An Effurun Magistrate’s District Court 1, sitting in Uvwie Local Government Area, Delta State, opened trial on Monday, in a case of sexual abuse and torture of 13-year-old Junior Secondary School, JSS, 2 student of Ekpan Basic Secondary School.
Mrs. Chibuzor Onyeji, was charged with assault and grievous injuries on the visibly traumatised girl, who is her cousin. A girl who has been living with her since 2010.
Her husband, Francis Onyeji, now at large and wanted by the police, for the alleged sexual abuse of the girl which resulted in his wife’s ruthless knife attack.
The anger of everyone present was on the defending counsel, when he argued that his client’s life-threatening attack on the girl was only an accident and that Mrs. Onyeji had right to be angry.
There were further angry mutters in the court when the accused knelt down and begged the girl to forgive her after pleading not guilty to the one-count charge of assault and causing grievous injuries.
But the torture didn't just begin.
According to the victim who is unnamed, her cousin’s husband started abusing her sexually and pacifying her with cash over two years ago, whenever he was off duty.
On one of the days, part of the N1,500 which he allegedly gave her, after sleeping with her the previous day, got missing in school during break period and she reported the matter to her class teacher.
After a fruitless search, her classmates, who felt wrongly accused, followed the complainant home after closing to express their anger to her guardian, Mrs. Onyeji.
The girl narrated what happened next:
“My aunt asked where I got the money and l told her it was her husband who gave me after sleeping with me. She said it was a lie.
At about 9.30p.m., she woke me up, heated 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 boiled water on me, but she later said no, vowing to do that when I return from school the next day. She put the hot knife in 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 took a piece from the boiling pot, unzipped my dress and placed it on my back.”
The Vice Principal also took to the witness box.
Mrs. Queenbetty Unogwa, said the school authority had sent for Mrs. Onyeji several times because of her ward’s incessant lateness and absenteeism.
“The pupil claimed it was due to prolonged engagement with house chores, which caused her to miss mathematics, agricultural science and two other papers during last term examinations. But Mrs Onyeji refused honouring the invitations.”
When the accused brought the girl to school with the intention of disgracing her publicly after inflicting the knife injuries on her the night before, the school authority cashed on the rare opportunity to get to the bottom of the oddity.
The VP said: “We saw the degree of burns and swellings on her head and we started asking the woman questions. But her behaviour was very unruly, prompting 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; l believe that she would do far better given a conducive environment.”
The school immediately had to put her in care of the school’s Guidance Counsellor, Mrs. Rita Obuh, who took custody because the police said they could not keep her at the station.
The trial judge adjourned the case to July 21 and granted the accused, Mrs Blessing Ideh, as a nursing mother of a three-month old baby in the N500,000 with a surety in like sum, which must include a confirmed landed property within the Magisterial District, while the accused must be present in court at every sitting.
The Child Welfare/Development Officer from Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Lopgun Solomon, and Mr. Omorere of the Nigerian Child Welfare Fund, asked that the court grant them custody of the girl was granted, despite the appeal of Pius Nworie, biological father of the abused teenager, to take his daughter home.
The girl is presently in an undisclosed orphanage, where she is recovering from the physical injuries after undergoing medical examination and treatment.