laws of Lagos State 2015, against the suspect, PG B1-OLUWASEUN OLOMO.” The DPP considered the facts from the file presented to him, which include the denial of Olomo and the children. He, therefore, concluded, “In the light of the foregoing, this Office shall not prosecute Page B1-OLUWASEUN OLOMO for the offence of Defilement of a Child and Sexual Assault by Penetration contrary to Sections 137 and 261 of the Criminal Law, Cap C. 17 Laws of Lagos State 2015.”
Olomo was absolved of the charge in September, and subsequently granted custody of the children last November. Iluyomade is crying foul. She accused the prosecution of tampering with the evidence and insisted that she would go on appeal, which she has done. The concern of Fadesere is that she has gone a step further to go to the media where Fadesere said his client has been libelled against. That too has introduced another dimension to the whole episode. The lawyer has written the online publications concerned asking for a retraction of the stories, an undertaking not to repeat same, while also demanding N2 billion for damages. Failure to comply with the requests, the lawyer said, would result in court action.
The lawyer is pained because the publications were made after the court had dispensed with the matter. It is therefore the belief of the lawyer that the publications were not done in good faith. Then, he said that by that publication his client has been “greatly injured in his credit and reputation and has been brought into scandal, odium, rejection, contempt and has suffered damages to his reputation.”
It is hoped that the two families will find a way to resolve their differences, if only for the sake of the innocent minors in the middle of the whole thing.