It was not what they had expected. When little Chinenye Emeka, a nine-year old girl from Ebonyi State left her parents’ house to Iyiowa Odekpe in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State. The poor parents had thought that their child was going to work and earn some money.
Little did they know that the little girl would be brought back home with her two buttocks fried with hot electric pressing iron by her guardian, Mrs. Ifechukwu Akabekwa. Daily Sun gathered that Akabekwa of Abazuonu Street in Iyi-Owa Odekpe, inflicted the bodily injuries on Chinenye. Her offence? The girl used the sum of N1, 000 given to her by a philanthropist to pay her school fees without the permission of her guardian.
Trouble started for the victim when her guardian refused to pay her school fees, saying the girl had not been able to raise the fees from the little things she hawked in the market. After waiting for her guardian to pay her school fees, luck smiled on the little girl. A philanthropist noticed that she had not been attending school while the children of her madam were always in school.
He then offered to pay the N1, 000 school fees. The victim, it was gathered, then rushed and paid her school fees. When Mrs. Akabekwa noticed that her house girl had resumed school, she was surprised. Upon inquiry, the girl told her how a philanthropist had helped her with the school fees.
That infuriated the woman. Without delay, she allegedly reached for a hot electric iron, and with it, burnt the girl’s buttocks and private parts. The suspect, a mother of three, had allegedly been maltreating the girl, subjecting her to different ordeals on a daily basis, including forcing her to hawk along the major road of Atani during school hours.
Some people in the community, including the teacher of the victim, were said to have severally confronted the woman. She was later picked up by policemen attached to Iyiowa Police Station, following complaints by her neighbours over the recent cruelty she meted to her house-help. In a chat with Daily Sun, one of her neighbours, who identified himself as Joe, said the woman had, on several occasions, beaten the girl to a state of coma.
He painted a very pathetic picture of an incident when the victim was beaten unconscious by Mrs. Akabekwa just few months before the recent one that landed her in police cell. Said Joe: “There was a day the girl came back about 7pm and I heard the woman, shouting on top of her voice that the girl came back without selling all the things she was asked to sell. Then the woman used a heavy plank and hit her on the head and the girl collapsed. It was when the woman started shouting, calling for help that we rushed there and took the girl to hospital where she stayed for two weeks.
The woman never came to give her food; she survived with the help of neighbours. At times, I wondered if the girl has any living relatives.” Another co-tenant, Mr. Unah Zacheaus, revealed that Mrs. Akabekwa’s cruelty to Chinenye had been a long time issue, adding that the incident had become a normal thing in the compound. “It was just three months ago that a similar incident happened.
That was when the girl’s back was designed with a lot of marks from the cane by Ifechukwu. But the matter was settled without the involvement of the police when we found out. We had to talk to the woman and her husband, concerning the ugly treatment being meted to a little girl,” he said. Comrade Chinyere Anunihu, Chairperson of the Women Arise for Change Initiative, Anambra State chapter, said when she visited the girl at the New Life Hospital in Iyi-Owa Odepka community in Ogbaru Local Government Area, she saw the evil unleashed on her. To her, the act was not only against God but also against humanity. She said:
“It was surprising and cruel for a mother of three, Mrs. Ifechukwu Akabekwa, to inflict such injuries with hot pressing iron on the two buttocks and on the face of a little girl of nine years without having the natural feeling of a mother.” “We will take up this matter and make sure that justice is done without further delay. In the meantime, we have locked the woman up at the community police post and soon, we will arraign her in court.
My organisation will go to every length to make sure that the woman is prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to other housewives and mothers, who indulge in such satanic acts against innocent and defenceless children.” Mrs. Anunihe further described the action of the suspect as not only satanic but wicked against children whom she said are always venerable. She called on parents to always bear children they could train instead of giving out their children to some wicked women, who would turn them into punching bags and objects of scorn.
Meanwhile, the Campaign for Democracy (CD) also condemned the act and urged the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar to look into the ugly incident with a view to bringing the suspect to book. The Chairman of CD, South East zone, Dede Uzor A. Uzor however thanked the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ballah Nasarawa for his interest in the case and for keeping the woman in police custody.
“CD urges the commissioner of police to charge the woman to court and see that the case reaches a conclusive end in order to serve as a deterrent to other cruel women,” she said. She was recently arraigned in a Magistrate Court in Atani, Ogbaru Local Government area Anambra State presided over by Chief Magistrate, Mrs E.G. Offor who ordered that the suspect be remanded in prison custody.
The police prosecutor, Mr. Boniface Ugo, told the court that on July 25, 2012, Mrs. Akabekwa used an electronic pressing iron on the two buttocks of her house help, Miss Chinenye Emeka, thereby inflicting bodily and mental harm on her. Mr. Ugo further told the court that the state was prosecuting the suspect on a three-count charge, which included felony, assault and neglect of guardian responsibility.
“The offence is a bailable one but the court should make the bail conditions stringent for her to learn her lessons,’’ the police prosecutor said while tendering the picture of the wounded girl to the court. The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge. She added: “I did it out of annoyance; it was not intentional.” Mr. Udoka Anugwu, a human rights lawyer, said that justice must be done by remanding the woman in prison since she had not shown any remorse for her action. “Chinenye has been in the hospital without proper care and she needs blood.
As I am speaking, the human rights community members here had been looking for her relatives,’’ The magistrate, Mrs. E.G Offor said that the court was remanding Obi in Onitsha prisons. She scolded the husband of the woman for not performing his duty as the head of the home. While condemning the woman’s action in strong terms, the woman said the act was not expected of a mother, especially one that had her own children after nine months of pregnancy. “So her own children are humans, but that of another is a stone to be given this type of inhuman treatment. She should be remanded in the Onitsha Prisons till the adjournment date,” she ruled.