…says ‘I need to care for my nine children’

Mrs. Christiana Odo was 14-year-old when her family married her off to Romanus through proxy.

Christiana married the absent groom without knowing him from Adam. In fact, it was Romanus’ mother who approached Christiana’s family and asked for her hand in marriage.

The woman carried out the necessary marriage rites and paid the bride price, and Christiana soon moved in with her in their village, in Ebonyi State.

Romanus first met his wife, when he came to the village to carry out his conjugal duties. Christiana had two children for him right in his mother’s house.

The husband was only going to the village to sleep with her, and then he would return to Lagos. This was how the first two children were born. After the birth of the two children, Romanus stopped going to the village.

He didn’t make any move to take Christiana and the children to Lagos with him. His mother took care of young Christiana and the two children.

Christiana said: “The last time he came to the village was after the birth of our second child. Even when his mother died, he didn’t come to the village. My father said that I should remarry. I decided to trace him down to Lagos. I came to Lagos by myself, with my two children. I didn’t know anywhere. The bus we boarded dropped us at Ojota.

“My brother came to the park to pick us. He took us to Romanus’ house. When I got there, I discovered that he was living with another woman. The woman is from Cross Rivers. I didn’t fight, I didn’t complain.

“I asked the woman if Romanus has paid her bride price, she said yes. I said it was alright. I was not angry because in my village, a man is free to marry two wives. My father married 12 wives. The woman started fighting Romanus that he had a wife and children at the village, and lied to her that he had not married. She left him. It was when I started living with him, that he started beating me. The beating was so much that landlords keep giving us quit notices. I can’t remember the number of houses we had moved out from because of quarrel and beatings. The major problem was that Romanus had a drinking problem.”

Despite the beatings and hardship which were Christiana’s lot in that marriage, she ended up having nine children for Romanus.

To ensure they didn’t die of starvation, Christiana started hawking rice with pepper soup.  She would leave her community at Ikorodu area of Lagos, and move to Jibowu with one of her children to hawk rice and pepper soup.

In 2016, everything went wrong; the domestic violence escalated, leading to Romanus’ death.  Christiana was accused of killing him and ended in prison.

Christiana said that Romanus’ family members had withdrawn from the case, stating that they preferred her to be freed from prison, so that she could return home to take care of the nine children. The family allegedly claimed that there was no sense in losing father and mother, when there are nine children to care for. Romanus, before his death, hawked hoes in traffic.

Christiana’s lawyer, Mr. Kingsley Oseghale of Greystone Solicitors, who is also a human rights activist, said that he met the woman through one of his clients in prison.

Oseghale explained that after he was connected to Christiana, he interviewed her in an attempt to get the fact of the case and not base his conclusion on social media information.

The lawyer said he learnt that during a quarrel, Romanus picked a knife and started chasing Christiana with it.

He said: “They live on the top floor of their apartment, a one-bedroom apartment. She was running away from the man, so that he wouldn’t injure her. She was used to his beatings. If you see her, you’ll see several marks on her body, which the man had inflicted on her. Even now, when you see her, she still has a broken tooth, which she got through him.

“The man ran after her with the knife, he missed a step on the staircase and landed on the knife. People saw him bleeding. He was already dead. Everyone ran from the scene, including children. The only child that came over, was Chidera Ado, he was playing soccer with his friends when the incident happened. He ran home to see people gathered in their compound. He heard people shouting, ‘she has killed her husband.’ And then he saw his mother weeping. He was the only child that stood beside his mum and his dad, as the man lay dead on the ground.

“Everyone was accusing her; that she killed her husband. They didn’t know what happened. The landlord’s brother ran straight to police station to report that a woman has killed her husband. He didn’t witness how the man died. There was no evidence that she killed her husband.  The police arrested and handcuffed her; they took her to the police station. They also took Chidera to the station.

“When she got to the station, the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) tortured her and told her what to write. He told her to write that she killed her husband, she wrote it. He asked her to write that she held a knife and used it to stab him, she wrote it. He then asked Christiana’s son, who was just 11-year-old to write his own statement. He told the police that he was not there when it happened; he argued with them. But he was also forced to write that his mother killed his father.”

Asked why the case had not been struck out since Romanus relatives said they didn’t want to make a case with his wife, Oseghale said: “When the relatives came to Lagos, she had already been arrested and taken to court. Romanus’ relatives came to demand his corpse. They said they didn’t want a case; that it was a family issue, but the case was already a government case. There was nothing they could do. It was not a family issue anymore, but a case between her and the government. There was nothing anyone could have done. They took Romanus’ corpse and left. There is no medical report of what actually caused the death of the man. No autopsy was conducted. No murder weapon was retrieved. The police didn’t interview any other person.

“Christiana went to court yesterday (Monday) and the witnesses were also brought to court. Are you aware that one out of her nine children is missing? We have not been able to locate that child. The child, a female, went missing after the incident. Today, she should be nine years old. Nobody knows her whereabouts.

“But on Monday, Chidera was brought to court. He stopped schooling after the incident. He said he had to stop, after his mother was arrested. He said that people were avoiding him in school and he couldn’t go through the trauma, coupled with his mother being in prison. He left and went to start working as a bus conductor for commercial drivers at Obalende. He was meant to be present in court for the case, but his siblings didn’t know where he was. It was when we started looking for him, that we tracked him down to Obalende. We found him under the bridge, sleeping.

