By Evelyn Usman
Controversy trailed the death of a 55-year-old woman, Mrs Eucharia Okonkwo, who died in a yet-to-be ascertained circumstance in her room at 6th Avenue, Market Side of Festac Town, on April 28, 2021.
Her family members are alleging that she could have died as a result of persistent verbal abuse and physical violence at the hands of her widower, Mr Ignatius Okonkwo.
They also alleged that since late Eucharia’s marriage with Ignatius over two decades ago, it had been inundated with complaints of domestic violence and that she had on some occasions reported violent assaults by her husband to the Police.
It added that late Mrs Okonwho who was a graduate of the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, had been hospitalised several times after being allegedly pummeled by her husband, citing an instance when she was treated for bruises at the City of David Hospital, 712 Road E Close, Festac Town, Lagos, on May 30, 2019.
In a petition to the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC dated May 28 ,2021 and jointly signed by Mr. Romeo Ozoagu and Chief Hillary Ozoagu, brothers to the victim , they explained that the latter was contacted on phone by his in-law, Ignatius, at about 7.30am on April 28 ,2021, informing him that his sister (Eucharia) was dead and that he didn’t know the cause of her death.
The letter said, “When asked what led to her death, Ignatius explained that it was raining heavily at night and that he had gone to his wife’s room to check if the windows were closed and that he called out to his wife but got no response. He said that It was dark, so he went to get a lamp.
He said he pushed her body and found that she was motionless. He said he cried out and then called three other friends and kinsmen including one Mr Kingsley Akpata, one of his wife’s kinsmen in Lagos who arrived at his residence a few minutes before 5 am.
“But on examining the body, Akpata found that Eucharia had bruises and swelling on her face, neck and other parts of her body while the mattress was also soaked in blood.
Akpata took Mr Ignatius Okonkwo to City of David Hospital in Festac Town where they met a doctor who accompanied them to Mr Okonkwo’s residence to examine the body. On examining the body, the doctor confirmed that Mrs Eucharia had died about 36 hours earlier.
“There were also signs of physical assault and an attempt was made previously to clean up the blood.
“Mr Ignatius Okonkwo deposited his wife’s body at the mortuary but when two of his in-laws showed up and asked to be taken to the mortuary, he refused to take them, saying they wouldn’t see the dead body until after two weeks”.
Crime Guard learned that Chief Hillary Ozoagu, one of the brothers of the late Eucharia reported her death at the Festac Police division and at the Area ‘E’ Command, Festac Town, consequent upon which the Area Commander ordered for Okonkwo’s arrest.
Okonkwo was reportedly arrested and detained at the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department ,SCIID Yaba. But he was later released on bail because of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
While at the SCIID, Crime Guard gathered that he maintained that he had no hand in his wife’s death, insisting that he met her motionless when he went to close the window in her room, to avoid splashes of rain inside.
Dissatisfied with the investigation at the SCIID, the family sought transfer of the case to Zone 2, Onikan, where AIG Johnson Kokumo assigned the case to Zone 2 “X” Squad.
RULAAC launches campaign
However, in a move to ensure proper investigation to unearth the remotest cause of the death of the mother of two who hailed from Enugu State, the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, RULAAC has launched a campaign:#Justice 4 Mrs Eucharia Okonkwo: Suspected Victim of domestic violence.
In a petition to the Assistant Inspector General of Police in-charge of Zone 2, its Executive Director, Okechukwu Nwagunma, explained that the petition was “on account of loss of confidence by the petitioners(bereaved family members) in the ability and/or willingness by the investigators at the SCIID to do justice, the AIG assigned the case to Zone 2 ‘X’ squad which has so far also not taken any step that convinces the petitioner that they are interested in carrying out honest and unbiased investigation owing to possible compromise, hence this petition.
“Investigators at ‘X’ Squad, Zone 2 need to show that they have actually studied the case file from the SCIID – which the petitioner’s view contains credible and sufficient evidence to charge the matter to court- because it does not appear like they are investigating the matter for reasons best known to them.
“We trust that you will ensure prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation into this case with a view to charging the suspects to court”.
Posers for Police
RULAAC in the petition stated that the family of the deceased revealed that she was expected to receive the sum of N960, 000 from the business network she subscribed to. It, therefore, urged the police to investigate this area to know if she was attacked because of it.
Other areas that needed clarifications by the family according to RULAAC, were: “Why has Mr Ignatius Okonkwo refused to allow his in-laws to see their deceased sister’s body? Why has he also ordered his children not to go to see their mother’s dead body in the morgue?
“Why is he also refusing to allow an autopsy to be conducted on the body of his late wife to ascertain the actual circumstances and cause of death?
“The actions of Mr Ignatius Okonkwo are suspicious and clearly point to one direction: there’s something he’s hiding. He has more explanations to make to the Police, his in-laws and the public
Meanwhile, the couple’s children aged 18 and 23 who are undergraduates at the Lagos State University, are still shocked.
Crime Guard gathered that they are making an attempt to see how their father and maternal relatives would come to a truce in order for their mother to be buried in peace.
They are also reportedly disturbed by the invitation of their father by the Police. They were quoted as saying they would want their father to be alive for them, since he is the only parent they have.
Information at Crime Guard disposal revealed that there had been a move by Okonkwo’s family to meet with their in-laws, in order to settle the matter with its son amicably.
A Bishop has been contacted to champion the meeting of both parties.
But members of the bereaved family are insisting that Okonkwo should open up on the exact cause of their daughter’s death before they would agree to meet with him and his family members.
When Crime Guard visited the Okonwkos Fetac abode last week Tuesday, there was no one at home. It was gathered that Mr Ignatius Okonkwo had traveled to Enugu state.
When this reporter contacted him on his mobile telephone Thursday, to clarify his in-law’s claims, he hung up immediately after she introduced herself.
On the second call, he picked but did respond. A text to him was also not responded to.
But Police sources at Zone 2, assured that investigation into the matter would be carried out to its logical conclusion.
Sources however, told Crime Guard that the Police could not charge the case to court because autopsy had not been conducted on the corpse which is still at a private hospital in Satellite Town, Lagos.
Upon investigation, it was gathered that the family of late Eucharia had indicated interest to pay N250,000 for the autopsy test on the corpse.
It however stated that Okonkwo should clear the mortuary bills at the private hospital, for onward transfer of Eucharia’s corpse to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, from where the post mortem test would be conducted.