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Mother Of Student Who ‘Slumped’ In Veritas University Claims He Was Murdered

One Tuesday night in April, Joshua's parents got a call from the school that their son slumped and died in the gym after being struck by a metal. They now believe it's a case of homicide but have been unable to get definite proof due to a lack of cooperation from the university and police authorities.

The death of Joshua Daniel, a freshman in the Department of Computer Sciences at Veritas University, continues to draw controversy after many weeks.

According to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Hyacinth Ichoku, Joshua died after he slumped at the university gymnasium on April 30, and attempts to revive him failed. “The weight he was bearing hit him, and he hit his head on the wall and died,” claimed the school’s Chief Medical Director, Ogah Agalikwu.

Joshua’s parents, however, say they have reason to believe this was not what happened. Before carrying out an autopsy, they discovered that his head was in perfect condition. Also, they had seen blood clots on his back. 

“We were on our way back from the morgue in the car that night when it occurred to me that my son was attacked,” Ifeoma Ejigbo, Joshua’s mother, recalled.

Those who were in the car with her had excused her instinct for grief. But when she pressed on, members of the family went back to the morgue the following day. When they got to examine the body of the deceased, they were stunned to find his head and face in good condition. They had expected to see visible scars or inflammation since the school informed them that a metal fell on him during his gym session.

An animal nerd

Even though she was grieving, Ifeoma had sparks in her eyes when talking about her son.

“Joshua was a very quiet person. He hardly spoke, but he was a computer wizard,” she said.

Ifeoma remembers Joshua as a nerd who loved technology and animals. At the age of six, he loved to use foil and other kinds of paper to create animals.

“He was like an animal encyclopedia,” she stated proudly. 

Joshua showed an early interest in phones and computers, which prompted his course of study at the university. Unfortunately, he died aged 17, barely after making it to the second semester of his first year of study.

Graduate in cap and gown standing outdoors with celebratory tents and chairs in the background.
Joshua at Veritas University’s matriculation ceremony. 

The night he died

“It was Tuesday night, the 30th of April 2024, a couple of minutes before midnight, when my husband woke me up from sleep and said we needed to go to Veritas University because Joshua slumped in school. I jumped out of bed, and we set out to Bwari that night,” Ifeoma narrated.

Daniel, her husband, was already informed that Joshua had died and had received the address of the morgue where the body was deposited, but he didn’t know how to break the sad news to her.

“The Chief Medical Officer (CMD) of the school had called my husband and told him that his son got hit by a metal on the head at the gym and that his friends had tried to resuscitate him before he was rushed to the school clinic where he was confirmed dead,” Ifeoma disclosed.

On their way, she noticed that her husband was driving in another direction, far from the school. When she demanded an explanation, Daniel told her Joshua had been transferred to a hospital from the school clinic.

“When we got to the place, it didn’t look like a hospital. I asked where my son was and was told he was in a special room. I told them to take me to the special room, and that was when my husband held me and told me to calm down that Joshua was dead.”

Ifeoma lost it and started to wail. 

Later that night, the Dean of Veritas University showed up at the facility.

“We were taken to a dimly lit, ramshackle structure where my son was laid on the ground covered with a blue cloth. I wasn’t allowed to proceed toward him. My husband said we were moving him from there because they didn’t think the place was equipped to hold a body. They just dropped him there on the ground,” she recounted after taking several deep breaths.

The Dean took the deceased into his car as they prepared to go to the National Hospital, Abuja, where his parents wanted his body to be deposited.

In the back seat where he lay, Ifeoma said that she held onto her son’s feet and was fervently praying that he would be revived despite the pronouncement that he was dead. 

“We got to the National Hospital around 2 a.m.,” she said.

It was at the morgue she saw Joshua’s body properly. “I was expecting maybe internal bleeding, a swollen head, or, at best, the point of impact, but there was nothing. His head was fine.”

After completing all the requirements in the morgue, they returned home at past 4 a.m.

Motherly instinct

On their way home, Ifeoma recalled being struck by a feeling that her child was attacked. “I started screaming in the car, but my husband and brother-in-law felt I was being inconsolable,” she said.

She had been thinking all through, trying to analyse the school’s claim regarding the cause of death. She pointed out that her husband was called past 11 p.m. even though Joshua’s classmate found out about his demise around 10 p.m. She had also heard from a close family that they learned about Joshua’s death around 10 p.m. from their daughter, who was also schooling at Veritas, but the parents of the girl had hesitated to contact them.

