CHIJIOKE AGWU, Abakaliki
The 16-year-old marriage between one Mr.Uchechukwu Ani from Nmaku in Enugu state and and his wife, Mrs. Ngozi Uchechkwu Ani, from Ifitedum in Anambra State which started in 2002 with mutual affection and promises of long-lasting love and unity has snowballed into mutual distrust, accusations and counter-accusations of adultery and persistent battery.
Perhaps, it is safe to say that the once beautiful union is now on the verge of dissolution as the love between the couple has gone irredeemably sour. The couple who currently resides at No. 1 Ike Street, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, had been living happily together with their four children including a set of twins until suspicion of mutual cheating crept into the marriage and shattered the cord of love and mutual respect that once bound them together.
Tethered to a pillar
Ngozi is a teacher while her husband is a self-confessed marijuana dealer. Saturday Sun gathered that the couple has been living like cat and mouse for years now. The crack in the marriage, however, became a public matter when on Tuesday, 28th July 2020, Uchechukwu dragged his wife to a pillar in their compound, chained her with padlock and ran away with the key.
The woman was said to be in chains for more than 10 hours before her angry neigbours drew the attention of the Special Assistant to Governor David Umahi on Internal Security (Capital City), Mr.Nchekwube Aniakor, to her plight. It took the intervention of Mr.Aniokor and his men to rescue the woman. The SA had contacted a welder who came to the compound and broke the padlock and set the woman free.
Speaking to journalists on the incident, Mr.Aniakor condemned the behaviour of the man, noting that he took the law into his hands and vowed to see to his arrest and prosecution. He said: “I got a call that a man living at No.1 Ike Street, Mr Uche Chukwuani, chained his wife to a pillar in their building and ran away with the key.
“I had to send a welder who cut the chain. One question kept on coming to my mind: what did this woman do to warrant being chained like a dog by her own husband? Does whatever transpired warrant such dehumanization? People should always be careful with what they do because ignorance is not an excuse in law.’’
How and why I was chained for hours – Woman
Narrating her ordeal, Ngozi said her husband has turned her into a punching bag for the greater part of their 16-year marriage. Speaking amid tears, she said: “My husband is not a good person; he smokes a lot and womanizes too. I didn’t detect all these habits before our marriage because we didn’t have the opportunity of dating before we got married.”
Giving insight into the cause of the latest incident, she disclosed that her husband returned on a Sunday night after a five-day absence from home and accused her of masterminding the arrest of his girlfriend who also deals in the marijuana business.
“He said they were destroying his business, by constantly inviting NDLEA people who had been arresting him for drug offences and insisted that I was an NDLEA informant. He said that I was also dating the NDLEA officials. And that I was collecting some percentage from the money they make after arresting him. I was trying to sleep but he said I will never sleep until I go to the NDLEA office and bail his girlfriend from their custody. He started beating me. He was smoking Indian hemp as he beat me. He coughed severally and spat on my face. He later chained me to a pillar in our flat.”
Husband confirms allegation, states why he did so
But speaking on his mobile phone from his hideout, Uchechukwu accused his wife of disrespecting him because he does not have money to cater for the family. He also accused her of conniving with the Nigeria Drug Laws Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officials to extort him. “She brought them to our house and they collected N850,000 from me. My wife reported me severally to NDLEA. And she always called me an armed robber and drug dealer. Yes, I am a drug dealer but not an armed robber.
“She told me that the NDLEA officials said the money must be shared into two before they release me. But I insisted that the NDLEA officials didn’t see any drug except my money. She said I had better cooperate with the agency as the operatives already knew I sold drug. I then agreed to follow them. Shockingly, my wife brought back only N200, 000 out of the N850, 000.
“There was a time I asked her to take care of the children so I can go and deliver goods to some of my customers without knowing that she had already set me up with NDLEA operatives and I was arrested when I got there. They destroyed my goods and went ahead to arrest my girlfriend who is innocent. So I was not happy about her arrest. This is why I decided to put her in the same condition she put my girlfriend so that she will feel the pain that my girlfriend was feeling.’’
Genesis of the problem
Speaking further, Ngozi traced the origin of the problem in their marriage to the wedding gift her father gave them after their wedding. She said her father had called them and given them a flat of apartment from his property as their wedding gift. She said she did not know that her husband had expected something bigger than a flat as wedding gift.
“After our wedding in 2004, he said he was not happy with our marriage. He said that the wedding gift from my father was not enough for a first daughter. He said he needed something tangible like landed property. I pleaded with him to relax and that his character would attract more things to us from my father. But my husband did not listen to me. Instead, he remained embittered, going out of the house and returning any time he liked without letting me know his whereabouts. I didn’t know what to do but my father was a source of encouragement to me.
“I went through hell during my three pregnancies including the third one from which I was delivered of twins. Domestic violence has been going on in my marriage; my husband beats me at will, inflicts injuries on me.”
NGO vows to pursue justice for woman
In her reaction to the incident, the Chairperson of Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA) Ebonyi State, Mrs. Grace Chima, condemned the actions of Uchechukwu Ani, saying that dehumanization of women in Nigeria must stop. She stated that the suspect will be prosecuted for all the beatings and other dehumanizing acts he meted out on his wife.
“We feel sad about this, and we maintain that it is uncalled for. And that is why we speak against domestic violence anywhere we go,” she said. “Apart from battering the woman mercilessly, the suspect went to the extent of chaining her in the presence of her children who were crying and begging him to release their mother. He cannot take the laws into his hand and go scot-free. He must face the music. The moment he is apprehended, we will do our job which is to render free legal services to the woman to ensure she gets justice.’’