The milieu in the Orimade, Zion quarters of Ondo town, the headquarters of Ondo West Local Government Area of Ondo State, is still gloomy following the death of three underage girls, who drowned while swimming in Oluwa River in the community.
The three pupils aged between seven and 10 years were Iyabo Isiaka, Nife Akinnuoye and Seun Olusegun. They went to the river to swim last week but didn’t return home alive.
The development was said to be one of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic which has affected millions and killed thousands globally.
As part of measures to check spread of the disease, schools, offices and worship centres have been closed in Nigeria with several states on lockdown.
It was gathered that the young girls went to the river to swim out of boredom since schools in the state were also under lock and key to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
Though the remains of the three kids, whose lifeless bodies were retrieved from in the river many hours after they reportedly drowned had been buried immediately by their families, the incident continues to generate reactions from different quarters.
Parents of the deceased who spoke with our correspondent expressed shock over the death of their daughters, adding that the incident had left them heartbroken. They said they were unaware that the children went to the river to swim or play.
One of the fathers of the deceased, Mr Olohunlugo Akinnuoye, said he was still wondering what could have led his daughter to swim in the river.
He noted that his family recently moved to the area few months before the incident and had never seen his child around the river let alone go swimming.
He said, “When I heard that my daughter was one of the children that went to swim in that river, I didn’t believe it initially. I ran there later and dived into it to search for them but I didn’t see them on time. It was later that they were found and brought out dead.
“It was surprising to me because we just came to the community three months ago. My daughter had never swum in a river before. It is an unfortunate incident to my family.’’
Describing her daughter as a gentle and brilliant girl who always wanted good things for the family, Akinnuoye regretted that her daughter would be sorely missed by all the family members. He noted that the family had yet to recover from the loss.
Also, another parent of one of the girls, Mr Ajayi Olusegun, lamented that he and his entire family were still in shock over the death of his eight-year-old daughter. He expressed surprise that his daughter was among the girls who went to the river to swim, stating that she was an introvert and not outgoing.
Olusegun, who is a bricklayer and divorcee, stated that his daughter always stayed in the house with her siblings.
He said, “When the incident happened, I was at work when someone informed me of the incident. I didn’t believe my daughter would be among them because she usually stayed indoors.
“All my five children do stay at home. They play together and do things by themselves. I cannot say what came over her to have followed other girls to the river to swim. In fact, the river is far from the house. I don’t know why this is happening to me. Their mother has not been with me since the past four years. I have been taking care of them alone. I did not marry another woman since their mother left me because they are still young. I don’t want them to suffer. This is a big blow on my family.”
Mrs Cecelia Akinsulie is the grandmother of Isiaka. She told Saturday PUNCH that she had been taking care of the late Iyabo since the demise of her mother. Expressing sadness over the incident, Akinsulie said she loved the girl so much being the last child of the three children her late daughter left behind. She described her in a sober tone as an active and loving girl.
She said, “On that day after she finished eating, I sent her on an errand to buy recharge card and a blade we wanted to use to cut her hair. She went and returned with the change. I asked her to keep it, that we would use it to buy something later. That was my last encounter with her. I didn’t know she later went out to swim with other girls.
“Later, after some time, I didn’t see her. I called her sister to search for her. At that point, I was panicky because I didn’t know where she was and what might have happened to her. As I went out of the compound, I saw the clothes she wore that day on the floor. We later heard about the river incident and went there. It was there that we discovered that calamity had befallen the family.’’
One of the landlords in the community, Mr Oladipo Adams, said there was the need for the government to find solution to the bridge on the Oluwa River.
He added that it had become an annual occurrence for people to die in the river. Adams urged the government to rescue the community from the yearly loss of lives by constructing a bridge on the river so that people could see the whole area and river properly.
In his reaction, the state police spokesperson, Mr Tee-Leo Ikoro, said it could be established that there was no trace of any act of criminality in the death of the schoolgirls. He linked the incident to the children’s exuberance.
Ikoro said, “The children fell from the bridge and got drowned in the river but their parents have buried them immediately. There was no act of criminality in the matter.’’
The PPRO called on parents and guardians to watch over their children and wards and also to stay safe, and obey government’s directives during the COVID-19 lockdown.