By Olisemeka Obeche & Chukwudum Ebele
Hundreds of school pupils on Wednesday staged a public demonstration in Awka, the Anambra state capital, demanding thorough investigation and trial of suspects behind the recent wave of abduction, torture and killing of children in the state. The pupils, wearing different school uniforms and armed with placards of various inscriptions and chanting “we want justice, we want justice.”
Some of the placards had inscriptions: “Say no to child abuse; say no to child molestation”; ‘Protect the Nigerian child, stop killing us, we are not safe”; “Blood of children killed by the suspect are crying for justice” etc.
The protest follows recent arrest of an 80-year-old woman, Mrs Chidi Felicia Nwafor and her daughter, Chinyere Rejoice Raymond at No 13 Akunwanta Mbamalu Street, Federal Housing Estates 3-3 Nkwelle Ezunaka, Anambra state for alleged abduction, torture and killing of children. The police operatives from the 3-3 police station also rescued three children, two underaged boys and a girl who were subjected to dehumanising treatment.
According to police report, some fetish substances, blood-stained canes, concoctions and other incriminating items were all recovered inside the rooms where the children were rescued.
Orient Weekend gathered that the protest jointly led by Owners of Private Schools Association of Nigeria (OPSAN) and Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onitsha branch, saw the pupils who travelled from Onitsha, stormed the Anambra state Police Headquarters at Amawbia where they called for probe and prosecution of the masterminds of the crime.
The national president of OPSAN, Uzochukwu Solomon Nwanonyuo, said the children decided to embark on the demonstration to ensure that the police carryout discreet investigations into the activities of Chinyere Rejoice Raymond, adding that the protest was part of the measures to ensure that the matter was not swept under the carpet.
Nwanonyuo recalled that the suspect who is currently under the police custody at the State CID, Awka, was arrested with four kids seriously battered, of which some of them had been rushed to various hospitals.
Secretary of Onitsha NBA Human Rights Committee, Barrister Tony Iheanacho, flanked by the chairman of the committee and vice chairman, NBA, Onitsha branch, Barrister Margaret Wilcox-Iwuchukwu, told the deputy commissioner of police, DCP in-charge of finance and administration, Simon Akpanudom, who represented the commissioner of police, Monday Kuryas that all they wanted was police to expedite action and prosecute the accused so as to deter others.
Some of the school children who spoke to the press demanded the public prosecution of the suspect saying that they felt the pain of those maltreated children, adding that it could have been any one of them.
Responding, Akpanudom complained against exposing the little children to the dangers inherent in road protests and urged parents to look after their children to avoid being victims of kidnappers or child traffickers.
However, the DCP assured them that a discreet investigation would be carried out by the police, after which the suspect would be prosecuted.
Orient Weekend recalled that the Anambra state police command’s public relations officer, CSP Haruna Mohammed, had shortly after the arrest disclosed that the commissioner of police in the state, CP Monday Bala Kuryas, has ordered for a discreet investigation into the circumstances surrounding the case after which suspects would be brought to justice.
The Anambra state commissioner of women and children affairs, Lady Mrs Ndidi Mezue, also last week promised to leave no stone unturned towards providing adequate care and justice for the three children. Mezue gave the assurance after visiting the rescued children, two underaged boys and a girl, at a hospital where they were receiving medical attention.
The commissioner who expressed shock at the level of inhuman treatment the children were subjected to, as they had scars, with fresh bruises and infliction meted on them, pledged accelerated hearing to the case with a view of prosecuting culprits, assuring government commitment to fighting child abuses in the state through the ministry.