Tortured By Cousin, Defiled By Her Husband

13-Year-Old JS Student Tells Story Of Her Horrible Experience At The Hands Of Her Foster Parents

BY MICHAEL IKEOGWU
In The Begieginning…
AS each day passes, Nigerians and the world at large are confronted with one case of child abuse, child labour, rape, and other crimes, too numerous to mention. While some are reported to security operatives and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), for action, many are kept under the cooler for the shame and trauma associated with them. The most annoying part of it all is that the number of persons involved in such ignoble acts keeps increasing at an unimaginable speed in spite of the fact that many perpetrators also have been sent to prison.
Chinemerem’s Journey To Golgotha
One of such cases played out recently in Ekpan, Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State when a 13-year old Junior Secondary student of Ekpan Basic Secondary School, named Chinemerem Nworie, came to school on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, with various degrees of injuries allegedly inflicted on her by her guardian one Mrs. Chibuzor Onyeji, a mother of four and an indigene of Imo State. Some may have been tempted dismiss the case with a wave of hand, but the degree of burns all over Chinemerem’s body aroused curiosity amongst the staff of the school who, after questioning her, decided to inform the police, which led to the arrest of the woman.
An Evil Couple?
The middle-aged woman is a second cousin to Chinemerem who pleaded with the family of the girl to allow her to come and stay with them as a maid in 2012. Chinemerem may have expressed gratitude to God at the announcement of her movement to Warri, Delta State, unknown to her that she was going into a journey that would expose her to hardship, torture molestation and even sexual harassment.
While Chinemerem’s Aunty, Mrs. Onyeji was on one side maltreating her with all forms of hard labour, hunger and starvation, her husband whose name was given as Mr. Francis Onyeji, a staff of LEE ENGINEERING COMPANY, Warri, was on the other hand allegedly turning her to a sex machine. She was defiled at the age of 11 in 2013, since then, the man made it a hobby to mounting the innocent girl at will, whenever he returns home from offshore duties.
Spilling The Beans
The alleged evil act of this couple was let out of the bag when on that very fateful Monday, June 29, 2015, Chinemerem had gone to school with N1,500 which her aunt’s husband, Mr. Onyeji, now at large ,gave her after sleeping with her. The money, she said, she usually spent on her stationary, literature text books as well as snacks, as her aunt seldom gives her food to eat.
Narrating her ugly story to some members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), who were contacted by the Chief Executive Officer of an NGO, Child Welfare Fund, Mr. Joshua Omorere, Chinemerem said, Mr. Onyeji had canal knowledge of the girl at 11, one year after she started living with them. She said the man, after making love to her the previous day (Sunday 28), gave her the said N1,500 (One thousand five hundred naira) which she took to school the next day. She added that the money got missing during break period which prompted her to report to her teacher.
It was gathered that, after a fruitless search for the said money, her classmates, who claimed they were wrongly accused, followed her home after closing and reported the case to Mrs . Chibuzor Onyeji. “When my aunt asked me where I got the money from, and l told her it was her husband who gave me the money after sleeping with me, she said it is a was a lie”. But that honest confession earned her her aunt’s wrath.
“In the night at about 9.30pm, she woke me up and put a knife on the fire and started to use it on my body, saying ‘she will kill me half dead.’ She used pestle to hit my head several times and iron rod to hit my ankles. She wanted to pour hot water on me, but she later said no and that when we come back from school she will do that and put the knife on my chest. This other old mark on my back was when she asked me to boil yam, she said the sizes were too big and she took from the boiling yam and zip down my dress, and place a piece of yam on my back.”
Incredible Tale
When asked how often the man sleeps with her, Chinemerem said whenever the man comes from work, adding that sometimes she will resist him but
oftentimes the man overpowers her. The soft spoken beautiful Chinemerem who said she comes from a family of six girls, revealed she had reported to her aunty about the secret love going on between them but she never took it serious.
