From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Hell has no fury like a woman who is jilted. And, it doesn’t matter whether the woman is young or old. That truth was proved last Monday when a 17-year-old-girl identified as Esther Alex set her boyfriend, Ikechukwu Chidinma Omah, ablaze in his sleep, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
The sad incident happened inside Chidinma’s one room apartment located at 17, Yandev Street, off Zakibiam Street, Wadata, Makurdi. The deceased, a patent medicine store owner, from Nsuka Local Government Area of Enugu State was said to have met his death a day after he returned from his village where he had gone to celebrate the yuletide season.
He was said to have travelled to his village since December 23, 2020 and returned on January 9, 2021 only to be burnt beyond recognition in the early hours of Monday, January 11, 2021. He later died at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi where he was rushed to for treatment.
How and why it happened
According to sources, trouble started when news got to Esther that her lover, Chidinma actually travelled to his village to pay the bride-price of another girl he intended to marry. On hearing this, Esther was said to have confronted Chidinma with the allegation but he denied it and added that there was nothing like that. Apparently not satisfied with his defence, she was said to have visited him on Sunday night, but unknown to him, with a gallon of fuel and a box of matches which she allegedly kept safely away within the neighbourhood.
The landlord’s account
Caleb Useni, Chidinma’s landlord said he heard that at about 2am while everyone, including Chidinma was sleeping Esther went outside and brought in the gallon of fuel from where she had hidden it, emptied the content in the room, struck a match and set the house ablaze.
“Chidinma had been living in this area since 2016,” Useni said. “I’m his shop landlord. He was a very cool-headed guy loved by everyone in the area. Two nights ago, I had a call that his girlfriend came to his house and he tried to send her away. But the girl begged that she came in peace and he agreed. The guy even went and bought her a drink not knowing that she had come with a gallon of fuel. She later poured petrol in the house and burnt the guy. She was caught in another boyfriend’s house the following day.
“He traveled home and just returned from the village on Saturday and he died on Monday. He is from Enugu State. He died at the Federal Medical Centre. He operated a patent medicine store in my house. We heard that he was planning to marry another lady in the village and Esther probably heard about it too. The girl is a troublesome lady. He would have married her but for her troublesome nature. She must have drugged him before pouring fuel in the house.”
A neigbour’s eyewitness account
Another neighbour, Victoria Cletus, whose parents live in the same compound with Chidinma said her father was woken up by the sound of the gate at about 2am. On peeping through the window to know who was going out, he saw fire and heavy smoke coming out from Chidinma’s room and that was how he raised alarm.
“My parents stay in the same compound with the deceased,” Victoria said. “My father said it was the sound of the gate that made him know that fire was coming out from the house. They immediately got water and tried to quench the fire. Initially, people thought nobody was in the room. But after they succeeded in putting out the fire, somebody said he was in. We don’t know whether the guy was drugged. He didn’t come out until people rallied round and brought him out. From the little I know about him, he is the calm type. He had stayed in the compound for over two years before this incident happened.”
The deceased’s younger sister’s suspicion
Loveliness Omah, the immediate younger sister of the deceased could not control her emotions when she spoke to newsmen. She kept weeping throughout the session. The student of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), believes that her brother was drugged by his girlfriend before she poured fuel in the room and set it on fire. “We are suspecting that she must have drugged him because he was unconscious to the extent that they set the house ablaze and he couldn’t run,” she said.” By the time neighbours quenched the fire, they saw my brother inside the burnt room. He died around 10pm later in the day from the fire injuries. He was 28 years old. They were actually in a relationship for about six months to the best of my knowledge.”
Elder brother speaks
Their elder brother, Chimaobi Omah, also a patent medicine seller based in Wurukum, Makurdi said he was home when he got a phone call that his brother had been burnt by his girlfriend. “Immediately I got the call, I rushed to the house,” he narrated. “By the time I got to the hospital, I was shocked at what I saw. My brother was severely burnt and he kept mentioning Esther’s name. The doctors kept asking us to get different drugs and we did. Around 10pm that Monday, I went to eat somewhere around Wurukum when they called to inform us that he had died. We are going to the mortuary now (Tuesday afternoon) to move his corpse to the village. I used to know the girl as my younger brother’s girlfriend but we were never close to each other.”
Rose Stephen’s testimony
Another neighbour who gave her name as Rose Stephen said both Chidinma and Esther lived together for about seven months before they started having issues. She said at some point, the duo became regular visitors to the police station as a result of their regular quarrels, a development which made them to go their separate ways sometimes in 2020. “Chidinma told Esther that he was fed up with her bad character and was no longer interested in her before he travelled for Christmas and New Year,” she said. “We were all surprised to see them together shortly after Chidinma’s return from the village last Saturday.”
One of Chidinma’s close friends, Abraham Ebute, said his friend had told Esther point blank that he was no longer interested in the relationship because of her unruly behaviour and criminal tendency. “Chidinma was once arrested because Esther stole a handset belonging to an Air Force officer and it was traced to Chidinma’s house,” she recalled. “She also stole Chidinma’s phone shortly before he traveled home for Christmas.”
Police confirms report
When contacted, the Police Public Relationship Officer, PPRO, Benue State Police Command, Catherine Anene confirmed the tragic incident. She noted that Esther is already in police custody and that investigation to unravel the cause of the ugly situation is now on.
Esther speaks from police custody
Speaking to newsmen at the State Police Command in Makurdi on Tuesday afternoon, the suspect who wept profusely confessed to the crime saying, “I killed my boyfriend.” The girl who claimed to be 17 and not 18 as earlier reported said she had gained admission to study Law at the Benue State University before the incident took place.
“I killed my boyfriend. I can’t just explain why I killed him,” she said with a lachrymose voice, full of regret. “I was just angry over all the issues we had. We have been fighting over some issues. For instance, I was a virgin when I met him and he promised never to leave me but always stand by me. To the extent that we had to take blood oath before I allowed him to deflower me. When I got pregnant for him, he gave me an injection in his medicine shop to abort the pregnancy. He later came with some people to meet with my family after which I packed to his house. I got pregnant again the second time and he promised that we would keep that one. He started misbehaving and would sometimes not even come home while I was pregnant. The second one was aborted too and I had to go for D and C. I again got pregnant for him the third time.
“We had serious problems to the point of going to Police A. Division. I later had to pack out of the house. His sister would sometimes come and beat me up in the house. I couldn’t fight for myself. After our last fight, he traveled to his village and came back on Saturday. That night, he came to look for me at our house. I was going to buy something in my neighborhood when I heard him calling me but I didn’t answer him. He started begging me and said there were things he needed to settle with me. I said I had forgiven him. He then said I should come to his house and I said it wouldn’t be possible immediately.
“So, next day (Sunday), I went to his house at night but I was scared that he might harm me. I thought to myself and went and bought fuel for N840 from a man selling around my house. I also bought matches too and went to visit him in the night. By the time I got to his house, the main gate to the compound was already locked so, I had to go and knock at his window. He asked who was there and I said I was the one. He came and opened the gate for me and I entered but left the fuel outside. We started ‘gisting’ in his room and settled our scores.
Then we had sex. I actually didn’t feel like having sex with him but he forced me and had his way. After the sex, we both slept off. Later, I went outside and carried the fuel and poured in the room and then I lighted the match. I ran out naked and went and slept inside a church. Reality has dawned on me now and I feel bad about the development.”
When our correspondent visited the house on Tuesday afternoon, charred remains of mattresses, pillows, clothes and other materials belonging to the deceased were seen littered everywhere in his room while residents of the area were seen gathered in groups and discussing the sad development.