Ifeoma said that gyming was the only social activity Joshua did, being an introvert.

“Everyone knows that he went to the gym at night. They don’t gym during the day, so it’s usually after his classes that he went there around 7 p.m.,” she pointed out.

She also explained that Veritas University’s policy was that students could only leave school if their parents or guardians were contacted.

“Why was he moved out without our permission? Why was he not having any clothes on when we took him to the morgue?” These were the questions she had asked, the questions that made her restless.

Ben Agande, Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Veritas University, told HumAngle that the school tried to reach Joshua’s parents through the provided telephone numbers when the unfortunate incident happened.

“The father did not pick up his phone from about 8:30 pm when it happened till about 11 p.m. when he returned the call,” Agande said. This is similar to the CMD’s statement to Premium Times, a Nigerian online newspaper.

According to Ifeoma, her husband saw the call from the school around 11 p.m., when he called back. She also asserted that two phone numbers were registered for contact in case of emergency, and since her husband wasn’t responding to his calls as the school claimed, they should have called her since her phone number was the alternative provided.

Agande said the corpse had to be moved to the nearest medical centre with the facility to preserve it since the school does not have a morgue. 

“It was borne out of the best of intentions of preservation,” he stressed.

Cause of death

Because of their growing suspicion, Mr and Mrs Daniel decided to find out the cause of their son’s death. The following day, two of Ifeoma’s relatives went to the university to obtain a police report, which the National Hospital said was a requirement for an autopsy to be carried out. 

When they got to the station by the school gate, the police officers claimed not to be aware of Joshua’s death.

“A security man from the school was passing by, and the policemen called him to ask why they were not informed that a student had died in the school. The security guard said that they were not aware either,” Ifeoma said. 

She further revealed that they [the police officers] had tried getting into the school but were denied access. They contacted the Vice Chancellor (V.C.), who reportedly told them they didn’t have the authorisation to enter the premises. According to Ifeoma, the V.C. had demanded to see higher-ranking officers.

“My brother went into town with the IPO [Investigation Police Officer], and then they went to the National Hospital to obtain a death certificate. After that, the police proceeded to take photos of Joshua’s body. After taking a few clicks of his upper body, my brother insisted that they take full pictures of him, and when they flipped him over, they saw blood clots around his back,” she narrated.

That gave them the idea that the school’s claim of Joshua getting struck by a metal on the head could be wrong. The relatives of the deceased went back to Bwari to inform the police division about their discovery. Ifeoma said that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), ACP Babanyola, strangely got angry and accused them of causing trouble.

“The DPO told them that the V.C. of Veritas University spoke with my husband and that the case was settled and that we were going to bury the child,” Ifeoma stated, clarifying that the V.C. was not in communication with her husband.

When HumAngle contacted the DPO about the statement, he only responded that the case had been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) and was no longer within his purview. He did not comment on the allegation that he claimed the V.C. had informed him about settling the case.

Joshua’s family decided to register the case with the Police Force Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Garki, Abuja, on May 2, 2024, and officers were sent to the university. 

The officers were taken to the gymnasium to examine the spot where Joshua slumped.

“The equipment they claimed he was working out on, which caused him those injuries, was shown to the officers. The equipment was the one used by bodybuilders to expand, and there was nothing at the top,” Ifeoma said.

According to her, three boys working out with Joshua at the gym that night were brought forth. The boys claimed that there was a power failure, so they didn’t pay attention to Joshua. They only noticed when he fell to the ground and fumbled at the mouth. They said that they tried to resuscitate him by pouring water on him.

“It was requested that the boys be brought before the CID force for more questioning, but the V.C. refused that the boys couldn’t be moved out of the school without the permission of their parents. When the officers pressed on, the boys were then asked to come with the CID.”

The autopsy was finally carried out at the National Hospital Abuja, and a certificate for the cause of death was issued to the family, which was shared with HumAngle. The document identified asphyxia as the cause of death as a consequence of spinal cord injury and blunt trauma.

A blurred image of a medical certificate indicating the cause of death with handwritten notes and a signature.
Medical certificate of cause of death

We contacted two physicians, Dr. Frankleen Robison and Dr. Fidelis Omeh, to interpret the autopsy. 

According to Dr Frankleen, a medical doctor, blunt trauma is a forceful impact with a dull-edge weapon, usually with no external injury. 

