On 8th April, 2022, Osinachi Nwachukwu, a famous gospel singer, died at the National Hospital, Abuja of then unknown ailment. Her death sparked a storm on the social media as stories upon stories surfaced about some history of domestic violence in her marriage.
Prior to her death, nothing much was known about the seemingly unremarkable personal life of this artist. People outside her church and family circles never even heard about her husband, Peter Nwachukwu. But within a few days after her death, the social media was brimming with stories about this seemingly constructed fiend, who supposedly beat his wife to death. Mr. Nwachukwu all of a sudden became the personification of the monster every woman would rather dream never to encounter.
Monstrous stories told
In rapid succession, stories of a brutal wife-beater made the rounds. It was said that Peter Nwachukwu beat his wife, Osinachi. It was said that he controlled her. It was said that he maltreated her. It was said that he controlled her money and her career. It was said that he pushed her out of a car. It was said that he poured water on her. It was said that he starved her. It was said that he had a secret prior marriage he never disclosed to Osinachi. It was said that he never allowed Osinachi to socialize or to relate with her siblings. But the most brutal of all the stories was some allegation that Peter Nwachukwu kicked his wife in the chest, which sent her to the hospital where she died shortly after admission.
The Sources of the stories
The first major source of the nasty stories about Peter Nwachukwu was one Frank Edward, a fellow artist who had collaborated or performed with Osinachi on many occasions. The exact relationship between Edward and Osinachi was never clear. He was certainly a person interested in Osinachi’s artistic performance, and such interest had business or commercial aspects to it, which shall be brought to light in the course of this trial. Edward was repeatedly quoted as having stated that he once saw Osinachi unhappy and sobbing, and learnt that she had a problem with her husband that made her unhappy. Also, Edward was partly responsible for the story about how Peter controlled Osinachi finances, performance and carrier. The next set of sources of unfavorable stories about Nwachukwu were the siblings and mother of Osinachi Nwachukwu. They told various stories of how Osinachi was maltreated and abused by her husband. They fed these stories to the social media.
The social media went wild with the stories
Probably in what may turn out the worst of mob lynching, Nigerians on social media soaked in every bit of the nasty stories told about Peter and many bloggers seemed to be in competition over who would come up with the best embellishment and sensationalizing of these epic stories of domestic violence. In matter of a couple of days, Peter Nwachukwu was tried, convicted and executed in the social media. Nobody seemed to have any doubt about his guilt.
Missing links that were ignored
The stories about Osinachi and her husband and the alleged history of domestic violence actually had so many problems from the very beginning. First, Edward, the main source of the story never recounted any clear case of domestic violence that he witnessed. Rather, he said he once met Osinachi sobbing and when he asked her what annoyed her, she pointed to her husband as the source. So, Edward said he was told, not that he saw. Also, Edward spoke generally about how Peter controlled every decision made by Osinachi. Nobody really tried to understand what Edward meant by this. Nobody ever really interviewed Edward. They simply recycled and embellished his brief Instagram opinion or impressions of Osinachi and her husband. Also, the stories from the siblings of Osinachi were so disjointed and contradictory. The stories tended to depict Peter as a cruel and wicked man, rather than the violent abuser he is formally accused of being. The average person has the tendency to confuse being wicked with being a violent person or murderer.
The questions that were never asked
Osinachi, by virtue of her role in her church, worked very closely with the Pastor, Dr. Paul Enenche. In fact, she and Peter were close to the Pastor and his family and met regularly with him. Also, Osinachi attended church events and functions every Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday of every week. And they did this for years uninterrupted. Yet, Pastor Enenche said publicly on many occasions that he had “no idea” of any domestic violence in the marriage of Peter and Osinachi. This should have been stunning. How was Osinachi able to hide every likely piece of evidence of such rampant domestic violence from her Pastor for so many years? How come that church members never noticed any physical signs of domestic violence on her for years?
The pressure of public outcry and social media frenzy
As millions of Nigerians tried and condemned Peter Nwachukwu, even without evidence, the government buckled under that pressure. A former Minister of Women Affairs, jumped into the case and pressured for the prosecution of Nwachukwu. The 23-count charges the Federal Government filed against Peter Nwachukwu were clearly a product of enormous pressure and sense of guilt on the part of a government that had been nonchalant about the predicament of domestic violence victims. Luckily to Peter, the doctors at the National Hospital seemed to have resisted that pressure. Hence the autopsy report that tends to exonerate him. It is the defendant’s hope that the court will remain immune to that pressure.
