*Police detain victim, husband for 3 days without investigation
*Nobody caught her stealing cassava tubers in my farm – Peter Isip, accuser’s husband
*I ‘m not a thief, I demand justice – Mrs. Francis-Ubom, victim
By Chioma Onuegbu
IKOT OSUTE – HEARTLESS villagers at Ikot Osute, Oruk Anam Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, have battered, stripped and paraded a 28-year-old mother of four, Mrs. Nsini Francis- Ubom, over an unsubstantiated allegation by another housewife, Mrs. Mafiong Etuk Isip, that she stole cassava tubers from her farm.
They handed the victim, Mrs. Ubom, over to the West End Police, Ikot Osute, only after some worried residents raised the alarm that what they were doing was unlawful and inhuman.
Surprisingly, police officers held the victim and her palm-wine tapper husband, Mr. Francis Ubom, who came to secure her release in custody for three days before they regained freedom.
While illegally parading Mrs. Ubom, who denied the charge naked on the streets, they inserted a cassava tuber in her private and several persons photographed her nude with their cell phones.
How drama unfolded
Narrating her ordeal to NDV, Mrs. Ubom, said, “The incident happened October 6. I was at home throughout that morning selling the palm wine that my husband tapped. A police officer was one of the people that came to buy palm wine that day. I was indoors throughout.
“But later in the afternoon, I decided to go to my mother’s place and I boarded a motorcycle to drop me. Churchill Ifiaku, son of my accuser and few other youths stopped me and asked me to enter their motor cycles.
“I insisted that I will not go with them immediately but they forced and dragged me to the house of the acting village head, Nse Peter Eteidung, who later directed them to take me to the village square.
At the village square
“At the village square, they brought out a pair of bathroom slippers they claimed the cassava thief left behind in the farm and asked some children within the neighbourhood if they could identify who the slippers belong to, but those children answered them that they have not seen such slippers before.
“They started shouting at me and asking why I went to uproot the cassava tubers from a farm that does not belong to me and I told them that I did not do it. I tried to explain to them that I had never left my home that day until when they met going out with a commercial motorcycle, but they did not listen to my explanation. Instead, they started flogging me with cassava stems and sticks, shouting that I was a thief,” Mrs. Ubom narrated, demanding for justice.
Her words, “Then they sent for the woman who accused me of stealing cassava tubers from her farm. When she came, she still claimed that I was the person she saw in the early hours of the morning using a torch to uproot cassava from her farm. I told her that I was not the person she saw, but they asked me to shut up that I was the one that stole the cassava.
“I even told them that I was ready to swear an oath in order to prove my innocence but the village head said he does not have the time for me to do so. He then directed them to go ahead and do to me what they normally do when they catch a thief.”
Mob slot in tuber in woman’s private
Mrs. Ubom disclosed, “They stripped me and asked me to carry the said stolen cassava, which they stacked in a sack bag on my head around the whole village. They even inserted a cassava tuber into my private part. They started making a mockery of me. Some even took my nude pictures with their cell phones. “
My hands are clean
She asserted: “I am innocent and I do not steal. I was wrongly accused and humiliated that is why I am crying for justice to be done in my case. In fact, it was later I learned that the B-boy, who stopped me on a motorcycle is the son of the woman that accused me of stealing her cassava.”
The victim, who said she did not have any issue with her accuser before the incident, however, said, “A community leader has been asking me out, but I continue to refuse him. Apart from him, I do not have an issue with anybody.”
In custody for 3 days
A resident of the village, who also spoke to NDV in confidence, said, “Another thing that happened that day is that when they later took the victim to the police station, somebody decided to inform the husband, Francis, unfortunately, he was detained alongside the wife.
“But they were both granted bail three days after.”
Accuser’s husband apologizes
Our source said that Mr. Peter Isip, husband of the woman, who accused Mrs. Francis-Ubom of stealing cassava from her farm, had apologized to the victim and her family in a letter dated October 21.
“I Peter Etuk Ekanem Isip of Ikot Ukpong Obioesse, the husband to Mrs. Mafiong Etuk Isip, who made the allegation on the theft of cassava on 6 October, 2017, do solemnly declare that though the cassava tubers were harvested in my farm, my wife who went to the farm that morning, did not catch anybody. Neither did we take the matter to the village council nor police,” he said in the letter obtained by NDV.
According to him, “I was only shocked to hear on my return from work as a teacher that the matter had already been taken to the Ikot Osute village council and reported at West End Police Station, Ikot Osute by Churchill Ufot Ifiaku of the same Ikot Osute. Churchill happens to be the son of my wife.”
He wrote, “That Nsini Ubom was never found to have stolen the said cassava. For peace to reign, I hereby apologize to the victim. I also seek peaceful settlement of the matter. I make this apology on behalf of myself and my wife.”
A source disclosed, “Mr. Isip, who is a Secondary School teacher, gave her (victim) some money to replace some things she lost when she was dragged around the village and stripped, such as cell phone.”
Village head unavailable for comment
The village head, Eteidung Nse Peter, was not at home when NDV visited his residence, last Tuesday, for comment. Her daughter met at home said he went for a meeting.
Citizens demand punishment for violators
Meanwhile, Akwa Ibom citizens have frowned at the act, expressing concern that jungle justice still thrives in some parts of the state, particularly the Annang axis.
They demanded that violators of fundamental human rights of citizens should face the wrath of the law.
COMPPART to petition UN, Rights Commission
However, the Executive Director, Community Policing Partners for Justice, Security and Democratic Reforms, Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Saviour Akpan, said his organization was petitioning the Human Rights Commission and the United Nations to look into the matter, adding, “It is a very serious criminal offense. It is a violation of the fundamental right of the citizen; traditional leaders do not have any rights to handle criminal cases.”
SCID takes over investigation – PPRO
Contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Akwa Ibom Command, DSP Bala Elkana, said the authorities had directed the DPO, Oruk Anam, to transfer the case to the Command headquarters.
“The State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, is taking over the investigation. We will not tolerate people taking laws into their hands. The society has moved beyond that primitive level.
“Culturally, over time, traditional rulers try to use crude methods of settling disputes, we have moved beyond that level in life as a people. However, issues of police officers detaining them for three days will be investigated,” the PPRO asserted.