Dr. Fidelis, who is a senior registrar in Internal Medicine from Moddibo Adama University Teaching Hospital, Yola, explained that blunt trauma could be a result of accidents or beating and that it can lead to the secondary cause of death, which is spinal cord injury.

“As a result of the spinal cord injury, the patient can get pulmonary embolism, which is a condition whereby one or more arteries are blocked by a blood clot,” he said. Pulmonary embolism or thrombus can then lead to asphyxiation, a breathing impairment that occurs when there is insufficient oxygen getting into the body. 

“So in this case, the deceased is believed to have been violently attacked with a heavy blunt edge weapon, affecting the spinal cord, most likely the neck region, which in turn affects the respiratory pathway leading to breathing insufficiency,” Dr Frankleen explained.

He further stated that such an accident can lead to one’s death, depending primarily on the severity of the initial injury or damage. “Also, it depends on where in the gym, what he was doing, and what he landed on,” he said. 

He further explained that, given the nature of the exercise, Joshua’s height from the floor and the part of his body that immediately impacted the floor would shed more light on what happened.

A home gym with an exercise bike, chest press machine, and pull-down machine.
Inside the school gym where the incident happened. Photo: Saduwo Banyawa/HumAngle.

A victim of harassment

Ifeoma revealed that Joshua was facing harassment two weeks before his death.

“There was a security man he told me was harassing him,” she said.

According to her, it started when some phones went missing in his friend’s room. He got a call around 1 a.m. when the security officers summoned all the people present in the room when the phones got lost. All the students gave their accounts. Joshua told his mother that the phones were charging and someone was sleeping when he left the room. 

Ifeoma said that the security officer in charge of the case accused Joshua of stealing the phones even though there was no proof.

“Even the owners of the phone told the man that it couldn’t have been Joshua because they were friends and they went to each other’s rooms, but the man insisted. He asked Joshua to pay for the stolen phones,” she said.

She further revealed that the officer began harassing Joshua from that day anywhere he saw him on campus. The security officer [name withheld ] also went to his hostel to harass him, saying that he must pay for the phones. When it got worse, Joshua called his mom and complained. 

“My son doesn’t talk until it is really serious, so when he reached out, I knew it was a serious issue, and I informed my husband,” she said.

Ifeoma pointed out that Joshua had never stolen anything before and that his phone could buy the three phones combined, so it didn’t make sense to her that he was accused. 

Joshua’s parents decided to pay for the tracking of the lost phones so that their son’s name would be cleared once the phones were found.

“He was supposed to come home to fix his laptop that weekend, so he went to the Dean’s office to get an exeat form, but then the security officer went to the dean’s office to complain that my son shouldn’t leave the school because there was an ongoing investigation against him.”

Joshua’s parents got a call from the Dean, and they went down to Veritas to urge the security officer to leave their son alone until he had proof against him. But they didn’t meet the security officer when they got to the school.

When they eventually contacted one of the stolen phones, the person who answered the call spoke Yoruba in a noisy area that seemed like a market, which was how her son was absolved because he hadn’t left the school since the theft.

“I was so troubled about the matter and did not have peace,” she said,  

According to the school spokesperson, Agande, Veritas has zero tolerance for harassment.

“Any semblance of bullying at all is met with instant expulsion. I can tell you that we do not have any case of bullying or harassment of any kind in our school,” he said. 

Ifeoma had called Joshua to ask whether the harassment had persisted. He said it didn’t. She was waiting for him to come home the next weekend, but he died on Tuesday. 

Her last moments with Joshua were the phone call they had around 7 p.m. on the day he died.

It’s stalling

It’s been almost a month since Joshua’s family handed the case to Benneth Igweh, the FCT Police Commissioner. Ifeoma claimed that they called the commissioner several times, and he responded that they were working on the case.

“The last time we called him, he said that they had handed the case over to their legal department, which I don’t understand because an alleged murder was committed and the investigation was still going on. Then why did they hand it over to the legal department? Is it not when you have proven your case that the legal department comes in?” Ifeoma lamented with a confused expression.

She believes the case is being stalled.

She also claimed that the witnesses taken by the CID for questioning were threatened not to speak and that a member of the school staff talked to Joshua’s roommates.

HumAngle spoke with one of Joshua’s close friends, who said that he never shared any story with him of being threatened or harassed on campus when he was alive. 