The trial finally began on Monday, 20th June, 2022
Peter Nwachukwu had been remanded in Kuje Prison since the past two weeks. That was about two months in police custody. From Kuje, Peter was brought to the FCT High Court, Wuse Zone 2 to stand trial. The case is before Honourable Justice Njideka Iheme, Cout No. 56. The prosecution team was led by Mrs. Aderonke Mana from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution.
There was some house-keeping that had to be done among the defense lawyers. Barrister Victor Abakpa who had stood for Nwachukwu during his previous appearances had to withdraw. The official reason given was failure to perfect the brief, which technically meant that the lawyers could not reach agreement with the defendant regarding their fees. At the same time, a new counsel, Mr. Isah A Aliyu, entered his appearance as the new counsel for the defendant.
When trial opened by 11am, after the brief house-keeping exercise, Mrs. Aderonke announced that she was ready to present her witnesses, and the defense was ready too. In what was clearly a surprising speed, the prosecution was able to present its star witnesses. The first prosecution witness was Mrs. Caroline Madu, 61-year old mother of Osinachi. She went straight to it:
Witnesses and their testimonies
Prosecution: Why are you here in court today?
Witness: “I am here because of what Peter did to my daughter ”
Prosecution: “Where is your daughter now?”
Witness: “In the mortuary.?
Prosecution: “What’s she doing there?”
Witness: “She is dead”
Prosecution: “When was last time you saw your daughter?”
Witness: “December 2021. She did not come to my place. She came to Enugu for a program and I went to see her”
Prosecution: “When did you last visit her at her matrimonial home?”
Witness: “Never did. Her husband did not allow me to visit. It was only once when I was sick that I visited her. Peter stole my daughter and alienated her from me. He told me he was an evangelist. He used to beat my child like a carpenter on wood. When she was pregnant, he used to beat her and she was telling me. He refused to allow her to visit me. He told me that if Osinachi did not go home alive, she would go dead. I told my daughter to come home alive. I sent my senior daughter, Favour Madu, to go and fetch her. At this time, she only had 2 children. She came home and stayed for one year and three months. Peter came with pastors to beg for her to come back. I resisted. But Osinachi chose to go back. My daughter went back. Peter continued to “maltreat” her as he used to, but my daughter was too ashamed to tell me. After the birth of the 3rd child, she called me to tell me she had given birth. She asked me to help give her something to eat, that she was hungry. I send my other child, Chibuzor, to go to Abuja to see her. I bought foodstuff and sent it with her through Chibuzor. After 4 days, Chibuzor wanted to come back and I begged her to stay up to a week. I would ask my daughter, Osinachi, for money, but she would tell me she had no money, that she put all her money in her husband’s account. When I was sick and went to visit my daughter, we would go to church and Peter would take the kids and leave me and Osinachi stranded and she would be crying. I never went for omugo because they didn’t tell me when she gave birth.”
Prosecution: “How often did you and your children visit Osinachi in her matrimonial home?”
Witness: “Only that time I was sick. He doesn’t let me come. He calls me a witch. What annoys me is that he said that she would leave either dead or alive.”
Prosecution: “How often did she come to visit you?”
Witness: “He did not allow her to visit me?”
Prosecution: “What do you know about your daughter’s health?”
Witness: “She only told me she had ulcer”.
Prosecution: “How did you know your daughter was dead?”
Witness: “Peter did not tell me. It was by 7pm of that date that Peter called me with Osinachi’s phone. I asked him: how are you people. That was when he told me she was dead. I screamed and asked: “That thing you said, you finally did it – that if she did not go alive she would go dead. Peter and I never got along”
Prosecutor: “What do you want the court to do for you?”
Witness: “I want people to help me. Let the truth come out.”
The cross-examination was effective and the defense counsel was able to elicit important admissions.
The Defense: “Were aware your daughter has other conditions apart from ulcer?”
Defense: “Were you aware the police investigated the cause of death?”
Defense: “Are you aware the police conducted a thorough investigation?”
Witness: “Not aware”.
