The killing of Nigerian women, many of them nurses, in the United States (US) by their Nigerian partners, especially husbands in form of spousal abuse is growing by geometric progression while efforts to stem it are on arithmetical progression.
At least, 10 Nigerian women – eight of them nurses – have been bumped off in the US by their partners between 2006 and 2016. They were either shot, stabbed or bludgeoned to death, according to US-based reports.
The case of Antonia Iheme, a nurse, who was shot severally by her husband, spurred a number of interventionist strokes to stem its frequency. Her husband after killing her called the police and reported himself.
Mrs. Iheme had barely left her workplace at a nursing home in Hennepin County, Minnesota, and got into her car and just as she was trying to pull out of the car park, she was shot twice.
Her vehicle lurched forward and clipped the side of a parked van before going over a pavement, down a small hill and striking a chain-link fence bordering the nursing facility.
Her husband followed the vehicles as it was crashing and approached the driver’s window, then fired several more shots to ensure that Antonia had no chance of making it alive.
Astoundingly, after snuffing the life out of the woman, he then called 911and reported himself, saying: “I have killed the woman that messed my life up … a woman that destroyed me.”
This is just one of the numerous cases of killing of Nigerian women by their husbands or intimate partners in the US, while the United Nations says killing of women by their intimate partners is a global phenomenon.
According to the UN report, 38 per cent of murders of women worldwide are committed by their male partners, and partner violence is the most common type of violence against women, affecting 30 per cent of women globally.
Again, the National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that three women are killed every day in the US by their partners even as the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) stated that black women in the US have historically experienced intimate partner violence at rates higher than white women.
These numbers, however, fail to account for the plurality of experiences within the African-American community. More so, The BJS’ National Crime Victimisation Survey did not track domestic-related murders and murder-suicides by perpetrators with an immigrant status until July 2016.
Sequel to the spate of killings, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses in North America (NANNNA), an umbrella body for all registered Nigerians nurses, now tries to determine the specific factors driving violence in the Nigerian Diaspora.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that women empowerment, cultural values, loss of ‘African identity’ by African women in the US, infidelity, desire not to lose their property to their wives, women-friendly legislation in US and lack of respect for their husbands as African woman would back home among others, are responsible for the crimes.
In 2011, the body conducted an informal investigation into the murder of Nigerian nurses, gathered anecdotal data by reviewing comments on Nigerian news sites and blogs, hosted focus groups and used knowledge gleaned from the hotline.
Their findings revealed a recurring subject for Nigerian women in the US. Nigerian nurses earned more than their partners and worked long hours, which kept them from what their partners perceived to be their domestic duties and led to suspicions of infidelity.
It also revealed a clash between a particular strain of patriarchy – as embodied by the Nigerian man accustomed to the norms of his male-dominated homeland and feminism, as represented by the acculturated Nigerian woman.
The women were also accused of ‘losing their identity’ in the US and being corrupted by its ‘women-friendly’ legal system, which left their counterpart with nothing once court entertains their divorce disposition.
Recall that in a case of spousal abuse in US and the wife reaches out to the police, the fate of the husband is bleak, which in most cases would lead to his deportation and allowing the woman to enjoy the man’s wealth alone. Or in a case of divorce entertained by the local courts, the man leaves the house for the woman, virtually empty-handed.
These are found to be part of the provocative legal system that goads the men to kill instead of sitting and watching their wives take over their life achievements. They risk prison as after successful serving of jail terms, they will be in control of their wealth again.
Responding to the cases of fatal domestic violence involving Nigerian men and women in the US, a psychiatrist, Theddeus Iheanacho estimated that about three to four Nigerian nurses were killed by their intimate partners every year in the past decade.
“In Nigeria, the balance of power, most of the time, is in the man’s hands, so he has less recourse to violence. Domestic violence is acceptable in Nigeria as there is no real enforcement of spousal battery law and going by its cultural factors,” he said.
Nearly a third of all women in Nigeria, 28 per cent, have experienced physical violence, he noted, saying that Nigeria has disparate pieces of legislation; a few states have passed legislation on domestic violence, but others permit husbands to physically ‘correct’ their wives.
Sunday Telegraph noticed that Nigeria signed the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act into law only in 2015, after a decade-long legislative process. The bill finally tagged spousal battery as ‘an offence,’ yet this law does not take into consideration, other aspects of spousal abuse, which doesn’t deal with battery.
Iheanacho added that sometimes, the abuse can escalate to extreme violence because women often stay in abusive relationships and refuse to take advantage of the different sources of aid available to them in the US.
“They believe that as Nigerian women, you have to be married to gain the respect of the community,” he quipped.
Worried about the killing of nurses, a nurse and the Executive Director of NANNNA, Grace Ogiehor-Enoma, tries to understand and tackle domestic violence among Nigerians in the US, wondering why there is such a high level of violence against nurses and launched an investigation.
A Maryland-based Nigerian IT expert, Goodluck Abumchukwu said one major reason nurses are targeted is because it is a common profession for Nigerian women in the US, saying there are other professions but nurses are everywhere.
According to him, based on data from the Migration Policy Institute as of 2015, Nigeria was the third source country for foreign-born registered nurses in the US.
He noted that the field is relatively easy to get into, saying that one can become a certified nursing assistant, picking up extra shifts and working for $12.78 an hour, in a matter of weeks.
