*As her real identity is revealed
*Family battles to return her to foster mum
By Sunday Ani
The story of the 15-year-old girl, who was allegedly assaulted by the Coordinator of Ohaozara Development Centre in Ebonyi state, has taken a new twist.
The girl, who was referred to as Uzoamaka Chukwu was reported to have hailed from Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi state.
Recall that after the incident, a Port-Harcourt-based businesswoman, an indigene of Ebonyi State, Miss Rita Anoh, had offered a scholarship and a new home to Uzoamaka; a move many thought would aid Uzoamaka’s quick recovery from emotional and psychological trauma she went through.
Few days after she was taken to Port Harcourt to live with Miss Anoh, the Ebonyi State Governor was reported to have issued a seven-day ultimatum demanding that the girl should be returned to the state from wherever she might be, as she remained the property of the state. “We are giving seven days for her to come back. We don’t know where she is, but we ask that she must return, because she is the property of the state,” the governor was reported to have said.
But, reacting, the girl’s uncle, Mr Victor Unogbo, dismissed the the governor’s claim, insisting that the girl was from Edo State. He said that if any state could lay claim to the traumatised Uzoamaka, it was Edo State and not Ebonyi. He insisted that Uzomaka’s late father was his immediate elder brother.
His words: “What happened is that Uzoamaka’s late mother was from Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. She bore three children for my late elder brother and Uzoamaka happens to be one of the three children. But, at the death of my brother, their mother took them to her village in Ebonyi State and ever since then, they have lived there. Her name is actually Uzoamaka Unogbo and not Uzoamaka Chukwu as was earlier reported.”
As it were, Uzoamaka’s woes seem to be unending. Just when she was heaving a big sigh of relief that at last, she has a scholarship and a comfortable home, her benefactor, Miss Anoh handed her over to her family in Edo State citing undue pressures from certain quarters as reason for her action.
Commenting shortly before she handed her over to her family, Miss Anoh said: “The unfortunate treatment meted out to the 15-year-old Uzoamaka came to my knowledge through the social media. Out of compassion, I intervened to give her a new lease of life through scholarship and a home; a move that has actually changed her life from the agonizing experience she had.
“However, this kind gesture has been variously misunderstood and given all kinds of colourations. In view of this, I am constrained to hand over the girl back to her family for onward decision. Any further issue or information about her should henceforth be referred to her family.
“I feel a deep pain in my heart doing what I am doing now, but I can’t help the situation. I just pray that her people will take good care of her, henceforth. She needs emotional and physical support. I urge her family to please, take good care of her.”
Actually, I would have loved to nurture her and see to her welfare. Within the brief period I have stayed with her, I can confidently say that Uzoamaka is such a nice, obedient and intelligent girl, who just needs somebody to take care of her.
Uzoamaka’s family has attributed the unfortunate turn of event in their daughter’s life to the very day the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, visited her maternal aunt’s family home at Umunaga Uburu, Ohaozara Local Government Area of the state to empathize with her over the unfortunate incident. During the visit, the governor was reported to have issued a seven-day ultimatum for Uzoamaka to return from wherever she might be and be handed over to the state government or be declared wanted. The governor was also reported to have said that she would be declared wanted if she failed to return with the given ultimatum, because she remained a property of the state.
Earlier, Uzoamaka had rejected a scholarship and accommodation offer extended to her by the Ebonyi government, insisting that she was comfortable living with Miss Anoh. But, with the latest development, Uzoamaka has just been left in the cold. Her pains are yet to be over. In fact, if anything, she is in for more troubles as she stands the chance of losing both opportunities from Miss Anoh and the Ebonyi State Government.
However, in an emotion-laden voice, Uzoamaka’s elder sister, Ukamaka, lamented that the trauma and pain her sister and the entire family were being subjected to was becoming unbearable and called on Nigerians to beg the Ebonyi State Government to stop tormenting her family. She recalled that her sister was supposed to start school this September, where she was enrolled ,but hag been returned to her family by her benefactor, Miss Anoh. She said: “So much has been said about the terrible incident and my family has decided to maintain silence all these while partly to protect the little girl and also in deference to the good people of Uburu, our uncles, who have done so much in our lives since the death of our father and mother in 2004 and 2006 respectively. Uzoamaka is the last of three girls by our parents, late Luke Unogbo and Felicia Chukwu.”
