Family alleges police compromise in Abuja school rape case
Two years after the suspected rape and eventual death of Karen-Happuch Akpagher, a student at Premiere Academy in Lugbe, Abuja, her family is still in search of answers.
The family strongly believes that the Nigeria Police Force’s investigation was compromised early on and may have been mishandled.
Moreover, there are allegations that the police are obstructing the family’s efforts to pursue justice in court.
The FCT Police Command is suspected to be collaborating with the school authorities to prevent access to Karen’s medical records at Queen’s Hospital, where she was last treated.
Reports indicate that Karen’s mother and family were excluded during the collection of samples for the DNA test, including samples from Karen’s remains at the hospital.
Vivien Akpagher, the mother of the deceased teenager, recently recounted the events that led to her daughter’s death on Abuja-based Human Rights Radio on September 13, shedding light on the ordeal her family has endured for two years.
As part of its investigative efforts, this newspaper visited Premiere Academy, Lugbe; Queen’s Hospital, Wuse; and also conducted interviews with representatives of the Police Force headquarters and the FCT Police Command.
Our correspondents also spoke with a parent at the school, which is currently enforcing a “code of silence” concerning Karen’s death.
The school has initiated legal action against a human rights activist, Lemmy Ugheghe, who has been advocating for justice for Karen and has filed a petition against the doctor at Queen’s Hospital who treated the victim and allegedly informed Karen’s mother that her daughter may have died from complications related to rape.
Hospital officials, citing patient confidentiality, declined to disclose the cause of Karen’s death.
Mrs. Akpagher expressed bewilderment at her exclusion during the collection of evidence, despite being the one who took her daughter to the hospital and paid for her treatment. She questioned the involvement of school officials but her absence during the process.
She said before the police were invited, the hospital had previously informed her daughter may have died from complications related to sexual abuse because a latex was found inside of her.
She had earlier said on Human Rights Radio that she took her daughter straight from the school to the hospital, ruling out any chance that the foul play could have been committed elsewhere.
She said on the advice of the police she paid over N1 million for her daughter’s DNA samples to be taken and evaluated and yet was prevented from seeing the final result.
“The police should be sincere in what they are doing and be open and not compromise,” she implored.
She expressed deep concern about the current state of the investigation, which has left her feeling excluded and concerned about the investigation process.
She asked, “How can they collect the evidence of a condom found inside the child’s vagina and the dead spermatozoa in her urine without the mother of the child being involved in the process, while the school is there with them?”
The distraught mother said, “The police also refused to retrieve the CCTV footage from the 54 CCTV cameras in the school that would have told us what happened to the child. After more than two years, police have allowed evidence to be messed up.”
She pleaded with the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, to intervene, saying Karen’s death has shattered her family.
“To this day, the police have not made any official announcements regarding the DNA matching process, which commenced in June 2022 and produced results in August of the same year”, the convener of the Coalition of Gender-Based Respondents and executive director of Men Against Rape Foundation, Lemmy Ughegbe, said.
He expressed deep concern and disappointment over the unexplained circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Karen-Happuch, a student at Premiere Academy, which occurred in June 2021.
The victim’s mother accused police officers handling the case so far of extorting at least N2m from her, after her daughter’s death, with nothing to show for it.
She further alleged that on the advice of the police investigation team, she was told to pay for an autopsy so that the results could come quickly.
The Force PRO, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, refused to speak on the issue and also refused to respond to messages sent to his WhatsApp lines.
Meanwhile a police source, who pleaded anonymity, said the case had suffered a lot of interference from both within and outside the Force.
The source said while some police officers sympathised with the mother of the dead student, they couldn’t do much on the investigation, as “powerful forces” were interested in the case.
This newspaper investigations also revealed that the DCP gender then, Margret Ochalla, has been promoted and deployed to Lagos.
Recall that in 2022, Amnesty International had written to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamilla, now chief of staff to the president, to comply with its resolution by commencing with the public hearing on the issue.
Following a motion moved by Hon Mark Gbilah, the House of Representatives had on December 7, 2021 resolved to conduct investigative public hearing of the said Premiere Academy with a view to uncovering the circumstances which led to the rape and death of the 14-year-old student.
But eight months after the resolution, which was saluted by members of the civil society, the lawmakers have failed to honour their own resolutions.
Concerned by the non-compliance of the lawmakers to their resolution to conduct an investigative public hearing into the activities at Premiere Academy with regards to the rape and death of Keren and sundry allegations of sexual abuses, Amnesty International called out the lawmakers to toe the path of honour by commencing the exercise.
In the letter signed by the country director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, the body called for an “immediate, impartial, effective and independent investigation” and “the prosecution of all those found culpable must be prosecuted in fair trials and punished with no recourse to the death penalty.”
However, when this newspaper visited the school, the management of the institution said it believes that it is in the best interest of all parties involved to await the outcome of the ongoing legal proceedings, investigation reports and related inquiries.
In a document duly released to our correspondent, it also added that on several occasions, it has written to the authorities requesting for the final result of the investigation but haven’t gotten any response.
The school said, “We want to clarify our stance on this issue and why we have chosen not to participate in the radio discussion as follows: Ongoing Legal Proceedings: Premiere Academy has initiated a legal action against Mr. Lemmy Uhuegbe, who claimed to be leading the case in question. Legal proceedings are currently underway and we believe it is prudent to allow the legal process to run its course without interference.”
On claims by Mrs Akpagher, the school said, “It’s important to note that Mrs. Akpagher, the mother of the late Miss Keren Akpagher, has also filed a lawsuit against Premiere Academy, and this case is pending in court. We are fully cooperating with the legal proceedings as required.
“The investigation into the matter, initially reported to the FCT Police Command and subsequently transferred to the Gender Unit of the FCIID at the request of Mrs. Akpagher, has concluded its inquiry. We are awaiting the release of the final investigation report, which will shed more light on the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“Premiere Academy has taken the additional step to lodge a formal complaint with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria regarding the conduct of Dr. Amugo, under whose care Miss Keren Akpagher passed away. We believe that this avenue will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the situation,” it added.
Meanwhile, a parent whose daughter is in JSS1, who did not want her name in print, urged speedy conclusion of the legal proceedings and release of the investigation reports.
“I’m sure once the final report is released the matter will be put to rest. The pain of losing a child is not easy to overcome but I think the Police should do their job diligently and bring to book whoever is responsible for the death of Karen,” she said.