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Nigerian Legal Icon Ozekhome, MSI Offer Free Legal Service For Ifeasinachi's Abduction

Legal luminary, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) has offered free legal services to Ifesinachi Ani, the 14-year-old girl abducted in Abuja and converted to Islam.

Also, a non-governmental organization, Maychild Safety Initiative (MSI), which has been collaborating with Barr. Lilian Okenwa, the Judiciary Editor of The AUTHORITY Newspapers in mobilising le­gal support for Ifesinachi since her abduction six months ago, has equally offered free legal services when the abductors are to be prosecuted.

The group therefore called on the Federal Government to prosecute the girl’s abductors and others like her without further delay.

“Prosecution of the abduc­tors would demonstrate the country’s sincerity, faith in and willingness to carry out its national and international legal and moral obligations on child protection, especially the protection of the vulnerable, endangered underage female citizens”, they said.

Ozekhome spoke to the Board of Editors of The AU­THORITY Newpapers during which he expressed disgust with the delay in prosecuting the abductors who not only accepted abducting Ifesinachi but said they have been taking several girls from the south­ern part of the country to the north and converting them to Islam.

The legal luminary assured the Editors of The Authority Media and Publishing Ltd that “I feel sad about the develop­ment. I will take up the issue pro bono”.

On its part, MSI’s statement came against the backdrop of Ifesinachi’s recent release by her abductors one of whom has been taken into custody by the Police in Abuja.

However, there are fears that religious and other senti­ments are creeping into the in­vestigation leading to what an eyewitness described as “inex­plicable pampering of crimi­nals by the law enforcement agents who are supposed to put them in detention and prosecute them expeditiously.”

Ifesinachi, a 14-year-old girl from Amechi Awkunanaw in Enugu State, was abducted from her Abuja home in Sep­tember last year and taken to Kano by a syndicate that re­portedly specializes in the ab­duction and forced conversion of innocent Christian girls to Islam.

Her mother, Mrs. Rachael Anih who reported the case to the Police and later to MSI and The AUTHORITY News­papers, which brought her plight to limelight, linked her daughter’s travails to one Baba Abdul, an alleged member of the child-abduction syndicate who lives near their home. Abdul’s revelations about the activities of the syndicate, which The AUTHORITY constantly reported, led to the eventual release of Ifesinachi by her abductors and the ar­rest of the mastermind of her travails.

The statement signed by Mrs. Ufomba Amarachi and Armstrong Ukwuoma, Executive Director and Legal/Advocacy Consultant respec­tively, MSI, which offered free legal services for the prosecu­tion, said that with Ifesinachi now found, the next logical issue “which the government of Nigeria, especially, the authorities at the FCT and Enugu State, is expected to address with every sense of responsibility is how to obtain justice for the abducted If­esinachi and at the same time send strong deterrent mes­sage to abductors of underage girls under whatever guise to desist from such bizarre, bar­baric, animalistic, primitive, counter-productive, sense­lessly selfish and despicable practice.”

To achieve this objective, the group recommended the following sequential actions to be taken by the Police, Enugu State Government and the FCT:

A) Take Ifesinachi for a sound medical and psycho­logical examination to ascer­tain the state of her physical, reproductive and mental/psychological health. The outcome of the examination ought to inform and direct the legal and medical actions to be taken in the best interest of the girl.

B) In addition to the com­mendable offer by the Enugu State Government to take up the rehabilitation and educa­tion of Ifesinachi as is already announced and reported in the media, the Commissioner for Women and Gender Af­fairs and the Director of Pub­lic Prosecution of Enugu State must liaise with the Police, the Attorney-General of the Fed­eration and the Director of Public Prosecution to ensure that all persons involved in the abduction of Ifesinachi are prosecuted as required by the spirit and letters of the Child’s Right Act, 2003 and the Ad­ministration of Criminal Jus­tice Act, 2015.

C) Ifesinachi and her poor mother must be protected and kept in safe place while the girl undergoes rehabilitation.

D) The relevant authori­ties must concentrate on the crime of Ifesinachi’s abduc­tion and stop wasting time on matrimonial issues in the family of the girl, which are apparently ancillary to and di­versionary from the crime of abduction.

MSI noted that having en­acted the Child’s Rights Act 2003, the government of Ni­geria must muster the will to enforce the Act for the welfare and protection of the Nige­rian child and this must be demonstrated in the speedy prosecution of Ifesinachi’s ab­ductors.

In the statement, copies of which were sent to the Gov­ernor of Enugu, the IGP, the Attorney-General of the Fed­eration, Minister of Justice, the Minister of Women Af­fairs and FCT Police Com­mand, the MSI urged the Federal Government “to rise up against this shameful and callous practice of abduction of young girls under what­ever guise,” adding that “this Ifesinachi case has presented another opportunity to use the abductors to make the prac­tice costly and unattractive to those involved in the menace of child abduction.

“We call on the Inspector-General of Police, and the Police authorities in the FCT and Enugu State, the Attor­neys-General and Directors of Public Prosecution of the Federation and Enugu State, the Minister of Women Af­fairs, the Commission for Women and Gender Affairs, the media, all individuals and organizations involved in hu­man rights activism and all concerned members of the Nigerian public to rise up to this challenge and ensure that Ifesinachi is given the most ap­propriate medical and psycho­logical attention, rehabilitated and empowered with educa­tion even as all those involved in her abduction are properly investigated,” the group sur­mised.
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