It appeared to be a matter of life and death when Gloria Justin drove into the premises of Love 104.5 FM in Mpape, a community on the outskirts of Abuja at about 10am on Easter Monday. With her was a 7-year-old girl, badly brutalised with several human bite marks on her face, arm and stomach.
Ms. Justin had just listened to the Brekete Family Show, a human rights programme hosted live on radio by human rights activist, Ahmad Isah. She rushed from her residence at St. John’s street, Mpape, where she had rescued little Amarachi (not real name) from her aunt, Ifunnanya Onyenagecha.
Mrs. Onyenagecha, who is a mother of 18-month-old twins, is a serving National Youth Service Corps member with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
“Please help me, my tenants want to kill this little girl,” Ms. Justin frantically pleaded.
“Every day they are beating this girl, torturing her, denying her food, overworking her… But today I said instead of this child to die in my compound, I will report so that I save her,” she said.
It was hard to believe Amarachi was a girl, let alone seven years old. Best described as having “stunted growth” with her short stature and muscular physique, she looked malnourished.
Frightened, trembling and hungry, Amarachi was rescued bare-chested and in a pair of oversized grey trousers stained with her blood from injuries sustained when her guardian beat and bit her all over her body in the presence of her husband, Chinedu Onyenagecha. Mr. Onyenagecha, a car sales dealer, is Amarachi’s uncle.
Several other tenants living in the same compound with the Onyenagechas confirmed that Amarachi, since she was brought from the village sometime last year to babysit the twin boys, has constantly been abused, brutalised, and locked up by Mrs. Onyenagecha (nee Okeke) and her sister, Peace Okeke, also a serving youth corps member in Abuja. Amarachi’s ‘offence’ ranged from dropping a cloth on the floor, failing to perfectly perform a house chore, or sleeping without permission.
Following Amarachi’s shouts for help, Ms. Justin explained that Mr. Onyenagecha told neighbours that Amarachi had spilled water on the floor which prompted his wife to beat her. He claimed that in the bid to restrain his wife, he slapped her. His wife responded by grabbing his niece and biting her all over her body.
While narrating the plight of Amarachi at the radio station, Ms. Justin was alerted on the phone that her neighbour and some ‘thugs’ were on their way to retrieve his niece. On arrival at the radio station, the ‘thugs’ began threatening journalists present who sought to interview Amarachi’s uncle and who were recording the incident.
Mr. Onyenagecha and his friends were eventually subdued by a crowd of people who had gathered.
“She is my mother’s sister’s child. I brought her to stay with me so that I will train her,” was all he said.
“You will not understand what I am facing myself,” he added.
He then placed a call to his wife and sister-in-law asking them to make an appearance at the radio station.
Police officers from the Mpape Police Station, however, arrived at the scene following a call from the talk show host prompting the accused to place another call to his wife. Mr. Onyenagecha was overheard asking his wife to escape as he was coming home with the police.
At the couple’s home, neighbours told the police that Mr. Onyenagecha’s wife and sister-in-law were seen leaving in a hurry with the twins some few minutes earlier.
Back at the Mpape Police Station, Amarachi’s uncle undressed to reveal old and fresh bite marks all over his body. A victim himself of his wife’s bites, the freshest bites, visible on his shoulder and arm, were acquired while he tried restraining his wife from beating Amarachi, he said.
“When I said you will not understand what me myself I am also facing, I know what I am talking,” he said. He claimed he was ashamed to tell people his wife has been beating him.
Twenty four hours after the incident, both sisters and the twin babies are yet to be found.
After a medical checkup was conducted on Amarachi, the Police handed her over to Mr. Onyenagecha’s older brother.
The police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, while live on the Brekete Family Show on April 10, further announced that Mrs. Onyenagecha would be declared wanted if she doesn’t report herself to the police.
“If by tomorrow (April 11), she doesn’t turn up, the Police would then officially declare her wanted,” Mr. Moshood said.