From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Justice Theophine Oguji of Onitsha High Court No II in Anambra State ordered that two women, Rejoice Raymond and her mother, Felicia Nwafor, be remanded in police custody at the Anambra State Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Awka, until Wednesday, April 28, when their motion for bail is expected to be heard.
The court also slated Tuesday, May 11, for hearing proper of the seven-count charges preferred against them by the police, adding that the motion for 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 order Tuesday when the two accused persons 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.
In the charge, 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, at Federal Housing Estate, Onitsha, within the Onitsha Judicial Division, unlawfully conspired 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 victimised 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 witnesses waiting to testify against the defendants.
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, AU Obidiegwu, AO 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.