Forty-year-old Kate Ekatu thought her whole world had just collapsed when she was driven out of her home by the family of her late husband, who died in October 2015.
Her husband, Godfrey, had not even been buried. Yet, she had become homeless.
“My husband’s elder brother, Chief Sam Ekatu, told me to hand over the ATM cards to my husband’s account and I refused. My husband expressly told me not to give the ATM cards to anyone while he was ill.
“I told my brother in-law that if he wanted access to the accounts, he could go to the bank and withdraw any amount of money he wanted with bank tellers. But in anger, he went to the bank and made some reports, which made them to freeze the accounts. Now, I live from hand to mouth and have to depend on my siblings to feed myself and my son.”
Pathetic as Kate’s story may sound, many people may dismiss it as the story of many other widows, whose lives have been turned upside down after their husbands’ death.
But the freezing of the bank accounts was just the beginning of her woes.
Kate, a Delta State indigene, said she married her husband, an Urhobo man, a few years ago.
“We married legally. We did not go to court but he did all the necessary traditional things. He met my family, and he paid the bride price,” she began.
As someone who had advanced in age before getting married, Kate claimed she and her husband had to resort to a local fertility clinic in order to have a child.
She said, “We were both given medicines to take regularly at the traditional fertility clinic and I became pregnant not long after.
“I was delivered of my boy on April 2, 2015. After the first baby, he suggested that we try for another one and we went back to the clinic to start another treatment. I became pregnant again and that is the one I am carrying now.”
Unfortunately for Kate, her husband took ill and died on October 2, 2015.
Then her troubles started.
She alleged that her husband’s relations invited her to their family house and asked her about the property her husband owned.
Kate said, “I told them he had a plot of land at Port Harcourt and a car. They asked me how many bank accounts he owned and I told them he had two. He had over N700,000 in one and over N200,000 in another.
“After a while, my husband’s elder brother came and told me to hand over the ATM cards. The man is from the same father with my husband but not the same mother.
“I told him that my husband gave me the ATM cards so that I could easily withdraw money for his treatment and our upkeep before he died. I told him that if he needed any money, he could look for the passbook.
“He was angry. He then went to present a paper to the bank to block the two accounts. Now I cannot withdraw any money. When I went to the bank, I was told I would need to go to court and retain a lawyer to sort the issue out before I could be given access to the accounts.”
Kate told our correspondent that her husband had promised to make her his next of kin on his accounts but he could not do so before he died.
“My husband had a wife who was late. He used her name as next of kin in one of the accounts and had forgotten to change it. In the second account number, it is one of his younger brothers that he used, not even the name of his brother who is making claims now,” she said.
According to Kate, Sam soon made findings about her late husband’s property and started to accuse her of hiding her husband’s assets.
She said he accused her of not informing him that her husband had two houses in Port Harcourt.
“He said I did not tell them that my husband had a building at Port Harcourt. He has two houses in Port Harcourt. We lived together in one and the other is under construction.
“I explained to him that family members who visited us during the naming of our child knew that he owned such buildings. The only reason he did not know was because he did not come for the naming ceremony. He told me that the property were not mine. The family eventually collected the keys from me and locked up the houses. I could not even take out my belongings.”
Again, Kate’s woes did not stop there.
She told Saturday PUNCH that she suddenly received a call one day to appear at the Kwale Police Division.
Kate said she refused to go because they did not tell her what she had done wrong. But soon, a team of policemen reportedly stormed her house and took her away.
“At the police station, they started asking me different questions about my child; where I had him, how I had him and if my late husband was indeed the father. I later learnt that my husband’s elder brother (Sam) was the one who asked the station to investigate me because of a child I carried for nine months.
“I told them where I was delivered of the baby and that my husband’s younger sister was there during the delivery. They told me I would need to do a test to determine if I was indeed pregnant.
“They put me inside a cell. I was later taken to a clinic for a test where my husband’s family said the test showed I am not pregnant. They said what is inside me is fibroid, not a baby. They said I was lying about my first child, that I either adopted or stole him.”
Saturday PUNCH learnt that while Kate was in police custody, one of the assistant commissioners of police in the state came visiting and saw her in the cell after she had spent three days in custody. He asked what brought her there and after she explained, he ordered her immediate release.
