A chemist in Otuocha, Anambra State, identified as Onwuegbuka, has allegedly attempted to wriggle out of prosecution for alleged sexual harassment of an eight-year-old girl.
Onwuegbuka was arrested by the police from the Otuocha division for the offense, but was allegedly released after spending two days in detention and paying N150,000 to the victim’s father, Judan Ekendo.
The money was said to be part of the N200,000 the chemist’s family promised to pay Ekendo to settle the case at the police station.
It was said that the division had also agreed to put the matter to rest.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the victim had taken ill on Sunday, January 21, and was sent to Onwuegbuka to buy drugs prescribed her by a doctor.
Onwuegbuka reportedly flipped her skirt up and inserted a finger in her private parts.
He was said to have warned her not to divulge what transpired to anybody as the girl returned home in pains.
The girl, however, revealed the incident to her grandmother, who informed her father.
An indigene of the community, Euphemia Udanoh, said she sounded the alarm over the incident when she learnt the case was about to be swept under the carpet.
She said, “An eight-year-old girl was molested by a man who runs a medicine store. He calls himself a pharmacist. The girl had gone to his shop to get treatment as directed by her father.
“When she got there, the man molested her. He used his finger to penetrate her private parts and told her not to tell anybody. He did not even give her the medication she came for. She started crying and went home.
“She told her grandmother what happened and her father confronted the man. He (Onwuegbuka) begged him not to make it public and promised to pay for her treatment. The father accepted the settlement, but when the chemist did not come forth to redeem his promise, he reported the case to the police and he was arrested. The girl’s mother passed on two years ago.”
Udanoh, who spoke to our correspondent on the telephone, explained that while the chemist was in detention, his family and some villagers started to intervene in the matter and prevailed on the victim’s father to withdraw the case.
She urged the state police command to thoroughly investigate the case and get justice for the girl, adding that a Superintendent of Police had shown interest.
She said, “They begged the father to accept a settlement of N200,000. The chemist’s family paid N150,000 to commence treatment on the girl with the expectation that when they pay the remaining N50,000, the case will be closed. The police collected N70,000 from him and released him on bail.
“When the case was brought to my attention at this stage, I said such a settlement would not happen. You don’t settle a case like this with money. Whatever money that is paid is for the girl’s treatment. The culprit has to face the wrath of the law.”
A rights group, Behind Bars Initiative, asked the police to re-arrest the chemist and charge him to court.
The coordinator of the group, Harrison Gwamnishu, said a medical test carried out on the girl at the General Hospital, Onitsha, indicated that there was penetration, but not penile.
He stated that the division denied closing the case and promised to charge Onwegbuka to court on Monday.
“I met with the policemen at the station and the victim’s father to know why he accepted the money from them. He told me that he was under duress and accepted the money to enable him to treat her child who couldn’t sit down due to the injury she sustained and that he didn’t agree to settlement,” he added.
The victim’s father’s line indicated switched off when called on Thursday.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Nkeiruka Nwode, could not be reached on the telephone for comments and she had also yet to reply to a text message sent to her phone.
However, the state Commissioner of Police, Garbar Umar, directed our correspondent to speak with the Divisional Police Officer on the case.
The CP promised to send the DPO’s number to our correspondent, but he had yet to do so as of press time. Punch