Community Secondary School (CSS), Oroworukwo, is one of the prominent public secondary schools located within the Port Harcourt metropolis in Rivers State.
Located in the Nkpolu axis of Diobu, a densely populated part of Port Harcourt metropolis, CSS Oroworukwo is known for producing brilliants students who have won several laurels for the school.
In 2017, the school emerged winners of the Gender Debate Competition organised by members of Gender Group, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in Port Harcourt.
However, on Thursday, May 23, 2019, CSS Oroworukwo, was in the news for the wrong reason.
One of the SS 2 male pupils of the school, Darlington Sylvanus, aged 17 years, mistakenly detonated a teargas canister in the classroom, which eventually led to a stampede.
Although no death was recorded in the incident, no fewer than 25 students, mostly female students were injured and hospitalized.
The incident, according to sources, happened in the morning and forced everybody out of the school premises for the entire day.
The pupils sustained various degrees of injuries as they frantically tried to escape from the two-storey classrooms block as smoke covered the entire floor.
Narrating their experience, one of the students, who identified herself as Nene, said some of the pupils, who jumped from the first floor fractured their bones.
She said, “An SS 2 male student opened a teargas canister in their classroom and out of fear; the students started jumping off the first floor. Many were injured and are still in Ana Clinic, which is just close to the school.
“The hospital management had insisted that the parents of the injured students admitted in the hospital should pay their bills before they are discharged.”
When LEADERSHIP visited Ana Clinic, located close to the school on Tuesday, it was confirmed that all the students, who were hospitalised had been discharged from the hospital.
A medical doctor attached to the hospital, Dr. Abuchi Ogbonda, who confirmed the discharge of the students, said no fewer than 20 students from the school were admitted in the hospital.
Ogbonda stated that out of the number, five students were in critical condition when they were brought to the hospital.
He further stated that majority of the victims were female pupils, who are between the ages of 16 and 18 years.
According to Mrs Ruth Major, Principal of CSS Oroworukwo, 25 students of the school were injured during the incident, but none died.
Major said: “No student died during the stampede but a lot of them had fractures. Several students were injured both on their legs and their hands. It is only the Senior Prefect (Girl) that her situation was bad. She underwent surgery and the surgery was successful.
Highlighting some of the challenges being faced by the school, the Principal said: “From time to time, there is the need to come in here to teach the students about security moves.
“If the students were aware of some of these security tips, the injury or casualty wouldn’t have been up to 25. But because they are not aware, when they saw the smoke, they decided to run.
“As a result, we experienced that stampede which caused casualties, injuries, both legs and hands. If we had good security in place, most of these things wouldn’t have happened.”
An SS 2 male student, Nicodemus Nkaparo, aged 18, who was later arrested by operatives of the Olu Obasanjo Police Station, confessed to have brought the teargas canister to school.
Nkaparo said he took the canister from the bag of his late uncle, who was a policeman, adding that his classmate, Sylvanus, collected it from him and mistakenly detonated it while trying to show it to the rest of the class.
Nkaparo’s statement was confirmed by the Nigeria Police, which ruled out the resemblance of cult attack or terrorist attack on the school.
The Rivers State Police Command, in a statement signed by its Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said the two suspects admitted in their statements that they actually detonated the teargas canister, without knowing that it was a chemical weapon.
The statement reads in part: “The attention of the Rivers State Police Command has been drawn to a video making the rounds and trending on social media, on the alleged attack on students and staff of Community Secondary School, Oroworokwo, Port Harcourt by student cultists and unknown persons.
“Honestly, the command is disturbed by this development and consequently wishes to disabuse the minds of the public and state the true position as follows:
“That on May 23, 2019 at about 10:30 hours, the Principal of Community Secondary School, Oroworokwo, Mrs. Ruth Major, launched a complaint with Olu Obasanjo Police Station on the denotation of a chemical weapon (canister) by two students of the school; which caused stir and panic in the school.
“That on the receipt of the compliant, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) CSP Lucky Omoniyi detailed ASP Love Tenalo to the scene, whereupon two students namely: Nicodemus Nkaparo ‘m’ 18 years and Darlington Sylvanus ‘m’ 17 years were arrested and taken to the station.
