WACOL Lauds Judgement Sentencing Couple To 13 Years In Prison For Assault, Torture Of Minor

By Tony Adibe

The Women Aid Collective (WACOL), an Enugu-based pro-women Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has lauded the verdict of Enugu State High Court 10, sentencing a couple, Mr. Jude and Mrs. Ifeoma Ozuogu to 13 years in jail each for the gross abuse and neglect of their 10-year-old house help.

While delivering judgement in the suit marked NO: HE/121C/2020, between the State (Plaintiff/Applicant) and Jude Ozuogu and Ifeoma Ozuogu (1 and 2 Defendants), the court, presided over by the learned trial judge, Hon. Justice A.C Ogbuabor, convicted the couple on all three counts of inflicting grievous harm, administering noxious and poisonous substance, and employment of a child as a domestic worker, which culminated to a 13-year imprisonment sentence for each of them.

Founder and Executive Director of WACOL, Prof Joy Ezeilo, (SAN) in a statement issued on Friday and made available to NewsBits in Enugu recalled vividly how the couple some time in 2020 reportedly violated the fundamental rights of the minor who they engaged, contrary to law,  as a domestic worker, by burning her skin with hot pressing iron, drilling nail into her head, inserting pepper into her vargina and locking her up in a toilet.

The culprits

She explained that as an organization committed to ending violence against women and children, WACOL “is appalled that the monster of abuse still rears its ugly head in our society. This calls for serious concern, call for action and solidarity support to checkmate this menace.”

The WACOL Executive Director said: “You would recall vividly that in July,2020, a formal complaint was lodged at the WACOL head office in Enugu, regarding the maltreatment and torture of 10-year-old Miss N, by one Mr. Jude and Mrs. Ifeoma Ozuogu, who alleged that the young lad caused the fall of their baby at their Enugu residence. The couple, in their wickedness of heart descended heavily on the young girl, burning her skin with a hot-pressing iron, drilling a nail into her head, and inserting pepper into her vagina, after which they locked her up in a toilet.”

She further stated: “These barbaric acts of this couple is highly condemnable. It is callous and wicked and should not even be heard of in any sane human society. This case is one out of many that brings to the fore light the plight of child domestic workers.

“Children who have been robbed of their childhood by irresponsible, callous and wicked people who coerce them with threats of violence into taking up responsibilities that even adults cannot shoulder.”

Citing the Nigerian Constitution, Prof Ezeilo, who is a Professor of Public Law at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, said: “It is pertinent to note that Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended) guarantees the rights to the dignity of the human person. Also, the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, guards against the employment of children in jobs that would hamper their normal development, while the Criminal Code, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, makes extensive provisions for the protection of children against abuse and neglect.

Under Section 295 of the Criminal Code, “… No correction can be justified which is unreasonable in kind or in degree, regard being had to the age and physical or mental condition of the person on whom it is inflicted, and no correction can be justified in the case of a person who by reason of tender years or otherwise is incapable of understanding the purpose for which it is inflicted.”

She explained that in light of the above provisions of the Law, “WACOL lauds the decision of the learned guru, Hon. Justice A.C Ogbuabor in this case of strong human rights concern. “This decision is in tandem with justice and would serve as a deterrent and warning to those who would have fancied such beastly act.”

The lawyer and other key stakeholders celebrating the judgement

Prof Ezeilo, who is also the founder TamarSARC/GirlsWill, NGOs that defend the rights of girls in Nigeria, further said: ” The Children and Young Persons Act, (CYPA), Cap 32, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the Children and Young Persons Law (CYPL) of Enugu State also guarantees the right to life and dignity of every child. The Convention on the Rights of a Child (C.R.C), and the African Union Charter on the rights and welfare of the Child (C.R.A), enjoins state parties to safeguard children against all forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including influences that are harmful to their development. States must make sure that children are protected from all physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect, and maltreatment, including sexual abuse while in the custody of parents, legal guardians, or any other person.

“A child has the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel treatment and should be protected from economic exploitation and hazardous work. Premised on all these, we make bold to say that the Judgement of the Enugu State High Court 10, presided over by Hon. Justice Ogbuabor, which convicted the culprits, Mr. and Mrs. Izuogu is timely. Coming at a time when the society can be said to be losing its focus on child right protection.”

According to her, Child abuse and neglect are serious public health problems that can have long-term impact on health, opportunity, and well-being of the victim. “It is a community problem, and no single agency has the sole responsibility for dealing with abused children. It is a duty we all must shoulder if we are to achieve a sane society, free from abuse and violence,” said Prof Ezeilo.

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