*Begs Buhari, Macron to intervene
By Chris Ochayi
Members of the Anthony family from Edo State are sad that their son is languishing in jail in France for an offence they believe he did not commit. Worse still, he was allegedly thrown into jail by his in-laws who alleged that he killed their daughter he divorced a year earlier.
Mother of the victim and a widow, Mrs. Joy Anthony, alleged that her son, Rufus, was thrown in jail on trumped-up charges and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to interface with his French counterpart, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, to release him from prison.
Mrs. Anthony, who spoke on the circumstances which led to the imprisonment of Rufus, said he was wrongly convicted to serve 18 years. She called on both countries to carry out a judicial review of the case with a view to setting her son free.
“My son, Rufus, in his 40s, is currently serving a term in prison at Saint-Etienne, France, over the death of his estranged wife, Rhoda, who reportedly died sometime in February 2015 in France”, the widow started.
“Rhoda separated from her husband, abandoning her son, Michel, with her husband. This happened on February 14, 2014, when Rhoda left my son’s house only for the police to storm his residence on December 15, 2015, where he was living with his ex-wife. He had begged to reunite with her.”
Mrs. Anthony lamented: “The police arrested my son, charged him and the court in France convicted him to serve 18 years for being the one that saw Rhoda last; and now Rufus is languishing in prison custody.
“He has spent about four years and seven months in jail. Even though no proof linked him to the wife’s murder, my son was sent to prison because they insisted he was the last person that saw her.
“My son alerted me immediately Rhoda packed out of his house and police came one year and a half later to arrest him. That is why I am calling on Presidents Buhari and Macron to come to my rescue.
“Let the two leaders institute comprehensive investigation by deploying all security apparatus, including Interpol, in respect of this case in order to unveil the circumstance surrounding Rhoda’s death.
”If Rhoda had separated from my son for 18 months, whoever she was then communicating with during the period should be unravelled by the intelligence communities of Nigeria and France in the course of their investigation”.
Madam Anthony, who alleged a plot by the family of her son’s late wife to nail him at all costs, submitted that the truth will be known if the call logs of all parties, including Rhoda’s family members and Rufus, during the couple’s period of separation are scrutinised.
According to her, Rufus repeatedly told her that Rhoda was emphatic in her decision that she was no longer interested in the marriage.
“This continued for sometimes and on February 14, 2014, she finally left my son’s house without her son, Michel, because my son insisted she won’t go with him”, Mrs. Anthony said.
She recalled that when that happened, she made efforts to reach out to Rhoda’s mother, Mrs. Francisca Chucks, to inform her about the development to no avail.
She, however, described Rhoda as a nice lady, loving, but was “unfortunately hindered by external influence”.
Mrs. Anthony added: “My son too called to inform me that he called her mother-in-law to inform her about what was happening, but she and her daughter, Rita, refused to pick his calls.
“Both of them avoided Rufus’ phone calls to them like the plague, even as he couldn’t reach his wife Rhoda either on phone again. I was informed that it was my mother-in-law that petitioned France authorities that my son, Rufus, killed her daughter.
“Their petition got to France authorities in August 2016 after my son was arrested on December 15, 2015. They kept the news of Rufus’ arrest from me until January 2016. When I heard the bad news of his arrest, I became worried and I still made some efforts to reach my mother-in-law but she shunned me.
“And she went to the police to lodge a report against my son about April or May of 2016. My in-law was supposed to reach out to me to ask of her daughter but the reverse was the case.”
How crisis started
According to her, the crisis in her son’s life started around October or November of 2012, when her son left Nigeria for France with Rhoda. She recalled that Rhoda was not her son’s first wife.
“Rufus Anthony, my son’s first wife, Omorwori Victory, is in France. He separated from her to marry Rhoda.
“But I revealed this to Rhoda when my son introduced her to me that this is the lady he wanted to marry. I told Rhoda that my son is a divorcee.
“And that he had separated from his wife who was living with her children in France.
“Rhoda in her response told me that Rufus had also told her about it and dismissed it as a non-issue.
“But when Rhoda left, my son went back to his ex-wife to plead with her to accept him back including Rhoda’s son.
“The police later arrested him in his house. As I speak with you, Michel, Rhoda’s son, is still living with that woman. If not for her, Michel would have been taken to an orphanage now that his father is in prison.”
Appealing to the Director-General of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri, to intervene, Mrs. Anthony said: “My son is not a criminal; he does his legitimate jobs to earn a living. Rufus’ life symbolises love; a very kind and easy-going person.
“He doesn’t hurt even a fly. Whenever he comes to Nigeria, he mixes up with everybody freely. He is loved by people. He lives a life of philanthropy”.
After talking with Rufus Anthony’s mother, Sunday Vanguard called Rhoda’s mother, Mrs. Francisca Chucks, to hear her own side of the story. She said she was devastated by the death of her daughter.
“I think you are a father, you have children? Tell me how you would feel if any of your children is running a temperature”, the bereaved mother said.
“I wonder how you got my number when the issue of my daughter’s death was yet to be made public”.
She then declined further inquiries from our reporter.