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Court detains Catholic Priest for allegedly raping and impregnating teenager in Anambra

Magistrate Court detains Catholic priest for allegedly raping and impregnating teenager in Anambra

The Children, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Court sitting at the Chief Magistrate’s court in Awka, Anambra State, has remanded a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Nwaigwe Stephen, for allegedly r@ping and impregnating a teenager.

The magistrate ordered the prosecutor to transmit the original case file to the office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Anambra State, Daily Trust reported on Sunday, November 26, 2023.

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

Rev. Fr. Nwaigwe Stephen, a Catholic priest, has been placed under detention by the Children, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Court, which is housed in the Chief Magistrate’s court in Awka, Anambra State. The priest is accused of r@ping and impregnating a teenager.

According to a Sunday, November 26, 2023 Daily Trust article, the magistrate gave the prosecutor instructions to forward the original case file to the Anambra State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General’s office.

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The pregnant juvenile was also alleged to have been taken against her will by the priest to Benin City, Edo State, where she gave birth, but the baby’s whereabouts remain a mystery as per the police inquiry.

According to section 34(2) of the Child’s Rights Law of Anambra State, 2004, having sex with a minor is illegal.

Nwaigwe was one of the priests banished from the well-known Catholic faith-based religious congregation in Orlu, Imo State, in 2018 for allegedly engaging in behaviour detrimental to the order’s reputation. This congregation is known as the Two Hearts of Love Congregation (Ugwu Nso).

The teenager was allegedly invited to a religious church function at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church Parish in Obosi, Anambra State, where the priest first met him.

The victim stated that the priest abducted her from her parents when she was 14 years old and promised to pay for her studies in exchange for her working as his cook. She made this claim while responding to questions in court on Monday, November 20, 2023, during remand proceedings.

She said that shortly after moving into the priest’s home, he began coercing her into having sex with him, and that he carried on the act until she became pregnant at the age of 17.

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The minor went on to say that after telling the priest she was pregnant, the priest drove her from their home in Ihiala, Anambra State, to a location in Benin City, Edo, where they resided. There, the priest introduced her to a man and a woman who were his brother and his 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 the baby had been buried,” she said.

When court asked if she had been gang-raped before, the minor noted, “While on our way to Benin City, 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,”

In addition, the police prosecutor told the court throughout the remand process that there was probable cause to order the priest’s detention and that witnesses were required to appear before the High Court to provide testimony anytime the issue was brought up.

But the defence attorney asked the court to grant the defendant’s bail, citing Sections 13(3), 71(3), 72, and 73 of the Anambra State, 2022 Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL), as well as Sections 35 and 36 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, in support of his request.

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He begged the court to give bail to the priest in most liberal terms; promising that if it were granted, Nwaigwe would never violate it.

However, the police prosecutor asked the judge to deny the clergyman’s request for bail, arguing that the offence in question was against a juvenile who was purportedly under the defendant’s spiritual protection.

The presiding Chief Magistrate, Genevieve Osakwe, expressed sadness that the crime of rape against kids was becoming more common in society while ruling on the bail motion. She added that the matter before the court was one that carried a life sentence.

She issued a warning, saying that no matter whose ox was gored, the court would not stand by and watch while society fell apart.

The court presented several examples of similar acts that had previously come before it, bringing up one case in particular: a 75-year-old man who was remanded after it was alleged that he had raped a kid.

The presiding Chief Magistrate however postponed the case until December 6, 2023.

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