Akwa Ibom First Lady Has Emboldened Rape Victims To Speak Out – Mrs Ime Inyang

Mrs. Ime Ephraim Inyang is the coordinator of Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path Initiative (FEYReP), an impactful Non-governmental organization founded by the wife of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Udom Emmanuel.
Ime Inyang, a successful business woman and former Managing Director of Fadom Group of Companies, who understood the dreams of the wife of the Governor for the women, young people and children of Akwa Ibom State is working assiduously with her, using the platform of FEYReP to touch, change and transform the lives of many indigents and less privileged people for good.
Through FEYReP, new homes have been built for widows, pregnant women receive succor, rape victims got respite and so many more she explained during her exciting one hour interview with Crystal Express, which brought to fore her wit and candour as a competent public officer. Excerpts

Let us know who you are.
I’m Mrs. Ime Ephraim Inyang, wife of Mr. Ephraim Inyang. I’m a mother to many children and have been alive for over 50 years now. I’ve been in business long before I relocated to Akwa Ibom State. Currently, I’m the coordinator of Family Empowerment & Youth Reorientation Path-Initiative (FEYReP), the pet project of Her Excellency, Dr (Mrs) Martha Udom Emmanuel, wife of the Akwa Ibom State governor.


Before you got to this position, you must have had a relationship with Dr (Mrs) Udom Emmanuel that enabled you to become her co-pilot. Can you give us an insight?

We have been friends for over 18 years, long before her husband became the governor of Akwa Ibom State. We have been friends from when we were just housewives but doing small businesses here and there because we wouldn’t just sit at home with our certificates and qualifications. So while we were making children we were also ensuring that we were not idle. Of course you know that before she came here as the wife of the governor, she was an aqua culturist with her own farm and I was traversing nations to do business in goods and services.

I was the managing director of Fathom Nigeria Limited that later became Fathom Group of Companies. Under it we did freight & forwarding, logistics, importation and a couple of other things. We imported things like vehicle tyres, fabrics, garments and also trucks. I had worked briefly with Abuja Environmental Protection Board as their public relations officer until marriage took me out of Abuja to Lagos and had to start a new life there.

I thought since I was going to be raising children it was better if I was on my own and I could have control of my time and that’s what I did up until when I relocated to Akwa Ibom State.


When you finally came to Akwa Ibom with the wife of the governor, what inspired the idea of FEYReP?

When God creates us, He gives us individually passions and talents. HE Martha Emmanuel, wife of Governor Emmanuel, has always been someone who expresses her passion for the less-privileged and this I have seen her do even when we had not come here. This I have seen her do consistently even when we were still housewives raising children. From little money saved here and there, you would see her go to support someone in need who probably has a health condition.

You would see her want to help in diverse ways and this help was always going to those who could not give anything back in appreciation but only say ‘oh, thank you ma’ and she was satisfied with that. So when she came up with her non-governmental organization (NGO) she calls Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path- Initiative, I was not surprised because she is someone who has family values.

I do know that while she was the wife of the secretary to the state government (SSG), I was in her company when she visited somewhere in Eket and they lined up teenage pregnant girls because she wanted to empower pregnant women. She noticed they were so young and asked them where their husbands were, only to find out that most of those girls were without husbands.

When we returned, she kept telling me how she felt and how she truly sympathized with them, hence my lack of surprise when she came up with the name of her pet project because of her concern for different units and issues of the family such as the girl-child or teenage pregnancy or youth reorientation.

She is passionate to give back to them the raising that she believes she had that has helped her to stay strong and focused on acceptable societal values. I’ve seen her lead by example through her children and how she’s raised them. So I believe in what she stands for and what she believes in, and I think that is what made her readily cash in on the opportunity that she had to make her impact felt in a wider capacity.


There’s another pandemic outside the COVID-19 and that is the issue of rape which has garnered attention from everyone. Before now, the wife of the governor had been showing concern. Can you lead us through her significant contributions towards justice for rape victims?

To you it’s like a pandemic because it’s everywhere but to us it is not because I have worked closely with her. I know when she started shouting against rape. Even when people were concerned, they saw it as one of those things but the wife of the governor had started her fight as far back as 2016.

She led the women of Akwa Ibom to walk and traverse the streets of Uyo to register her protest over the sexual molestation of our children. I don’t know if you can lay hands on the video of that event. She didn’t just walk alone, she didn’t just walk with women, she walked with even children of the ages that were being molested. That made her to raise a cry as a mother. She did not just raise awareness but she sought for government intervention by asking them to put up a law.

