Mrs. Victoria Nwatu, a 70-year-old widow from Akpugo, in the Nkanu-West Local Government area of Enugu State, is in agony.
She said, since the death in 2003 of her husband, Pa Nwatu Nnamani, she has been facing consistent persecution in the hands of her stepsons. She said the stepsons are after her life.
The widow, who is the second wife in the polygamous family, said she has been denied access to her late husband’s house. She specifically accused her late husband’s first son, Mr. Emeka Nwatu, of being the mastermind of her misery.
But Emeka Nwatu, in a chat with the reporter, denied the allegations. While describing his stepmother’s accusations as mere lies, Emeka said he was a gentleman who had no problem with anyone. He said he was not only a chief in the community but also a popular figure in Enugu State and as such would never be involved in the persecution of a widow or any other individual.
Madam Nwatu, however, said the situation became unbearable in November last year when some thugs, whom she claimed were sent by her stepsons, brutally assaulted her inside her late husband’s home. She said subsequent efforts to get justice after she reported the incident to the Agbani Police Station were truncated by Emeka. She claimed he used his political influence to stifle the matter.
Her words: “It happened on November 15, 2019, when one of my stepsons, Afam Nwatu, came with about four thugs to the compound and they all started smoking Indian hemp. After that, Afam led the thugs to my room, and snatched the bread and tea, which I had prepared for breakfast. I was afraid but didn’t say anything to them because I know they were sent to molest me. Afam then further went and carried my pot of rice. I went after him to collect my food. It was them that he hit me twice on the face and pushed me down. I was dizzy after the beating, and blood was gushing out of my mouth.
“I reported the assault at Agbani Police Station but, instead of arresting Afam, the officer handling the case made me endorse my fingerprint on a pre-written document. I couldn’t read and no one read the content of the statement to me. So, I was pressured to sign it. It was later that I found out that the document falsely stated that I had forgiven Afam for assaulting and inflicting injuries on me after pouring away my pot of rice. And that was how the matter ended. Emeka has continued to use thugs and the police to molest me. He keeps telling me that he is above the law and that he can do anything he likes and nothing would happen.”
The widow said, after her husband’s death,. Emeka started claiming that only he owned their father’s estate, including the main family compound. She noted that Emeka Nwatu, chairman of the Enugu State Local Government Commission, has been using his political influence to make life unbearable for her in a bid to force her to leave the compound.
“After my husband was buried, Emeka renovated our family building without reference to anyone. He fenced the entire compound to secure it for himself, and started asking me to leave the compound, and that I should tell my own children to build another house for me. But I queried him on why he or anybody would ask me to leave my late husband’s family house into which I was married and had all my children.”
Mrs. Nwatu said, following her refusal, Emeka had been sending thugs to taunt and molest her in the house. She said the thugs would assemble in the compound, smoking Indian hemp and blocking access to her apartment.
She also explained that her four children have been forced out of their father’s compound for several years, alleging that Emeka had been issuing threats and warnings to his stepbrothers to steer clear of the family compound.
“In 2016, when my twin sons, Chijioke Nwatu and Chikezie Nwatu, came home, Emeka masterminded their arrest and detention on the false allegations that they wanted to kill him. He did that because police officers are at his beck and call due to his political and financial influence,” Mrs Nwatu said.
The widow called on the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, as well as other Nigerians to come to her aid.
“Nigerians should come to my aid. I am helpless in the face of the injustice and oppression. I still feel severe pains on my head because of the bloody beating they gave me last year. That I am alive today is just by the grace of God,” she said.
A human rights organisation, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), decried what it termed the display of bias by the police in Mrs. Victoria Nwatu’s case. The group has despatched a petition the Police Service Commission (PSC) to look into the matter.
RULAAC’s executive director, Mr. Okey Nwanguma, appealed to the PSC to investigate allegations of bias against the police.
“We call on the PSC to promptly and exhaustively investigate the alleged bias and discreditable and unprofessional conduct of the police officers under the Enugu State Police Command and to bring them to account if found culpable,” Nwanguma said.
The wife of the community’s traditional ruler, Ugoeze Ngozi Oruruo, also corroborated the widow’s account, saying she had witnessed how violence was unleashed on the widow on a number of times.
“Victoria always comes to our palace to complain that she was being maltreated in her late husband’s house. But in November, she came to the palace crying, with blood all over her face and gushing out of her mouth. We thought she had an accident. But she said her stepson, Afam Nwatu, led some thugs to beat her up and carry her food from her room. We were very shocked, but Emeka appeared unconcerned. We learnt he used his influence to protect the thugs. Our community is worried that a widow is being intimidated in her late husband’s house,” she said.
But the man being accused has pooh-poohed the allegations, saying he is a perfect gentleman. He denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he had absolutely no problem with his stepmother or anyone.
His words: “I am not a thug; I am a technocrat. Mrs. Victoria is my stepmother and I have never joined any issues with her or anyone in the family. She has problems with one of my stepbrothers, not me. I am very popular in Nkanuland and in Enugu State. I am the national chairman of the Forum of Chairmen of Local Government Commission in Nigeria. I am also a cabinet chief in my community. What they are saying about me are frivolities,” he said.