Chairman of the Enugu-based Holy Rosary College, Mr. Cyril Akunyili, said yesterday that parents and the school authority have concluded plans to sue Ekene Dili Chukwu, the transport company that was conveying some pupils of the school to Lagos before the vehicle in which they were travelling was hijacked by armed robbers at Oke-Odo in Ogun State.
The decision to sue the transport firm may not be unconnected with allega-tion of neglect by the com-pany, which led to the rob-bing and raping of some of the 42 female students that were being conveyed from Enugu to Lagos on Sunday for the Easter break. Akunyili, who spoke yesterday at a meeting conveyed by concerned parents in Lagos, said that no student was raped during the encounter.
He said: “Two days before the students embarked on that journey, I called the bus company’s manager in Enugu and he said they had provided a very good bus for the students. I was surprised to hear that the bus developed fault around 1.00pm I called the manger again and he said it was a little problem with the hose and that the driver said he was fixing it. Later we learnt from the students that the driver and conductor abandoned them and went into one village in Ore.
“I called the manager again and he said they had gone to fabricate the damaged part of the vehicle. That was when I knew there was a problem. We started calling the people in Lagos, but they were lackadaisical about the whole issue and did not agree to release another bus to go and pick the children until around 7.00pm.
“According to him, the school and parents will sue for negligence because if the transport company had tackled the issue on time, the incident would have been averted.
Buttressing his assertion that no student was raped, Akunyili said that nobody has come forward with such claim and medical report to back it up. He confirmed, however, that a female parent was saved from being raped because she was pregnant. On the blood stain on the children’s uniforms, he said it was pellets from gunshots.
“Even my own daughter sustained little injury from gunshot pellets,” he said. The school’s principal, Rev Sis Mary Ani arrived at the Saint Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, venue of the meeting at about 2.30pm and was warmly greeted by over 22 of the students who came with their parents.
The principal did not speak with the press, but Akunyili said she came to Lagos purposely to provide some useful information that could be used in the le-gal battle with the transport company. Also speaking at the meeting, a male parent, who accompanied the vehicle that was released from Lagos to bring the stranded students back, confirmed that nobody was raped.“From the point where the driver and the bus conductor abandoned the vehicle and escaped, the robbers took over the steering be-cause the driver left the key in the ignition.
They drove us to a bush and ordered all of us out of the vehicle. “I had N135, 000 on me, so I stuck it in one of the seats before coming down from the vehicle. As the robbers were searching us and ransacking the bus, we heard gunshots, apparently from the police.
“The robbers ordered everybody to get back into the bus, but not all of us were able to get in before they hurriedly left. I and two other male parents were left behind with some of the students. Nobody was raped at that time, but I cannot tell what happened thereafter,” he said.
He said one of the male parents, who was with them was shot in the eye and is receiving treatment in an undisclosed private hospital. Meanwhile, the Ogun State Police Command yesterday said that it was still investigating the rape allegation. The police spokesman, Mr. Muyiwa Adejobi, in a statement issued in Abeokuta, said the command initially denied the rape report based on the complaint lodged at the station which excluded rape at the Ogbere Division.
“After the arrest of some suspected robbers who at-tacked the luxury bus conveying the pupils, the command has got reasons to investigate the alleged rape of the students by these unscrupulous elements.”
“The command wishes to make it known and clear that no one is ruling out the fact that the students might have been raped and this general allegation attracts the command to intensify efforts to carry out thorough investigation on the suspects with a view to establishing the case of rape or defilement or indecent assault on the victims as the case may be,”
Adejobi said, adding: “The command wishes to state that such incident and experiences of the young ladies in the hands of these hoodlums will not be handled with levity, considering both social and mental implications of rape; and the culprits will pay heavily for whatever they must have done.”
Source: National Mirror