On Monday, January 4, a 14-year-old girl, Chigozie (not real name), who had just been brought to Lagos from Enugu State two weeks before, to live with his uncle at Ajah area of Lagos, became a victim of one of the now common crimes in Lagos – child rape.
Chigozie’s case became a trend on social media as news broke that the alleged suspect in the crime, a high ranking official of Exxon Mobil in Lagos, Mr. James Onuoha, had been arrested by officials from the Zone 2 Police Headquarters, Onikan, Lagos.
Punch later got details of how the man allegedly took advantage of a child he had not met before in a mini-flat he let out to her uncle.
Chigozie said she was elated when her uncle told her he was bringing her to Lagos. It was still hard for the shy girl to speak about the rape.
Chigozie said she heard a knock on the gate of their compound at about 11am that Monday morning and when she went to check who it was, she met Onuoha at the gate, who told her that he was the landlord and was looking for her uncle.
She said, “I told him my uncle and aunty were not around and he said he would wait for them. I did not see anything wrong in that and I opened the gate for him to come in.
“My sister (her four-year-old cousin in fact) and I were watching cartoon. He sat down to watch with us. Later, he started to ask how old I was. When I told him, he asked if I wanted a job. I told him that my uncle had just brought me to Lagos to put me in school and that I did not want a job.
“He said he works in a big oil company and could get me a job if I wanted. I told him no. He later asked if I had a phone and what my phone number was. I told him I did not know my phone number by heart and he took my phone to look at it.”
Chigozie explained that, she stood up to go inside the room to arrange some things because she was no longer comfortable sitting and chatting with the man.
According to her, she found it curious that as soon as she stood up, the man followed her.
“He followed me into the room. He then opened the toilet of the master bedroom and looked inside there. He also checked inside the wardrobe. When I asked what he was looking for, he said he needed to be sure that I was not lying that my uncle and aunty were not around.
“After he was done, I waited for him to leave the room but he did not. He grabbed me and pushed me on the bed. When he realised that I was shouting, he took one of the pillows on the bed and used it to cover my face.”
All this happened in the presence of the four-year-old daughter of Chigozie’s uncle.
Chigozie said when Onuoha was done, he dropped N1,000 on the bed.
“He told me to use it to take care of myself. He said when he came back the following day, he would get me a better phone,” she said.
But the traumatised girl broke down in tears as the man exited the house.
Her uncle’s wife got home first and discovered what happened.
Chigozie’s uncle told our correspondent that when his wife got home and saw the girl crumbled on the floor and crying, she asked what was wrong and she got no answer from her as the girl cried uncontrollably.
He said, “I had earlier missed calls from my landlord and my wife. I was in the market at the time and could not call them back. When I had the chance, I called my wife and she asked if I had got a call from our landlord. I said no. She said she just got home and found my niece crying.
“When my wife asked her what was wrong and my niece could not explain, my daughter took her to the bedroom and started demonstrating what happened. My wife told me that my daughter lay on the bed and spread her legs. The girl stood up again then started making a humping motion and said ‘Landlord did like this and like this. That is what landlord did to Aunty…on your bed’. The little girl demonstrated everything that happened in her presence in the room.
“I was mad. I rushed home and still found my niece crying. Again, my daughter took me to the room and started to demonstrate ‘what landlord did to aunty’.”
The man said since he did not want to make any mistake that would scuttle their case, he instantly called a lawyer.
According to him, the lawyer told him he needed to get confirmation that the landlord was indeed in their house.
Chigozie’s uncle said, “I called my landlord and apologised to him that I missed his calls. I told him that I had been trying to call him so that we could negotiate when I would pay his outstanding rent.
“I owe him some months of rent and that was why he came to our house in the first place. He said that he was in my house when he was calling me and that even my wife was not around too.
“I apologised to him and said if he had told me that he was coming, I would have prepared for him. That was how I knew that my little girl was not lying that he was indeed at my house.”
It was learnt that after the case was reported at the Langbasa Police Division, Ajah, Onuoha refused to report when he was summoned. He allegedly went to the Zone 2 Police Command to make a counter report against Chidera’s uncle.
A policeman at the Langbasa division said one of their colleagues at Zone 2 suddenly came and collected the case file, the report of the test conducted on the girl and every evidence relating to the case.
It would be recalled that THE PUNCH reported that the Management of Exxon Mobil had also reacted to the case.
A statement from one of the company’s spokespersons, stated, “Mobil Producing Nigeria, confirms that the police authorities notified it on January 11, 2016, of an alleged case of defilement brought against one of its personnel that is unrelated to his duties with the company.”
“The company has also assured the police of its full support on the investigations if required.”
Wale Babalakin Chambers has also indicated interest in taking up Chigozie’s case pro bono.
A human rights activist, Ms. Sola Alamuti of the Nigeria Injustice Group, told punchng correspondent that she took the victim to the Mirabel Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Ikeja on Tuesday, where another round of tests and treatments were conducted on her.
Arrest and arraignment
Alamuti said she paid visit to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, to seek his assurance that justice would be done on the matter. She said the CP later called the officials at Zone 2 in her presence and told them to produce Onuoha unfailingly to answer questions on the allegations against him or he would have to go arrest him personally.
For this reason, Onuoha was arrested on Wednesday.
Later, Alamuti said she went to Zone 2 along with a lawyer assigned to the girl’s case from the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Onuoha told the police that he indeed visited his tenant’s apartment and that he also searched the wardrobe and bedroom just to see if the girl’s uncle was in hiding.
When he was asked about the money, he was said to have admitted that he left N1,000 for the girl just as a gift and for no particular reason.
On Thursday, Saturday PUNCH learnt that Onuoha was arraigned before an Igbosere Chief Magistrate’s Court, Lagos on charges of child defilement. The case comes up for hearing again on February 23, 2016.