By CHUKS EKE
Fresh from the police custody where she and her mother were detained for seven months (from February 19 to September 17, this year, over alleged conspiracy, felony, causing grievous bodily harm on three children, unlawful imprisonment, subjecting three children to inhuman treatment, starving them and other forms of inhuman treatments, Rejoice Raymond, a 39-year old woman has denied ever committing such criminal acts, as alleged.
She said she merely applied a disciplinary measure on the three children she legitimately adopted from motherless babies homes to nurture them to growth as responsible children meant to be useful to her and the society at large.
In a press statement issued yesterday in Onitsha, Anambra state on her behalf by her legal counsel, Kingsley Kanenechukwu Chiduabo of the Chiduabo, Chiduabo and Associates, the Principal Partner of Ogbogu Chambers, Rejoice Raymond who was arrested alongside her mother, Felicia Nwafor, by men of the 3-3 Police Division, Housing Estate, Onitsha on Friday, February 19, this year and transferred to State Criminal Investigations Department, CID, Awka on Monday, February 22, where they were detained in the police cell till their release on September 17, attributed her travail to the handiwork of her enemies looking for a way to kill her and take over her properties.
According to her lawyer in the press statement entitled: “Media Trial and conviction of Suspects. A call for stoppage in the Eastern States”, Rejoice Raymond and her mother, Mrs Felicia Nwafor were paraded by the Anambra State Police Command about the month of February 2021 for alleged involvement in kidnaps, Ritual activities, Murder/attempted murder etc for committing offences against her own three adopted Children”.
“Mrs Rejoice, as expected owe these Children both moral and or legal obligations to train them for their proper formations morally, socially, educationally etc as her Children”, said the lawyer.
“Upon discreet investigations on transfer of the case from 3-3 Division to SCID, Awka and filing of Information for trial at the High Court, these women were Charged for unlawful/fraudulent possession of these Children, inhuman treatment/Torture, causing grievous Bodily Harm etc devoid of the seven allegations in the Media for which the Society and the Police had already pronounced them guilty as charged”.
“Question now is, how many would have suffered under trial / Sentences based on unfounded Crimes as above ? It is trite that the actual fact as discovered in this scenario may not have played out positively in other past cases”.
“Most progressive States Houses of Assemblies, HOA via legislations had already stopped the Police from Media trial of Suspects hence this appeal the various Eastern States HOA to emulate same to avoid innocent people under going trial for crimes they do not know about. A stitch in time, saves nine”.
In an interview with newsmen, Rejoice Raymond declared: “Those who wanted to kill me and take over my house and properties are accusing me of being a ritualist, kidnapper, pounding of babies in the mortar for ritual purposes and other criminal tendencies”.
“The true position is that I adopted three children legitimately, namely Jeff Raymond, Kimberly Raymond and Clifford Ifechukwu Raymond and when I only applied some disciplinary measures on them, the enemies cashed in on that to make these frivolous allegations against me”.
Their aim is to pull down my church ministry and inherit my hard earned properties. They have actually succeeded in pulling down the ministry and evacuated my properties from the building where the ministry was established but I am happy that after all said and done, including my long detention over false accusations, the truth has surfaced”.
“That I am alive today with my children hail and hearty is because the wish of man is not the wish of God and like in the Biblical injunction: “My enemies actually came to steal, kill and destroy but it did not work out for them as they planned”.
The police had on March 30, arraigned her and her mother before Justice Theophine
Oguji of Onitsha High Court No. II in Anambra state who ordered that they be
remanded in the police custody at the State CID, Awka, till Wednesday, April 28,
when their motion for bail was expected to be heard.
The court had also slated Tuesday, May 11 for hearing proper of the seven-count charge preferred against them by the police, adding that the motion for their bail already filed by the defence counsel and the counter motion to be filed by the prosecution would be heard on April 28, while the trial proper of the matter would commence on May 11.
Justice Oguji who gave the orders when they were arraigned before the court on the seven-count charge of conspiracy, felony, causing grievous bodily harm on three children, unlawful imprisonment, subjecting three children to inhuman treatment, starving them and other forms of inhuman treatments, ordered the prosecution to file their counter motion for bail before the April 28 adjourned date.
When the matter was called up before the charges were read and plea taken, some members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Onitsha branch, led by Mrs. Margaret Wilcox, Vice Chairman of the Bar and Chairman of NBA Human Rights Committee, announced their appearance, saying that they were watching brief for the complainant who is the Commissioner of Police.
