Saturday, 4 August 2012

Enugu widows rape update:: Rapists dare Sullivan, Ekweremadu

Four months ago, Opi community in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State made news when some youth in the sleepy community and university town of Nsukka raped helpless widows old enough to be their grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The abominable act recorded particularly in Ogbozalla and Ibeku areas of the community, was exclusively reported by Sunday Sun in its edition of March 18, this year, and attracted condemnation from across the society. However, apparently, neither the Federal nor the Enugu State government did enough to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime and ensure that they face the wrath of the law. Thus emboldened by the official inaction, the rapists, according to women in Ogbozalla community, went back and raped their victims all over again as if daring Governor Sullivan Chime, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremmadu; as well as Senator Ayogu Eze and other political heavy-weights from the state. Expectedly, the rape of the first set of victims again by the same hoodlums raises some nagging questions. Were the rapists angered by the widows’ courage to speak to the media or did the old widows or their children offend these hoodlums or their friends? Are the raped widows hapless victims of a powerful cult group on the prowl or just victims of a weak State security apparatus? Also begging for explanation is the seeming icy silence on the part of the authorities. Checks by Sunday Sun revealed that before the second incident, the victims had received gifts that they were told, came from Governor Sullivan. The items included foams, bedsheets, bags of rice, salt, seasonings, pots, plates, and clothings. Each of the raped widows was also given a carton of milk, a carton of detergent and N5000. But surprisingly, exactly two weeks after the items were distributed to them, the women were roundly raped again. Now, the women want to know where the gift items came from. They said they were curious because there are rumours that the gifts did not come from the governor. They are also worried that all the raped women in Ogbozalla got the gift, a disturbing indication that somebody somewhere might be financing those engaged in the evil act. Moreover, how come the yet-to-be-identified donor knew all the raped women? Yet another source of the women’s worry is the fact that it was a fellow woman who told the victims to remain indoors, hinting that the governor would send people to them with some gift items. They accused Ogbozalla leaders and elders of shielding the bad boys from facing prosecution adding that their sorrow started when some of the suspected rapists who were picked up and detained at the State Police Headquarters, Enugu, regained their freedom in November, 2011. “For seven months that these boys were in detention at the Police Criminal Investigation Department, Enugu, there was absolute peace in this community. But since November, last year, when some powerful men in our community bailed them out of detention, we have not known peace in this community. “Apart from raping old women, they also steal whatever they could lay their hands on, ranging from fowls, goats, clothes, jewelleries to money. They equally extort money by force in broad daylight from people,” the women said. Some of the victims of the second rape spoke to Sunday Sun, narrating their sordid experience in the hands of the rapists. Victims’ tales of sorrow Abonyi Janet: is one of the victims of the first incident in Ogbozalla Opi. A poor widow with five children, she confirmed that two weeks after the rape, she received gifts purported to be from the state governor, but she was raped again. This time, her grown up son, apparently unable to bear the trauma, died in his sleep. Narrating her ordeal, she said: “They came back again to rape me. This time, it was more terrible and devastating because the wall of my house fell on my head. People only came when the hoodlums had run away. They used concrete blocks to hit me on the head. They wanted to kill me. I don’t know what I have done but I am calling on God to save my life. My son who lives in Abuja came home and took me back to the city for treatment and to avoid future occurrence since the community can no longer protect us but he died in his sleep. The shame and trauma killed him. “He just couldn’t come to terms with the cruelty being visited on his mother. He died; all my hope of survival just went like that. Even after his death, he visited me in a dream and said: “Mama, I don’t know why they want to kill you but I have decided to die instead of you so that you can live. “He was planning to marry this year, since all his mates are married but he died for my sake. It shall never be well with the people that have caused me so much pains. God must surely visit them and pay them in their own coins. Since I came back from Abuja after my son’s death, I have not slept in my house; I have been sleeping in neighbours’ houses. Iruka Ugwuanyi is another victim who was visited twice by the evil boys. Unlike the other women, she looks younger, probably in her 30s as