Rev. Fr. Nwaigwe Stephen, a Catholic priest, has been placed under detention by the Children, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Court, which is housed in the Chief Magistrate’s court in Awka, Anambra State, for allegedly raping and impregnating a teenager.

According to a Sunday, November 26, 2023 Daily Trust article, the magistrate gave the prosecutor instructions to forward the original case file to the Anambra State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General’s office.

The pregnant juvenile was also alleged to have been taken against her will by the priest to Benin City, Edo State, where she gave birth, but the baby’s whereabouts remain a mystery as per the police inquiry.

According to section 34(2) of the Child’s Rights Law of Anambra State, 2004, having sex with a minor is illegal.

In 2018, the Two Hearts of Love Congregation (Ugwu Nso), a well-known Catholic faith-based religious congregation in Orlu, Imo State, fired several priests, including Nwaigwe, for alleged misbehaviour that damaged the reputation of the order.

The teenager was allegedly invited to a religious church function at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church Parish in Obosi, Anambra State, where the priest first met him.

The victim stated that the priest abducted her from her parents when she was 14 years old and promised to pay for her studies in exchange for her working as his cook. She made this claim while responding to questions in court on Monday, November 20, 2023, during remand proceedings.

She said that shortly after moving into the priest’s home, he began coercing her into having sex with him, and that he carried on the act until she became pregnant at the age of 17.

The minor went on to say that after telling the priest she was pregnant, the priest drove her from their home in Ihiala, Anambra State, to a location in Benin City, Edo, where they resided. There, the priest introduced her to a man and a woman who were his brother and his brother’s wife.

“But when I gave birth to my baby at a native birth attendant’s house in Benin City, I was told that the baby died and when I made efforts for them to show me the dead baby, they said the baby had been buried,” she recalled.

When court asked if she had been gang-raped before, the minor noted, “While on our way to Benin City, father told me to say that I was gang-raped. But I have never been raped before, except the ones he (father) did to me in his house,”

Also, during remand proceedings, the Police prosecutor informed the court that there was a probable cause to order the remand of the priest; witnesses were bound over to appear before the High Court to give evidence, whenever the case would be mentioned.

However, the defence counsel applied for bail of the defendant, urging the court to exercise his discretion of bail in favour of the defendant, while citing Sections 13(3), 71(3), 72 and 73 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Anambra State, 2022, as well as, Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as Amended.

He also prayed the court to grant bail to the priest in most liberal terms; assuring the court that Nwaigwe would never jump bail, if granted.

But the police prosecutor prayed the court to refuse bail to the clergyman, stating that the case before the court was an offence against a minor who was supposedly under the spiritual guardianship of the defendant.

Ruling on the bail application, the presiding Chief Magistrate, Genevieve Osakwe, stated that the case before the court was an offence punishable with life imprisonment, regretting that the offence of rape against minors was becoming rampant in the society.

She warned that the court would not fold its hands to watch the society decay, irrespective of whose ox is gored.

She warned that the court would not fold its hands to watch the society decay, irrespective of whose ox is gored.

The court gave numerous instances of similar offences which had appeared before it in the past, mentioning specifically, a case involving a-75 year old man who also allegedly raped a minor and was accordingly remanded.

She therefore adjourned the case to 6th December, 2023.