AKWA Ibom State’s Councillor Uduak Nseobot representing Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area has appeared in court charged with assaulting a woman and stripping her naked in the public for stealing some naira notes sprayed on him at a wedding.
Mr Nseobot and his wife, Aniedi, were charged to court on July 11 by the Akwa Ibom State government for allegedly kidnapping, assaulting, and publicly stripping the woman, Iniubong Essien, whom they had accused of stealing from them. They said the money was sprayed on them at their wedding but Ms Essien, who has been a close friend to the councillor’s wife for about 10 years, denied stealing the money.
After the wedding, the councillor and his wife, supported by their friends, were said to have abducted Ms Essien from her home in Uyo in the morning, around November last year and drove her to a village in Ibiono, about 27 kilometres. Ms Essien said, however, that she assisted the Nseobots in cooking and serving food for their wedding guests and that she was not even the person who helped the couple to pick money donated to them at the event.
Ms Essien added: “I was beaten and forced to walk stark naked in the village hall, they removed my dress, my bra, and my pants. People were inside the village hall, I think the councillor may have told them that he was bringing a thief for them to beat, so the whole place was filled with people.
“He was mixing charcoal with pepper to rub on my body, but he didn’t rub it on me. They tied a rope around my waist and said I must dance naked before the village people.”
She added that the councillor, his wife, and their friends used their mobile phones to take photos and videos of her, while she was naked and being beaten. In the courtroom, the councillor, Mr Nseobot, stood in the dock with a forlorn look, with his hands crossed behind his back, while his wife, said to be resident in the US, was not present.
At the start of proceedings, the judge, Mr Justice Archibong, struck out Mrs Nseobot’s name from the charge sheet, following a request from the prosecution counsel, Godwin Udom. Then, the prosecution counsel withdrew his earlier application for a bench warrant against the councillor.
Mfon Ben, the counsel to the accused, informed the court he has filed an application challenging the validity of the charges against his client. His request that the councillor should not take his plea until the court disposes of his objection was accepted by the judge and the case adjourned to October 14 for the court to hear the argument on the preliminary objection.
This incident was brought to public attention through social media with people calling on the state government to ensure justice was done in the case. Akwa Ibom people in the Diaspora, led by an environmental activist in the US, Tom Mbeke-Ekanem, sent a petition to the Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, last month demanding justice for Ms Essien.
Mr Mbeke-Ekanem said: “We want to see both suspects, Uduak Godwin Nseobot and his wife, Ms Aniedi Matthew prosecuted for taking laws into their hands by abducting, stripping naked and unclad, tying a rope around the victim’s waist and grievously battering her. These actions are barbaric, bizarre and a gross violation and contravention of Iniobong’s human rights.
“Above all, it portrays Akwa Ibom State negatively as her unclad pictures had been trending on social media and pages of national newspapers with the scars and blisters all over her body. Akwa Ibom people want justice not only be done but seen to be done expeditiously and hopefully, this will serve as a deterrent to others.”