Youths from Nweke Ndiagu in Effium autonomous community could not control their temper. They decided to vent their anger on Pastor Gideon Chizoba of Grace of God Mission in the area.
What happened? He had stopped Mr. Chukwuma Nomeh’s daughter, Onyinye, from marrying her heartthrob even when her dowry had been paid.
The pastor premised his action on the ground that
the dowry was paid in his absence and that he should be the one to receive it. He immediately called Onyinye, who was his church member and instructed her to prevail on her father to return the dowry to the husband and reject the already consummated traditional marriage. The girl adhered to Pastor Gideon’s instruction.
Her father, after several pleadings and persuasions to Onyinye not to turn down the marriage since the dowry had been paid which could not yield positive results, contacted Onyinye’s husband to come for the collection of the dowry as the marriage has been cancelled.
Nomeh had also met with Gideon and pleaded that her daughter be allowed to marry her heart’s desire.That also hit the rocks. As the matter could not be resolved, Nomeh reported it to his kinsmen and kindred who warned the Pastor to rescind his decision.
By then, Onyinye and her step-sister have packed their properties and relocated to Pastor Gideon’s church which compounded the matter as the two aggrieved girls refused to return to their father’s house.
Every effort made to ensure that Onyinye and Miracle returned home proved abortive. The matter was reported to the Effium Police Division and Gideon was arrested and taken to Police area command, Abakaliki. He was thereafter granted bail and urged to release Nomeh’s daughters to him.
The police instruction did not go down well with Gideon as he did not release Onyinye and Miracle. Angered by the matter, youths of the area numbering over 30 last week invaded his church and destroyed some properties therein.
They allegedly carted away N800,000 meant to buy land for permanent site of Gideon’s church. The angry youths, who stormed the church at about 11pm, first descended on Miracle, who is the choir mistress and broke her hands.But for the quick intervention of police in the area, Miracle would have been lynched.
The police rescued her and rushed her to Sudan Mission Hospital, where she was revived. Speaking to New Telegraph on the incident, Gideon explained that the church had embarked on 7-day programme when a group of boys jumped into the church premises, switched off electricity generating set and vandalized the church musical instruments.
He said the youths were led by Chukwuma Nomeh, Onyinye’s father who had been accusing him of harbouring his daughters and other female church members to prevent them from getting married.
He explained that misunderstanding ensued between him and Nomeh when a man came to marry Nomeh’s daughter. “I told Onyinye and the husband to go for medical test before they will be wedded but the girl’s father opposed my advice.
He said he did not undergo medical test when he married his own wife and therefore his daughter will not go for any medical test.The man had collected the daughter’s dowry in my absence and I asked why such thing was done in my absence because I have to be around to witness it’’, he said.
Gideon said after the heated argument between him and Nomeh, the purported marriage between Onyinye and the husband could not hold and alleged that Nomeh and his sons have been threatening him with guns and matchets on daily basis.
Onyinye on her part, said that her father broke her hand during the church invasion. She said she decided to make a u-turn on her marriage with her heartthrob on personal ground.
“I decided to change my mind on the marriage which is my right. So, I don’t think it is right for anyone to force me to do what I decided not to do.’’ She appealed to government, good spirited individuals and organizations to intervene into the matter to prevent loss of lives and bring understanding between the church and her father on the matter.
Nomeh, when contacted, said: “My family members attend Grace of God Church in Effium. One of my daughters, Onyinyechi, who attend the church came to me in the house with a man as her fiance. I asked her do you like the man and she replied yes. I also asked her if she has informed her pastor and she said yes.
“I later went to the pastor and asked him if he was aware of this and he replied yes but I supposed to come to him with a wine.
“The man and his relatives came for the marriage introduction. I and my relatives and kindred asked my daughter if she still wants to marry the man and she said yes. We poured a palm wine inside cup according to our tradition and gave to her and she drank and gave to the man.
“The man in turn drank and gave to the girl to also drink and we said yes, the marriage has been consummated. This aspect is very vital in any marriage rite in our place.
“We then told the man and his relatives to go and come back for the payment of the dowry. They later came and paid the dowry. My daughter, who was present when the dowry was paid, asked me why the dowry was paid without the presence of her pastor.
“I explained to her that the dowry can be paid without the presence of her pastor. I then reported the matter to the pastor, who queried why the dowry was paid without his being around.
“The pastor ordered me to call the man to come and collect the dowry back, that the man can’t marry the girl anymore.’’
He noted that after he refunded the dowry to the man, the next thing his daughter did was to pack her things and move to the pastor’s church, where she was living till the pastor rented house for her.
“My daughter immediately left my house and went and stayed in the pastor’s church. Her sister later joined her and each time they see me on the road passing, they will boo me.
“The pastor later rented house for them and they have been living there since nine months now and refused to return home. I have approached the pastor to release my daughters to me but he has refused to do so. I am calling on government and Civil Liberties Organization to come to my aid.
“I have reported the matter to Effium Police Division. The Police arrested him and transferred the matter to area command Abakaliki. The pastor was granted bail and the Area Commander ordered him to release my daughters to me but he refused’’, he alleged.
On his part, Nomeh’s brother, Chika Nomeh, who corroborated Chukwuma’s claim, said he was surprised that Onyinye could behave the way she behaved.
“I was surprised that a pastor will make a girl to hate her parents to the extent that any time she sees his father, she will beat him. Any time she sees her grandmother, she will slap her.
There was a time she beat up her grandmother. We are no longer interested in anything marriage. Our interest now is how these girls can return to the family. Civil Liberties Organizations and government should help us bring these two girls back to us.’’
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Effium chapter, has intervened in the matter but to no avail. Chairman of CAN, Effium chapter, alleged that Nomeh was maltreating the girls which was why they left their parents.
His words: “We have tried to resolve the matter but our effort has remained fruitless. We visited the man to resolve the matter but they didn’t agree. It is the way the family is maltreating the girls that made them to run away from their house.
“If you see the way they are being maltreated, you will pity them. It is the father of the girl that called police for Pastor Gideon at Effium police station. From there, the matter came to the area command here in Abakaliki but he has been granted bail.”