When a family lacks shame, unimaginable things happen. Nowadays in Nigeria, some mothers take delight in engaging their daughters in a fight over a man. Some others encourage and help to conceal rape of their young girls to please their boyfriends. In this report, ISIOMA MADIKE, looks at this disturbing trend that has somewhat become epidemic in the country
On December 14, reports of the unimaginable made headlines, across the country. Saturday Telegraph reports that a Governor’s Adviser allegedly impregnated a 15-year-old daughter of his supposed ‘girlfriend’. He was said to have been dating mother and child for years before the bubble burst. The ‘big’ man was also said to have procured three abortions for the SS1 pupil in Calabar. And because the abortions were done by a quark doctor, the womb of the helpless girl was perforated.
She is recuperating in a government hospital at present. The relationship, according to investigations, has been going on for years. When the girl began developing feminine features, the ‘big’ man noticed and took interest. She often visited the former council boss for holidays and in company with her mother where they, most times, stay for lengthy number of days.
The victim’s mother is said to have kept warning her against opening up and collaborated with the suspect in the serial abuse. Edet Okon Asim, the accused, is a special Adviser to the Cross River State governor on Biodiversity. He is now in police custody, explaining to the police all that he knows about the alleged defilement of the 15-year-old girl.
The amorous relationship is said to have been on for three years running, causing her to have three abortions for him. The girl, a student of the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, was allegedly lured into the illicit relationship with the former commissioner, who was said to be dating her mother.
The criminal bond with the teenager, however, resulted in two previous abortions. The third, which was said to have been with the knowledge of the girl’s mother, Stella Noah, allegedly damaged her uterus, a development that brought the matter into public glare.
The girl has been in the hospital in Calabar due to complications from the last abortion. A source, who craved anonymity, disclosed to Saturday Telegraph that Noah was married to Asim’s close friend, a popular Calabar-based pastor, who died a few years ago. She had two children for the deceased clergyman.
The first is the victim, while the second is a boy. Not long after the pastor died, according to the narrative, Noah went into a relationship with Asim, a former Cross River State Commissioner for Information, whom she called her “Destiny Saver.” The victim’s mother, who is said to be a caterer, maintains apartments in Uyo and Calabar where the victim stays.
It was further alleged that Noah warned her daughter not to reveal the incident of her present predicament to anyone. But constant abdominal pains gave the girl out. She had visited the school’s clinic on a number of occasions where she was given Buscopan to caution the effect. Yet, the pains persisted, this time very serious.
On interrogation, the girl confessed to have had abortions, with the help of her mother. It was later discovered that the victim’s mother had obtained an exit which enabled her to take the girl away from school. One of the girl’s teachers, thereafter shared the story on a WhatsApp group where human rights activist and founder of Project Alert, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), which specialises in handling such cases, Mrs. Josephine Chukwuma, is a member.
Chukwuma swung into action and contacted the Basic Rights Council Initiative founded by child rights activist, barrister James Ibor, who resides in Calabar to help investigate the allegation. Ibor, Chukwuma told Saturday Telegraph, wasted no time as he confirmed “my fears” mid-afternoon the following day. The police were promptly contacted, leading to the arrest of Asim and Noah.
Their arrest was confirmed by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Irene Ugbo, according to reports. Ugbo was quoted to have said that Asim and Noah would be moved from the Airport Division, where the case was reported, to the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (SCII) at Diamond Hill, also in Calabar.
“There is definitely a special hell on earth and heaven for mothers, who look the other way while their husbands, boyfriends and men friends sexually abuse their daughters. Such women are guiltier than the men. “Project Alert is on top of this case with James Ibor, the Executive Director of Basic Rights Initiative, a child rights NGO based in Calabar.
We have sent a petition to the Inspector-General of Police, because we suspect that being a politician and a big man, the suspect will be pressing all the buttons on his phones now. “The child is a student of FGGC, Calabar, and so, we use this opportunity to call on FGGC Old Students Association to rise up to the occasion in ensuring justice for this child. Project Alert and Basic Rights Initiative are currently picking up the medical bills of this child,” Chukwuma said. However, Asim’s family seems to be fighting back, as they have risen in defense of their son, saying the allegation levelled against him, was not true.
