A married 32-year-old official at an insurance firm in Lagos, Chioma (pseudonym) is at daggers drawn with a businessman in the state, identified as Orazu, over controversies surrounding alleged cases of rape and kidnapping.
Chioma said Orazu was her ex-lover and allegedly raped her during a visit to her residence – a three bedroomed flat in the Alakuko end of Ogun State – two weeks after she was delivered of a baby boy.
But Orazu denied there was any relationship between him and Chioma, claiming that the mother of three, her nephew, Kester, and her husband, Sanni, kidnapped him during a visit and demanded a ransom of N10m from his family.
Chioma told Saturday PUNCH that she struck a relationship with Orazu, who is in his 50’s, in December 2008 at an event centre in the Nnewi South Local Government Area, Anambra State, while she was on holiday for Christmas celebration.
The graduate of Lagos State University explained that the relationship thrived till sometime in 2010 when she acquainted Orazu of her intention to quit the relationship on the grounds that she was getting married to her pastor husband. She said the move did not go down well with Orazu, who allegedly insisted on marring her.
“I told him he was married already with children and I couldn’t be his mistress forever. He threatened to deal with me if I married another man, but I didn’t take his threat seriously. We are from the same local government but different towns – I hail from Ofumeyi while he is from Ukpor,” she explained to our correspondent in a chat last Friday.
Chioma stated that Orazu attended her marriage in December 2010 without any sign of animosity which made her to completely dismiss the threat, adding that she introduced him to her husband as her ex-lover at the event.
“In January 2011 when my husband and I were back in Lagos, he called me several times. I told him the calling must stop because I am a married woman and I wouldn’t want anything that would destroy my home. He stopped calling me until June 30, 2015, around 10pm when he called again. Initially, I didn’t know he was the caller because I had deleted his number.
“We exchanged greetings and he jokingly said I would have had many children. I told him I just had my third child ten days earlier. When he offered to come and greet the baby, I told him I would need my husband’s consent before he could come. When I told my husband, he said I should give him our address since there was nothing between us any longer. On Friday, July 3, 2015, I sent the address to him,” Chioma, who is now heavily pregnant, recalled.
The woman explained further that Orazu called her on July 4 and promised to visit the family the following day – Sunday. She said they waited for him until 5pm when her husband left for church in Ijaiye, an uptown community in Lagos.
The 32-year-old said when Orazu finally knocked at the gate of their residence around 9pm, she called her husband to ask if she should receive him at that time of the day.
“My husband said I should let him in and that he was on his way home. We are the only family living in that compound and my nephew, Kester, who lived with us, had not returned from a tutorial class. He was preparing for GCE exams then. I asked the man why he came at such time. He said he went somewhere and that if he did not come that day (July 5), he might not be able to visit again.
“As soon as I ushered him into the living room, he asked about my husband and I said he would be back soon. He said he cared for a soft drink and I went into my room to pick the money so I could send my first son, Victor, to buy it. Victor was 12 then,” she added.
She said she was rummaging through her wardrobe for some cash when she suddenly felt a grip from behind, noting that as she turned back to ascertain the source of the force, she saw Orazu.
Chioma explained that she questioned his mission in her bedroom, but the businessman boasted he was set to punish her for dumping him. In a split second, they were reportedly entwined in a physical contest.
“Before I knew what was happening, he raped me right in my bedroom. Victor rushed in while I was shouting, but he could not stop him. I was bleeding when he went to the bathroom to clean up. That was when my husband entered.
“The moment he saw my husband, he wanted to force his way out, but my husband stopped him. Kester also came in at that time and they both beat him up. Soon, his wife called him to know where he was. He told her he was in Surulere. My husband collected his phone, put it on speaker and explained what happened to the wife. The wife exclaimed, ‘Tobechukwu (Orazu’s middle name), you again!’
“We asked him to call his family to come so they could see what he did. If you are from Nnewi South, once you are married, you must not have sex with any other man. If you do so without performing cleansing afterwards, the woman’s husband will die. The man knows this because he is a title holder in his village. He called one of his younger sisters, Ijoma on the phone. The sister lamented that it was not the first time he would do such a thing and she initially disowned him,” Chioma narrated.
She said Ijoma and other relatives of Orazu called in to beg her husband and offered to pay a sum of N300,000 for the cleansing. The insurance officer said she advised her husband to ignore the entreaties and report the incident to the police but he declined, saying it would result in stigma.
The mother of three claimed that Orazu suggested to stay with the family pending when Ijoma would pay the money.
