Outcry as Anambra Court secretly plans release of Catholic Priest who allegedly raped, impregnated minor, from prison custody

There is an outcry in Anambra State following the secret bail granted to Rev. Fr. Stephen Nwaigwe, by the presiding Judge of Anambra State High Court No. 2 Ogidi, one Hon. Justice Chudi Nwankwor.

Fr. Nwaigwe, who was among the priests expelled by a popular Catholic Faith-Based Religious Congregation in Orlu, Imo State, known as the Two Hearts of Love Congregation” (Ugwu Nso) in 2018, for alleged misconducts inimical to the image of the order, was remanded in the Nigerian Correctional Centre, Awka by an Awka Chief Magistrates’ Court, otherwise known as the Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court of Anambra State, for allegedly raping and impregnating a teenager.

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

The offence of sexual intercourse with a minor, is punishable under section 34(2) of the Child’s Rights Law of Anambra State, 2004.

Community Reporters reported that the priest had met the teenager at the St. Albert The Great Catholic Church Parish, Obosi, Anambra State, where he was invited for a religious church programme.

He took the then 14-year-old 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.

According to her, not long after she moved into the priest’s house, he started forcing himself sexually on her, and continued with that until she became pregnant at the age of 17.

When the minor informed the priest about her pregnancy, the priest took her from Ihiala Anambra State, where they lived, to somewhere in Benin City, Edo State to the house of a man and woman who the priest introduced to her as his brother and brother’s wife.

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

It could be recalled that the Chief Magistrate Genevieve Osakwe had earlier remanded the said Rev. Fr. Nwaigwe to prison custody till January, pending the Report of Filing of Information by the DPP.

However, unconfirmed reports from the police sources had fingered certain powerful persons in Anambra State to have played double standards in the case, by making surreptitious attempt to scuttle every effort by the police prosecutor, towards reporting compliance in the case.

There is palpable apprehension that the said Rev. Fr. Nwaigwe may have perfected plans to evade trial and leave Nigeria, if granted bail in any Court in the state.

Some concerned citizens of the state who spoke on the news of the bail order at the State High Court, whereas the DPP is yet to formally file information, are of the views that all eyes ought to be on the Ministry of Justice Anambra State to file information on the case and ensure that justice is adequately served, without minding whose ox is gored.

They called on the Anambra State Government and particularly the state Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, to ensure that justice is served in the case, just as was done, regarding the similar case involving a medical Doctor in Lagos State.

Also, information available to Community Reporters has it that since the arrest of the priest, the state’s Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, Mrs Ify Obinabo, had been under heavy pressure not to sponsor the prosecution of the matter.

“She yielded to the pressure by first shielding the matter from the media unlike her usual way of doing things. Even after the matter had gone to court and gained massive media attention, she was still being pressured. I just hope this whole thing doesn’t rubbish all her good works overtime “, a civil society member, who preferred anonymity said.

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