The U.S. 15-Year Jail Term Sentence On a Nigerian Nanny – Abike Dabiri-Erewa

AUnited States court, presided over by Judge Karen Mason, sentenced a 73-year old Nigerian, Mrs Oluremi Adeleye, to fifteen years in prison for child abuse and second-degree murder on Monday, 6th May, 2019 in Maryland, United States. Mrs. Adeleye is a live-in nanny and is looking after an 8-month old baby, Enita(n) Salubi at a couple’s home in Glenarden in October 2016. Mrs. Adeleye was found guilty of forcing milk down the throat of Enita(n) Salubi, thus suffocating the child and ending the life of the child on October 26, 2016.

The prosecutors, relying on the video surveillance camera, have it that Mrs Adeleye ‘tried to feed the baby, but without success. Adeleye then pulled the baby from her walker, removed the nipple from her bottle and forcefully fed her… Adeleye poured eight ounces of milk down the child’s throat in less than 30 seconds, essentially drowning her’ (vide ThisDay Report on the basis of http://www.courtroom

In a bench trial, Judge Karen Mason admitted that the nanny might have not been an evil-intentioned baby slayer but she should have also known that her actions could result in the death of the baby girl, and on this basis, decided to sanction Mrs. Adeleye with a jail term of 15 years. This is the jail sentence that has been generating much interest and debate.

There are four schools of thought on this matter. The first school argues that the sentence is unfair in light of the unintended act to kill. Emphasis is placed on the fact that Mrs, Adeleye is a Yoruba woman and she grew up with Yoruba culture, in which forcing milk down the throat of children is common practice up till now. In the eyes of Taiwo Akinrowo, ’15 years is excessive in the circumstances. Considering the age of the nanny and the reckless nature, according to the judge, of the offending, I would have thought that 5 years would be appropriate sentencing. I was force-fed too by my mum over 50 years ago and I saw her do it to my younger sister subsequently. It was widely practised while I grew up and I never saw any child die or even get rushed to the hospital for it. Accidents do happen and people, even adults, have choked on their food before resulting in their deaths. This could very well have been the case here – accident.’

A second school of thought argues from the perspective of the parents of the deceased, and do consider the reasonableness of the court sentence. As seen by Ed. Okeke, ’15 years seems to be too much for you folks because the dead child is not yours. There is no amount of time she spends in jail that will amount to the lost child. Imagine the emotional toll the death of the child is having on the parents. They will never come out of this soon. Who knows the real intention of the nanny. She may be annoyed with the child for disturbing her sleep. I have seen this with my former nanny. People are wicked. I bet you that this nanny did not do this in the interest of the child.’

While the first school argued along the probability of a possible accident, the second school raised the possibility of an act of wickedness. A third school looks at the issue from a detached perspective, admitting the arguments of the earlier schools, but not only argued that the sentence of 15 years is harsh and that there should have been a diplomatic intervention in the spirit of advocacy. For instance, Olofa has opined that the Nigerian ambassador to the United States is supposed to have come ‘into the case before (the) judgment’ and the sentencing would not have been up to that ‘because the judge is going to listen to more intensive advocacy.’ In the same vein, Yemi Balogun specifically asked: ‘Nigerian Embassy and Honourable Abike Dabiri, where were you before, during and after this judgment?’

The fourth school holds the parents of the deceased partly responsible. Ngozi, a native of Ekpeyeland in Ahoada, Rivers State, has argued that ‘the unfortunate thing though is that the woman (nanny) was not instructed properly by the parents of the baby. Why did she not call 911 right away and why was the father carrying the child to the hospital?… Were there no EMS personnel at the home before getting to the hospital that would have facilitated the child’s recovery? The Maryland Judiciary system should reconsider that sentencing because it was indeed a clash of culture that resulted tragically.’

There are some critical observations of note from the various comments. The first is that the culture of the Yoruba people in Nigeria is not tenable in the United States setting. Mrs. Adeleye now has to suffer from the conflict of cultures. The alleged harsh sentence might have been given to send strong signals to people with foreign tradition to reckon with a new life-style in America. A second important observation is the factor of advocacy with which Nigerian foreign policy makers are not much conversant. To an extent, advocacy might have considerably impacted on the sentencing process if advocacy had been factored in on time.

Whatever is the case, one point is particularly noteworthy about the various arguments. It is that some of the commentators asked: where was Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa during the trial? Some specifically called on her to quickly come and appeal against the court decision. The argument is not that Mrs. Adeleye should not have been convicted but that the sentence should not have been up to 15 years. In fact, some commentators opined that it is because Mrs. Adeleye is not an American and that was why she has been given that type of very harsh sentence.

Source: allafrica

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