“He said the sister would not pay if he left our house. We did videos and audio recordings of the scene and took pictures with our phones for future purposes. We asked Kester to release his bank account into which Ijoma paid the money because the culture forbids my husband from touching the money.
“He left our house on July 8, after the sister paid the N300,000. For days, I could not stand upright and was ashamed to tell our doctor what happened. I insisted Orazu would follow us to the village for the cleansing but he begged my husband not to expose him being a title holder. We travelled to the village and spent N250,000 on the cleansing and travelling.
“On July 30, 2015, we returned to Lagos while Kester went to Benin (Edo State) to see his parents. The following day, my husband went to Seme for a church programme,” she added.
Chioma told Saturday PUNCH that she just finished preparing breakfast for her children on Saturday, August 1, 2015, when three SARS officers came to pick her up with a promise that she would be released as soon as her husband turned himself in.
Orazu’s family had allegedly reported to SARS that the couple kidnapped him and demanded a ransom.
She said she was shocked when she met Kester outside handcuffed in a car brought by the operatives, adding that they threw her into the vehicle together with her baby and drove them to the SARS office at police command headquarters in Ikeja.
“Their boss said my husband was a kidnapper. The Investigating Police Officer, one Mr. Alex, collected my phone and Kester’s as well as the pictures I printed out from my phone.
“He asked me to write a statement. I wrote the same statement five times but he tore them. He slapped me and beat me up. He asked me to write that my husband kidnapped Orazu and demanded N10m ransom. I said I would not write such because the man raped me; he only turned the case against us because my husband did not report to the police. After several threats, the IPO forced me to write what he wanted.
“Ijoma who was also at the SARS office that day told Orazu that the case was off her hands,” she said.
The woman told our correspondent that she bled and became unconscious inside a cell she was kept with her baby, adding that she was revived at the police hospital in Ikeja.
She said even though her husband reported at SARS office on Monday morning when he came back from the church programme, she was not released as promised.
“On Thursday, my husband, Kester and I were arraigned in court. Kester was 16 years old then but the police lied that he was 18. We were granted bail and remanded in Kirikiri prison, which was another world entirely. I was there with my baby.
“The warders asked me to bring my son to the prison clinic every day after bathing him. It was the Comptroller of Prison then that took interest in my case when she saw my baby in the clinic. I had spent about three months in the prison before my family knew about the matter and perfected my bail conditions.
“My child contracted a disease in the prison, which made him to have difficulty with breathing. It was a Reverend Father that later assisted in paying for his medical treatment after I left the prison. Till now, he still suffers a relapse occasionally,” she added.
Sanni, 38, who confirmed his wife’s account to our correspondent, said he first met Orazu during their wedding in 2010. He explained that his second encounter with him was when he visited his wife in 2015.
The pastor said, “Whenever I came back from church, I would do praise-worship in the living room and my wife and children would join me. I was there when Victor came to tell me that a man assaulted his mother. At that time, the man was coming out of the bathroom tying my towel around his waist.
“As I was holding him, Kester came in from where he was attending tutorials. I beat him for returning home late because he was supposed to be back latest by 7pm. We both vented our anger on the man and beat him up.”
Asked why he did not report the alleged rape to the police, the Imo State indigene said he had to forgive Orazu after his family said he was hypertensive and could die in custody if arrested.
He stated that he succumbed to the pressure from Orazu’s family and provided food for him throughout “the time he volunteered to stay in our house.”
Narrating his experience in police custody, Sanni said, “They slapped me and hit my head with a plank. They tortured me and asked me to write a statement. They tore the one I wrote and started dictating what to write to me. They threatened to shoot me if I refused to comply. Kester and I left the prison on December 18, 2015 after spending about five months there.”
However, Orazu, who spoke to our correspondent on the telephone, said he never dated Chioma and debunked the rape allegation.
He said he met the woman sometime in 2013 when she came to seek financial assistance from one of his younger sisters in the village so she could rent an apartment in Lagos.
The chief said he was not in touch with Chioma until July 2015 when she called him and requested that he visit her in the apartment she purportedly rented with the money.
Orazu said, “She is lying. They kidnapped me and demanded N10m (ransom). SARS caught them. They kidnapped me in their residence. She was travelling to greet her people in the East to get money to rent an apartment in Lagos when some people she met in the bus told her about my sister and she collected her address.