Defense: “Confirm that the defendant prevented you from visiting her and her from visiting you, right?”
Defense: “So all you know about the marriage came from your other children?”
These are great points. If all she said about how Peter Nwachukwu maltreated or killed Osinachi were based on what others told her, she will not be a reliable witness for truth. It suggests that she really didn’t see the alleged violence because she was not really there.
There was a lot of contradiction. Her emotional narration was dented during cross-examination. The testimony of the First Prosecution Witness was done through interpreters, as the Witness could only understand Igbo language.
Similar pattern reoccurred with the examination of the Second Prosecution Witness, a sister of Osinachi, Ms. Favour Madu. Surprisingly, Favour Madu requested to testify in Igbo language. This did not go down well with the court because she could speak English and had given her written witness statement to the police in English. Besides, she stated that she worked for the National Human Rights Commission as principal data processing officer.
The testimony of the second prosecution witness (PWO) centered on allegations of maltreatment in general. The witness testified that Peter Nwachukwu “treated her like an animal, beat her anyhow, didn’t make her feel happy in her marriage and didn’t allow her to associate with (us) as her family and starved her”.
Asked by the prosecution about the relationship between “you and your sister”, she replied: ”It was not so good because her husband did not allow her to associate well with me. Anytime I was on the phone with her and he was around, her tone would change. She couldn’t relate well with me for fear of her husband”.
Asked by the prosecution, “How often did you and your sister see each other”, she replied: “We only talked on phone, not always. We didn’t see because her husband did not allow us to exchange visits. In 2019, I had my convocation. I called my sister that I was coming to Abuja for the program. She asked me to call her husband, which I did. He started shouting, that I should not come to his house, that I was on my own. My sister arranged another place for me to stay till the program was over.”
Asked by the prosecution about “the relationship with Osinachi and her other siblings”, she replied: “Not good because her husband did not allow her to do anything for us. When my father died, Peter and Osinachi were coming to the village in a car. He was driving recklessly. My sister told him to take it easy that he was carrying the whole family. Peter slapped my sister and poured water on her inside the car. When they got the village my young sister told us. Can you believe that Osinachi did not sleep even one day in our family house in the village. Peter took them to a hotel. We did not allow Osinachi and her children to relate well with our family”.
Asked again by the prosecution, “What was the relationship between Osinachi and her husband”, she answered: “It was hell. No joy. No peace. He beat her like animal. He doesn’t want her to do anything with us. He beats anyhow. He insults her. No joy. No joy in the marriage”.
When asked: “What do you know about Osinachi’s health conditions”, she replied: “It was only ulcer that I knew she was having. And that was because he starved her.”
Asked if she did anything to help her sister, she replied: “She called us that her husband was starving her, that we should come to take her. I travelled to Abuja to bring her and her children to Enugu. She stayed with us for one year and three months. I narrated her case to one of my colleagues to see how the man could be made to pay upkeep for the children. That was when Peter came to take them. Osinachi went back despite that my mom did not want her to go back”.
From her testimony and cross-examination, it must be noted that the first two witnesses of the state did not witness any act of domestic violence. Even the cruelty and maltreatment they testified to were not based on direct observation. It was mostly what they thought or what they felt from their interaction with Osinachi. But they also admitted that they did not visit Osinachi and she was not allowed to visit them. So, it was from what they heard. These are supposed to be the start witnesses, through whom the prosecution seems to win the case.
Continuation of trial
The trial will continue on 21st June. The prosecution indicated they will be calling about three additional witnesses on the second day. It is not clear who the next set of prosecution witness will be, but it seems there will be more siblings of Osinachi, and possibly her children. The children are 12, 10, 9, and 7. These children appear two young to testify in open court and be subjected to cross-examination. More will be known later.
Direction of the trial
Judging by what happened on the first day of trial, the case of the prosecution did not seem as strong as expected. There has been little showing of the domestic violence that dominated the social media. Apart from the hearsay testimony about a slap in a car some years ago on their way to the village, there was no testimony about domestic violence. General allegations of cruelty and maltreatment will not be sufficient. It is important to remember that the defendant is standing trial for domestic violence and murder, and not for being a cruel and uncaring husband. Besides, the evidence of cruelty has been largely speculative and too general to link him to any act of domestic violence.
This special report was compiled by Eculaw News.