By KENNETH EZEA
On Sunday, January 10, 2021, Princess Paschaline Chidinma Odume from Udi, Enugu state, a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, returned from church service and went out to buy akara balls and other small fries to quench her hunger. As it got to her turn in the queue to pick her fries, a strange young man approached her and offered to pay for what she had ordered. Incredulous, she protested the man’s offer, but upon his insistence she kept her own money and the man paid, pretending to be flowing with the milk of human kindness.
As Chidinma made to go back to her abode, the same strange man followed her on the way besotting her in a manner that appeared surreal to come with him to meet his mother and other members of his family in a close-by family house. He even suggested that his parents were in a position to assist her while she served in the town and obtain for her lucrative job placements post-service.
Feeling grateful for his initial generosity, Chidinma wasn’t too sure if rejecting the invitation to meet his family was in order. She decided to give it a try because nobody knows from where the angel of God would come. But as it turned out, this apparent gullibility would be the most disastrous mistake she ever made or would make in her entire lifetime – truncating her personae, freedom, her NYSC service year, and inflicting lasting pain on her family and friends.
It is said that when misfortune wants to visit a man it first sends him tranquilizers. Within hours of this chance meeting, the young Chidinma found herself in the middle of a chilling melodrama battling to save her life from a ferocious serial rapist and murderous sociopath later identified as Agbowo Japheth. In a most cruel twist of fate, the man who a few minutes before had presented himself as a mobile angel shepherded Chidinma into a lonely compound and locked up all the exit points. He then reached for a dagger and machete and ordered Chidinma to undress to be raped, failing which she would be killed and butchered like meat without anybody tracing.
It was much later that it came to light that Japheth had driven the rest members of his family out of their family house and converted the same house to a slaughter slab where women were lured, raped and killed without trace.Having found herself facing death pointblank in the hands of the killer-rapist and remembering that her mother’s immediate older sister Dr. (Mrs) Maria Amadi who was head of nursing services at the Federal Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu, was murdered in cold blood a few months before, Chidinma vowed not to allow herself to be killed by her attacker. As the movie-like drama of life and death unfolded, Chidinma wrestled the knife from him and, in self defence, successfully killed him.
By the time she emerged outside the compound with tears and blood stains all over her and beckoned neighbours and passers-by to come witness her ordeal, they ironically turned themselves into a bloodthirsty mob, stripped her and were on the verge of lynching and setting her ablaze before police intervened, rescued her and took her into detention.
Thereafter, the social media and the mob, the mainstream media not excluded, went agog with bizarre headlines of how “Corper butchered her boyfriend” etc.
Apart from Chidinma’s family’s account of this tragic incident, another lady, Miss Effiong Laurel Scott, who had suffered exactly the same fate in the hands of the same Agbowo Japheth in the same ghost house, came out to corroborate Chidinma’s story without even meeting her. Please google https://www.lindaikejisblog.com/2021/1/woman-claims-she-was-once-raped-by-the-man-harked-to-death-by-youth-corps-member-in-akwa-ibom-video-2.
Since January 10, 2021, Princess Chidinma has been detained in Uyo Prisons, abandoned and forgotten by the NYSC which mobilized and posted her to Uyo. As I type, we have authoritative information that Chidinma has developed a very serious life-threatening health complication.
Despite the best efforts of her family for the public to get a fair and balanced account of how fate cruelly thrust her in the middle of a tragedy, the managers of the justice system in Akwa Ibom state appear adamant in having her charged for culpable homicide! Her crime: saving her life in the hands of a killer-rapist with a previous conviction for rape within the same criminal jurisdiction in Akwa Ibom state. This apparent reality of state support for rape offences and bias against a rape survivor raises a number of issues concerning the growing epidemic of gender-based violence, rape and murder of women all over the country.
The statistics are as staggering as the minutes and hours roll by. In April this year, just four months after Chidinma’s experience, a lady jobseeker, Iniobong Umoren, was lured, raped and murdered by another serial rapist, Uduak Frank Akpan, in the same Akwa Ibom state. Mr Gracious David-West, who raped and killed 11 young women in hotels in Port Harcourt, was arrested in Uyo where he hibernated. He has since been sentenced to death by a Rivers State High Court. On March 23, 2021, the commissioner of police, Lagos State, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, reported that 91 rape cases took place in Lagos in the first two months of this year. In June 2020, Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old Microbiology student, was cornered in an empty church, raped and murdered in Benin City. Miss Cynthia Osokogu, daughter of a retired army general, was lured from Abuja to a Lagos hotel and murdered by a Facebook friend. And only last week, October 21, 24-year-old Joy Ogochukwu Onoh was lured to deliver goods for sale to a rapist who violated her, killed her and abandoned her body at the North Bank area of Makurdi, Benue state.
In fact, a peep into the website of Ripple Nigeria would shock a researcher with reports of violent killings of women and little children by rapists all over Nigeria. Violent rape is now an epidemic of unimaginable proportion in Nigeria. In its September 22, 2021, edition, Borgen magazine wrote from Tacoma, USA, that “Nigeria’s low conviction rate speaks to the fact that sexual assault in Nigeria is not taken seriously by the Nigerian Police”. That, “because the legal system has failed the Nigerian survivors, they have instead turned to the internet using the Hashtag #ArewaMeToo”.
Today, the fate of Princess Chidinma Odume, another rape-murder survivor, hangs in the balance. All eyes are riveted on the director of public prosecution (DPP), Akwa Ibom state, and the state judiciary to set her free. It is equally unfortunate that so far the NYSC, which posted her for service, has abandoned Chidinma to a most tragic ordeal. She should never be punished for not allowing herself to be killed and her corpse left to rot in the dumpsite like other unfortunate women.
_*Ezea, a public affairs commentator, writes from Abuja*_