Posted By: Chris OJI, Enugu; Hannah OJO and Damisi OJO, Akure
IMPREGNATED in Ondo, abandoned in Enugu. That is the summary of the pathetic story of 14-year-old Chinecherem Chinze, an indigene of Enugu State allegedly abused sexually by a couple in Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State, where she was taken to work as a housemaid.
It was gathered that the young girl was preparing to write the Junior Secondary School Certificate Examination last year but the noble plan was frustrated by the inability of her widowed mother to raise the examination fee.
With four other children to cater for since her husband died two years ago, the poor widow, Christiana Chinze, readily yielded to a suggestion by her neighbour and sister to the wife of auto parts dealer based in Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State, that Chinecherem be sent to the couple to serve as a housemaid while they put her in school and take care of her education.
The auto parts dealer, Ene Chidozie, who allegedly turned round to impregnate Chinecherem, is said to be a native of Abia town in Udi Local Government Area, Enugu State.
The young Chinecherem was an embodiment of sadness when our correspondent spoke with her at her base in Enugu, where she had been abandoned with her mother since December last year after her mother confronted Chidozie with the allegation that he put the hapless young girl in the family way.
Repeatedly fighting back tears with the back of her hand as she narrated the events that culminated in her ordeal, Chinecherem said: “I was taken to Ikare in March last year to live with Uncle Chidozie and his wife in the hope that they would register me in a school to take the JSS (Junior Secondary School) exam. But he deflowered me and also slept with me many times after that. He is responsible for my seven- month-old pregnancy.”
Giving further insight, Chinecherem said when she arrived Ikare in March last year, Chidozie’s wife, who she said was pregnant at the time, told her that she was brought to the house for a purpose that would be revealed to her at the appropriate time. Chinecherem said she interpreted that in her mind to mean that she would later be enrolled in school. She was wrong.
A few months later, Chidozie’s wife put to bed via Cesarean Section and the time came to unveil Chinecherem’s mission in the house.
She said: “One day in August last year, she told me that the time for the purpose of my coming to Ikare had come. She asked me to enter her husband’s room. I entered the room but, surprisingly, I met him lying Unclad on his bed. He beckoned to me to come but I refused. I started begging him, telling him that I had not done such a thing before.
“Suddenly, Aunty (Chidozie’s wife) came into the room and pushed me towards her husband. She then held me down while her husband mounted and deflowered me. I cried throughout that day.
“Thereafter, he continued to sleep with me. Whenever I refused to go to bed with him, Aunty would phone her sister in our village and tell her that I was not heeding her instructions.
“Each time Uncle wanted to sleep with me, his wife would help him to hold me down. That continued until December when we came home for Christmas and they returned me to my mother.”
Chinecherem said before they returned to the village for Christmas, she told the couple that she had missed her period, but they simply dismissed her claim. To her surprise, she said, the couple left her behind in Enugu State when they were returning to Ikare after the yuletide without any explanation to her or her widowed mother.
She said it was when her mother started noticing some physical changes in her that she confronted her and took her for a test which showed that she was six months pregnant.
“That was when I told my family the whole story. Uncle Chidozie’s family was contacted but he denied ever touching me when they confronted him. After much pressure, another test was conducted and he admitted.”
The victim’s mother told one of our correspondents that Chidozie had agreed to take responsibility for the baby’s upkeep with a payoff of N100,000, but the other women in the community kicked against the arrangement, saying that the said amount was too small. On the basis of their protest, she said, Chidozie agreed to take responsibility for Chinecherem’s upkeep during the pregnancy and after she had put to bed.
It was gathered, however, that Chidozie had only sent N20, 000 to Chinecherem so far. Asked if she would agree to being taken as a second wife, the 14-year-old girl responded with an emphatic no.
“All I want from him is to take care of the baby and my education. That is the only way I can secure my future, which is about to be ruined. I am interested more in education than marriage. I am only 14 years old and now in SS1,” she said.
Chinecherem’s mother, Christiana, who hails from Aguoba Umumba, Ezeagu Local Government Area, Enugu State, said her daughter cherishes her education a lot, which was why she agreed to being sent to the couple for help when her neigbour suggested it.
Speaking amid tears, she said: “This case is beyond me. I don’t know what to say. All I want is that the man takes care of my daughter and her pregnancy. He should take care of her education, because it was on that basis that she agreed to be sent to Ikare.”
The widow also called on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the wife of the Enugu State governor, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, and the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Mrs. Cecelia Ezeilo, to intervene in the matter and help save her daughter’s future.
Contacted for comments at his business base in Idi-Mango, Ikare-Akoko after painstaking efforts to locate him at his Ugbe-Akoko residence had failed, Chidozie, admitted putting his house girl in family way. This was after he had taken our correspondent to a nearby church where he confessed to the sin.
He, however, would not go into the details, saying that “both families have resolved the matter amicably.”
He said that both his family and that of the pregnant 14-year-old girl had discussed extensively, and the latter had said they would call him any time his attention was needed.
Dozie said: “Both families have come together to settle the issue. Since we are far away, they agreed to contact me any time they need my attention. Both myself and the lady’s family members are from Enugu State.”
He also said that Chinecherem had returned to her parents in Enugu State.
Asked if it was true that he had only paid N20,000 out of the N100,000 he promised to pay the parents of the lady to take care of her, he insisted that the issue had been settled and nothing more.
A man who identified himself simply as CY and Chinecherem’s uncle also told our correspondent on the telephone that the matter had been settled between the two families. He, however, said that Chidozie was in a better position to give details of what transpired between him and the young girl.
Eze’s wife was not available for comments when our correspondent visited. But the husband said she was not involved in the incident.
Chinecherem’s predicament has however been condemned by gender and human rights activists who have vowed to monitor the development to prevent the case from being swept under the carpet.
A gender activist and Executive Director of Centre for Children’s Health, Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), Betty Abah said: “It is quite appalling how families treat house-helps across Nigeria.
This case is just one of the probably thousands of cases. I am aware that sexual violence is very rampant with regards to house helps and their Madams’ husbands, sons or males figures in houses where they work. We actually had a case last year where the girl, brought in from Benue, had been impregnated after she had been sexually abused in about three of the four she worked last year. By the time we met her and stepped in towards her rehabilitation and involved NAPTIP, she was about six months pregnant, stranded at the Iddo Motor Park in Lagos and had no idea whom in particular she was pregnant for.
“Our law enforcement agencies really need to step uptheir games and ensure thorough punishment for this kind of case. This is sexual assault, this is sex with a minor and also threat, which are all punishable by law.
The wicked Madam and her randy husband must be told that there is a limit to impunity and that they can’t just treat anyone one, house helps or night in such dehumanizing way. We will be watching to see what becomes of this case.”