“When he came to court yesterday, he didn’t want to remember what happened that day. He said it was a sad day and all the statements that he wrote were what police asked him to write. He didn’t see his mum kill his dad. The IPO and the policeman that arrested her also came to court. They were also asked if they saw the woman killed her husband, they said no. They said they heard people saying it. There was a picture of her kneeling down with the husband dead on the floor. The policeman that handcuffed her was also asked in court if he witnessed the woman stabbing her husband, he said no. He said that he met her kneeling beside her dead husband. There was no evidence. The case was adjourned till October since there was no evidence.”

Christiana’s first daughter, Blessing (23), said that her mother didn’t kill their father. She described her father as a, “troublemaker,” whom everyone knew.

She said: “When he was alive, and before he died, he was always talking about death. It was as if he knew he was going to die. He usually starts his trouble whenever he drinks. We would all start running away from him. My dad’s family members want the case to be settled within our family, but then my mother was already in Kirikiri Prison.

“I took over my mum’s business in order to take care of my siblings. I sell pepper soup and rice in Ikorodu.”

Blessing recalled a day she was dressing her siblings for school; she bought them gala, but her dad snatched the gala from the children.

She recounted: “I asked him to return the gala to the children; he said that I should come and kill him. He said that he wanted to die and that it wouldn’t be beyond that day. I told him that I wouldn’t kill him, that he would kill himself. I left with the children; on our way, he met us on the road and returned the gala. Every time he wanted to start trouble, he would say he would die or that somebody would kill him. I don’t know what happened that particularly day, because I was not at home.”

Blessing added that on the fateful her dad died, her mother, about 5a.m., left with one of her siblings to the market.

She said: “I later got a call that something was happening. My dad first called me, asking where I was. I told him that I just got to the place I went to.

“I asked him what happened, he said that I should not worry and disconnected the line. Some minutes after he called me, someone called me that my father was dead. I was shocked. When I got home, they said they had taken him to the general hospital mortuary.

“I was confused; I couldn’t believe it until when they went to bury him. It was then it dawned on me that my dad was truly dead. He was a troublemaker and had been praying for death. Everyone in our community confirmed that it wasn’t my mother that killed him. Even the Baale knows.”

Blessing said that the information she got was that Romanus was found dead in the compound, with bloodstains on his body. There was a small mark on his body.

She said: “Even the landlord confirmed it when he went to court. When my father’s relatives heard about his death and the circumstances, they said they didn’t want to make any case. They insisted that the matter should be closed, but before they came from the village, my mother had been charged to court and then remanded in Kirikiri. They should please release her. We need her.”

Remembering how she landed in prison, Christiana said: “It happened on December 25, 2016.  On that fateful day, I returned from market about 2p.m.  I wanted to bathe; I carried a bucket of water into the bathroom. It was at that point that my husband returned. He was drunk. He had been drinking since December 23.

“I went into the room to pick toiletries that was how he called me, asking me how many men I had had sex with that day at Jibowu. I sell at Jibowu. I sell rice with pepper soup. My sons used to go and hawk with me. We used to hawk from Ikorodu to Yaba, Jibowu and Sabo. That was how my children and I used to struggle. When we returned home, Romanus wouldn’t allow me to rest. It’s everyday beating.

“So on that day, as he was asking me the number of men I had slept with, I didn’t respond.  I told him to allow me to go and bathe. I knew he was drunk. I knew he wouldn’t allow me to sleep in the house that day. My children were around, but none in the yard.”

Romanus also didn’t like her to greet male neighbours, let alone to have any meaningful discussion with them, he would allegedly become enraged, accusing the men of having sex with her, while accusing the women of trying to hook her up with lovers.

She said: “I pay the rent, but when he starts his trouble, he wouldn’t allow me to sleep in that same house. In fact, before that day, the landlord had already given us quit notice to leave that compound. The landlord and I no longer speak with each other. Any man that spoke with me, would be accused of sleeping with me.

“When he started asking me the number of men that had sex with me that day, I knew he wanted to start trouble. I begged him to leave me that I wanted to go and bathe. He called me back; he said that he heard I had gone to rent a house.

“He said that I wanted to live in the house I just rented with my children; that we wanted to run away from him. I told him that every one of us, including him, would be moving to the new apartment. I told him that when we get to the new place, he would have to behave himself because the landlord lives in that house. I told him that he shouldn’t go about accusing the landlord that he was sleeping with his wife.”

Christiana claimed that after speaking with Romanus, she entered her room to pick soap, and then heard children shouting. She came out, saw her husband armed and she bolted.

She said: “I ran.  Everybody shouted that I should run.  I ran to the main road. A boy came to tell me that my husband was dead. He said that people were looking for me. I ran to the yard; when I got there, I saw people asking me what happened. I told everyone that I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t fight Romanus. He used to beat me up, but I never fought him. It was not even up to two months after he punched my mouth that he knocked out my teeth. Police entered and said that I was the one that killed my husband and ran away. I didn’t kill my husband; I have nine children for him. What will I gain if I kill him? I was taken to police station and then to the State Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department (SCIID). It was from Panti, they took me to court and then prison.”

Asked if she stabbed Romanus, Christiana said, “God forbid!”

She added: “Even when my landlord went to call police, they asked him if he saw any injury, he said there was a small injury on my husband’s body. My landlord had told me repeatedly to go and report my husband to the police because of the way he used to beat me, but I refused. It’s an abomination to take my husband to police station.”

Asked if autopsy was done on Romanus, Christiana said that she was not aware

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