Kenneth Ofoma ENUGU An Enugu Magistrates’ Court yesterday reminded a couple, Jude and Ifeoma Ozougwu, at Nsukka Correctional Facility in Enugu State for attempted murder of their 10-year-old maid, Nneoma Nnadi.
The husband and wife were taken into custody at Police Area Command, Abakpa, Enugu, at the weekend, following their arrest over alleged domestic violence which occurred in Enugu on July 2, 2020.
The wife, Ifeoma, reportedly inflicted bodily injuries on her maid. She was also accused of hammering two nails into the maid’s head and inserted pepper into her private parts.
Good Samaritans, who heard the cry of the girl, however, reported the woman to a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and human rights group, Women Aids Collective (WACOL) in Enugu, which subsequently involved the police.
In a three-count charge, the police accused the couple of attempting “to kill the house help, using hot electric iron on her, inserting pepper in her private parts and engaging her in hazardous, injurious and exploitative work which is hazardous to her physical, social and psychological development”.
The case with charge No. MEN/298c.2020 is Commissioner of Police versus Ozougwu Ifeaoma (24) and Ozougwu Jude (40).
It reads: “That you, Ozougwu Ifeoma ‘f’ and Ozougwu Jude ‘m’, between the month of April and July 2020 at N0. 3, Akonameze Street, Thinkers Corner, Enugu, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did attempt unlawfully to kill Miss Nneoma Nnadi ‘f’ aged 10 years, your house help, burning her belly, back and buttocks with hot electric pressing iron, nailing nails on several points on her head, which is capable of endangering her life.”
The police prosecutor, CSP Pascal Nwachukwu (State Oc Legal) said the couple “committed an offence punishable under Section 23(i) (b) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2015, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria as applicable in Enugu State”.
Nwachukwu added that the court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter and opposed bail for the accused. The Ozougwus’ counsel, Emeka Orji, however, prayed the court to discountenance the various public sentiments on the matter and grant bail to his clients.
He argued that the offences were bailable and the court should use its discretion to grant the accused bail. But the Chief Magistrate, Joseph Agu, refused to admit the defendants to bail.
He said: “In the exercise of my discretion, the offence is grievous going by the count one and count three of the charges; even as the girl is still hospitalised as well as the overwhelming public outcry; I reject the application for bail. “I hereby remand the couple in Nsukka Correctional Facility pending further advice by the state Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).”
The chief magistrate then adjourned the matter till August 10, 2020. Meanwhile the founder of WACOL, Prof. Joy Ezeilo, who led a team of lawyers to the court, told journalists at a press conference after the session her organisation was working towards setting up a Trust Fund for the family of the victim, considering that her murder, Nnedinso Nnadi, was a widow with four children as her husband died in 2010.
Ezeilo, who is the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC), said even though Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had offered scholarship to Nneoma, there was need to raise money for the widow to ensure that all her children, who might have been given out as house helps, were educated to the highest level they could attain.
She said WACOL would work in conjunction with the police and the National Agency for Prohibition Against Child Trafficking (NAPTIP) to set up the Trust Fund.
The professor of law disclosed that pro bono lawyers, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) had called to sign on to the case and vowed that they would not rest until the culprits were convicted to serve as a lesson to others.