she didn’t know her actual age. Her case was worse because her husband is still alive and she was recuperating from an undisclosed sickness when they struck. She corroborated the story that they were raped the second time, two weeks after they received the gift items purported to have come from Governor Chime. “It was the same person who came the first time and this second time and I know him very well. His name is Nnanna from Ibeku Opi. The first time he came was around 1am but this second time, he came around 4am. He kicked the door with his leg and the door just like he did the first time. “My husband is still alive but we don’t live in the same place. He lives at Opi-Agu while I stay at Opi-Uno in his family compound because I am sick. I have been sick for some time now. He visits me from time to time to know how I am faring with our two children. The first time the rapist came, I was with two little children but this second time, I was with a woman who has four children. “He didn’t touch the other woman. It was even the woman who alerted me that he noticed flashes of torchlight. It was as if he cast a spell on the woman because I begged her to assist me so that we could hold him back after he had raped me but she didn’t do anything. As soon as he came in, I started shouting, “robber, robber,” and he brought out a knife and gave me a deep cut on the head. But I kept on shouting until he subdued me. As I speak now, my throat still hurts. “Even while he held my throat, I tried to hold the collar of his shirt but it was late. I fell on the ground and before help could come, he was through with me; he raped me and ran away. I have five children but I don’t live with all of them; some are staying with their father.” The story of Nnadi Christiana, another widow, was pathetic. In a bid to avoid a repeat of the ugly experience, she relocated from her husband’s compound after the first attack because the place was lonely. But the bad boys still traced the old woman to her new abode to defile her the second time. She also confirmed that her tormentors visited exactly two weeks after she collected the purported donation from the governor. She explained how it all happened starting from the first experience. “The first time they came, I was with a small child. They broke my window and came in around midnight. The man dived on top of me and pointed his torchlight directly into my eyes. He held my throat, pinned me to the bed and immediately forced his way into me. “I shouted and even started preaching the word of God to him but he was not moved. He had me to his satisfaction before he stood up asked if I knew him. He ordered me to bring my purse and took N5000 inside it and left only N30. He said he was leaving the N30 because it is not good for a woman’s purse to be empty. Thereafter, he went outside, sat down and started moulding marijuana. “After smoking, he came back for me but luckily, I had escaped when he went outside, so he did not see me again and he left. After the incident, my husband’s relations moved me to a place in their neighbourhood to ensure my protection. So, I have been living with them since last year, until two weeks ago, when the son-of-the-devil visited again. As soon as I noticed that somebody was at the door trying to break in, I sat on my bed but before I could think of what to do, flashes of light from their torchlight blinded me and I couldn’t see. “The next thing I saw was when about three men swooped on me and threw me on the floor. I shouted and shouted but before help came, one of them had raped me and they all fled. If not for the timely intervention of neighbours, three of them could have raped me and that would have been disastrous. Two weeks after I got the items, they came to rape me again.” Esther Ezema, an old widow had a different story. She was raped once but she is very bitter. She said: “They came around 5am. It was only one person that attacked and raped me. He pulled my door down with a digger before he came into my house. He didn’t beat me. I had pain in my legs and that kept me awake all through the night. So, it was just that early morning when I wanted to sleep that I noticed that somebody was pulling my wrapper. I thought it was the small boy lying beside me whom I had scolded for lying carelessly. I didn’t know it was the rapist who had come into my room and was already getting to work. Before, I knew what was happening, his flashlight was on my face and when I said, ‘who is that?’ he ordered me to shut up and immediately went for my throat. His hands remained there until he finished defiling me. Nobody came because he didn’t allow me to shout and even when I asked the small boy with me to go and inform our neighbour, he gave the small boy a very hot slap when he stood up to go out.” Ogbozalla women speak Meanwhile, some women in Ogbozalla, Opi who had been organising other women on how to stamp out rape and other evil acts from the community have complained that their lives were in danger. They resolved that only the removal of the president of the town union and immediate disbandment of the Neighbourhood Watch in the area would restore peace in the community. The women alleged that some community