From Fred Itua, Abuja
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said that it would investigate Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja, over allegations that a boarding student, 14-year old Keren-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher, was raped in the school, with a condom left in her uterus by the rapist, which infected her with sepsis and resulted in her death on June 22.
This is even as attempts by operatives of the Department of State Security Service (DSS) to arrest the leader of the coalition of Gender-Based Violence Responders, Lemmy Ughegbe, in front of the Commission failed.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu, made this disclosure immediately after receiving a petition from the coalition of Gender-Based Violence Responders calling for a full-scale investigation of the rape of Keren-Happuch in order to identify the rapist and bring him to justice.
‘I wish to thank the coalition for not taking laws into its hands and I assure you that the commission would investigate the content of the petition lodged by the coalition. We have seen and read about this case on social media. But your petition has come in and you have itemised the concerns. We shall look into it thoroughly,’ Barrister Ojukwu said.
‘You have done the right thing by not taking laws into your hands. We shall investigate your petition with a view to deciding whether or not to accede to the prayers contained therein,’ he added.
He said: ‘The Commission takes matters like this very seriously and we must all continue to seek safe spaces for children as they go out in search of education in our schools.
Earlier, while submitting the petition, the leader of the coalition, Ughegbe said: ‘The coalition was determined to ensure that Keren-Happuch did not become another statistic in the data of victims of Child Sexual Abuse, whose death remained unaccounted for and the paedophile left to walk the streets free.
‘We have compelling testimonies of ex-students narrating how they were sexually abused at Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja. We have them naming some of the staff there who are paedophiles. We have evidence that the school management treats cases of sexual abuse with kid’s gloves and even covers them. It is our considered view that if the school management had put in place a – zero-tolerance for any form of sexual abuse, the tide would have been stemmed and Keren-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher would not have died in this gory way.
‘The coalition is prepared to aid your investigation by making available to the commission some of the documents and audiotapes in its custody to help uncover the malfeasance in the school, which has gone unreported now.’
In a related development, operatives of the DSS allegedly tried to arrest the coalition leader, Ughegbe, following resistance by the Channels Television crew which insisted on video recording the exchanges between the Child and Gender Rights Advocate and the operatives.
This occurred barely twenty-four hours after he had honoured the invitation of the Deputy Commissioner of Police FCT Command, Mr Fom Pam Joseph, whom he and the coalition had called out for unprofessionalism and bias in the handling of the investigation of the rape and death of Keren-Happuch
While speaking with Channels Television in front of the NHRC gate on the #Justice4Keren petition, a patrol jeep carrying four DSS Operatives and two motorbikes arrived at the scene and parked adjacent to the Commission’s gate.
After the interview, they attempted to take Ughegbe away, but he stood his ground, asking what his offence was while Kayla Megwa had instructed the cameraman to capture the unfolding event.
‘I thank Kayla and the Channels Television crew for standing up to defend a citizen’s liberty. These operatives were definitely on illegal duty as there is no record at the DSS that I am wanted for any offence. And we all know that if there was an official order to those operatives, they would have defied the cameras to bundle me away,” Ughegbe stated.
He called on the Director General of the service to investigate and fish out those operatives who were on illegal duty to abduct him, saying that the service could not afford to keep such people in its fold.
The #Justice4Keren petition to the commission reads:
‘We write this petition on behalf of a coalition of Gender-Based Violence Responders and draw your attention to the following facts. On the 22nd day of June 2021, 14 year old Keren-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher died.
‘Keren-Happuch Aondodoo was a boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja. Shortly before her death, she became seriously distressed in school on Wednesday, the 16th day of June 2021 with the inability to walk without the assistance of some of her friends, who helped her to class.
‘Following a tip-off to her mum that Keren was in distress, her mum, Miss Vivien Akpagher called the school several times unsuccessfully.
‘Despite, Keren-Happuch’s increasing distress on the 16th day of June 2021, she was forced to write a continuous assessment test in tears while crying and begging to be released to go home to her mum.
‘On the 19th day of June, being an official call weekend, Keren-Happuch called her mum begging that she comes to pick her as she was ill.
‘Her mother, Mrs Vivien Akpagher, gets to Premiere Academy, Lugbe on the same day at about 1 pm to pick her, but was refused access as the matron told her Keren-Happuch was well and currently writing her continuous assessment tests. The matron assured her that they were taking good care of her.
‘Following assurances by the matron, she left without her daughter. However, while heading back home on the said 19th day of June, her mother received a call from a concerned staff of the school, telling her that her daughter was badly sick and seriously distressed.
‘The caller told her mum, Mrs Vivien Akpagher, to disregard claims made by the matron that Keren-Happuch was not sick, insisting that she was in dire straits and needed to be taken away from school.
‘The caller told her to come to the gate and make a lot of noise to constitute a nuisance otherwise she would not be allowed to take her daughter home.
‘Alarmed at this information, Mrs Vivien Akpagher returned to school around 2:30 pm or thereabout, constituting a nuisance at the gate for the next three (3) hours or thereabout before she was finally allowed to take Keren-Happuch away for medicare.
‘Three (3) days after her mum took her away, Keren-Happuch died in a hospital in Abuja on the 22nd day of June 2021. But, before Keren-Happuch’s death, the hospital discovered that she had been raped, condom left in her uterus, which had infected her and caused her sepsis, resulting in her demise.’