When he left, despite his order, she was not released until the Divisional Police Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbuanya, saw her again that evening.
“He asked what I was still doing there and I told him that his people had not yet granted me bail. I slept in the cell till the following day when the investigating police officer, a woman, demanded N20,000 but my brother begged her till she accepted N10,000 in addition to the N500 he paid for bail paper.
“After my release, they invited me again. The police took me to my husband’s house and ransacked everywhere. They said they were looking for his house documents. I told them I had never seen them before. But they turned everything upside down and said I was lying. When they did not see anything, they left.”
At the moment, Kate is out of police custody, but she said she had nowhere to turn to for help.
She had contacted the Esther Child Rights Foundation for help, claiming that she was tormented by her late husband’s family because she had nobody.
When our correspondent spoke with the Kwale DPO (Ogbuanya) on why his men were being used to torment a helpless widow, he explained that he was merely acting on a report of child theft.
“It is a case of child stealing. The people petitioned us. They did not know how the woman got the child. The husband died and the family made enquiry to establish the paternity of the child. They said they suspect it might be a human trafficking ring. That is what we are trying to find out.”
The woman said she put to bed somewhere in Umuahia. We requested for the birth certificate but she has not been able to substantiate her claim. Even the pregnancy she is carrying, the two families went to a clinic and did a test. They brought a result to us, which shows that she is not pregnant.”
Our correspondent also spoke with Kate’s brother-in-law (Sam), who explained that it is true that Kate married his brother.
He said the family decided to summon Kate into a meeting to tell them about how her husband died because it was the customary thing to do in their community.
Sam said, “She told us that my brother and herself lived well and that he had two accounts, ATM cards of which he gave her.
“I asked why she had then been complaining that we had not been taking care of her since her husband died when he left the ATM cards of his accounts with her.
“While my brother was ill, we were contributing money to take care of him. He said the company he was working with had not paid them for two months, we took charge of his care and that of his wife and son.”
He claimed that before the deceased died, Kate took him from where he was being treated to another place where his situation deteriorated.
“I had to send my siblings to bring him to Warri for treatment where we were all contributing money to take care of him.
“But when I investigated, I realised he had up to N900,000 in his accounts and she had even been withdrawing from the accounts. I then decided we had to suspend the account.
“I showed the death certificate of my brother to the bank so that the account could be suspended. We decided to dig into her activities and realised that she was planning to buy another child.
“When she told me my brother had no money and was complaining about neglecting her in her pregnant state, I said she should let us do a test to ascertain whether she is actually pregnant. But she told us she could only do the test in Umuahia and I asked what was special about the place. That was when I became suspicious.
“I reported to the Department of State Services to compel her to do the test because I do not trust the police. But the matter was later referred to the Kwale Police Division.
“She later agreed to go for a scan and nothing was found in her tummy. What do you expect from me after that? I do not even believe her son belonged to my brother. She said it was the same way she thought she was pregnant before she had the boy at Umuahia.
“I have insisted that we conduct a DNA test on the baby. The police said we have no right to conduct a DNA test. The onus lies on our family to use legal means to determine the paternity of the child. I did not eject her or demand for the keys to my brother’s house. It was even her father who handed the keys over to me.
“I don’t know why she should report to you when she is a criminal. We would make sure she is prosecuted for her criminal activities.”
When our correspondent contacted the spokesperson for the Delta State Police Command, Mrs. Celestina Kalu, she explained that efforts were being made to sort out the issue between the Kate’s family and her in-laws.
“But people should understand that the option of child adoption is available. People should endeavour to follow legal routes in looking for children,” she said.
But Kate insisted that she did nothing illegal.
She swore her husband impregnated her and she conceived and delivered the baby normally.
“I will take this to any length because I am not guilty of all these lies,” she said.
Director of Esther Child Rights Foundation, Mrs. Esther Ogwu, who is fighting Kate’s case, has said that so far as Kate has insisted that she did nothing wrong, she would do her best to ensure the widow gets justice.
“No matter what happens, there is no doubt that Kate has been treated unjustly by her in-laws. We would advise her to agree to DNA test if that is what the family needs to confirm the paternity of her child,” she said.