leaders work with the boys. “They are working with some leaders in our community who sponsor them and there is a woman that cooks for them. They pay the woman monthly for her services. They meet every Sunday. It was one of these leaders who bailed them from the police net when they were arrested last year. The boys who are terrorising us are well known to us”, they said. The women identified the alleged sponsors whose surnames have been withheld by Sunday Sun, as one Ezeugwu from Ogbozalla, one Asogwa from Ibeku and Lampard from Idi, all in Opi. They condemned the arrogance with which, “the suspects boast that when the season of rape is over, they would go into kidnapping. The embattled women also lamented their present plight. “We go out through the bush and come back through the bush. They even wear masks to haunt us. The boys have the support of some powerful men in our community. If you ask any of the leaders in Ogbozalla about what is happening, he would deny that there are rapists in our community. They would rather say that the women bring in the men that rape them and all that. We are not safe if those leaders are not removed. “We need government’s urgent assistance. Our leaders are working with the criminals. The criminals provide their security. They snatch motorcycles in broad daylight. For peace to return, we want the town union president and the secretary to step down. We also want the Neighbourhood Watch to be dissolved,” they pleaded. Parish priest confirms women’s plight Reacting to the ugly tales in the community, the Parish Priest, St Charles Catholic Church, Opi; Rev. Fr. Martin Emeka Ozioko said that the latest incident proved that past stories about rape cases in Opi town were true. “It is a perfect confirmation that what the media and the women fighting for their freedom and protection have been saying is all true,” he said. Fr Ozioko disagreed with the notion that cultists were on the prowl in the area. Instead, he saw the bad boys in the community as people who want to be famous in a notorious way. “I still firmly hold the opinion that the boys involved in this crime are all well known. Even though we suspect that some of them belong to the new generation cults like the Viking, Black Axe and the rest of them, if you go deep into the profile of these cults, you will understand that rape is not part of their modus operandi. Therefore, I cannot link what is happening to any kind of cult or cultism”, he said. On the accusation that some leaders were sponsoring the boys, the priest said it was still within the threshold of mere allegation. “What I know is that the boys have become so tough that even the police cannot arrest them and that has sent fears down the spines of some leaders. So, they are afraid of the bad boys. They think that the only way to survive the boys is to give them the impression that they are not their enemies and I think it is within that level of association that the women suspect that they are conniving with them,” he stated. On the controversial donations to the rape victims before the second attack, the priest said: “The activities of those who gave the gifts are very insulting. Commonsense should have told whoever brought the gifts that if it was given to assuage or compensate the women who were raped, they should have passed through the women who have been suffering and organising others. So, I suspect that it was a Greek gift aimed at silencing the victims of this rape so that they wouldn’t continue giving information about the incident.” The priest also spoke on the approach of the Catholic Church to the development in the community. “The Catholic Church is doing marvellously well. I have laid down my life for this particular cause. I cannot fold my arms but I cannot do it in a violent way. I will use the gospel to find out how I can change the boys. “I have been inviting people here, conducting seminars, telling them the implication of what they are doing. I don’t know the boys one-on-one. If I knew them, I would have gone to warn them directly. But most importantly, I have been trying to help them change through moral instructions and teaching. This is what I am doing as a person. “But in Nsukka Diocese as a whole, the Catholic Church has been condemning the evil act. And just recently, the Justice and Peace Commission was briefed about it and very soon, it will join other Non-Governmental Organisations that have been working for the enthronement of peace and protection of women in Opi. “The church belongs to all of us. If you go through the Bible, ‘go and pray’ is mentioned not more than 200 times. But ‘give them something to eat; feed them as Jesus fed the crowd,’ is recorded about 1,000 times in the Bible. “We should not just take care of the spiritual part of man alone, ignoring the physical; because the Igbo adage says, “Onye agu na agu, anaghi anu otiti dili Jesu (the hungry cannot listen to, ‘praise Jesus”). “So, if you want a hungry man to respond to ‘praise the lord,’ give him a cup of rice, a cup of garri; give him money for condiments and when you say, ‘praise God,’ he will hear and understand you better”, the priest reasoned.

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