Recalling their growing up without both parents, Ukamaka said: “Ours was indeed a humble family. Our parents died very early, leaving us as orphans and vulnerable. While a good Samaritan, Mr. Smart Nwachukwu from Olokoro Umuahia took me into his family and catered for me till adulthood, my younger ones, Tessy was taken to Edo State to stay with our paternal uncle while Uzoamaka was moved into the home of our mother’s elder sister, Mrs. Tessy Chukwu at Umunaga Uburu, which explains why Uzoamaka took the surname Chukwu. The unfortunate circumstance exposed us to numerous difficulties and challenges that I cannot enumerate here. You can, therefore, appreciate the joy and relief that came to us when providence brought Mrs. Anoh into our family to play the motherly role, which Uzoamaka never had.
“Everything appeared to be working well after my sister was given scholarship up to the university level and a new life by Mrs Anoh. Uzoamaka got admission and was due to start school this September but we were surprised when the Ebonyi State Governor issued an ultimatum for her return during his visit to my aunt’s house at their village on August 21. At first, when Miss Anoh called to inform us of her intention to return Uzoamaka, my family objected because we see her as the best person that can mentor and give my sister the needed training she deserves. My family and my sister rejected the state government’s scholarship because she already has one and their interest in my sister’s ordeal came rather too late. What is the state government’s interest in this matter? Are their children not in school? Why is my sister’s case being dragged like this? She deserves justice and peace to move on instead of this emotional torment.”
Although, Miss Anoh did not disclose the actual quarters where the pressure was coming from, Uzoamaka’s family is pointedly accusing the Ebonyi state government of being behind the woman’s action. The family strongly believes that the governor’s seven-day ultimatum might have been the reason behind Miss Anoh’s action.
Ukamaka narrated how she went to her aunt’s village where Uzoamaka was staying after the incident, spent one week and no representative from the state government came to see her family. She said she returned to Abuja , where she lives and does a petty business for survival, with her sister and spent an additional two weeks without anybody asking of her until some good spirited activists came and offered her a voice.
She said that the Ebonyi State Government had not met with her maternal family till date. “Our mother is from Umuaneketa Uburu and not from Umunaga where the governor visited and issued the ultimatum. Mr. Francis Odabe who was referred to as our uncle is somebody we don’t even know and who also does not know us in person. We are not even related in any form to the man. We only have cousins and an aunt from Ebonyi State. Our father is from Agenebode in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo state,” she further informed.
The family is appealing to Ebonyi State Government to leave Uzoamaka alone and at the same time appealing to Miss Anoh to reconsider and take Uzoamaka back.
Appealing to the state government, Mr. Unogbo said: “We appreciate the governor’s benevolence, but we want to appeal that Uzoamaka should be allowed to stay with Mrs Anoh. She has found comfort and peace there.
Also reassuring Mrs Anoh of the family’s approval of Uzoamaka’s stay with her, Mr Unogbo said: “We are giving Uzoamaka to Miss Rita Anoh and not the Ebonyi State Government. We want Uzoamaka to stay under the woman’s roof because we believe she would take good care of her.
“Uzoamaka is not the property of Ebonyi state as claimed by Gov ernor Umahi, instead she is the property of Edo State. I am standing as her father, because her late father was my immediate elder brother. We are from the same father and mother. Our mother is from Akwa-Ibom, but our father is from Edo. To be precise, we are from Agenebode, Egori Waterside in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State.
“We are pained by the woman’s decision. We are saying that whatever informed her decision; she should reconsider her stand and take the girl back. I know she has good intention towards her.
“We, the family here in Edo State are already concluding plans to visit the woman in Port Harcourt to personally plead with her to reconsider her stand and to let the whole world know that we are willingly giving our daughter, Uzoamaka, to her. She should not be afraid of anybody; we are assuring her of our support and cooperation as she takes Uzoamaka back to give her a new life.”