TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Twenty-three-year-old Chioma Onyemachi, a native of Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, is yet to recover from the incarceration she passed through for an offence she said she did not commit.
Onyemachi has not ceased to say that she was framed for an alleged involvement in ritual killings by some detractors, who did not want her progress in life and that of her family.
She stated that she did not offend anybody and could not fathom why she could be branded a ritualist.
Also, she stressed that she had never been involved in any criminal activity, let alone killing. The import of the false allegation still weighs heavily on her mind whenever she remembers what she passed through.
Her journey to prison started in July, 2015, when the Rivers State Police Command arrested and paraded her for the alleged murder of a member of a cult group. She was also accused of involvement in ritual activities allegedly perpetrated at Prince and Princess Guest House in Ubima community.
The traumatized young lady, who is incoherent and cannot articulate her speech well, is from a very poor family. She is among the four children of her parents. Her father is late. She and her siblings were raised by their widowed mother, a poor farmer. She, in particular, was an apprentice trying to learn a skill before she was arrested and subsequently incarcerated.
When Sunday Sun met her recently through one of her relatives in Ubima, Onyemachi could not even remember vividly how long she has spent both in police and prison custody. It was observed that she is yet to recover from the trauma.
Onyemachi was 20 years old when the police said they arrested her in a guest house in the community and accused her of involvement in criminality and ritual killings.
In an interview with Sunday Sun, she debunked the claim of the police, saying that she was arrested in her friend’s house and not at Prince and Princess Guest House as alleged by the police. She also denied knowledge of any guesthouse in the community bearing the name, Prince and Princess.
The young woman, who was discharged and acquitted recently by a court in Port Harcourt, said the allegation by the police that she was engaged in ritual activities at the Prince and Princess Guesthouse in Ubima, was unfounded. Also, she pointed out that the police’s claim that the owner of the guest house was an accomplice, was baseless.
Miss Onyemachi also said that she did not know the owner of the guesthouse, if at all it exists. Speaking further, she lamented that the person, who framed her wanted to destroy her life and dent the image of her family.
Her words: “I have never been to Prince and Princess Guest House. The police arrested me in my friend’s house and not Prince and Princess Guest House as they claimed. I am not aware of any guesthouse called Prince and Princess Guest House in Ubima community, or elsewhere.
“I was innocent of the accusation. I did not know anything about the allegation for which I was arrested, accused and unjustly detained. I still maintain that I was innocent. I appeal to people to ignore the false claim of the police. Whoever that is responsible for what I passed through, God will judge the person.
“I have not been involved in criminal activities, let alone ritual killing. I have no accomplice and did not know anything about what I was accused of and incarcerated for.”
Reacting to the Onyemachi’s predicament, one of the relatives simply identified as Uche, lamented the difficult times the family members had passed through.
Uche said: “What is still a surprise is how somebody would look at this girl with her condition, and accuse her of being involved in ritual killings. Okay, look at her natural handicap. If you observe well, you would notice her challenge.
“Okay, let us assume that such guesthouse exists whether in Ubima or elsewhere. With her incoherent speech, who would want to employ her, particularly in a guesthouse, patronized regularly by customers? This is a poor lady that was learning trade. Is she or her family quarelling over anything with anyone? Why are people so wicked?”
Speaking further, Uche told Sunday Sun that nobody in the community could testify of criminal antecedents of the young lady in the past.
“Merely looking at her, one is supposed to have compassion for her. Nobody in this community can say he or she has caught her before in criminal activities? Who has she or her family offended? I think the person behind her arrest was out to discredit her and her family.
“What is the perpetrator’s gain, when you know that the person you are persecuting did not do you anything? What I know and believe is that God, who is the Father of the fatherless and helper of the helpless, will judge those involved in one way or the other in what my sister and her family members have passed through.
“We thank God, for vindicating her before the court. My concern and worry now is how she would overcome the trauma. It has not been easy for her. The most painful and agonizing thing was for her to be prosecuted or punished for an offence she knew nothing about. That is the condition the young lady has found herself now.
“We know there is nothing we can do to whoever was behind her condition. Our concern now is for members of the public to know that our sister was unjustly arrested, detained and prosecuted for an offence she did not commit in any way,” Uche said.