In a release signed by Margaret, the wife of the former Commissioner, on behalf of the family said that her husband had “no immoral affiliation” either with the girl or her mother. The statement, entitled: “God will declare our innocence,” reads in part: “The attention of the family of Ntufam (Hon.) Edet O. Asim has been drawn to the news flooding the media space of the involvement of the head of Ntufam family, (Hon.) Edet O. Asim in the defilement of 15-year-old girl.” While exonerating the former Commissioner from any amoral affair either with the girl or her mother, the statement added: “It will be foolhardy for the promoters of these strange allegations to, by these allegations, seek to tear apart the fabrics of what held us together as one. “It suffices to mention that right from the onset, the girl’s mother has maintained a disposition of shock, bewilderment and utter embarrassment at her daughter’s twist in tongue from her former narrative.”
But in a quick response, Ibor, fired back. His counter press release, read in part: “I have read with infinite pain and sadness the press interview granted by Elder (Mrs.) Margaret E. Asim, wife of the embattled Special Adviser to the Governor of Cross River State on Biodiversity, Mr. Edet Okon Asim, who is alleged to have sexually abused a 15-year-old girl child over the course of three years and even got her pregnant on three occasions. “The statement is riddled with blatant lies and ordinarily deserves to be ignored. However, there are countless members of the public, who may not know the full story and may believe her lies.
I am thus constrained to respond to set the record straight. “First of all, I am not only a lawyer but also the Chairperson of Child Protection Network, a network of civil society organisations (CSOs) battling child abuse in Cross River State. And, by virtue of my office, I have the mandate of CSOs in Cross River State to beam the light of publicity on any person or body of persons alleged to have abused a child – because of our well-anchored belief that evil and injustice thrive in the absence of publicity.
“Around the midnight of December 11, I received a telephone call from Mrs. Josephine Effa Chukwuma, the founder of Project Alert, a Lagosbased non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is in the vanguard to fight against gender-based violence by holding abusers to account and helping protect victims of such abuse. The founder of the NGO is a daughter of the Quas of Big Qua Town, Calabar Municipality.
She requested me to go to the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, to conduct a preliminary investigation into an allegation of sexual assault committed against a student of the school. “I swiftly commenced preliminary investigations into the matter to determine whether there was any truth to it.
Pursuant to this, I personally contacted the authorities of the FGGCC which confirmed that one of their students had been sexually assaulted. They added that one Mrs. Stella Noah, the mother of the survivor, had signed the survivor out of the school sometime in September, and had gone on to procure an illegal abortion for her.
“The abortion resulted in serious complications as the poor girl bled from September until the 11th day of December, when she reported her ordeal to the school authorities. The police were brought into the case, and she was rushed to a police hospital. Armed with this information, I promptly contacted Cross River State’s Ministry of Sustainable Development and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Women Affairs to intimate them of the matter.
“I accompanied the police and representatives of the FGGCC to the police hospital in Calabar where I met the girl for the very first time. She was sleeping at the time. While the police waited patiently for her to wake up, I went back to my law office to attend to some pressing matters.
I returned to the police hospital later in the day to meet the girl awake and giving a statement to the Investigating Police Officer (IPO). “She was doing this in the presence of Mrs. Stella Noah (her mother), some of her paternal relatives and the police doctor. After her statement had been taken, the IPO also obtained a statement from the girl’s mother.
In her statement, Mrs. Noah corroborated her daughter’s claims to the extent that the girl had previously reported to her that Mr. Edet Okon Asim had been sexually assaulting her and was in fact responsible for the pregnancy that had been illegally aborted and had resulted in the complications that led to her being in the hospital.
“To avoid the girl suffering the fate that befell the poor Miss Ochanya Ogbanje of Benue State, a child victim of serial sexual abuse who died on October 17, shortly after her matter was reported to the police, I advised the police to take steps to protect the girl’s life. Accordingly, the girl, with the support of the police, was moved to another government facility in Calabar where, to this day, she is receiving medical intervention for her perforated uterus.”
A similar incident, which led to the unfortunate death of a 13-year-old Elizabeth Ogbaje Ochanya, is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Ochanya’s death came after falling terribly ill and could not walk, resulting from the Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) that accompanied her repeated rape for years.Just like the current drama still unfolding, Ochanya was allegedly molested, defiled, drugged and abused for five years by her 52-year-old uncle, Andrew Ogbuja, a Lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management of the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, and his son, Victor.
