Mrs. Uju Ohanenye, the Minister of Women Affairs, has taken legal action against a couple in Enugu, Mr. Ifeanyi Enwelum and Mrs. Christabel Enwelum, for the alleged defilement of their nine-year-old daughter.
The lawsuit, with reference number E/987/2023, was filed at the Enugu State High Court to protect the fundamental rights of the minor.
According to Mr. Chuma Oguejiofor, the minister’s counsel, the suit seeks six prayers from the court. Firstly, a declaration that the minor is entitled to respect for the dignity of her person and should not be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment by the respondents. Secondly, a declaration that Mr. Enwelum’s alleged sexual intercourse with the minor between January 2022 and June 2023 constituted a violation of her right to dignity.
Thirdly, a declaration that the respondents’ attempt to compromise and dismiss an earlier charge, numbered MEN/319C/2023, was against the law. Fourthly, the suit claims that taking the minor to reside with the respondents at their residence in Enugu, as if nothing had happened, constituted mental, emotional, or psychological torture for the minor.
Additionally, the suit seeks an order from the court granting custody of the minor to the Minister of Women Affairs and the Ministry, with responsibility for her care. The fifth prayer is a court order restraining the respondents from having any involvement with the minor until she reaches the age of 21. Lastly, the suit requests that the respondents jointly and severally pay N10 million in damages.
Allegedly, Mr. Enwelum, the step-father of the minor, engaged in multiple instances of unlawful sexual intercourse with her between January 1, 2022, and June 10, 2023, at their residence in Enugu. The minor’s biological mother, Mrs. Christabel Enwelum, is accused of negligence as she allegedly failed to protect her daughter from repeated acts of penetration.
Medical practitioner Dr. Samuel Ndukwu at the Nigerian Police clinic in Enugu confirmed the acts of penetration. The granting of bail to Mr. Enwelum by an Enugu Magistrate’s Court sparked public outcry, leading the minister to question the reasoning behind the decision. The minister expressed concerns about the bail, considering the nature of the crime and the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in the country, particularly in Enugu State.
During an October news conference, the minister stated that the Ministry would pursue legal action against the couple to ensure that the minor receives justice and to serve as a deterrent to others who may contemplate similar actions. The minister emphasized the need to consider the well-being of the voiceless girl and the emotional pain and torture she endured, questioning the decision to release the accused on bail due to the mother’s request to avoid her husband’s imprisonment. The minister further highlighted that the lawsuit also includes a negligence claim against the mother, asserting that the girl would not have suffered for an extended period if the mother had not been negligent.