Mr. Joachim Chinakwe, the 41-year-old trader arrested and detained at the Sango Ota Police Station, Ogun State, on August 13, 2016, for naming his dog Buhari, has said his life is no longer safe.
Speaking with our correspondent on Friday minutes before he was again locked behind bars at the State Police Headquarters, Eleweran, Abeokuta, the capital, after initially being released last Tuesday, the father of one who hails from Delta State, said he feared for his life because he does not know what could happen to him next.
“I had to leave for Eleweran very early on Friday after receiving a letter on Thursday evening inviting me to the Command. I thought I was being called over for a peace talk, I never knew it was for the purpose of detaining me again.
“I am a law-abiding citizen of this country, I have never deliberately committed any offence before, I don’t know why I am being treated like this. I only called the dog that name for the love I have for President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria, I didn’t mean to taunt or hurt anybody with it. I don’t know what next could follow this, I am afraid for my life, I am in danger, please help me,” Chinakwe said before the telephone line went off.
The latest twist to the matter has caused relatives and friends who have been running round to free the trader serious distress. His 26-year-old wife, Ifeoma, and 18-month-old daughter, Temi, has also been badly affected by the situation.
Looking frail and barely able to support her body weight, the woman whined in pain as she made her way from the bathroom at the back of the small compound into one of the two small rooms she and her family shares. With eyes still swollen from days of crying and her bulging stomach putting an extra burden on her shoulders and weak legs, it is one of the most agonising periods in the life of the young mother who is almost due for the delivery of her second child. Since her husband was first arrested on the orders of one Kalilu, a public toilet operator in their Omikunle neighbourhood who accused him of deliberately naming his dog Buhari, after his father just to taunt him and members of the Hausa community, life has not been the same for the woman.
According to the woman the latest development has affected her health and that of Temi terribly. Apart from now struggling to survive without their breadwinner and ‘protector’, Ifeoma says the two of them have been on medication since her husband’s travails began.
“This is the saddest period of my life,” the heartbroken woman said fighting back tears. “Since I met and married my husband three years ago, I have never felt this bad or suffered this much. But since this problem started, I and my daughter have been badly affected,” she continued. “When I went to the police station last Sunday morning to see him, the officers instead of allowing me in, started abusing me. They told me that they would make sure I give birth behind my husband’s cell. Even though I was crying and pleading with them to allow me see him, they kept abusing me, not minding my present condition.
“Since that day, I have not been able to eat well. Also, I and Temi have been very sick and we have been on medications. On several occasions she would wake me up at night, crying and asking after her father. I don’t know what to tell her, so I would also cry.
“The two of us cannot sleep in the house alone, so in the evenings, I go to my aunty’s house at Ojuore to stay till morning before returning home. I am just praying that all the stress that I have been through and tears that I have shed the past few days don’t affect the baby or even make me to lose the child because already, I am not as healthy as I was before this problem started. I won’t lie to you; life has not been the same for me and my daughter without him around,” the heavily-pregnant mother said before finally succumbing to her emotions.
It was a few minutes of intense crying, her sorrowful voice rent the entire room – it was the sight of an injured woman pouring out her heart.
Obinna Obasi, a relation to the detained man who also spoke to our correspondent during the visit to the family house in a remote part of Sango Ota on Friday, said the case apart from taking its toll on their energies and time, had also drained their pockets.
He said relatives and friends of Chinakwe have even had to borrow money from a micro finance bank to hire lawyers to fight his case – one of whom he said even duped them in the process.
“This matter has really drained us financially,” Obasi revealed. “The little that we even have has been exhausted. We have spent everything on us to get a lawyer and also run around trying to find a solution to this problem. In fact, a few days ago, we had to borrow some money from a micro finance bank because we didn’t want him to remain and die in police cell. The first lawyer we paid to handle the case for us disappeared with our money. We had to go beyond our power to raise money to hire another lawyer. To be honest, I cannot estimate the amount of money we have spent so far on this case in trying to get Joe released,” he said.
Narrating how the entire issue started, Obasi, who said he was with the detained man at the time of his first arrest last Saturday, explained that all efforts to get the matter resolved has been frustrated by the accuser and his backers who have only been pretending to be on the side of peace.
“Kalilu, the main accuser, said Buhari was the name of his father and that Joe deliberately gave his dog that name to taunt him and the rest of the Hausa residents in the area. But we are still wondering if it is now an offence to give your pet animal the name of your choice. Even if you say it is an offence, at least we have all sat together to resolve the whole issue and the man himself has shown some sense of responsibility by saying he was sorry if his action offended anybody. So, why is he still being harassed till now? This is not fair. His persecution is affecting his pregnant wife and little daughter who have both been very sick as a result of the problem,” he said.
When our correspondent visited the public toilet Kalilu operates which is just a few yards away from Omikunle Street where the 41-year-old detained trader lives with his family, the accuser was said to have also gone to the police command at the state capital. The men at the place refused to speak on the matter, asking our correspondent to come back later in the evening. They also refused to supply the mobile phone number of their kinsman.
An officer at the Sango Police Station who did not disclose his name but is privy to details of the matter, told our correspondent that the accused was arrested because his action was intended at causing public unrest in the community which has a large Igbo and Hausa presence.
According to him, Chinakwe not only named his dog Buhari but also inscribed it on its body and usually walked with it into the midst of the Hausas, a claim the 41-year-old and his relatives denied vehemently.
Acting spokesperson for the Ogun State Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, revealed on Friday that the accused would be arraigned at the Sango Magistrate Court on Monday.
“The man is here with us at Eleweran, he is being detained at the Criminal Investigation Department. The charge will be prepared and he will be arraigned at Sango Magistrate Court on Monday. What he did was highly provocative, it can cause ethnic and religious crisis,” he said.
But human rights lawyer and former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, Lagos, Monday Ubani, told Saturday PUNCH that there is no such law in Nigeria’s criminal code which states that it is an offence to give your pets a name of your choice.
Though Ubani concedes that this particular case is novel as far as law was concerned in Nigeria to the best of his knowledge, he said the police cannot arrest and detain a person except they are able to prove that the individual’s action is indeed capable of causing breach of public peace.
He however, wonders why the accused would name a dog after his neighbour’s father as alleged because according to him it could be a bit offensive even though it was not a crime.