A couple, Mr Francis Onyeji and his wife, Chibuzor, are presently battling with the law over the assault and severe injuries inflicted on a 13-year old girl (names withheld) living with them as a ward in Ekpan, near Warri in Delta State.
THISDAY learnt that the woman, Mrs Chibuzor Onyeji, was arrested by the police at Ekpan over the weekend for allegedly causing bodily harm to the little girl and the daughter of Mrs Onyeji’s elder sister who was her guardian before her marriage to Francis.
The woman reportedly burnt the JSS 2 student on many parts of her body with a hot knife she allegedly intentionally heated over the flames of a stove for the purpose of disfiguring and crippling the girl who is also her niece.
Subsequently, the girl was seriously burnt on her two feet, arms and shoulders, back and buttocks with the hot knife the woman had produced after ensuring that the doors of their house were firmly locked at about 9.30pm on the fateful day.
THISDAY learnt that accused woman decided to carry out the dastardly act after she discovered that her husband had been abusing the small girl sexually for about two years.
The husband, Francis, who hails from Imo State, was said to have had regular canal knowledge of the young teenager and then giving her some money, which the poor girl used to buy herself a few things including food as her aunt often denied her her meals.
However, the lid was said to have been blown off the affair when the girl reportedly said the money she had brought to school last week hade been stolen and accused some of her classmates of tampering with her bag.
Eventually, the school authorities out of curiosity sent a senior staff to follow her home to ascertain if the affected girl actually took money amounting to about N1,500 to school that morning.
Thus was the cat let out of the bag as the young girl, on interrogation by her aunt and guardian, allegedly confessed that Mr Onyeji sometimes gave her money after sleeping with her.
The girl was said to have opened up on her the man started abusing her sexually especially when he was off-duty, as he usually worked off-shore for a Warri-based engineering and construction company.
However, the confession of the girl reportedly angered the woman, who insisted that the story was merely a fabrication from the girl.
The victim, who looked a sorry sight when some newsmen were allowed to speak with her, where she is presently in safe custody of child welfare organization, said, “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”.
However, after inflicting several burns all over her body, the accused was said to have taken another step of “disgracing her publicly” while threatening to kill her for lying against her husband.
She brought the girl to the school last week despite the fact that she had reportedly refused to honour several invitations from the school authorities due to various observances about the girl.
The girl also carries on her scars from previous physical assault by her aunt and guardian, including the one on her back said to have been received from the accused who allegedly unzipped her dress and put a hot piece of yam from the pot into her back.
Mrs Chibuzor Onyeji was said tot have frequently denied the girl food and caused her to miss many lessons and even some papers during the last examinations.
Principal of the school, Mrs. Betty Bovwe, was said to be away on official duty when newsmen got to the school on Nigercat Road; however, the vice-principal, Mrs Queenbetty Unogwa, said that the school authority had sent for Mrs. Onyeji severally because of her ward’s incessant lateness and absenteeism from school.
“She even missed mathematics, agricultural science, and two other papers during last term examinations,” she revealed.
Meanwhile, the Delta police command have begun a manhunt for the husband, Mr Francis Onyeji, who has since gone into hiding even as the police has taken the accused woman into what a source called “protective custody.
THISDAY learnt on Tuesday that the police had to “re-arrest” the embattled woman to save her life after youths of Ekpan community allegedly threatened to bring the woman out and do to her what she did to her ward and niece.
However, it was further learnt that the woman was arraigned at a magistrate court in Ekpan on Monday and subsequently granted bail by the court.
The Magistrate, Mrs Blesing Ideh, however granted the accused bail on compassionate ground as she is a nursing mother of three month old baby with the sum of #500,000 (Five Hundred thousand naira) with surety in like sum, which include a landed property within the Magisterial District and which must be confirmed by court officials and that the acussed must be present in court at every sitting.
Also, the joint plea 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 (a non-governmental organisation) who prayed the court to be given the victim’s custody was granted, despite the appeal to take the girl home by the father of the victim, Mr Pius Nworie, who arrived Delta the previous day.
Nevertheless, the case has been adjourned till July 21, 2015, when the victim would likely be reunited with her biological parents who are anxious to take a message home as the community elders at home were said to be eagerly waiting to see to the end.