RIGHTSView: Clara Chime’s Detention and the National Human Rights Commission

Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 29 October 2014 | 3,528 times

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Few months back, the organised Civil Society community in Nigeria was attracted to the outcry of Mrs. Clara Chime, wife of the sitting Governor of Enugu State, that her husband and, indeed, a senior lawyer and one time attorney-general of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime, allegedly incarcerated her illegally, within the premises of the Enugu Government House, for months and consistently prevented her from receiving visitors, on some nebulous grounds that she was emotionally imbalanced or so.

As information filtered out from her alleged ‘detention’ within the Enugu State Government House, many civil society groups protested and urged the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), to intervene and release her from the alleged imprisonment.

Ironically, the NHRC sensationally got involved and nearly burnt Mrs. Chime’s reputation, when the Executive Secretary Bem Angwe reportedly stated that the alleged incarcerated first lady of Enugu State had emotional and psychological issues that made it imperative for her husband to take steps to search for the best medical solution.

When the press reported this version of the interim report of the NHRC, which came out even without any valid medical and psychiatric test, reactions trailed this assertion from the rights commission from many concerned human rights activists, who felt that the NHRC rushed into judgement without availing itself of all the authoritative evidence to warrant a conclusion: that, indeed, Mrs. Clara Chime was never detained and that she had emotional problems.

The NHRC then denied the media reports that it has issued a clean bill of health to the governor of Enugu State, even as it stated that it will inaugurate a transparent probe of all the allegations of illegal incarceration made against Sullivan Chime by his wife.

As the controversy lingered on, the Lagos-based Channels TV got an exclusive interview, in which Mrs. Clara Chime narrated her alleged ordeal in the hands of her husband, vowing never to return to her troubled marriage. She said that she had decided to call it quit and had headed to the court of law to seek legal redress.

Channels had reported as follows: “The name Clara Chime lately rings a bell, regarding controversies surrounding her life as the First Lady at the Government House, Enugu. As Governor Sullivan Chime’s wife, she was in the public eye for five years until things began to fall apart. She reached out to a member of the Nigerian human rights community, Femi Falana, to help save her from her husband. Breaking her silence in this exclusive with Channel TV’s Sola Seyela, Mrs. Chime recounted her ordeal in the hands of her husband, and thanked Nigerians for coming to her rescue.”

Asked to narrate the issues, the embattled Mrs. Chime stated: “'He accused me of so many things; like the way he just told the whole world that I have mental problem; that my friends are into diabolical stuff, which I don’t even know about. I don’t even know about it. There are a lot of things he said, I don’t know where he got them from. I don’t even know what to say about my husband. All I can say is that I wish him the best in life, because he is the father of my son.”

She was asked: “How would you describe your stay at the Government House?” She responded:  “All I know is that I suffered from depression. The treatment I got from my husband led to it. And I won’t say more than that so as not to destroy him. All I am here to do is just to clear the air; to let Nigerians to know that I thank them so much. I am now liberated. I thank God am happy, just very happy. I never believed I could be myself and be happy this way, not minding that I have gained lots of weight. Before, I was size 12-13, but now I am 10-20. I am going to get back to my normal size. It is the drug that they gave me that caused all this. They placed me on a medication they were not supposed to place me on. I had to go into research to know about the medication I was being given that made me to gain all this weight.”

She continued: “Doctors in the UK told me it was a wrong prescription because that was not what I was supposed to be given. I am suffering from reactive depression, because if your husband is not there for you, nobody is there for you, my dear you will break down. Four times, I had tried to escape, but no way to escape. No way at all!”

 When asked the status of her marriage, she quipped: “No. We are separated. You know, by what the law says, it is after two years of separation that you can file for divorce.” 

Nigerians who thought that these political drama was about to end were proved wrong when only few weeks back a publication appeared in one of the nation’s newspapers where the embattled wife of the Enugu State governor was reported to have recanted and has, indeed, apologised to her estranged husband and that she has returned home. The story which wasn’t used in any other paper to the best of my knowledge is yet to be backed up by photographic or television evidence just the same way that the alleged incarceration was relayed to the world audience, which elicited the interest of the civil society community and some of these groups spent their money to fight on her side, because of the perception that she was being victimised by her husband. For accountability and transparency, there is need for the NHRC to furnish Nigerians with the details of the probe it initiated concerning the alleged detention of the first lady of Enugu State, so that it can clear its name from any innuendo of compromise.

Some analysts had alleged that Sullivan Chime’s marriage to Mrs. Clara was political, since she was said to have unimpeded access to the family of late President Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua. The commentators alleged that the Enugu State Governor had allegedly married her to have soft landing politically. Moreover, even in the eye of the law, should his election be challenged in the law court, most of the members of the judiciary were said to be closely affiliated to that family. Well, that angle of the story remains a conjecture that is yet to be proven conclusively with empirical evidence. Again, political undertone is being read into this rumoured reconciliation, in the sense that there is a groundswell of allegation that the governor quickly made up with his estranged wife so he will appear like a good man before majority of the voters in Enugu State who are female. That is not all. He intends to test his popularity with the sitting Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in his senatorial bid.  Whether this conjecture is farfetched will be determined soon when the woman appears in person to explain the emerging scenario, especially to the organised civil society community who invested time and resources to fight for her. Although as one of the leading civil society leaders that fought through the media on hearing this damaging allegation, I am happy if the once troubled marriage has been repaired, and if final reconciliation has been achieved.

RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source: News Express

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