“On the day he died, he just returned from a repair shop because he had problems with his speaker. When it was fixed, he came to my room and told me that the speaker was working, and then he told me he was going to the gym. After that, I didn’t see him again,” the friend narrated.

Joshua’s family felt the police were stalling the case, so they decided to speak out.

“We reached out to some journalists for a press conference, and around 11 a.m. on the 25th of May 2024, the commissioner of police called my husband and said he wanted to see him at 2 p.m. So we postponed the conference because we believed there was an update,” said Ifeoma.

According to her, when Daniel met the commissioner, he blamed him for failing to reach out. Daniel disagreed and explained that he had been calling the commissioner and had dropped several messages on WhatsApp, which he did not reply to.

“The commissioner told my husband that the case was still with their legal team and we needed to be patient. My husband had accused him of being casual. He also told the commissioner that with each passing minute, his anger increased, and he was going to get justice for his son,” she said.

Daniel then walked out on the commissioner and proceeded with the press conference the following day. Ifeoma said that morning, the V.C. of Veritas University called her husband, but he did not answer.

“He [then] texted my husband that he heard we were planning to do a press conference, and he didn’t think it was a great idea. He also wrote that my husband should not do the press conference and that whoever was advising him was not advising him well,” Ifeoma said.

Joshua’s parents continued with the press conference even though some of the journalists they invited backed out at the last minute because their editors cancelled the story. Others documented the conference and published reports afterwards.

In one of the reports, the family had accused Veritas University of complete failure in their duty of care and had demanded an explanation of what happened to their child.

HumAngle tried to reach the FCT Commissioner of Police, but he did not answer calls to his phone number and has yet to respond to texts.

A newspaper page with articles about various incidents, including a dispute about a student's death and criminal reports.
A publication by Daily Trust after the press conference

Veritas reacts

Reacting to the press conference, the university accused Joshua’s parents of parading a ‘phantom autopsy result’.

The Head of  Corporate Affairs at Veritas University, Ben Agande, said it wasn’t true Joshua died as a result of stab wounds. According to him, there is no stabbing incident in Veritas, and they don’t know the source of the report or those peddling it. The institution further reiterated its commitment to cooperate with relevant authorities for a full-scale investigation into Joshua’s death after pledging to bear the cost of the autopsy.

Agande told HumAngle that the Nigeria Police Force ordered the autopsy. Like the family, he explained that the university had a representative on the team that conducted it. 

“The police have not released the autopsy report. We have written formally to the police to make public the result of the autopsy but we are yet to receive a response from the police. We do not know the source of the so-called autopsy report the parents of our late student are parading,” he said. 

Speaking on its promise to collaborate with stakeholders on the investigation into the death of Joshua, Agande said that the investigations are being conducted by the Nigeria Police Force, the National Universities Commission, the Federal Ministry of Education, and the Federal Consumers and Competition Protection Commission.

“As far as we know, it is still ongoing as none of the agencies have released their findings to us. Those agencies are in a better position to tell the state of the investigations,” he said.

Speaking on the document that showed the cause of death, Agande said that the school cannot vouch for its authenticity if it was not the autopsy released by the police. 

“We do not have a thing to hide as an institution. The late Joshua slumped in the presence of students in a place that was accessible. Some of the students present were his friends who had known him way back from their secondary school days. Their accounts of what happened have been consistent, and we do not have any reason to doubt them. Unfortunately, the parents of our late students have resorted to telling lies about the school. We understand the pains that come with losing a child, and we sympathise with them. But we firmly reject the lies being spread that the late Joshua was murdered in our school.”  

Meanwhile, Ifeoma claims that the only thing they got from the autopsy was a statement on the cause of death while the report itself was being held by the police after it was handed over to them by the pathologist at the National Hospital, Abuja. 

“We tried to get it. Our lawyer had even written to the police to release the autopsy report because we paid for it even though the school wanted to,” she said.

HumAngle also obtained a copy of a letter by Veritas University addressed to the FCT Commissioner of Police, making a similar request on May 28, 2024.

An official document with a letterhead from IAG Solomon, requesting police and autopsy reports for Joshua Ejujo Daniel-Ejigbo.
A copy of the letter addressed to the FCT police command for the release of the investigation/autopsy report by Late Joshua’s family, dated May 15, 2024. 
Letterhead from Veritas University requesting a certified autopsy report copy for a student, dated April 30, 2024.
Letter to the FCT Police Command by Veritas University requesting the autopsy report, dated May 28, 2024.

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