The Federal High Court, Abuja Division will on Wednesday commence hearing of the suit filed by Men Against Rape Foundation (MARF), seeking to compel the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and other members to comply with its own resolution to conduct investigative public hearing into the rape and death of a 14-year-old boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja, Miss Keren-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher.
Keren-Happuch died on 22 June 2021 following medical complications caused by condom left inside her by a killer-rapists. The condom infected her with sepsis and spiked her blood sugar, which led to her death.
Following public outcry and protests led by MARF, the House, vide a motion moved by Hon. Mark Gbilah, resolved on 7 December 2021 to conduct a public hearing into the circumstances that led to the rape and eventual death of the victim.
But, in a curious twist to its resolution, the Speaker and 108 members abandoned their own resolution, refusing to conduct the public hearing despite several correspondence by MARF, reminding them of their obligations.
On 17 November 2022, MARF approached the Federal High Court vide an exparte motion by its counsel, Messr. Johnbull Adaghe, praying for its leave to commence mandamus proceedings against the lawmakers.
In her ruling, Justice Evelyn Maha granted the request to commence the mandamus proceedings and fixed 25 January 2023 for commencement of hearing.
“Having considered the submission of the applicant’s counsel in support of the motion and all documents placed before me, I find merit in the motion and I hereby grant leave to the applicant for judicial review for an order of mandamus compelling the respondents to give effect to their resolution of the 7th day of December, 2021, by conducting investigative public hearing on the death or the immediate and remote cause of cause of death of Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher who died on the 22nd day of June, 2021, at the Queens Hospital, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja”, Justice Maha ruled.
On why the foundation dragged the lawmakers to court, MARF Executive Director, Lemmy Ughegbe said that, through this case “we shall establish a legal precedence in our country that will make lawmakers responsible and accountable to the people.
“Our organisation and Amnesty International wrote several letters to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamilla to remind him that they were yet to comply with the resolution to probe Keren’s rape and death. But the speaker neither replied our letters nor took steps to enforce their resolution”.
He wondered: “How can a speaker who sits at the pleasure and expense of the Nigerian people, treat our call to duty with such arrogance and contempt? Where is the honour in people who want to be addressed as honourables, if they will not honour their own resolutions after 345 days? This is why our organisation is in court. We want to use this case to establish that resolutions of the National Assembly are not for fun. Once you pass a resolution, you are duty bound to enforce it”, the gender rights activist declared.
“We must put an end to lawmakers passing resolutions for the optics just to score political points and look good when they are not committed to enforcing those resolutions. The legislature is serious business and we hope by this court case, a judicial pronouncement will affirm our argument and put an end to the shenanigans at the legislative arm of government”.
The second plaintiff, Mrs Vivien Vihimga Akpagher said that she is saddened that “17 months after my daughter’s rape and death, I am yet to get justice and the killer-rapist is still out there waiting to prey on another innocent vulnerable child. My daughter is gone. She will never come back. So, I am speaking and seeking justice so that no other child will suffer and die like she did as a result of sexual abuse”.
She wondered why the House of Representatives would dishonor itself by not honouring its resolutions, adding “we are in court to make them act honourably”.
In the substantive case, which has mother of late Keren-Happuch as second plaintiff and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives as first and second defendants, MARF is seeking an order of mandamus compelling the respondents to give effect to their resolution of the 7 December 2021, “by conducting investigative public hearing on the death or the immediate and remote cause of cause of death of Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher who died on the 22nd day of June, 2021, at the Queens Hospital, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja”.
The plaintiffs are also seeking an order of mandamus compelling the respondents to “carry out their constitutional role of investigative public hearing into the death or the immediate and remote cause of death of Miss Keren Happuch Akpagher – a boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja, who died at the Queens Hospital, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja, on the 22nd day of June, 2021”.
The reliefs sought were predicated upon the the grounds that Keren-Happuch was a boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja, took ill while at school and was taken by her mother to the Queens Hospital, Abuja, for treatment, but unfortunately died on the 22 June 2021.
According to the plaintiffs, Queens Hospital confirmed to the second applicant that Keren-Happuch’s illness and death was caused by “decaying condom and dead spermatozoa hurriedly abandoned in her virginal by her abuser/rapist”.