“At this point, it has become increasingly necessary to state in an unmistakeable term that; the incident at Community Secondary School, Oroworokwo was not a terrorist attack or any attempt to kidnap students.
“That it has no resemblance of cult attack. that investigation is still going on with a view to unveiling the circumstances surrounding the incident and bringing the culprits to justice
“That so far, normalcy has been restored to the school and its environs as normal school activities have resumed in earnest. That the Rivers State Police Command is poised to ensure that sanity is maintained in all primary and tertiary institutions and to guard against breach of security in schools.
“At the station, the principal made statement relating to her complaints and two suspects were cautioned and equally made statements, where they admitted, detonating the substance but denied knowing that it was a chemical substance capable of causing panic and tension.
“In his statement, Nicodemus Nkaparo confessed to have brought the canister from their house, which was part of the belongings of his deceased elder brother who was a policeman. He stated further that he did not know that it was a chemical weapon (teargas) which could cause panic and tension.
“But unknown to him, his friend, Darlington Sylvanus, detonated the substance, which threw the whole school into confusion, as people scampered for safety while some sustained injuries.
“That at the end of the interrogation, the two suspects were given administrative bail and released unconditionally to report back on Monday, May 27, 2019.
“That as part of the investigation, the police team executed search in the houses of the suspects but nothing incriminating was found. Furthermore, the team visited the scene and the hospital where three students were receiving medical attention.
“That at the end of the exercise, the team called all the staff and students and assured them of protection and warned them to be law-abiding as police will not spare any effort in dealing with delinquent students.”
But, the Rivers State government rejected the police statement, insisting that the agency did not conclude investigation into the incident.
According to Chief David Briggs, Chairman of the Rivers State Senior Secondary Schools Board (RSSSSB), the state government had set up its own committee to investigate the incident.
Briggs who spoke during an impact assessment visit to the school yesterday, accused the Rivers State Police Command of not carrying out proper investigation and profiling of the parents and relatives of the two students involved in the act.
He said: “Worst scenario is that the police have reacted and we appreciate their reaction. But, their reaction is a very exonerating reaction. And this is very bad in Nigerian Police.
“It is sad in the sense that most often, the statement of the police is exonerating, not to state where they are culpable. They were sent to the police by the principal and they were set free because they are minors.
“But, they never bothered to do profiling of the parents of the students; profiling of elder brothers was never done. Profiling of their contacts was never done. Going through their phones was not done.
“The issued statements even without investigation. This is the bad aspect of it but I am not saying that they have done nothing.”
The RSSSSB chairman stated that the committee would find out the immediate cause of the incident as well as proffer solutions and take measures on those found culpable.
He said: “The government has set up a committee with a view to finding the immediate cause and likely remedy and take measures where somebody is found culpable.
“It is unfortunate that as at the time of the incident happened, the Mathematics teacher ought to be in the class but the Mathematics teacher was not there.
“But, I must say that the incident that happened is not a government-related affair. I must say that Community Secondary School Oroworukwo, is one school that meets every international standard.
“The school is fenced, it is gated and it is up-to-date with infrastructures that are well renovated.”
The board chairman, who charged parents and guardians to monitor the activities of their children and wards, said they will be accountable for their actions soon.
Briggs said: “A lot of us are no longer aware of where and what our children are made of. We are interested in telephones, we are very much attached to our telephones that our children.
“We spend much time watching more movies and all kind of things on social media. We spend more time singing Micheal Jackson’s songs for them instead of reading the Bible for them.
“Parents have failed us; we have failed our children and we are going to be the victims of we do not do things right.”
Apparently worried by the rejection of the police statement, the state Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel, paid an unscheduled visit to the school.
Addressing the students, Belel assured them that the police would not give room for the reoccurrence of such incident in any of the schools in the state.
He said: “We feel the pains as much as you do; that is why we thought it much necessary to be here today to interface with you, to give you some tips as to what we should be very careful of.
“But, I think it is necessary now more than ever before for the school authority, the administration to check those that are not supposed to be in school.
“Be very conscious of who your friends are and whenever you see anything that is not supposed to be within the school premises, report to the nearest school teacher.”