“Nigerian nurses also marry Nigerian-American men as Passports tickets to higher incomes and better quality of life. Some Nigerian-American men often return to Nigeria to marry nurses or women they later convince to adopt the profession.
“After bringing their female partners to the US and funding their nursing education, some of the men feel entitled to their partners’ salaries and insist on controlling their income. Once the women start to work, the men expect a return on their investment, but they often find it harder than anticipated in the US. And this is a source of friction which you can’t determine its end,” he added.
Humphrey Adejumo shared a similar view with Goodluck. He said women have turned divorce into a goldmine and their men counterparts see them as criminals who should be treated immorally.
He said: “Most women are criminally minded. In most cases, when the Yankee guys come to marry them, they do not really want to marry the person rather they will want to use him as a passport to US with hope of getting whoever they want over there.
“What they do is when they get to US and got acclimatised with everywhere, and perhaps, have used the man’s influence to get good jobs and all that, they will create a conflict and file a divorce case. She is only targeting the man’s wealth and nothing more.
“They hardly say no to any marriage proposal from US or other rich countries. If a woman does such a thing to you after you have spent all your hard earned income on her and still renders you emotionally destitute, will you fold your hands and let her wreck you?
“It’s not possible, what I will do to a criminal is what I will do to that same woman or so-called wife because she is a material criminal and emotional robber. So, I will not spare her. And if there are any of her family members encouraging her to wreck me, I will also follow up on that person.
“Out there is tough and some criminally-minded good for nothing girl will come and play on my intelligence. Death is too small for what I will do to her. I will melt her away. What nonsense.”
Corroborating Humphrey, Effiong Enang, an international businessman, said divorce is a goldmine for wicked wives. To him, even the good wives are deceived by these wayward and perversed women, according to him.
He noted that it’s like a cult for them; they come into a man’s life and the next moment they are corrupted to file a divorce because US law favours women.
He narrates: “I have a cousin, when a man came to marry her, she knew the man to be strict but she accepted. At a time, she knew she wasn’t going to marry him but her elder brother encouraged her to cross over to US with the man on advice to divorce afterwards. And it happened as they planned.”
According to him, the man brought her to US but today, the lady is getting married to another younger man. He noted that the lady had gone with part of the man’s wealth, and even had a child for him, yet she is getting married this month in Nigeria in a choice hotel in Lagos.
Effiong stated that the Igbo man had been living in the US for 28 years and he brings in 40-foot containers of goods to Nigeria.
He said: “This is for you to understand the calibre of man they messed up. If such a man decides to take laws into his hands, will you say he is wicked? Some women are mean. And as long as they keep on doing this, they will keep on receiving the unexpected.
“Any man that leaves the shores of Nigeria to suffer and make money doesn’t need a woman that will tear him apart because he won’t take it. Will they do it to drug guys? I don’t think so because they know what they are bargaining.”
Also, a study conducted by NANNNA revealed that women were blamed for rebelling against this expectation and sometimes flaunting their superior contribution to their peril. It added that decisions about how money is spent are also sources of conflict for those in real marriages.
Another reason Director of NANNNA, Grace Ogiehor-Enoma stated to be responsible for the crime, is lack of official marriage counselling in marital disputes in the Nigerian community. Because back home, people tend to focus on elders; reporting the woman or the husband to the mother-in-law or to the family member to discuss.
“Community members, like most immigrants, are often unwilling to seek help from official sources of aid for fear of the authorities and of betraying their own group,” she said.
According to Sunday Telegraph’s investigations, West African immigrants are more likely to turn to informal avenues such as religious leaders, friends and relatives for help with domestic violence than the authorities, psychologists or marriage counsellors.
A doctor of psychology, Candyfidel Onwuraokoye, is of the belief that more research, services and programmes tailored to the cultural needs of the community are needed to effectively monitor and curb domestic violence.
According to him, this will feature collaboration with Diaspora groups and religious centres such as churches and mosques, saying as much as the Nigerian Diaspora tries to save face and tackle its issues internally, there is the need to involve good marriage counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists in settling the matter.
“More external assistance and resources are needed for community-run programmes; particularly programmes targeting men. Women should also be reasonable in their actions and most importantly, be truthful and sincere in what they do,” he added.
Rev. Victor Obiora of Vision of God Bible Church, Lagos, said the only solution to the problem is truthfulness and having Christ at heart when certain actions are taken. He said that when human is emotionally unstable, it takes the grace of God to guide the person’s thoughts and actions.
“Nobody has the right to take the life of him that he didn’t give. Women should stick to their husbands and remain good wives to them, while men should love their wives according to the plan of God for man. The man needs his wife as much as his wife needs him,” he said.
“Slow in action and slow in talk. Anger is a major source of violence in home and if we can deal with anger and learn to control our emotions, a lot will be achieved frictionless,” he added.
Bola Ojuronmgbe said women should be careful as everything is not about money. “It’s a betrayal of the highest order for you to promise a man marriage and after he had paid your way through school you turn your back on him. I see it as equally the same with girls following Yankee guys just to settle in the US.
“If you know you don’t want them, let them be. Everybody must not go to US. Some people are making it here so I wonder what the fuss of US is all about. If anybody does it to my brother or son I won’t be happy, just as I won’t do it to anybody. I don’t have sympathy for any woman that does that to an innocent man and he retaliated in any form,” she added.