Keren Akpagher: Premier Academy Reacts to Distortion of Facts
To whom it may concern,
It is with heavy hearts that we issue this statement further to the media conference that we addressed in which we made clarifications on the controversies generated by the demise of Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher, our 14-year-old student, who died on June 22, 2021. It is with heavy hearts because we are aggrieved at the passing of such a promising young girl as Keren, and would have wished that we be left alone to mourn her death in peace.
As a school, we deliberately create, nurture and maintain intimate relationships with every student, and that bond is what guides our interaction with our students. This relationship that we share with each and every student of Premiere Academy, Abuja, is what we shared with the late Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher. For us, the best anyone should wish for Keren is to allow her soul to rest in peace.
As a school in mourning, we chose to completely ignore the needless controversies and anything that is capable of jeopardising the ongoing police investigation aimed at solving the circumstances pertaining to Keren’s death. But here we are, with a deep sense of responsibility, being compelled to, once again, address the issues surrounding her death.
We are disturbed by what appears to be a deliberate attempt at sensationalising, fabrication and distortion of the facts of Keren’s case. The orchestrated lies being served to the public seem to be intentionally targeted at deceiving concerned stakeholders, who are genuinely interested in the fruitful outcome of the ongoing police investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of our schoolgirl.
Our position has not changed from what it was the first time the issue broke in the media. This is because, what we said earlier is the truth and like everyone knows, truth is constant. So, this release is meant, not to change our earlier position, but to restate the facts that we had stated earlier.
Contrary to the claims in some quarters that Keren was distraught when her mother came to pick her up, we restate that she left the school in a stable condition. We have CCTV footage where Keren was talking with her friends for more than 20 minutes before she carried her luggage from her hostel to meet with her mom at the school gate after her exeat was granted.
As to the cause of Keren’s death, it is only the police-ordered autopsy that can reveal the actual cause of death. As a school, we insist that the police investigation must be allowed to take its course and would not do or say anything that could jeopardise the outcome of the investigation. We earnestly await this report and call on the public not to heed to speculations but wait for the release of the autopsy report.
We find the allegation of administering an ‘oath of secrecy’ on the students ridiculous and a cheap blackmail aimed at currying underserved sympathy from the public. We want to assure the general public that, as a school, our utmost interest, as that of every fair-minded Nigerian, is in resolving the controversies surrounding the death of Keren.
The school discharged its duties as regards the management of Keren’s health from her admission to the last day she was released to her mother on Saturday, 19 June, 2021. On learning of Keren’s admission to the Queen’s Hospital, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja on Monday, 21 June, 2021, the school’s representatives visited her and her mother.
We also reached out to the family on Tuesday, 22 June, when we were informed of her passing. All the school activities slated for that day were cancelled in her honour. The Management staff and some members of staff visited the mother to commiserate with her. Also, on 23 June, 2021, there was a repeat visit to the residence of Mrs Akpagher by a member of the Board of Governors and some staff of Premiere Academy to deliver a condolence letter to the family.
On 24 June, 2021, four members of staff went again, but they were denied entry right from Estate gate. The PTA Executives of the school also went the same day and were equally prevented from entering from the gate of the Estate.
On Monday, 12 July, 2021, the school held a valedictory service in memory of Keren-Happuch Akpagher.
We would like to affirm that we do not condone sexual molestation but have demonstrated zero tolerance for sexual harassment of any form – verbal or physical. We have actually dismissed a staff member on account of an unguarded statement to the students. Premiere Academy is committed to making the school safe for our students and the entire academic community.
Furthermore, the Management of Premiere Academy is committed to ensuring that the circumstances surrounding Keren’s death are unravelled. We have honoured the police invitation, witnessed the autopsy and have done every other thing we have been required to do as the investigation progresses. We call on all stakeholders to have patience and wait for the police to release the report of its findings.
As we said earlier, the school is very much committed to resolving the controversies that surrounded the death of Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher and will walk the whole hog in cooperating with the police in charge of the investigation in this regard. Like all people of goodwill, we seek for justice for Keren if she was ever a victim of sexual violence.
Justice, in its broadest sense, is defined as the principle that people receive that which they deserve. It is fair to all parties and does not come from ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. For us, justice for Keren means justice for her parents, justice for Premiere Academy, the society at large, and even for the suspected molester, if any.