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Face-off over alleged rape of minor

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December 12, 2018, would always remain evergreen in the memory of the family of Mr Edet Okon Asim, former Commissioner for Information in Cross River State, and later Sports, under former Governor Liyel Imoke, and, at the moment, Special Adviser to Governor Ben Ayade on Biodiversity. It was the day he woke up, got ready and left for office ready to attend to files, hold meetings and, perhaps, wait for directives from his boss, Ayade.

Christian leaders back Ayade, plan prayer session, solidarity rally in Calabar
But rather than attend to duty, he got an unscheduled visit from detectives from the state police command, asking him to follow them to the station for some questioning over his alleged s*xual molestation of 15-year-old Miss Mirian Noah. In fact, within minutes of arriving at his duty post, police detectives from the Airport Division of the Nigeria Police Force, Calabar, stormed his office and arrested him, following a petition in which he was accused of s*xually molesting the girl, then a minor, for three years – an illicit act he was said to have been engaged in from the time she was 12.

Also, Asim’s mistress, Mrs Stella Noah, and Mirian’s mother, was arrested for allegedly consenting to the relationship between Asim and her daughter. Their relationship had, reportedly, resulted in two previous abortions.

The third abortion, which was said to have been with the full knowledge and consent of the girl’s mother, allegedly damaged her uterus, a development that later brought the matter into public glare. Family sources said the girl’s mother had warned her daughter against opening up while the relationship lasted.

But the bubble burst when the girl’s teacher at Federal Government Girls College, Calabar (FGGC) raised the alarm after discovering that the girl was passing through severe pains following the third abortion allegedly carried out by a quack doctor and which led to damage of the girl’s womb. On learning of the ugly incident, the teacher who asked not to be named in print for fear of her life and job sent out a distress call to Mrs Josephine Effa Chukwuma, Founder of Project Alert, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and daughter of the Quas of Big Qua Town, Calabar Municipality.

Chukwuma who specializes in handling such cases, quickly contacted the Basic Rights Council Initiative founded by child rights activist, Barrister James Ibor, who, in turn, alerted the Airport Police Station, leading to the arrest and detention of Mr Asim and Mrs Stella.

Asim’s family reacts
However, the family of Mr. Edet Okon Asim has risen in defence of their son, describing the allegation of defiling the 15-year-old girl as a ruse and a calculated attempt to destroy his political career. The family argued that it is premature to toe the line of their father’s traducers, who have embarked on media trial with the intent of nailing him, without allowing him to state his own side of the story.

In a press statement signed by the wife of the former Commissioner, Mrs Margaret E. Asim on behalf of the family and made available to newsmen in Calabar, the family stated unequivocally that Asim had “no immoral affiliation” either with the girl, Mirian, or with her mother, Stella Noah.

The press statement, titled: “God will declare our innocence,” read in part: “The attention of the family of Ntufam (Hon.) Edet O. Asim has been drawn to the news flooding the media space of the involvement of the head of family Ntufam (Hon.) Edet O. Asim in the defilement of 15-year- old Miss Mirian Noah.

“For avoidance of doubt, and interest of justice, we state without equivocation that our husband and father has no immoral affiliation of whatever nature and kind with Miss Mirian Noah, nor with her mother, Mrs Stella Noah, as widely accused and adjudged. We are close family friends and have enjoyed close affinity for over twenty years. It would be foolhardy for promoters of these strange allegations to seek to tear apart the fabrics of what held us together as one.

“It suffices to mention that right from the onset, Mirian’s mother has maintained a disposition of shock, bewilderment and utter embarrassment at her daughter’s twist in tongue from her former narrative.”

The family accused Barr James Ibor, the activist and legal practitioner handling Mirian’s case, of generating the blackmail, expressing surprise at the fact that the victim has been separated from her family in the past few days.

They further alleged that plans are on to transfer her (Mirian) to one Miss Florence who lives in Lagos for adoption without her family’s consent, and since the case is still under investigation, they pleaded with members of the public to, please, hear from both sides.

In a chat with Saturday Sun, Asim Okon Edet said: “I am a victim of blackmail; I never did all I am being accused of because I am a lawyer and I know the consequences of my action. I can’t understand where all these are coming from but I know God will vindicate me. I am pleading with my accusers to give me opportunity to also defend myself.”

Right activist cries out
Describing the statement issued by Mrs Margaret Asim, the wife of the embattled Special Adviser to the Governor, as blatant lies, the Founder, Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, James Ibor Esq, said he has the mandate of CSOs in Cross River State to beam the searchlight of publicity on any person or body of persons alleged to have abused a child “as evil and injustice thrive in the absence of publicity.”

Ibor who doubles as the Chairperson of Child Protection Network, a network of civil society organizations (CSOs) battling child abuse in Cross River State, maintained, in the statement issued in Calabar, that he and his partners have fought diligently over the years even at the risk to their lives and limbs for justice for child victims/survivors of abuse.

Narrating how he got involved in the matter, he said he got a call from Mrs Josephine Effa Chukwuma, the founder of Project Alert, a Lagos-based non-governmental organization (NGO) on December 11, 2018, requesting him to go to the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar (FGGCC) to conduct a preliminary investigation into an allegation of s*xual assault committed against a student of the school.

Without wasting much time, he contacted the authorities of the FGGCC which confirmed that one of their students had been s*xually assaulted, adding that one Mrs. Stella Noah, the mother of the survivor, had signed the victim out of the school sometime in September, 2018 and had gone on to procure an illegal abortion for her. According to him, the abortion resulted into serious complications as the poor girl bled from September to December 11, 2018 when she reported her ordeal to the school authorities.

Explaining further, he said: “we brought in the police and she was rushed to a police hospital. Armed with this information, I promptly contacted Cross River State’s Ministry of Sustainable Development and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Women Affairs to intimate them of the matter. Besides, I accompanied the police and representatives of the FGGCC to the police hospital in Calabar where I met the girl child for the very first time. She was sleeping at the time.

“Later in the day, the girl gave her statement before her mother, (Mrs Stella), IPO, some of her paternal relatives. Even her mother’s statement corroborated her daughter’s claims to the extent that the girl had previously reported to her that Mr. Edet Okon Asim had been s*xually assaulting her and was in fact responsible for the pregnancy that had been illegally aborted and had resulted in the complications that led to her being in the hospital.”

Dismissing as ludicrous the claim that the survivor is in his custody, Ibor vowed to press for justice in line with provisions of the Criminal Code Law of Cross River State and the Child Rights Act, which he says, renders an offender liable to life imprisonment.

Also insisting that justice must be done and seen to have been done the the founder of Project Alert, a Lagos-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Mrs Chukwuma, has written to the Inspector-General of Police, demanding for thorough investigation and possible prosecution of those found culpable.

The duo, security sources say, would be moved on Thursday morning from the Airport Division of the Nigeria Police Force to the State Command at Diamond Hill, Calabar.

In the letter dated December 12, 2018, she said: “Since Asim’s arrest he has been making frantic efforts to kill the case by using his connection in the society as politician.” Not wanting the matter to die a natural death, it was learnt that the Federation of Women Lawyers, Calabar Branch, has concluded plans to demonstrate against child abuse.

The procession, slated for last Monday, was postponed after consultation with police authorities who assured them that they would be carried along in the investigation of the matter. Sources close to the association revealed that since the girl is a minor, conferences would be held to see how the case would be pursued to the end to ensure justice for the victim.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, DSP Irene Ugbo, said both the ex-commissioner and mother of the girl are still in their custody and would be charged to court as soon as investigations are completed.

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