“I was in my sister’s place that day when she came with a baby. I directed her to where my sister was. She told my sister she was homeless and my sister gave her money. After two years, she wanted me to see the house she rented with the money my sister gave her and I went there. Then, they kidnapped me and demanded N10m ransom. I was in the place for five days.
“They stripped me and beat me up. My family reported to SARS. They asked my family to send money into the account they provided. The SARS placed a red alert on that account. The boy (Kester) wanted to withdraw the money when the bank alerted the policemen on duty who arrested him. The police then called SARS in Lagos to pick the boy. My family paid N300,000 into the account. It is a serious matter and it is already in court. They did not give me food throughout the period they kidnapped me.”
When contacted for enquiries on the N300,000 paid into Kester’s account, Ijoma said the matter was in court and asked this reporter to stop calling her.
“If you want to know anything about it, go to the court and find out. Don’t call this line again, please,” she said.
In a chat with Saturday PUNCH, Kester said on his arraival from the tutorial class that day, he heard a noise as he was about to enter the apartment which prompted him to dash in.
“I met my aunt naked while my in-law was struggling with the man who was also naked. When I knew he had raped my aunt, I joined my in-law to beat him. My aunt and I decided to involve the police and he started begging. He said he was a chief and if the news of his arrest got to the village, he would lose his title. My in-law is a soft-minded person; he bought into the plea.
“The man personally suggested that his family would pay for the cleansing and he stayed in the house voluntarily for a couple of days until the money was paid into my account. He was not kidnapped,” he said.
Kester stated that he had gone to a bank in Benin to withdraw money for his fare back to Lagos after the cleansing when he was apprehended. Narrating the alleged torture he was subjected to in SARS custody, he broke into tears, lamenting that the IPO smashed a plank on his leg to extract statement from him.
“Then I was 16 and I told him (the IPO) my age. He said I was lying and tortured me to write that I was 18. The scar of the injury he inflicted on my leg is still there,” he added tearfully.
Chioma’s son, Victor, said he was playing with his immediate stepbrother, while the newborn baby was asleep when Orazu entered, adding that he retired to his room with the stepbrother.
He said, “I was in my room when I started hearing a noise from my mother’s room. I went there and met the man naked, forcing himself on my mum. She was also naked. I found condoms and some drugs he brought in. I shouted and asked him to leave my mum. He asked me to shut up and pushed me away. I didn’t know what to do to him. I was shouting ‘leave my mum’ when my dad came in. A few minutes after, my brother, Kester, also entered. They beat the man. He was crying and begging my dad for forgiveness.
“2015 is the worst year of my life. When my mother was arrested, I thought she would come back in the evening. Two days after, we did not see her and didn’t hear from anybody. My stepbrother was about two years then. We were going from street to street for three months begging for food. I could not cut my hair. We were afraid to go home; we slept in the bus at night. It was difficult for my mum to recognise us when she came back from the prison because we had become lean.”
Our Correspondent gathered that the Office of the Public Defender, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, and a rights group, Esther Child’s Rights Organisation, are following the case up at Ogba Magistrate’s Court.
The Coordinator of the organisation, Esther Ogwu, said, “As a human rights group, we are worried about the harrowing experience the family went through as a result of this case. We are working with the OPD to ensure that they get justice.”
The OPD Director, Mrs. Olayinka Adeyemi, confirmed that the agency’s lawyers were representing the family in court.
She said, “The first prosecution witness has been cross-examined and the case is for continuation of trial on June 21. We are representing all the defendants – the pastor, the wife and the nephew. We will give our best to make sure they are let off the hook.”
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Chike Oti, said the command was able to establish the kidnap allegation against the family and denied the claim of using force to extract statements from them.
He said, “In every case reported to the police, what the police try to find out is whether the person reported against actually carried out the act. We call it actus reus. Secondly, the police try to find out whether the person reported against had the intention to carry out the act against the complainant. When the police find a nexus between intention and the act and they are able to establish prima facie evidence against the suspect, it is incumbent upon the police to charge the matter to court for adjudication.
“In this case, the whole ingredients that constitute the offence of kidnapping are complete. First, somebody was held within a circumscribed limit, depriving him illegitimately of his right to freedom of movement. Secondly, they demanded and received a ransom in exchange for his freedom. From my earlier description of what the police look for in a case, it is clear that there is a nexus between intention and the act.
“It is immaterial why they kidnapped the man; what matters is that they kidnapped him. The allegation of torture is an afterthought and a ploy to smear the names of the police as an institution and the detectives that diligently investigated and charged the case to court.”