**Celebrates her posthumous 16th birthday
Tears flowed freely with overwhelming emotions as orphans, in their numbers, joined family of late 14 year old Keren-Happuch Akpagher to celebrate her posthumous 16th year birthday even as they all renewed the call for her killer-rapists to be fished out and brought to justice.
Keren-Happuch was a boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja who was raped, with condom left inside her by the killer-rapist, which infected her with sepsis, spiked her blood sugar, leading to her death as a result of hyperglycaemia on the 22nd of June, 2021.
Speaking at the celebration of Keren’s posthumous 16th year birthday organised by two foundations – Keren’s Safe Haven and Men Against Rape Foundation (MARF), the Executive Director of the latter (MARF), Lemmy Ughegbe explained the significance of the event, stating that it was partly to remind the Nigerian people that justice had still not prevailed.
“Keren had big plans to celebrate what she called her “sweet sixteen” birthday. But unfortunately, her life was cut off before today. So, since we know she wanted to celebrate, we decided to do so at an orphanage and picked the theme – ‘Don’t let the rapist or a would-be-rapist bully you into silence’. Keren was bullied into silence by her rapist. We have chosen this theme in order to help fortify the kids and empower them to speak out and quickly too if they find anyone trying to abuse them or threatening their safety”, Ughegbe explained.
He lamented the lack of institutional support and the concerning refusal of the police to compel Premiere Academy to produce CCTV footages of June 15 and16, 2021, which would have helped to confirm or dispel claims that Keren could not walk to class on the morning of June 16, 2021 and had to be helped by classmates to walk in tears and pain.
“We want the world to know that the police failed us in all sense, but we remain steadfast and will continue to demand justice for the innocent child whose candle was put out in a brutal manner. If the rapist isn’t brought to book, then no child can be safe”, he added.
For Keren’s mother who was distraught at the event and unable to fight back her tears, Mrs Vivien Vihimga Akpagher, she wished she knew that the sweet sixteen birthday, she and her daughter had been planning towards would not come to pass the way they had planned it.
“Nevertheless, one thing I know is that we need to mark it in a way that exemplifies the life she led … the life of kindness and care for others. It would be Keren’s wish that no other child should suffer what she went through. She was raped and bullied into silence. So, we are here to celebrate with the kids and to tell them that the rapist and other abusers are cowards and when they say if you talk, we will kill you, never mind them. Speak out and loud, so you can get help. Do not let them bully you into silence”, Mrs Akpagher admonished.
“I also want the world to know that government and the police have failed us for two years now. How can the killer-rapist not be fished out and brought to justice and yet they pay lip service to the fight to end gender based violence. Let me reiterate that I speak not for myself or for my daughter, Keren. She is gone and nothing can bring her back. But I speak so that other Nigerian children will be safe”, she stated.
In her own remarks, the founder of the orphanage, Mrs. Gift Nwosu expressed concern that despite the alarming rise in rape and sundry acts of sexual violence, government and institutions of government concerned with addressing the matter are not committed to fighting the menace.
“If a case of rape occurs, perpetrators ought to be brought to book and committed to life imprisonment. If this is not done, others will be encouraged to commit more havoc. I see people accused of rape walking freely when they should face the law. This is because government and police are not doing what they should do”, she stated.
Highlights of the occasion was that the orphans took turns to pray for God to comfort Keren’s mum through her grief.