She said that the Onyeji’s had prevented her from having access to her family as she only visited them in 2013, adding that she had wanted to go and join her family in Imo but had no means of doing that, adding that the perpetual hard work she was daily subjected to, made her to miss four papers during last term examinations. She equally said that because of the huge volume of house chores she always does she was always late to school, a situation she said may hinder her academic career.
Principal of the school, Mrs. Betty Bovwe, was said to be away on official duty when newsmen got to the school on Nigercat Road, Ekpan,. However, the Vice-Principal, Mrs. Queen Betty Unogwa, said the school authority had sent for Mrs. Onyeji severally because of her ward’s incessant lateness to and absenteeism from school. She said that Chinemerem even missed mathematics, Agricultural Science, and two other papers during last term examinations, which she said was as a result of domestic chores that took her time, but Mrs. Onyeji never honoured the invitation until that fateful day.
According to the vice-principal, “when we saw the degree of burns and swellings on her head, we started asking her questions, but the behaviour of the woman was very unruly; that prompted us to call the police. The girl is a very intelligent girl, despite the situation she found herself, she is among the best in her class, and l believe she would do far better, given a conducive environment .She is at present with the school’s guidance Counsellor Mrs Rita Obuh, who took custody because the police said they could not keep her at the station”.
NGO, Others React
Joshua Omorere, of the Nigerian Child Welfare Fund, a N.G.O. who described the suspect as not only possessed, but demonic, called on the Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare to send circular to all schools asking them to report to them whenever they see strange marks on the body of their students or any strange behaviour as this would help a great deal in curbing the menace of child abuse in the society.
A rights activist and peace-building consultant, Barrister Robinson Ariyo, while reacting to the dastardly act, described the incident as “very, very unfortunate and gross inhuman treatment”, saying it was a reminder of what used to happen in the early days of mankind, where there was no law, where life was brutish , nasty and short, and where might was right. It reminds us of what used to happen during slave trade” he held.
Ariyo added, “for a crime to occur, there has to be two key primary elements, and these are the actual act and the intention to cause the act. From the story the girl has told, the two elements are present. In other words, it is very clear that the woman actually intended to cause harm; for her to have put a knife on the fire and made sure it was hot enough to inflict that degree of burns shows intention as seen from the girl’s story , it shows she was ready to cause harm, and the law says, even if you say with your mouth that you did not intend to cause it, if in the ordinary course of human events such acts cause those grievous harms, the law would hold it that, that is what you intended to do and the law would take its course. The two elements have conspired together to demonstrate that there was a crime and there was the intention to commit the crime”.
The legal practitioner, who said, putting all the acts together, the woman could be charged for attempted murder, as from all indications, the act was done midnight, the girl was alone with the woman, and the woman confined the girl to a particular space within which she was able to do all that she did, adding that the girl was helpless which could have resulted in her death. “I do not believe this can happen in 2015.It takes me back to several tens of years ago.
Ariyo also said, “apart from the legal implications, this girl can gradually develop from this kind of behaviour to become a sadist in life. So, there are lots of unfortunate things that can happen to the girl in life. I think the law should be allowed to take its course. The reason being that there are a lot of people who are doing this on a daily basis and are not being reported, this is just one incident that we have seen .
Let us remember that the purpose of punishment is to deter offenders and also discourage intending offenders from doing this, so that people would know that it is not their right to inflict injuries on any human being. Even if that child was your child if you do that, you would know that eventually, that child is not for you, but that of the state because it is the state that would prosecute you.
You cannot settle this matter amicably, because it is a serious offence, a felonious offence which you can be imprisoned for life; so, you cannot compromise that. To attempt to settle this amicably would be compounding a felony, this is not a civil matter, it is a criminal matter. A crime against the state. “
He, however said, that apart from the physical treatment, the girl needed psychological treatment. “She needs to undergo a lot of rehabilitation, what we call post-traumatic stress treatment she has to pass through that and for her age.