The constant rape, drugs and molestation destroyed her physical and mental health. Incidentally, the act was done with the tacit support of her aunt, who happens to be Ogbuja’s wife. She later feigned ignorance of the rape. Ochanya’s uncle was a Knight of the Catholic Church at the time the incident made headlines, and his son, a final year student of Animal Production at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi. Ochanya, who confessed before her death, had said: “It all started in 2013 when I came to live with my mother’s sister in Ugbokolo because there was no school in my village.
When I was eight-years-old, the son started sleeping with me and when his sister caught him, she reported him to their father and the father scolded him. From there, the father also started sleeping with me.” In June, Ochanya got very sick. Caregiver and Founder of Restorer of Path- Care Foundation, Evangelist Enewa Soo, took over her health issues after the case was reported to her.
She took Ochanya to the Benue State Teaching Hospital where it was discovered that her health had been damaged from vaginal. “At the time they brought the girl, she was very sick and when we began to make our findings, we discovered that she was actually raped and the doctors confirmed that she was allegedly sexually abused through the vagina and the anus,” Soo was quoted to have said.
A 46-year-old woman, Chiekube Igbinosa, also reportedly bit off her daughter’s ear and stabbed her with broken bottles around Akumazi com-munity in Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State. Saturday Telegraph gathered that Igbinosa and her daughter, Mabel, were both having an affair with the same man. According to story, the lover man, was allegedly deported from Spain a couple of years ago. Igbinosa reportedly started an affair with the man while her daughter, who just graduated from a university, was away in Rivers State, where she was observing her one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps programme.
It was learnt that Mabel returned to Asaba for a short vacation and started an affair with her mother’s lover. The neighbour, who was alleged to be in the know, had said: “When the mother got to know about this, she hatched a scheme aimed at catching the lovebirds red-handed. It did not take too long before she realised her objective. “One Friday, Igbinosa went to the market at Mile 5 to buy fish.
She ran into a friend who told her that her daughter and the lover boy had checked into a place around the vicinity. She later traced Mabel to the man’s house. “Perceiving that her mother was around, Mabel quickly, sneaked into a neighbour’s room. She was not, however, fast enough as her mother, who dashed after her descended on her with blows and slaps. When the daughter could not endure the beating from her mother anymore, she fought back. That was when Igbinosa went berserk. She smashed a bottle on the ground and stabbed her daughter and the lover boy several times.
That was after she had bitten a chunk off the girl’s ear.” Another mother and her daughter equally caused a shameful scene when they engaged each other in a fight over a lover in Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of government. The woman was said to have resorted to a street brawl after she found out that her man friend was sleeping with her daughter too.
The incident happened in Nyanya area of Abuja and the woman, who is a single parent of four, hails from the Eastern part of the country and runs a beer palour in the area while her daughter is said to be a student in a university in Nasarawa State. A source, who witnessed the shameful act, said: “It was a sight to behold as the woman, who is probably in her 40s, engaged her daughter, who cannot be more than 22, in a serious fight in her beer palour. They fought so bitterly that the fight spilled outside, drawing a large crowd of onlookers. They tore their clothes and were left with only their underwear.
We later gathered that they were fighting over a man who has been dating the two of them. “When we were able to calm them down, we asked what led to the fight but the mother was silent initially until the daughter opened up that her mother snatched her man friend, who has been sponsoring her in school. At that point, the mother also opened up, saying it was actually the daughter that snatched the man from her. I’ve dated him for five years while my daughter started sleeping with him last year.” In another weird incident, a mother and her daughter had babies for same man in same month.
The 38-year-old divorcee and her 19-year-old daughter gave birth to babies for same man, with just four days apart; first the daughter, then the mother’s baby. The lady, who hails from one of the states in the South- South region allegedly got very angry after she learnt that her daughter was pregnant for her man friend, and reportedly considered aborting the baby after she found out the truth. The man who was said to have admitted having an affair with mother and daughter behind their backs, said: “I cannot go back now and explain what happened.
All we have to do is focus on making sure that the children are properly cared for.” The aggrieved mother, this reporter gathered, later forgave her daughter for “the sake of her grandson.” A clinical Psychologist, Akin Gabriel, has given a psychological perspective to the ‘madness’ now being played out in the country. He said the implication arises from poverty.