Other members of the Bar in the prosecution list of watching brief were Chinedu Udo, Mellitus Eze, A. U. Obidiegwu, A. O. Iheanacho among others.
The defence counsel, Azubuike Onyedikachi Okeke informed the court that he had already filed his motion for bail and served the Prosecuting Police Counsel. But the prosecuting police counsel, Peter Chuba Okonkwo told the court that he had not yet been served the motion for bail as at then, which prompted the court to order both parties to serve all necessary documents regarding the bail issue before April 28.
In the Charge No. O/13C/2021, the accused persons, Rejoice Raymond (39) and her mother, Felicia Nwafor (80), both of No. 12 Akunwata Mbamalu Street, GRA, Onitsha and others now at large, according to the police prosecution, had on or about February 19, 2021, at Federal Housing Estate, Onitsha within the Onitsha Judicial Division, did unlawfully conspire to commit Felony to wit: unlawful imprisonment of the trio, Jeff Ugochukwu Raymond (6), Kimberley Gift Raymond (3) and Clifford Ifechukwu Raymond (6).
The prosecution further told the court that the accused persons and others still at large had on the same date and venue, unlawfully attempted to kill the trio by causing them grievous bodily harm, depriving them of food and water and above all, locking them up in dark rooms without ventilation, leaving them to gasp for air before they were rescued.
Although the accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the charges, they were equally alleged to have subjected the trio to inhuman treatment and using actual personal violence to their persons which left them with different degrees of bodily harm, adding that accused equally had the intenion of maiming, disfiguring and disabling the children.
The prosecution also accused the defendants of an intent to deprive the victimized children of their parents, guardians or any other person who has the lawful care and charge of them, of their possession with an intent to steal them, adding that they unlawfully bought or obtained the possession of the trio with intent to subject them to unwholesome exploitation.
The offences, the prosecution said, were contrary to Sections 495 (a), 275 (a) and (b), 288, 286 and 231 of the Criminal Code, Cap. 36, Volume II, Revised Laws of Anambra State of Nigeria, 1991, Section 2 (b) of the Criminal Code (Amendment) Law of Anambra State of Nigeria, 2009, as well as Section 21 of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act. 2015.
Attached to the charge as Proof of Evidence were list of nominal complainants and eye-witness who are going to testify against the defendants, including Hon. Don Fitex Chukwudum (PW1), Sgt. Flora Omenye (IPO), Sgt. Unegbu Aniemeka (IPO) at State CID, Awka, the victims, Jeff Ugochukwu Raymond, Kimberley Gift Raymond and Clifford Ifechukwu Raymond, Mbonu Henry Chikaobi, Ebele Ozor, Okafor Amaka, Mrs. Onuoha Favour and Favour Amah, all vitnesses waiting to testify against the defendants.
Barely a week after their arrests by the police in her residence at the Federal Housing Estate,, Onitsha, Anambra state, for the alleged abduction, torture and killing of children, some school children embarked on s demonstration demanding thorough investigations into the activities of the suspect.
The children, wearing different school uniforms, armed with placards and chanted some slogans such as “we want justice, we want justice”.
Jointly led by Owners of Private Schools Association of Nigeria, OPSAN and Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Onitsha branch, the children arrived Awka from Onitsha and headed straight to the Police Headquarters at Amawbia where they displayed their placards at the gate.
Some of the placards had inscriptions: “Say no to child abuse, say no to child molestation, protect the Nigerian child, stop killing us, we are not safe, we are not safe, the blood of children killed by the suspect are crying for justice”.
National Preaident of OPSAN, Uzochukwu Solomon Nwanonyuo, said the children decided to embark on the demonstration to ensure that the police carryout discreet investigations into the activities of Chinyere Rejoice Raymong, adding that the protest was part of the measures to ensure that the matter was not swept under the carpet..
Nwanonyuo recalled that the suspect who is currently under the police custody at the State CID, Awka, was arrested with four kids seriously battered, of which some of them had been rushed to various hospitals.
Secretary of Onitsha NBA Human Rights Committee, Barrister Tony Iheanacho, flanked by the Chairman of the committee and Vice Chairman, NBA, Onitsha branch, Barrister Margaret Wilcox-Iwuchukwu, told the Deputy Commissioner of Police, DC in-charge of Finance and Administration, Simon Akpanudom who represented the then Commissioner of Police, Monday Kuryas that all they wanted was police action on the matter to deter others.
Responding, Akpanudom who complained against exposing these little children to the dangers inherent on roads protests, however assured them that a discreet investigation would be carried out by the police, after which the suspect would be prosecuted.