On the night where Africa’s music industry should have been rejoicing for recording a major milestone for its achievement at The BET Awards, it was thrown into mourning with the loss of D’Banj’s one-year-old son, who died as a result of drowning in the family’s pool.
The story, according to numerous media reports, goes like this:
D’Banj arrived in Los Angeles, from Nigeria, two days prior to the BET Awards. In the meantime, his wife who was in Nigeria with their son, was entertaining guests (relatives), at their home, about a day before the event. During her duties as host, she entrusted the care of her child with her guests and went to a different room in the home. When she returned, her child was nowhere to be found. The guests had allegedly become preoccupied with other things they missed the exit of the child and his wandering into the pool. He was later found in their pool and rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, upon arrival.
During the BET Awards show Nigerian pop star Davido, who emerged the winner of the BET ‘Best International Act Africa’ and accepted his award on the BET stage during the live airing of the event, acknowledged the tragic loss.
Ms. Uduak Commentary & Legal Analysis
Folks, where does one begin with such terrible set of facts? How do you even begin to find the words to console parents who have suffered such terrible and avoidable loss?
My heartfelt, and deepest condolences to D’Banj, his wife, and the rest of their entire family for their loss. What a tragic loss.
Universally, I think most people can and do resonate with the pain of such loss. Nevertheless, as is human nature, there is already a lot of blame going on, and primarily levied against D’Banj’s wife for allegedly leaving her child with her guests/relatives in her home. It is also underscored with the fact that the Lagos state police has made contact with the family, and requested that they file a formal report indicating the circumstances of the death of their son after their grieving period.
Against the aforementioned backdrop, let me address a few things, including the law on this topic.
First, the accidental deaths of toddlers and children in general by drowning are more common than you think, albeit tragic and very unfortunate. In a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Prevention (USA), drowning is the second leading cause of deaths in children under the age of 15, and about half of those deaths involve swimming pools. Worse, the deaths occur within yards of an adult. So, deaths of children as a result of drowning are something we all need to tune into and help prevent.
Second, if you will have a swimming pool in your home, ensure you think through and implement some safety tips that can prevent such terrible tragedy. Implement preventive measures so yet another child doesn’t die from such tragic circumstances.
Here are a few tips that come to mind:
- Fence your swimming pool. Pictures of D’Banj’s swimming pool prior to the death of his child show that the pool was not child safety proof. There was no fence installed around the pool to deter a wandering toddler from straying into the pool. Other Nigerian and African celebrities who often share pictures of their pools also have the same problems. It is important to fix this problem to possibly avoid this kind of tragedy.
- Learn Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Nothing in the facts reported so far by media outlets and bloggers indicate that any of the adults that were present knew how to help resuscitate the life of the child. Especially in a country like Nigeria where the health care system is quite poor, and emergency medical services are very limited or non-existent, it is critical to know how to easily save a life in a drowning or other situations, by knowing basic CPR. Make use of You Tube to learn what CPR is and then look for a local organization that teaches CPR to enroll in a training course.
- Never leave children unsupervised or with inadequate supervision. Children are to be watched at all times, and you should never leave them unsupervised. In addition, ensure that if they have supervision, it is adequate. Not all adults are equipped to keep up with the quickness of children, especially toddlers. Also, in the Nigerian culture, while we love and definitely take care of our children, we don’t necessarily dote on them the way western culture does. So, it is normal to have a child playing amongst adults and with the exception of the child’s mom, or aunties, other adults, especially males, may not keep as a close an eye on the child.
- Teach children to swim. Many Nigerian homes do not have swimming pools, and indeed, it is an amenity that is reserved for the upper middle class and wealthy. As a result, it is probably not as instinctive to teach children to swim, especially at such a young age. However, children as young as one year old can be taught to swim. It all depends on the child. Make an effort to teach your child how to swim.
There are so many other tips to implement. The point is that it is not enough to have a pool. If you have a child in the home, think through, research, and implement child safety tips to possibly avoid such tragedy like D’Banj’s.
Finally, let’s talk law. As I indicated, the Nigerian police have stated, publicly, that they have asked for a formal report to be lodged by the couple, post the mourning of their son. Nevertheless, I have seen some comments that are simply quite harsh and targeted at D’Banj’s wife. The family doesn’t need to ask for the public to respect their privacy during such hard times or refrain from judgment. This is just basic common sense and etiquette we should all have. Further, what’s this thing we do where something happens, we are quick to just blame, and especially blame women? A family is grieving a very tragic loss. Let them try to understand the magnitude of what just happened and take it all in.
The police’s involvement doesn’t rise to a criminal liability, and nothing in the facts suggests it does. The police are simply doing their job, as they should when a death occurs. The issue is strictly within the civil liability realm unless facts emerge to the contrary. As to the discussion on civil liability, it gets complicated and it might be premature.
However, suffice it to say, when a death of this kind occurs, especially where the death is the result of a wrongful act or neglect of a third party entrusted with caring for a child, a wrongful death action can be filed.
In a wrongful death case, the Plaintiff essentially makes a negligence type claim i.e. the Defendant had a duty of care it owed to the deceased, the Defendant breached that duty, the breach was a direct and proximate cause of the death of the deceased, and the Plaintiff (s) has suffered damages.
American wrongful death principles are parallel to that of Nigeria. Nigeria also specifically has a statute that deals with wrongful deaths, the Fatal Accidents Law of 1961. And like the U.S., wrongful death cases become complicated when it comes to proving damages (monetary losses). Specifically, in Nigeria, parents in circumstances like D’Banj and his wife, have a hard time because the Nigerian Supreme Court has held that parents must prove pecuniary (monetary) damages which reflect the financial benefits they were receiving from their deceased children at the time of the passing. The problem is minor children, for the most part, do not give financial benefits to their parents. Even when the child is a child performer, in a country like the U.S., there are statutes that protect the child and ensure the monies earned from their talents, are placed in a trust account and are theirs, not their parents. Further, as to expected monies such child may have contributed in future, it is speculative at best. That deceased child may or may not have been able to contribute financially to the parents. So, parents in similar circumstances, unfortunately, have a hard time proving damages.
The wrongful death laws in Nigeria also expect parents of their deceased children to prove the expected monies such children may have contributed in future. The problem is that it is speculative, at best. As the Nigerian Supreme Court has said, in instances like D’Banj’s, a deceased child may or may not have been able to contribute financially to the parents. So, parents in similar circumstances, unfortunately, have a hard time proving damages. For the lawyers who read this blog that may be interested in the Nigerian Supreme Court case, it is the case of Raimi Jeyno & Anr. v. Akinsemi Renti & Anr.
My deepest condolences, again, to D’Banj and his family. Let’s all educate ourselves in whatever corner of the world we may be reading this, especially the parents among us, so we help prevent the death of yet another child in a drowning incident, which unfortunately is all too common.