Ambassador denies FGM risk in Nigeria

 

THE NIGERIAN ambassador to Ireland has denied that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a widespread practice in her country, and insists that Pamela Izevbekhai and her two daughters are safe to return to Nigeria.

Ambassador Kemafo Nonyerem Chikwe told The Irish Times that FGM was a “non-existent issue” in Nigeria and she accused Ms Izevbekhai of “disparaging” her home country by claiming her daughters would be subjected to the procedure if the family was deported from Ireland.

“She has selfishly disparaged Nigeria. She has dented the image of the nation, making it look like a barbaric country . . . and she has also damaged the chances of people who may be seeking asylum through legitimate means by creating doubts in the minds of the authorities,” Ms Chikwe said.

The ambassador’s assertions on the prevalence of FGM are contradicted by research carried out by several agencies including the World Health Organisation (WHO), which in a 2007 report found that the practice of FGM is “widespread” in Nigeria and varies from one state and cultural setting to another.

Ms Chikwe said the Nigerian government had initiated an investigation into those who had carried out the field research for what she described as incorrect reports.

“Whoever has submitted these reports has given a false report . . . and I am advising that the World Health Organisation revisit this issue,” she said.

“FGM happens to be an ancient practice that is no longer in the consciousness of Nigerians. It is something that is completely insignificant in the present Nigerian culture.”

Pamela Izevbkehai’s battle against deportation was thrown into uncertainty at the weekend after she admitted that documents used in a series of legal challenges had been forged. The counterfeit documents include one purporting to be her daughter Elizabeth’s death certificate, and an affidavit from one Joseph Unokanjo, an obstetrician who purportedly treated the child.

Ms Izevbekhai says her husband admitted to her last week that he had obtained fake documents after the doctor who had treated Elizabeth demanded a substantial payment in exchange for the genuine papers.

Ms Izevbekhai insists, however, that she had a daughter, named Elizabeth, who died after being subjected to FGM.

In a recently lodged affidavit seen by The Irish Times, Dr Joseph Unokanjo of the Isioma Hospital in Lagos confirms that Ms Izevbekhai was his patient but denies he had signed the previous affidavit or the death certificate.

“I can confirm that no baby called Elizabeth Izevbekhai was delivered by me at Isioma Hospital and no baby of that name has ever been treated by me for any ailment including post-circumcision complications,” the affidavit reads.

Contacted yesterday, Dr Unokanjo refused to answer questions and repeated demands he had made to other media outlets for €5,000 in exchange for an interview.

Ms Izevbekhai said at the weekend that she believed the Nigerian authorities could not guarantee her safety or the safety of her two daughters.

The Nigerian ambassador rejected these concerns. “I can assure you Pamela is safe in Nigeria, her children are safe in Nigeria,” Ms Chikwe said yesterday. “The Nigerian authorities will guarantee the safety of every Nigerian. There is nothing stopping Pamela from returning.”