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Controversy trails Sinaba, SAN’s death at Oniru beach

By Innocent Anaba
Mrs Sylvia Sinaba, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, would have been alive, if managers of the Oniru private beach, Lagos, had done what they were supposed to do, which is to provide enough divers at the beach and station a trained auxillary nurse at the waterside.

Vanguard also gathered from friends and family members, that the hospital the late Sylvia was rushed to may have contributed to her death, as they allegedly failed to handle the matter in a professional way. For instance, Vanguard learnt that on getting to the hospital, late Sylvia was allegedly laid on her back, instead of on her side, and she may have chocked as a result of that. It was also alleged that the hospital had no oxygen.

The issue of private beach has also been raised, necessitating the question, can a beach be privately owned in the country, in view of the sensitive nature of a beach to the security of a country?

Late Sylvia, according to family members, was endearing to all and helped people, irrespective of social status. She had trained a lot of people in school, taken a lot of children in, who she was taking care of before the strong hands of death snatched her away.

Her best friend, Mrs Misan Kofi Senaya, was speechless when Vanguard met her at the late Sylvia’s Anthony, Lagos residence, but was only able to mutter, “she (Sylvia) left me broken hearted.”

Mr Kofi Senaye, Misan’s husband, told Vanguard, that he had to convince late Sylvia before she consented to him marrying his wife, Misan, who was her best friend.

“Her (Sylvia’s) personal life itself was a display of selflessness. She would always first show her selfless disposition in all she did. You can see from the account of how she died, that she had to go in to rescue her receptionist, who held on to her before they were both swept away by the ocean current. That on its own is a case of selflessness, because if she had not gone to save her staff, maybe she would still be alive today.

“She was large hearted. Sylvia would carry the next person’s problem on her head as if she does not have her own. She had put in her care, uncountable numbers of people she is training, mentoring or assisting in one way or the other.

Only last night, a Revered Father in Ivory Coast was crying when he called, because she was the one that trained him in school.

“She was the most selfless person I had ever come across. With the benefit of hindsight, we now know she was an angel of God, because she was on a mission. God put her among us to do some work and go.

“She was instrumental to my getting married to my wife, because I had to convince her that I wanted to marry Misan, who was her best friend,” he added.

Cause of death
“She survived the drowning and passed out at the hospital because proper first aid was not administered on her. From what I was told by those who were at the hospital, who described how she died, one would conclude that she died of wrong posture. Rather than being laid on her side, she was kept on her back and may have died as a result of that, as she shocked. The doctors took her in to give her oxygen, whether she died of lack of oxygen or the way she was laid,  I don’t know. Even other doctors I spoke to said she may have died as a result of wrong posture.”

She has a daughter and adopted six others, even more. But unless the husband tells you, you will not know that she has only one biological child, because she treated all the children the same. Her husband is from Lagos, but she was from Calabar, Cross River State.”

Chief Bassey Bassey, Sylvia’s elder brother on how close they were, said, “she was my sister but we were like father and mother. The day she died, I spoke with her. Even the week she died, I visited her, only for me to get a rude shock that is dead.

“Her death is an irreparable loss, a big vacuum has been created, which cannot be filled and it is a loss to a lot of people, because she was the light of the family. You asked how she would be missed and my reply is, if a candle is blown off,  what do you see? Is it her motherhood or work, she would be missed in so many ways that I cannot count.”

On who was culpable in her death, he said “you say you have a private beach, even if you do, they are suppose to have divers, who will work on shift basis, be it six or eight hours and they are supposed to be properly trained. You are also supposed to have an auxiliary nurse stationed at the beach for first aid, in case of emergency, but they were all lacking from what we gathered.

“She died due to the carelessness on the part of the owners of the beach. If they had taken care to provide what was expected of them, maybe, she would be alive today. The beach owners may say they provided these things, if they did, how come it ended the way it did,” he added.

On the issue of private beach, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, said: “I have always wondered about the notion of private beach but this is an opportunity to get enlightened.  A beach, as I understand it, is invariably part of coastal territory, regulated in international law by the UNCLOS. In our national laws, the scope of coastal territory to my understanding is a constitutional issue because territorialisation goes to the very being of sovereignty and marine territory is border territory.

“So how do folks acquire private beaches (not private jetties mind you). If the beach is not private, then surely the government has a duty to ensure and guarantee rights of access. Who licenses these places as ‘private’ and for what purpose? What are the regulatory regimes that govern their operation.

“To its credit, Lagos State has Bar Beach closely regulated with law enforcement and life guards. The lesson of our fate and our colleague is very clear: ‘high brow’ could also mean low (or no) maintenance and unacceptable cost (in human assets). That’s just not good enough.”

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