From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has granted the request of the mother of a late 14-year-old student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Keren-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher, to be joined in the suit filed by her school, seeking to stop Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) from investigating the circumstances, which led to her daughter’s death.
The late Keren, a 14-year-old was raped allegedly at Premiere Academy and a condom left inside her by the rapist, infecting her with sepsis and compromising her immunity, which led to her tragic end.
Ruling on Mrs Vivien Vihimga Akphagher’s application for joinder argued on her behalf by Barrister Chioma Onwucheya-Uko, the trial judge, Justice Evelyn Maha held that the applicant had placed sufficient documents before her to justify her request to be joined in the suit. She also noted that there was no objection from any of the parties.
Accordingly, she ordered that the applicant – Mrs Akpagher be joined as the 3rd defendant and directed counsel to the plaintiff (Premiere Academy), Eyitato Fatogun (SAN) to effect the joinder and serve all processes in the suit on her.
Following a formal complaint lodged by Keren’s mother, Mrs Vivien Vihimga Akphagher at the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), accusing the school of breaching their contract of a duty of care and protection of her daughter, leading to her rape and death, the commission had summoned the school demanding information and explanations.
However, miffed by the summons from FCCPC, the school accused it of attempting to usurp the statutory powers of the police and asked the court to stop it. 2022.
The school even sought an interlocutory injunction restraining FCCPC from investigating the petition brought by Keren’s mother on the claim that the commission was seeking to usurp the function of the police.
But Justice Evelyn Maha struck out the request as she said granting the request will amount to determining the substantive suit at the interlocutory stage.
In the action with suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/26/, the school named FCCPC and the Inspector General of Police as 1st and 2nd Defendants/Respondents.
Ruling on Premiere Academy’s interlocutory application, the presiding judge, Justice Evelyn Maha held thus: “This court finds as a fact that a grant of the application would in effect touch on the issue of the legality/illegality of the actions of the 1st Defendant taken against the plaintiff, which is a major issue to be determined in the substantive suit. Consequent upon this, the application is refused and same is struck out.”
Accordingly, the Judge ordered an accelerated hearing of the substantive matter.
Although Premiere Academy has denied that the rape did not occur within its premises, it is curious why the school rather than cooperate with all statutory bodies to unravel the case opted to mount a legal hurdle to prevent further probe by FCCPC.
Specifically, Premiere Academy, Lugbe brought an action praying the court to grant “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st Defendant/Respondents (FCCPC) from inviting, summoning, causing this attend any public hearing, sitting or any proceedings by whatever name called of any staff, officer or representative of the plaintiff/applicant pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
The school also prayed for “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st Defendant/Respondents (FCCPC), its officers, representatives, agents, servants, privies or any other person deriving power, command, authority, instruction or directives from the 1st defendant/respondent howsoever from further asking, further demanding or further requesting for any document, data, and information or medical records personal to the student of the Plaintiff/Applicant with respect to or on behalf of Miss Keren-Happuch Aondodoo from the plaintiff pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
The school predicated the reliefs sought on the claim that FCCPC has “threatened, harassed and bullied the plaintiff/applicant (Premiere Academy, Lugbe) in an attempt to forcefully obtain the said information and documents.
The school also argued that FCCPC “need to be prevented from usurping the constitutional powers of the police”
However, in the considered ruling of Justice Maha, she refused the application, struck the same out and ordered an accelerated hearing of the substantive suit.
In a few weeks, it will be one year since Keren died on 22nd June 2021 and there is still a long way to bringing anyone to book.