A dismissed Catholic Priest, Stephen Nwaigwe has allegedly raped and impregnated a teenager after he took her from her parents to live with him, when she was 14 years old with a promise to sponsor her education, while she equally served as his cook in Anambra State.
Penpushing reports that the cleric who is now facing criminal charges 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 in 2018 over alleged misconduct inimical to the image of the church.
The accused who has been remanded on the order of the Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court in Awka, the state capital, even after his dismissal by the catholic authorities, is said and established to continue in carrying out religious activities at the invitation of groups and organisations.
Penpushing further reports that Nwaigwe was said to have met the teenager (name withheld) at Saint Albert The Great Catholic Church Parish, Obosi in Anambra State where he was invited for a church programme.
The embattled clergyman was in same vein accused of taking the pregnant teenager to Benin City, Edo State, where the baby was delivered, but the police said the whereabouts of the said baby was still unknown.
Penpushing also reports that the victim during cross examination at the court, explained that the sacked cleric took her from her parents to live with him when she was 14 years old with a promise to sponsor her education, while she equally served as his cook.
The teenager told the court that Nwaigwe started raping her until she became pregnant at the age of 17 as soon as she moved into his house, adding that when she informed him about her pregnancy, he took her from Ihiala in Anambra State, where they lived, to somewhere in Benin City to the house of a couple he introduced to her as his brother and the wife.
‘While on our way to Benin City, Father (the suspect) told me to say that I was gang-raped. But I have never been raped before, except the ones he did to me in his house. 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 had been buried’, shenarrated.
Penpushing reports that the police prosecutor during the court proceedings, told the court that there was probable cause to order the remand of the dismissed priest, while the defence counsel applied for bail for the defendant.
The counsel urged the court to exercise its discretion of bail in favour of the defendant, citing sections 13(3), 71(3), 72 and 73 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Anambra State, 2022, as well as, sections 35 and 36 of the Nigerian constitution.
Penpushing further reports that the counsel equally prayed the court to grant bail to the dismissed priest in most liberal terms, assuring the court that the accused would never jump bail, if granted, but the police prosecutor opposed the bail application by the defence counsel
The police prosecutor argued that the case before the court was an offence against a minor who was supposedly under the spiritual guardianship of the defendant, emphasizing that the defendant had since been suspended by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church.
Penpushing also reports that he noted that the claim that the defendant had serious health challenge to warrant being granted bail, was never certified by qualified medical personnel, as required by law, contending that the defendant could jump bail and leave the country without standing trial, if granted bail.
The Chief Magistrate, Genevieve Osakwe ruling on the bail application, the chief magistrate, pointed out that the case before the court was an offence punishable with life imprisonment upon conviction, lamenting that the offence of rape against minors was becoming rampant in the society.
Penpushing reports that the magistrate urged Nwaigwe to seek his bail at the High Court and subsequently ordered the prosecuting police officer to transmit the original case file to the office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Anambra State, and subsequently adjourned the case until 6 December, 2023 for report of compliance
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