Ben Ezechime, Enugu
The Minister of Women’s Affairs, Mrs Uju Ohanenye, has instituted a suit against Enugu-based couple, Mr Ifeanyi Enwelum and Mrs Christabel Enwelum, for fundamental rights breach and sexual defilement of their nine-year-old daughter.
The civil suit, filed under suit number E/987/2023 at the Enugu State High Court, seeks for the ministry to take custody of nine-year-old (name withheld) and for the respondents (the couple) to pay damages of N10 million and other reliefs.
It would be recalled that Mr Ifeanyi Enwelum, step-father of the minor, between Jan 1, 2022 and June 10, 2023 at number 13/15 Onoh Crescent, GRA Enugu in Enugu North LGA, had several unlawful carnal knowledge of the minor.
However, the minor’s biological mother, Mrs Christabel Enwelum, due to negligence did not protect her daughter, in the repeated sexual penetration as confirmed by Dr Samuel Ndukwu, medical practitioner at the Nigerian Police Clinic State Headquarters, Enugu.
Briefing newsmen on Saturday in Enugu, the counsel to the minister, Barr Chuma Oguejiofor, said that the suit seeks to enforce the fundamental human rights of the minor as well as stand as a public interest matter meant to instill decency and morality.
Oguejiofor, who said that the fundamental human rights and public interest suit filed on Nov. 17 was yet to be assigned a date for hearing, noted that the suit sought six prayers from the court.
“First, a declaration of the court that the minor, who is but about nine-years-old is as a citizen of Nigeria entitled to respect for the dignity of her person and should not be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment by the Respondents whether acting by themselves or by their agents/privies as enshrined in section 34(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (As Amended).
“Second, a declaration of court that the first respondent (Ifeanyi Enwelum) act of having carnal knowledge of the minor for a period of more than one year, i.e. between Jan. 2022 and June 2023, constitutes an infringement of her right to the dignity of her person as enshrined in section 34(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (As Amended).
“Third, a declaration of court that the Respondents’ act of setting process in motion towards compromising and sweeping charges number: MEN/319C/2023 under the carpet.
“While taking the minor back to number13/15 Onoh Crescent GRA , Enugu to continue living with them under the same roof as if nothing had happened constitutes mental or emotional/psychological torture to her contrary to the provision of section 34(1)(a) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended).
“Fourth, an order of the Honourable Court that the Applicant in the person of the Honourable Minister of the ministry of women’s affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and her ministry take immediate custody of the minor and cater for her needs henceforth.
“Fifth, an order of the Honourable Court restraining the Respondents by themselves or through their agents/privies from having anything whatsoever to do with the minor till she reaches the age of 21 years.
“Sixth, damages amounting to N10 million jointly and severally from the Respondents,” he said.
However, the granting of bail to the first respondent had caused public outcry in which the Minister, Ohanenye, earlier queried the rational for the bail.
The minister queried the rational for the bail considering the criminal nature of the offense and the spate of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the country especially in Enugu State.
Ohanenye, in a press conference on Oct. 17, said the ministry would take up legal action against the couple to ensure the survivor (minor) gets justice as well as serve as deterrent to others, who might want to toe the same line.
“This minor has been molested severally (sic) by her stepfather, who has given her diseases, broken her walls, as confirmed in the hospital, also by the lawyer and mother of the girl. The matter was taken to court, but unfortunately, the Magistrate released the man on bail.
“We want to know why he was released despite the allegations against him, simply because the woman (wife) cried that she didn’t want her husband to be jailed.
“What about the voiceless girl? What about the torture, emotional pains the girl went through and threat not to disclose the molestation?
“We are suing the woman (also) for negligence. Because if she was not negligent, this girl would not have suffered this thing for a long time,” the minister asserted.