I know that Nigeria has a law and I know she knows, but she was asking the Akwa Ibom State government to domesticate that law to give strength and standing to the prosecutors in Akwa Ibom State when such cases go to them and I’m glad it’s yielding results. One of her captions then was “Women don’t keep silent”, “Mothers don’t keep silent”.

She believes that when a woman or a mother is silent, that is when people would not know what may be going on, which was dangerous.

As at then we didn’t have toll- free lines but we offered our individual lines as staff of FEYReP. People would call us and we would have to go to them instead of asking them to come to us. So the cries we are hearing all over the nation now, to us, is one of the results we’ve gotten in breaking the culture of silence. I believe that these things were all happening but people were either afraid to speak out because of stigmatization and for fear of not being able to follow through the course of justice to the end.

Lots of times you find out that the people who fall victims to these things are the indigent ones so to speak. So when it happens, for you to prosecute, you need investigation, medical tests, police reports, take officers to the crime scene and all that.

For those indigent ones the process is often cumbersome, and so you’d find out that they would rather live with the scar than make an effort that will not produce results as far as they know. But since FEYReP came in, when they call and say they haven’t done medical tests, FEYReP would pay for it to be done.

Sometimes relevant documents would be required from a victim or the family and they would say they don’t have the means or the access to them and FEYReP would step in, even going as far as providing transport fare for them to visit the police station when they are needed.

Another thing we encountered at the beginning of this advocacy were cases where a landlord would molest a tenant’s child and when they report, the landlord would threaten eviction from his property even when the tenant’s rent is still running.

But in the course of this advocacy, when we come face to face with such situations, the only way to encourage them to keep fighting and not give up was to offer accommodation that’s being paid for by FEYReP and relocate such person(s) there. We have had to go to villages to let the village chiefs know that they owe the community the duty of protecting them in the face of such happening.

We have made it their responsibility to actually ensure that the lives and the security of those people are not threatened. Her Excellency has gone as far as partnering foreign organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to establish a gender-based violence (GBV) centre. When we talk about gende-based violence, rape is part of it, sexual assault, defilement, domestic violence, emotional abuse and everything that resembles such acts.

A lady called in recently, saying she had a problem and that the problem is bigger than her and that she needed help. She then went on to describe her ordeal and we discovered it was a case of domestic violence. She said her husband beat her up and kicked her out of the house and took their children away. We asked her to come to the office with evidence but she said she had none. We instructed her to quickly make a report at Social Welfare Services. Sometimes it’s not every case that FEYReP will handle. When a case is such that we can handle, we do. If not, we would direct such victims or cases to the appropriate place for them to be attended to.

And so for Her Excellency and her FEYReP team, it’s not as if rape is happening much more now than it used to happen, it is just that more women are now emboldened to talk about it.

Men are yet to summon courage to come forward with cases of sexual harassment. We had a case here in Uyo where a seven-year old boy was anally molested by a 50+ year-old man. When the man was taken to the police station he feigned illness and was taken to the hospital, and from there he absconded but we’re still looking for him. So Her Excellency on her own has done quite a lot.

Recently another level of advocacy was deployed which she had to take to her Royal Fathers. She pleaded with them not to let FEYReP fight thisbattle alone but join in and render support. I know that she’s a grandchild to royalty, so to speak, and she was able to relive the memory of what her grandfather used to do to such people in his time when he was alive and thankfully the Royal Fathers promised that if such cases are brought to their palaces, they would look at the facts of the case and treat them the way they should be treated.

Few days ago, women stakeholders in Akwa Ibom State were spoken to and we told them not to let the indigent ones fight this war alone so that they don’t run into wrong hands, but guide them, show them where to go and how to go about it. Where it is beyond you, call FEYReP and we will rise to it and Her Excellency has not given up.

This advocacy is being broken down to local government areas and very soon you’ll hear each of the local government areas carrying out their sensitization campaigns/awareness programmes on it so that parents can be well informed. Her Excellency has gone church by church in times past to talk to fathers and mothers about this issue.

The fight is not going to finish in a day but she is hopeful that someday we will see results that show that a people had noticed these happenings in our society and they had been working assiduously to minimizing and ending it.


Through her advocacy and efforts some people have been in police net, we equally heard that some have been successfully prosecuted. Can you provide the numbers to show how many have been arrested and incarcerated because of this?

