Home Court Court remands Anambra cleric over teenager’s pregnancy

Court remands Anambra cleric over teenager’s pregnancy

7 min read

A magistrate court sitting in Awka, the Anambra State capital, known as the Children, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Court and presided over by the Chief Magistrate, Genevieve Osakwe, has remanded a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Nwaigwe Stephen for allegedly raping and impregnating a teenager(name withheld).

The priest was also accused of forcefully taking the victim to Benin City, Edo State, where she delivered the baby, but police investigation revealed that the whereabouts of the said baby are still unknown.

It was gathered that the priest met the teenager at a Catholic Church Parish in Obosi, Idemili North LGA of Anambra State, where she was invited for a religious church programme.

According to the charge sheet, the victim, while answering questions in court during the remand proceedings on November 20, 2023, said the priest took her from her parents to live with him when she was 14 years old, promising to sponsor her education, while she equally served as the priest’s cook.

She added that not long after she moved into the priest’s house in Ihiala, Anambra State, he started having carnal knowledge of her and continued until she became pregnant at the age of 17.

She further stated that when she informed the priest about her pregnancy, the priest took her somewhere in Benin City to the house of a man and woman whom the priest introduced to her as his brother and brother’s wife.

She said, “But when I gave birth to my baby at a native birth attendant’s house in Benin City, I was told that the baby had died and when I made efforts for them to show me the dead baby, they said it has been buried.

“While on our way back, the reverend father told me to say that I was gang-raped. But I have never been raped before, except the ones he (father) did to me in his house”.

The Police prosecutor, during the remand proceedings, informed the court that there was probable cause to order the remand of the priest; witnesses were bound over to appear before the court to give evidence whenever the case would be mentioned.

Therefore, the defence counsel applied for the bail of the defendant, urging the court to exercise his discretion of bail in favour of the defendant while citing Sections 13(3), 71(3), 72 and 73 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Anambra State, 2022, as well as, Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as Amended.

He also prayed the court to grant bail to the cleric in most liberal terms, assuring the court that he would not jump bail if granted.

But, in opposition to the bail application by the defence counsel, the police prosecutor prayed the court to refuse bail to the clergyman, stating that the case before the court was an offence against a minor who was supposedly under the spiritual guardianship of the defendant.

The prosecuting police officer stressed that the defendant had since been suspended by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, noting that the claim that the defendant had a serious health challenge to warrant being granted bail, was never certified by qualified medical personnel, as required by the ACJL, 2022.

Ruling on the bail application, the presiding Chief Magistrate stated that the case before the court was an offence punishable with life imprisonment, regretting that the offence of rape against minors was becoming rampant in society.

The magistrate, however, warned that the court would not fold its hands to watch the society decay, irrespective of whose ox is gored.

The court gave numerous instances of similar offences which had appeared before it in the past, mentioning specifically, a case involving a 75-year-old man who also allegedly raped a minor and was accordingly remanded.

Nwaigwe was accordingly remanded at the Correctional Centre, even as the court urged him to seek his bail at the High Court.

The Magistrate adjourned the case to December 6, 2023, for a report of compliance and also ordered the prosecuting police officer to transmit the original case file to the office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Anambra State.

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