‘He died in my arms.’ Twelve months on, a mother’s agonizing wait to find out why

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‘He died in my arms.’ Twelve months on, a mother’s agonizing wait to find out why her son died at Lekki toll gate

‘He died in my arms.’ Twelve months on, a mother’s agonizing wait to find out why her son died at Lekki toll gate

Three weeks before his 17th birthday, Folarin Orire was hit by a truck and died. Four days after he was crushed, his death made headlines, not only in Lagos state but in the entire country.

“I am not ashamed of my son’s death,” his mother, Adeola Orire, said. “He died in my arms and I did not compromise.”

Orire was pronounced dead by paramedics who had already stabilized her son on the scene. The ambulance then left the site, which is built on the perimeter of the sprawling Lekki toll gate.

This month, Orire is embarking on an urgent quest to determine who authorized their transport.

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A reporter for the Financial Times, who witnessed the incident and used sworn statements to document what happened, reviewed mobile phone footage, which showed the ambulance taking both Orire and another young man away from the scene, in the middle of the night.

The healthcare firm’s fleet manager, said he got the order from the city’s governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to evacuate the two men, who were walking down the road at the end of their shift, after an altercation with a truck driver.

The truck driver, who has not been arrested, is a former aide to Ambode, was arrested for alleged assault. Neither his name nor company number are on the clip that is available on social media.

The driver said he stopped when the ambulance initially tried to load the two men, and only ignored a later request to remove them from the scene once Ambode ordered them out.

He said he took them to Lekki hospital, where doctors knew about their presence but chose not to treat them for fear of being sued.

Because he was concerned about the cost of medical treatment, the driver drove the men back to the toll gate in a city bus. The ambulance did not make the return trip back to the state hospital.

“All I’m saying is that they belong to the service,” said Obafemi Awolowo, the head of operations for Seven Hills, the healthcare company contracted to ferry patients in the Lekki toll gate.

“The governor took them into his [sic] care.”

In a statement, the commissioner for health in Lagos state, Jide Idris, said the matter had been handed over to Lagos state police command.

But while Lekki state police commissioner Edgal Imohimi said in an interview on Monday he has asked the company to produce the minutes of the incident, he said he had no intention of prosecuting the driver.

“There is no basis for it, because as far as we are concerned, he did nothing wrong,” he said.

He said he has been regularly briefed by officers on the ground, but would not be drawn on what advice he had received from the state.

Lekki tollgate was built on landfill on the edge of Lagos city in 2012, to reduce the rising cost of constructing toll roads. The man behind the project, Ganiyu Sanusi, says it is helping Lagos to grow its economy.

It has also proved problematic, at times causing traffic gridlock that has gone on for months.

Complaints of inadequate funding from the state and inadequate care by ambulance drivers has also forced a change in policy.

Earlier this year, Lekki tollgate operator were publicly reprimanded for failing to respond to 27 medical emergency calls in the first week of January, months after becoming fully operational.

Ambode responded to the high level of complaints by ordering closure of the facility in April and the introduction of state-run ambulances.

An initial investigation into the incident concluded that the driver acted on his own and was not ordered to retrieve the men, according to a senior executive with Seven Hills, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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