Review of societal norms
The widespread condemnation and outcry provoked by the heartless extrajudicial punishment of a widow, Mrs Amarachi Okechi, by her community, Umueghu, Amaegbuato autonomous community, Nkpa in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, is as shocking as it is reprehensible. To think that such outrageous savagery, such barbarous cruelty of multiplying the agony of a widow by public birching, could happen in a community reputed as the home of professors, and by implication civilization, is an inexplicable irony. Accused of being a witch and responsible for the death of her husband without the fair option of defending herself, Mrs. Okechi was dragged to the village square, with hands tied behind her back and legs tied, sat helplessly before her accusers as they gave her the beating of her life in a manner akin to the stone age savagery.
In a viral video, she was seen being whipped mercilessly by some young men in the community with the tacit approval of the elders. No one intervened, none drew the attention of security agencies, no one came to her rescue until their cruelty was served and exhausted. Trending video and online news reports which broke over the weekend had shown youths in the community taking turns to flog Mrs. Okechi who was allegedly accused of ‘witchcraft’ by a relative. Expectedly, the cruel act has drawn public odium. A social media influencer, Harrison Gwamnishu had taken to his page to condemn the ugly incident. He wrote, “When I talk about widows protection, I’m not asking for too much. Our mothers suffer the most from child delivery. Mrs. Amarachi Okechi, a widow was accused of witchcraft by her late husband brother’s wife. “If you are from Umueghu in Amaegbuato autonomous community Nkpa, Bende Local Government Area of Abia state, your community did this to this woman.
Plea for innocense
“Even when the woman was begging and telling them she’s innocent, they tied her hand to her back, tied her two legs, flogged and filmed her. Her children reached out to the Behind Bars and we have decided to take this matter up no matter what it will cost us. This is barbaric and should be condemned by all.” Also reacting to the incident, Hon. Chijioke Chukwu, Minority Leader of Abia State House of Assembly described the act as barbaric, wondering why the community should take laws into their hands. He called on the Commissioner of Police in the state, CP Janet Agbede to immediately arrest all those involved in the dastardly act.
Move to resolve issue
The lawmaker also pledged to liaise with the DPO in Bende and Uzuakoli to arrest the perpetrators. He expressed willingness to collaborate with other officials of government from Bende to ensure that all involved in the bestial savagery are identified, arrested, prosecuted and punished according to the law. Hon Chukwu promised to liaise with his colleague from Bende South constituency to provide a free legal service to Mrs. Amarachi Okechi and his children. Also, wife of Abia State governor, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu has come to the rescue of Mrs Amarachi Okechi, who was repeatedly flogged, violently abused and held hostage for several days at Umueghu Amaegbuato community. The hapless victim of community abuse was taken to an undisclosed public hospital for treatment through the intervention of Mrs Ikpeazu.
Gov’s wife mediates
Chief Press Secretary to the wife of the Governor of Abia State, Mr Chika Ojiegbe who made the news of the Woman’s release public said, “the First lady, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu is particularly thankful to the member representing Bende South, Emmanuel Ndubuisi, the Bende LGA Chairman and his wife Mrs Leticia Onwuchekwa, as well as the traditional ruler of the area, for the role in successfully extricating the woman from the hostile community”. According to Ojiegbe, “When the First Lady, Nkechi Ikpeazu heard about it last night, she immediately swung into action to rescue the woman,” through a prompt response mechanism established to handle cases of gender based violence put in place by the governor’s wife. He explained that, “no matter how severe a case, it is treated individually according to its own peculiarities.” He provided graphic details of the rescue operation, “Several stakeholders were involved in securing the woman alive which is the first action that needed to be undertaken. “This has been done. Now the next stage will be to address the issues surrounding the matter. The law enforcement agencies have been duly notified and have commenced appropriate investigations. “The allegations of witchcraft are strange to laws of the land. What is known to law is that no one can take laws into their hands to execute jungle justice. The law will take its course. The case will be closely monitored.
“Meanwhile, the First Lady is footing the hospital bills of the woman as treatment has commenced in earnest at the hospital. Our team from the Gender Based Violence Resource Centre in Umuahia who were part of the rescue are also monitoring her health.” The CPS promised to do a follow-up on the matter. Nevertheless, it is a disturbing reality that an Igbo community perceived to be more exposed than many others could resort to selfhelp in venting their anger over unverified suspicions. The situation is further worsened by the fact that there were many eyewitnesses to the horrid spectacle, who did not find it alarming and gut-wrenching, but rather joined the frenzy of a mob in denigrating humanity based on the animosity of a few.
Apparently, same people were the accusers, the jury and the judge, and if they go unpunished, same people will be the tale-bearers spreading their mendacious version of what happened and what didn’t happen. It is the opinion of many, that from the community leader down to the least person who participated actively or passively in that lamentable episode, none should be spared the wrath of the law. They should be firmly and diligently served a taste of their ‘pudding’ by invoking the harshest provisions of the law applicable under the circumstance. On the brighter side however, it is good fortune that the woman was still alive and found where she was incarcerated and left to die after the beating. She was neither released to her family nor given any medical attention while she was locked up by her tormentors. Not a few persons are hopeful that the case of Mrs. Amarachi Okechi, will serve as a deterrent to others in other communities who may be tempted to toe similar path of infamy.