“Well, I think that is very clear and direct. It is the psychology of poverty; that is on the side of the woman. For the man, it could be cultural beliefs. “Some cultures believe that when a man has a sexual relationship with both mother and daughter it could prolong their life; it prevents them from dying prematurely.
There is also this erroneous believe that rape of minors could help cure some sexually transmitted diseases. Whichever way one looks at it, it is wrong, disgusting and despicable to say the least. What this also means is that the Nigerian society needs serious enlightenment. That is the brief explanation I could give to this menace,” Gabriel added.
Mrs. Josephine Effa-Chukwuma, founder of Project Alert, a Lagos-based Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO), has been in the frontline fighting against gender-based violence by holding abusers to account and helping protect victims of such abuse. She spoke to ISIOMA MADIKE on the raging issue of a 15-yearold SS1 student of the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, Cross River State, who was allegedly abused by a former commissioner in that state.
How did this whole drama start?
It was on a Tuesday, December 11, late in the night, almost 10 O’clock on WhatsApp group I belong to when a lady tag me and said she will like to talk to me. She raised an issue that a girl in Federal Girls College, Calabar, had been sexually abused. The lady said one of the teachers in that school said one of their students that complained of severe abdominal pains had been coming to the medical centre. The girl she said was squatting and vomiting blood. When they interviewed her, she confessed she had an abortion. The girl told them her mother helped her to procure the abortion in September after she came to sign exit to take her away from school. On further interrogation, the girl told them her mother’s boyfriend was responsible for the act. At that point in time nobody knows who the mother’s boyfriend was. The concern was to rush her to the hospital. The school took her to police hospital which was a good thing going to a government facility. And she said that they need a human right organisation to take up the case.
What happened after that conversation with your WhatsApp group member?
That night at almost midnight, maybe 11 pm, I called barrister James Ugbo. I actually woke him up and I said I’m so sorry. The anger of hearing what happened to a little child, not only the sexual abuse, but the abortion which probably was done by a quack doctor made me follow up immediately. I learnt that her abdominal pain was so severe that paracetamol or whatever they were given her in the medical centre on the two time or so she presented is not doing anything and she said she called her mother to tell her that she was in pains and the woman asked her to bear it and that it will go. That is how it was before I called barrister James almost at midnight to narrate what I was told to him and begged him to investigate if it was true or not. The next day in the afternoon he called me back to say ‘madam it is true, she is 15 years and in SS1 class, the abortion was not the first, not the second but the third.’ He said that he met the mother who corroborated the girl’s story. It was at that point that the former commissioner’s name, who is her mother’s boyfriend, was mentioned and I said I really don’t care; let’s do the needful and save this child. The IPO was there so also the mother of the girl and the doctors. That was how the rat race started.
What has happened since then?
The police are investigating the allegation. We are also hearing now that the girl’s womb has been perforated. The girl is still in the hospital but I learnt that the police and the women affairs and development ministry have moved her to a teaching hospital. Everybody knows that we need to be careful and to protect this girl. Unfortunately, child abuse cases have somewhat become a recurring decimal in Nigeria. But instead of concentrating on the message and pay attention to it, people prefer to focus on the messenger. The police have a duty and responsibility to investigate this to the logical conclusion and take action. It doesn’t matter what it is, the impunity has to stop. We are dealing with an epidemic; a child sexual abuse epidemic. What is it with little children that older matured men cannot leave little girls alone? We are following up on the case, the police AIG in that zone, IGP, all of them have been petitioned and we have confidence that the police will do a thorough job in this case.
There is a new dimension to child rape issues now. The mothers appear to be collaborating with their spouses to perpetrate this act. How can this be resolved?
That is where the social welfare department has to step up in its work. I must tell you that a social welfare department as we currently have it, operates, in my view, below expectation. If it’s in an advanced country like the US, for instance, if the social welfare tells the family that they are coming to their house, the fear of that alone is the beginning of wisdom. The social welfare has primary responsibility to ensure that the welfare of children is paramount. If the social welfare is working the way it should work that girl in hospital should not be going back to her mother. It is either the father’s family or foster parents to take good care of her and nurture her upbringing.