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STAMPEDE: Legs broken, hands injured as student detonates teargas in school

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•I did not know it was a chemical weapon – Boy who smuggled canister into class

By Davies Iheamnachor, Port-Harcourt

THERE was pandemonium in Community Secondary School Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State, penultimate Thursday, after teargas smuggled into class by a student, Nicodemus Nkapari, 17, was detonated.

His classmate identified as Darlington Sylvanus accidentally detonated the chemical weapon.

It was learned that Nicodemus had collected the teargas canister from the bag of his late brother who was a police officer.

In a video clip recorded by a teacher and posted online, students were seen jumping down from the first floor of the school’s storey building following the following the loud sound of the detonation and the strong smell the teargas released into the air.

The video immediately went viral online.

It was gathered that the incident, which left about 25 students with various degrees of injuries, caused the school to be shut for three days.

The school Principal, Mrs. Ruth Major, reported the incident at Olu-Obasanjo Police Station, Port-Harcourt.

Major, in her statement to the police, said: “On Thursday, we experienced security challenge and it happened because a student in Senior Secondary School 2 brought a teargas canister to class and invited his mates.

“As they were contemplating on how to open it, one of them, Darlington, detonated it.

“When he (Darlington) opened it and smoke started coming out, he ran out of the class. As a result, there was panic and stampede.”

She confirmed that 25 students sustained various degrees of injuries, including broken legs and had hand injuries, following the incident, adding that the victims were receiving treatment in hospital.

Nicodemus and Darlington were taken into police custody and later released on administrative bail.

No terrorist, cult attack – Police

Rivers State Police Command, after its preliminary investigation, dismissed the claim that the incident was cult or terrorist related.

In a statement, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, the police spokesman, however, described the development as worrisome, stating that police had restored calm in the area.

Omoni said: “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 of the students and staff of Community Secondary School, Oroworukwo by student-cultists and unknown persons.

“It has become necessary to state in unmistakable terms that the incident at the Community Secondary School Oroworukwo is not a terrorist attack or an attempt to kidnap students, and that it has no semblance of cult attack.

“Investigation is still ongoing with a view to unravelling the circumstances surrounding the incident and bringing the culprits to justice.

“That so far normalcy has been restored in the school and environs, as normal school activities have resumed in earnest.”

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The spokesperson narrated that the Principal of the school, Major, had, upon the incident, reported to the police, adding that police detained the students behind the incident but later released them on administrative bail.

He said: “On the 23rd of May, 2019 at about 1030hrs, the Principal of Community Secondary School Oroworukwo, Mrs. Ruth Major, lodged a complaint at the OIu Obasanjo Police Station on the detonation of a chemical weapon (canister) by two students of the school; which caused panic.

“On receipt of the complaint, 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 the station, the Principal made a statement in relation to her complaint and the two suspects were cautioned and equally made their statements, where they admitted detonating the substance, but, however 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.

“At the end of the interrogation, the two suspects were given administrative bail and released unconditionally to report back on Monday, the 27th of May, 2019”.

Search

Omoni noted that following the statement of Nicodemus, the police launched a search of the home of the suspect’s late brother to remove every other facility owned by the police.

He said: “As part of the investigation, the police team executed a 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.”

The spokesperson promised that the police would ensure adequate security in school premises in the state, even as he urged members of the public to be conscious of their immediate environment.

“Rivers State Police Command is poised to ensure that sanity is maintained in all primary and tertiary institutions in the state and to guard against security breach in schools.

“Members of the public are hereby advised to increase their security consciousness by closely monitoring the activities of their children.

“Also, heads of private and public schools are enjoined to increase their security consciousness in schools and mildly subject their students to polite and decent search, when coming and going out of school.

“Security is everyone’s business”.

CP visits school

Meanwhile, the state Commissioner of Police Rivers State, CP Usman Belel, has promised to beef up security at the Community Secondary School, Oroworukwo to avoid a repeat of the incident.

Belel spoke when he visited the school.

He told the students to report anybody suspected to be a criminal to the school authorities.

The CP announced a donation of N300, 000 to support the hospital bills of students and staff members of the school who were injured during the incident.

Responding, Major pleaded with the state police command to regularly visit the school to sensitise the inmates, adding that security is one of its challenges.

She said: “Our challenge is security. If we have good security, this wouldn’t have happened.

“If security agents can come from time to time to sensitise our students, if the students were aware of security tips, that casualty level would not have been up to 25.

“But because they were not aware, they saw the smoke and they started running, and we experienced broken legs and hand injuries”.

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