Contrary to speculations which made the rounds in both the mainstream and social media in the last one week, a thorough investigation has revealed that there has been no serious attempt to compel a 34- year old widow from Ubahuekwem, Ihiala in Anambra State, to drink water used to wash the body of her late husband in order to prove her innocence in the death of her 46-year old husband, a businessman.
The widow, Mrs Chioma Asomugha, a mother of four, is originally from Isingwu in Oraifite, Ekwusigo Local Government Area, also in Anambra State, and was living happily with her husband in Lagos where they were dealing in phone accessories in the Ajamgbadi area.
The widow was compelled to hire the services of a human rights lawyer in Lagos, Mrs Ebele Obiora, out of fear, disclosed a source who asked that her identity be protected because she didn’t have a mandate to speak in public on the issue.
Ndubuisi Asomugha, the younger brother of her husband, had made a voice note in which he threatened to make her drink the water used to wash the husband’s body.
“Even though Ndubuisi did not mean the threat, it is quite unfortunate that he made it in the first place because there is no history of widows being subjected to such an ordeal throughout the 10 towns in Ihiala Local Government Area”, declared Pius Nwabuikwu, President General of the Ezikechima People’s Assembly.
Nwabuikwu was speaking on Friday, June 17, when the Anambra State Commissioner for Social Development, Women’s and Children’s Affairs, Lady Ndidi Mezue, and her counterpart in the Ministry of Information & Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, visited the Asomughas in Ihiala to broker a peace deal between Mrs Asomugha and the in-laws and to present both cash and foodstuffs from Governor Willie Obiano and his wife to the family.
Continued the community leader: “We have heard and read about such ancient, cruel and outdated practices taking place in faraway places ages ago but not now.
“It is not possible for such an act of barbarism to take place in Ihiala or environs in the 21st century because we are not only staunch Christians but also well-educated and very modern.
“Even if such a primitive practice were still in practice and the Asomugha family decided on it, Ndubuisi cannot lead it because he is not the head of the family.
“The oldest member of the family and, by the very fact, the leader is Innocent”.
Other members of the Ezikechima kindred who spoke to our correspondents on condition of anonymity because they are not officials of the kindred association and leaders of the place who addressed the two commissioners on Friday vehemently denounced the voice note by Ndubuisi, saying “he is a lone ranger in this act which obviously was done in a fit of anger”.
Our investigation revealed that Ndubuisi, a controversial commercial motorcycle rider in the village before he recently relocated to Liberia in an unclear circumstance, and his late elder brother had been having a running battle for long over some domestic issues, and Chizoba’s widow became a victim of transferred aggression.
Despite the fact that forcing widows to drink the water used to bath their husbands is unknown in the area, both Mrs Asomugha and her lawyer took nothing for granted.
Her lawyer and the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), an arm of the Catholic Church which fights for human rights, contacted the traditional ruler of Ihiala, Igwe (Engineer) Thomas Obidiegwu, and the President General of the Ihiala Progress Union, Chief Okey S. Chukwu, to intervene in the matter.
According to a reliable source, “It was the JDPC that sold the case to the media, resulting in the report last Sunday by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) which drew the attention of many across the country, including Governor Willie Obiano and his wife, Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, who acted quickly”.
It was gathered that Governor Obiano directed the State Police Commissioner, Mr Chris Owolabi to provide adequate security for the widow and her four children throughout Chizoba Asomugha’s burial.
Our correspondents reported that the police team at the funeral was led personally by the Ihiala Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Superintendent Prince Ezejiofor, a crack officer who used to lead the Anti-cult section of the Delta State Police Command.
Even after Commissioners Adinuba and Mezue had reported to the Anambra First Family that the Asomugha family dispute was being resolved quickly, Governor Obiano and his wife insisted that they monitor the progress of reconciliation and report from time to time the situation of the young widow and her four children, the eldest of whom is only 11 years old.
As Ossy Agoms, a Lagos-based business executive and a leader of the Ezikechima kindred, put it, with both the Anambra State Government and the police authorities showing keen interest in the Asomugha family, it is likely that the dispute among them will be resolved much earlier than most people expect.
“We are indeed grateful”, he said, “to Governor Obiano and his wife”.