When Miss Charity (Aisha) Uzoechina, 24-year-old daughter of a Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, left their Abuja home to further her studies at the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, her parents had no inkling that it was the beginning of many days of sorrow.
Instead of the formal education she traveled to acquire, the young Christian girl is now allegedly pursuing her new faith of Islam at the palace of the Etsu Nupe.
For the parents, the pain is not just that Charity has abandoned her Christian faith, but that she now stands completely separated from them.
She was alleged to have converted to Islam on her own volition and changed her name to Aisha.
However, contrary to these claims, Pastor Raymond Uzoechina is insisting that his daughter is a victim of forced conversion to Islam.
The RCCG Pastor has, therefore, called on security agencies to investigate activities at the palace of the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, to ensure that many people there had not been forced to convert to Islam and held against their will.
He said: “Apart from my daughter, there are so many people at the palace. There is need for the police to investigate and ensure that the people are not suffering the fate of my daughter”.
Pastor Uzoechina believes that his daughter was kidnapped and hypnotised.
Narrating the genesis of the problem, he said it all started on March 1 and 2 when he got a call from an aide of the emir, asking him to come to the palace.
On getting to the palace in Bida, he said he met his daughter with two other women, adding “the man said these women brought my daughter to the palace that she has embraced Islam and she has also been withdrawn from school. Those women even claimed they have taken her through the rudiments of Islam and have started looking for a school for her. At this juncture, I demanded that I am going home with her. But the man declined, saying only the emir has the power to allow the girl go with me. They took me to the emir but the emir refused my plea, saying I should come back next week.”
He continued that on March 4, two people who claimed to be from the Bida Sharia Court emerged with his daughter with a folded paper and asked him to sign but he refused.
Pastor Uzoechina got the greatest shock of his life when he tried to take his daughter but was told that she was now under the custody of the Sharia Court.
The Sharia Court 1, which said it arrived at the decision because the girl claimed her father could kill her following her change of faith, also accused the defendant (Pastor Uzoechina) of shunning an invitation to appear before it to defend himself.
“At this juncture, this honourable court hereby orders that the custody of the plaintiff be entrusted in the hand of Etsu Nupe for the time being and the Etsu Nupe should employ a qualified Islamic scholar who will be teaching her and showing her what the Islamic customs is all about and the plaintiff can even be watching and selecting a man of her choice whom she will want to marry as her partner”, the court held.
In this state of confusion, Uzoechina said he had appealed the decision of the Sharia Court 1 through his lawyer, Anthony Agbonlahor.
The lawyer also petitioned the Chief Judge of Niger State, complaining about the conduct of the judge of the Sharia Court 1, Justice Abdulkadir Idris, saying that the court had no right to take custody of the girl.
“Contrary to the principle of natural justice vis- a-vis fair hearing, our client was not served either with the court summons/processes or hearing notice. The case was filed on March 4; the case was heard March 4 and judgment delivered on the same day. In fact, judgment was also executed on the same date. The question is: why the urgency?”, he wondered.
Also, Pastor Uzoechina is still bemused over the fate of his daughter as well as the decision of the court.
According to him, “They (sharia court) have fixed Thursday, August 1 for ruling on our appeal that they don’t have jurisdiction. You can’t judge a Christian in a Muslim court. I am appealing to them to vacate the judgment because they don’t have jurisdiction.”
How can I kill my daughter?”
Concerning her daughter’s alleged fear that he would kill her, he said “That is not true. My daughter cannot make that allegation. Why should I kill her? We asked them to bring her to the court so that my lawyer can cross-examine her but they refused.
“If she has converted to Islam, must she practice at the Etsu Nupe’s palace? Is Etsu Nupe the chief security officer now? They should not separate me from my daughter. She has stayed in the palace for six months. If they say I will harm her, let them release her to the Inspector General of Police, leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN or ask me to write an undertaking. Why is my daughter still under Etsu Nupe’s enclave? I am only talking about my daughter; there are so many people at the palace. There is need for the police to investigate and ensure that other people are not suffering the fate of my daughter. They did not allow my wife to see my daughter when she visited the
Be that as it may, the Etsu Nupe is not in any way moved by the Pastor’s arguements, instead the emirate has produced legal documents where Charity reportedly said she had converted to Islam and alleged that his father could kill her for the action hence the need to seek protection from the Palace and the Sharia Court, which the court granted.
The Etsu Nupe has refused to release the lady to his father citing the sharia court ruling.
The emirate also absolved itself of the allegations of kidnapping and hypnotizing the young Christian girl.
It said in a statement that Miss Uzoechina approached the monarch for protection over her change of faith from Christianity to Islam on February 15.
It continued that “the royal father invited the father of the girl for talks, with the hope of reconciling them. On March 2, the father came to the palace and was taken before His Royal Highness. It was at His Royal Highness chamber that the father came face to face with his daughter. After discussions with the girl and her father, the Etsu Nupe asked the girl to go back home with her father to resolve the matter as a family.
“The girl refused to go home with her father fearing that the father may harm her going by the encounter at the Etsu Nupe’s palace. The girl left the palace and approached a court in Bida for protection, a request which the court granted the girl. The girl has since been in the custody of the court in Bida. Her reason was that her father insulted her and she was scared that he may harm her because of his utterances during their short meeting.
As it stands not, it will take only the court for the young girl to be re-united with her family. The long awaited August 1, 2013 ruling of the Bida Sharia Court 1 may not even be the end, but beginning of a long legal battle