Woman in Handcuff zimbabwe

LILIAN, the beautiful wife of Joseph Ugili, a native of Mbano in Imo State married to a successful Nigerian businessman in Harare, whose husband is presently undergoing court trial by Zimbabwe Immigration for ‘a conspiracy’ in a bid to forcefully take over his flourishing firm has raised the alarm on attempts by Robert Mugabe’s government to cripple her husband’s business, send him to jail and deport him to Nigeria.

In this exclusive interview with GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, she narrates her painful ordeal in the hands of wicked Zimbabwe immigration like: ‘Ciziba, Chakawera & Mabika’. Excerpts unedited:

For the purpose of our readers, can you take us through your background?

I am Lillian Nyekwaba from Isielo Mbano local government area of Imo State. I am a graduate, married to my dearest husband Joseph Ugili, who has been resident in Harare for 16 years and have a thriving business. We are blessed with two boys and a girl.

How long have you been married to Joseph-your husband?

We have been married for five good years, since 2006.

Did he get married to you in Nigeria here?

Of course, he did.

So, when did you join him in Zimbabwe?

I joined my husband in Zimbabwe on March 23, 2008.

When you intended to join your husband in Zimbabwe, what were the dreams you had in your mind?

My dream then was that as a Nigerian graduate, if I traveled there, I would easily get a paid employment offer. But this dream was short-lived.

What happened?

I realized that the place was not conducive for me because I could not even move around for one day in my three years stay in Harare. Not for once did I go to my husband’s shop due to the daily harassment by Zimbabwe security operatives and immigration officials. Rather, I was at home with the children all through. It was not long after that, we had this confrontation and attack in our home by Zimbabwe Immigration officials.

Could you tell us about this problem you encountered in the hands of Zimbabwe Immigration officials?

Just because my Visa expired by a day, eight fully armed Zimbabwe Immigration officials stormed our home at about 4am, to harass, humiliate and extort money from us. It was because I overstayed my Visa that I did not go out for once like I earlier said in my three year stay in Harare. I preferred to stay at home, until the day I was caught.

What did the Zimbabwe Immigration officials do to you?

The fully armed Zimbabwe Immigration officials were led by their Oga, who preferred to stay at the back and watch proceedings. My son then was admitted in the hospital for ‘bladder-entropy’. In Zimbabwe policy, even when a son in hospital admission is dying for instance, they would never allow the mother to sleep close to her son. Before the case, I normally go to the hospital very early in the morning and left exactly 10pm home. That particular day my husband woke me up to prepare food for our son.

And while preparing it, these angry-looking Zimbabwe Immigration officials forcefully knocked-down our door to enter our house.

I did not know who opened our main iron-gate for them. When I heard their knock on the door before they broke down the door, I thought a nurse from the hospital had urgent medical information to pass on to me since another baby died in same hospital some hours earlier.

After they had forcefully entered, they brought out their identification cards (ID), saying they are Zimbabwe Immigration officials. They demanded to see my husband. And I told them my husband was not at home. They were six men and two men. They demanded to see my traveling papers. I replied them that my traveling papers were not there on me. Four of these Zimbabwe Immigration men climbed upstairs of our flat to meet my husband who was fast asleep to beat him up.

By this time around, I was pregnant. The two Zimbabwe Immigration women then said: ‘Madam, you better cooperate with us so you don’t have yourself to blame.’ They said they want to know my mission in Harare, when I arrived Zimbabwe. As they continued to ask me several questions, they saw the picture of my daughter. They asked me if my daughter came with me to Zimbabwe, I declined to say she did not. Then, they alleged that I must have either ‘smuggled’ my child by road or air back to Nigeria.

They ordered me to produce my daughter immediately. They claimed there was no way my daughter would have been in Nigeria. They handcuffed me and my husband; then took us to their office. They asked us to pay for temporal resident permit at a cost of $1,000 (American dollars each); which we did. My husband brought out 2,000 US dollars which we paid them.

We were asked to go and I was ordered to report early the following morning which I did. On my arrival as instructed, they said ‘Madam, we are taking you to the cell. We are not giving you the temporal permit again.’ They claimed that the lawyer my husband hired told them I was not married to my husband and that they are convinced that my husband and I are married legally in Nigeria. Our money was returned, while I was taken in handcuff in my pregnancy state and locked in a female cell. My husband is innocent of all the allegations and charges preferred against him by Zimbabwe Immigration officials.

What was your experience in the female cell in your condition then?

I saw hell in Zimbabwe female cell (Chuwrudi prison). When I entered there, I met Zimbabwean girls who are rogues, armed robbers and murderers. They looked so mean and wicked. I told one of the prison warden women that I did not commit any offence and that there is no reason I should be locked in here with these dangerous Zimbabwe girls, bearing in mind my state of pregnancy. I reminded the officer that it was better I was allowed to go back to Nigeria in safe mind. I stayed in the cell for three months in a most-horrible condition. They brought ‘uncooked food’ and toxic meal for me to eat which I rejected.

Were you at any time beaten by the Zimbabwe girls in the cell?

At no time was I beaten by them, but I was harassed, threatened, humiliated and scorned by them. They hate Nigerians a lot. They never hid their hatred for Nigerians. And I was the only Nigerian in that cell. They kept speaking their local language to taunt me, pointing at my direction. Sometimes, my husband sends his workers to bring me food, but the wardens reject the food out-rightly. They told me I was in cell where I would not get any nice food to eat. And that I should make do with whatsoever food I was given.

So, what happened next?

It was after the three months in the cell that I was taken to the airport, not allowed to go home and pick my clothes, the sum of $4,000 I kept in the bedroom and personal effects; only to later hear after been deported to Nigeria that my money in the house got missing after those Zimbabwe Immigration officers came to invade our home. Let me use this medium to say that many stranded Nigerian married women who had no money to buy return ticket home, resort to prostitution in rural and urban areas to survive. There are lots of children on the streets of Harare without fathers.

How were you able to get a return ticket home?

The ‘Golden Club’ my husband belongs to with other Nigerians in Zimbabwe Association arranged my return ticket with those of my children to return home when I was deported.

What will you say about Mugabe’s government?

The 88-year old man is very wicked. He is just suffering Nigerians. Zimbabwe is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah and hell.

EDITORS’ NOTE: This xenophobic against Nigerians in Zimbabwe has now assumed a dangerous dimension, where most Nigerians resident there are daily tormented and tortured by Zimbabwe security officials.