You know that our justice system is prolonged, that is part of what she submitted to the government. For us in FEYReP, I know from statistics available in my office. Rape is not supposed to have an option of fines, but there’s a guy who raped a six-year-old child anally. Ultimately, we were shocked when judgment was given and he was to pay a fine of N500,000 which is not enough, and to think that it took us almost four years to go through that and so when it is like that, where our authority or strength stops is where we help and facilitate the arrests of these culprits.

The rest is in the hands of the government. For the people that we’ve been able to facilitate their arrest, I think we handle between ten to twelve cases of such in a month that does not include the one that other agencies are doing as well as those who go to the police on their own but from our end, that’s what we see on a regular basis.

Apart from the ones that we attempted to facilitate their arrest but they fled, we’re still looking for them. We are not going to give up and we are not letting anybody off our hook. In fact, the slogan now is, “If it is FEYReP, they will look for you and fish you out”, “If it is FEYReP, you cannot get bail”. We’ve had cases of fathers incestuously molesting their kids and they cried to FEYReP for help.

The first thing to do is to take them off of those children. When we have a child crying for justice against the father, then you know how badly they have been wounded. Some of them had wielded what they thought was influenced by making offers but of course it is a thing of passion, it is not a thing of what I can eat or what I can get out of it. Some of them are still with us.

We believe now that the governor has assented to the Akwa Ibom State Law against Violence things will move a little bit faster and I believe that other things will follow that will help facilitate the prosecution of these kinds of cases.

Perhaps people will see that everyone including the government is serious and they would have to stop otherwise they would get into serious trouble and nothing would be done to help them.

Was there any desire for a dedicated court?
Of course, yes, because if we have a dedicated court, the delays with adjournments would be eliminated and there would be a fixed time frame to handle each case. There could be an agreement where no one case exceeds three months without final ruling, so that you know that when you are caught, your case would be decided in three months with you behind bars.


Still on FEYReP, a mention today of that brand brings memories of goodness, shelter for widows and orphans. Can you take us through some achievements as regards this direction?

Oh, yes. I think the Shelter of Hope project came alive when we had people, particularly widows, who would come to Her Excellency to ask for intervention in the area of housing. Even when some of them bring pictures of where they live your heart cannot help it.

For some of them in that condition, family members may have threatened to disinherit them of nothing or maybe parcels of farm land and stuff like that. So Her Excellency decided that from the SOS letters and messages she was getting, we in FEYReP should take a tour to those places to see things for herself and sometimes she would decide to go on her own. It was like a joke when she started handling the few cases that we got at the outset but as of today, we have 34 houses and counting, some built directly by FEYReP and some built in partnership with people.

As I speak to you, Her Excellency will be commissioning about three Shelters of Hope in a few days, most likely this week. Two out of these three are in partnership with good spirited individuals while FEYReP did one singlehandedly. It is as a result of this partnership that we’ve been able to accomplish this much in the area of shelter.

Sometimes people come to us complaining about the state of their house and seeking our support for shelter but we don’t respond to such requests. If we do we’d lose track of those who really need it because people would just think they can rely on contacts. But Her Excellency has given us a clear mandate to reach out to persons who never thought they could be reached or heard or cared for because to her, that’s what governance is about.

Governance is about reaching out to the governed. You mustn’t have contacts, you mustn’t have a godmother or godfather before government can meet you at the point of your need.

We believe according to what she has shared with us in FEYReP, that she’s not going to stop today or tomorrow but she’s going to do as much as God gives her the grace to do for the people of Akwa Ibom State, while she remains their First Lady and even beyond because her works are just beyond politics. That is why she does not begin to count contacts or begin to look at faces before she does it. She just assesses the case on basis of merit and it will be handled.


We discovered too that pregnant teenagers and women are well taken care of. We’ve heard cases of the governor’s wife visiting hospitals to give out packages to women who just delivered babies and others. Could you throw more light on that and explain who is qualified to receive such packages?

As I narrated earlier about her experiences with teenage girls and pregnancy when she was wife of the then SSG and how she reacted to those cases, that in itself gave rise to a lot of programmes towards the welfare of pregnant women and the girl child.

The first thing she believed she had to do was to get the underage children well informed about their sexuality and that’s when she came up with the “Girls Uphold Your Dignity” programme and she believed that the best place to go was the schools to catch them young so that when they’re doing what they’re doing, they would do it from the standpoint of information, not ignorance. And so she puts before the children the pros and cons.

