Life for 23-year-old Oluchi Obi in the last three months has been one tough journey of suffering.
Obi, an Imo State indigene, just wanted to make a living as a housemaid when she got lucky and got a job through an agent in Ajah area of Lagos.
“All I needed to do was to take care of the household and the man’s three children,” she said.
Obi’s boss, 47-year-old Frank Ikoh, was said to be ill at the time while his siblings were also on hand to take care of him in the house.
They said they just needed the housemaid to take care of the children and other chores in the house.
But that seemingly simple job would later land Obi in detention for 39 days on accusation that she had murdered her boss with a poisoned apple barely one month after she got to the house.
The late Ikoh, who lived with his children in VGC, Ajah, was said to have separated from his wife, Nkechi Nnadi, six years earlier.
The family lawyer said he was down with an illness, which gave him recurrent headache even before Obi was employed as a housemaid.
Obi also told Saturday PUNCH that apart from her, the man’s sister and brother were also living in the house and taking care of him.
But on December 28, Ikoh succumbed to his illness and passed away.
According to the family lawyer, Mr. Courage Erhuen, on January 12, two weeks after Ikoh’s death, a team of policemen with the deceased’s ex-wife in tow, invaded the house and shot teargas into the compound “under the guise of effecting an arrest of a suspect for the murder of our client.”
That day, Saturday PUNCH learnt that Obi was arrested by the police, while the ex-wife allegedly marched into Ikoh’s bedroom with the assistance of policemen and took possession of a safe, which the family lawyer said contained Ikoh’s personal effects and vital documents.
Obi said the day she was arrested, she had started preparing the children for school when the policemen came.
“Everywhere was filled with teargas. Everybody, including the children and oga’s (Ikoh’s) siblings, was coughing badly. So, we had to move out. I was shocked when the policemen mentioned my name and said they were looking for me. They took me into custody and the woman took her children away that day,” she said.
According to Obi, she was told when she was locked up at the State Criminal Investigation Department that a petition had been filed by Nkechi, who alleged that she was the one who gave her ex-husband a poisoned apple before he died.
Obi said, “I had never seen her before until that day. I was shocked and did not know why she would make such an allegation against me when she had not even met me before.
“I told the police that I had never brought apple to the house. Apart from that, the man had been sick before I was employed. The man was not even the kind of a person who collected anything to eat from people anyhow. How could he possibly have collected apple from me?
“The woman told the police that somebody must have given me the poisoned apple to feed to him. She told them that the report she got was that the children even wanted to eat part of the apple but that I refused. I don’t know what brought about those lies.
“I told them all these, yet, they detained me in their terrible cell for almost six weeks. They said until they determined what really killed the man, they would not free me. I was in the house with the man’s brother and sister and they all knew I had nothing to do with his death, yet the police acted only on what the woman told them.”
Erhuen, who is now representing Obi along with the Ikoh family, said he was surprised that the police could just arrest people based on an unfounded report from someone who has no evidence of crime and lock the suspect up for six weeks.
While Obi was in custody at the SCID, the report of the autopsy invalidating any claim of foul play in the death of the man came out but yet, they did not release the young woman until the intervention by a former NDDC director effected her release.
A copy of the result of the autopsy conducted on the deceased’s body at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, which was signed by one Dr. Mgbehoma Ikenna, showed the primary cause of death as “acute left ventricular failure” while the secondary cause was identified as “hypertensive heart disease”.
On January 28, the late Ikoh’s lawyer, filed a petition at the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police calling for the release of Obi and the personal property of the late Ikoh carted away by the police on the orders of the wife. Again on February 22, another petition was sent to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, SCID, Yaba.
Erhuen said no action was taken on the issue on both times. Apart from demanding the release of the belongings of Ikoh reportedly taken away, the lawyer is calling on police authorities to take necessary action to remedy the untold hardship brought against the lady as a result of the false accusation against her.
“The police and the ex-wife openly boasted that they were well connected within the corridors of power at the police high command. When they invaded the house, the deceased’s siblings and relatives tried to stop them from taking the man’s safe away, but the police descended on them and beat them up,” he said.
Attempts to get hold of the deceased’s ex-wife have been abortive as an individual who picked her phone when our correspondent contacted said she did not know anyone by that name.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Dolapo Badmus, could not be reached for comment as well as her phone line did not connect when our correspondent called her.
Erhuen said he had approached the Lagos State High Court, to seek the release of the personal properties of the deceased taken away by the police. But the case has yet to be assigned to a judge. He also said he would be demanding the sum of N10m as compensation from the police for the unlawful detention of Obi.