While commending those who worked to bring the incident to limelight, he called on all well-meaning Nigerians to come to her aid by showing her love, and care and support her, because she spoke out, she protested because she did not like it, and expressed optimism that in the near future, opportunity would be given to lawyers, doctors and experts in other fields who want to render free humanitarian services to assist such victims.
The Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Ekpan Police station, CSP Chris Sorgbara who confirmed the incident, said investigations were still ongoing but stressed that the suspect was granted bail because she was nursing a three-month old baby.
Father of the victim, Pius Nworie, who arrived from Onitsha, practically knelt down and wept uncontrollably on seeing the inhuman treatment meted out to her daughter by supposed in-laws and asked his daughter to forgive him (Pius Nworie) for being partly responsible for her ordeal. He, however, declined to speak with the press, saying that the matter was already before the village elders.
When newsmen visited the residence of the Mr. and Mrs. Onyeji, a storey building belonging to a pastor from Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) located at Oghoyoma Onomokpome Street, behind Chinkelly Schools , Ekpan, the mother of the suspect ran inside when she sighted newsmen.
However, a man who gave his name as Dr. Odey and claimed to be a staff of Nigerian Navy Hospital, Warri, and neighbour to the Onyejis claimed he was treating the old woman because her blood pressure had gone up since the incident occurred. He also told newsmen that the police came back and took the woman into custody as the Ekpan Community the youths threatened to inflict same injury on the suspect after they saw the news on the Delta Broadcasting Service, Warri.
“I bought food for the woman yesterday, I am telling you that she is there as we speak, I am just coming from church, I can’t lie, believe me, plain clothes policemen came and took her away for her own safety. But this is a family matter; please, you people should just allow us settle amicably please, she has shown remorse, you see, anybody can make mistakes, the temper was too much, she has been crying”.
A middle-aged woman neighbour to Chibuzor Onyeji, who gave her name as Olivia Aaron , and hails from Akwa Ibom State, could not hide her outburst as she ventilated her anger. She said, “I go talk, I no dey fear anybody! As you dey see me for here so, I vex pass you. I nor dey for grama o. That idiot devil woman wan kill another man pikin , nor be as she carry her own for nine months other people carry their own?”
She continued, if you see this girl head, that devil don use hammer tear am anyhow; abi, una no see am? If na your pikin you go like am,? she queried”. “The animal husband com do him own join for that small pikin, if na me, enh..I go kill am, if na Okere prison, I go go. Nonsense! she fumed”.
Drama At Court Hearing
Meanwhile, it was drama and a rowdy session at Effurun Magisterial District, Court 1, Uvwie Local Government Area as it took the Magistrate time to calm frayed nerves when the accused was brought to court. Almost all the lawyers in court, on seeing the victim, were up against the lawyer of the accused who was brought in from Onitsha after he argued that it was only an accident and that his client has the right to be angry.
At the court, the accused knelt down and begged Chinemerem to forgive her after she pleaded not guilty to a one-count charge of assault and grievous injures.
His worship, Mrs. Blessing Ideh, however, granted the accused bail because she is a nursing mother of three-month old baby, with the sum of N500,000 ( Five Hundred thousand naira) with surety in like sum which included a landed property within the Magisterial District which must be confirmed by court officials and that the accused must be present in court at every sitting.
Also, the joint prayer of the Child Welfare/Development Officer from the Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Lopgun Solomon and Joshua Omorere of the Nigerian Child Welfare Fund,an NGO who prayed the court to be given the victim’s custody was granted, despite the appeal of Pius Nworie to take his daughter (Chinemerem) home.
Chinemerem who at present in an undisclosed orphanage, after undergoing thorough medical examination and treatment at one of the best private hospitals in Warri, says she has forgiven Mrs. Nworie but not without a word of advice for her; she said, “ I have forgiven her, but she should not maltreat other people’s children. I would love to go and meet my parents and leave everything to God “.She said softly.
The case has been adjourned till July 21, 2015, when the victim may be reunited with her biological parents