For many years now, that programme – Girls Uphold Your Dignity – has been ongoing. We go round schools across the three senatorial districts of Akwa Ibom State and we’ve had children ask us very touching questions. They would narrate to us some very gory experiences that they’re going through in the hands of their guardians and parents.

Some of the people that are in the police net now were discovered because of the Girls Uphold Your Dignity programme. For the pregnant women, you know that Her Excellency has the tradition of going to hospitals to visit babies occasionally and specifically on ceremonial days.

On one of those New Year days she visited the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital and was just greeting and giving them gifts when she saw this particular woman and asked where her baby was. But the woman said she didn’t have a baby. She asked why and was informed the woman lost her baby. It was at that point that the health workers narrated her story to Her Excellency and that gave birth to another programme in the area of pregnancy, childbirth and aftercare, which we call Martha’s Pregnacare programme.

They said this lady was in labour, she went to traditional birth attendants who confirmed that the head of the baby came out but the shoulders couldn’t. But the birth attendants didn’t know it had gotten to an emergency point until they noticed the woman was almost dying before she was rushed to the teaching hospital where she had to go through a Caesarean section. But it was too late for the baby.

They salvaged the woman’s life and cleaned her up and upon that, she couldn’t foot the medical bills for that treatment. It was Her Excellency that picked up that bill when she visited. So Her Excellency then decided to put up this Martha Pregnacare programme to also become a platform of advocacy for pregnant women to know the need to go to the hospital when they are pregnant, to also know that the help of a professional health care attendant is vital; and that programem has been ongoing.

She understands that many of them are indigent that’s why they would give birth and be abandoned in the hospitals by people who were responsible for the pregnancy. Some would tell Her Excellency when she visits the hospital and sees such cases that nurses contributed money to buy clothes and toiletries for the baby.

So when she meets these people, she offers them her “baby bag” which contains everything a woman would need for delivery. At least she believes that even if you are unable to buy your baby’s needs, in that bag you would find everything that you need or is required to go into the laboratory ward and come out. She also believes that it’ll help reduce maternal mortality and child morbidity as it were.

She also believes it will be a platform to teach the indigent women that they mustn’t be rich to eat well and feed their babies well, to keep infections and diseases at bay. In this programme, doctors and nutritionists are brought in to be able to teach the women and so far, we’re happy to tell you that FEYReP has begotten babies from this programme because some of them come in through the programme and they go into labor and FEYReP picks up the bill.

So it’s been her story of value addition for us in FEYReP and we are particularly excited and happy because that has been our dream, to add value to the people of Akwa Ibom State for as much and as long as she can.

Talking about the pregnancy issue, especially to indigent people who fall prey to traditional birth attendants (TBAs), what programme(s) has FEYReP to enlighten these TBAs?

Her Excellency does her things in phases so that she will not bite more than she can chew. Before the corona virus pandemic, she had been dealing with the prospect of putting together a programme that will enable her interface and interact with traditional birth attendants to tell them where they can stop and request for the services of professional medical doctors since we cannot shut down their activities overnight.

But the people themselves will have to decide which of the services they consider safe for them and I believe that will take a while for people to come up with that assessment.


The governor’s wife has done so much through FEYReP. Has she been liaising with wives of council chairmen to also disseminate these messages and programmes to those at the grassroots?

Yes. I just told you that in a short moment from now advocacies are going to be happening in every local government area. She is not to do the work by herself; she has to reach the local government through different stakeholders in the area.

The work of Her Excellency is broken down into levels and stages; it is an all-engaging activity. What she seeks to address our society about is not something that she can singlehandedly accomplish but every one of us has to be involved. I mean, she went to the different arms of government to seek justice because she knew that to stop rape and child molestation in our society she cannot do it alone.

As an NGO, she needed the support of lawmakers, policy makers and law enforcement agencies to get the desired result. If we are talking about stopping rape for instance, in our rural areas, or getting women aware of the need to go to hospitals when they are pregnant, there’s no better medium of passing this message other than through their immediate first ladies i.e. the local government first ladies, because they will speak to their people in the language and manner they would understand.

So all Her Excellency does is to bring them together and share with them the blueprint of what she wants to do and ask for their involvement and that’s the only reason we are getting fast results and also getting many people involved in what she is advocating for.


Family inheritance is also a disturbing trend for the females in our society. Is FEYReP also looking into that area of discrimination?

Of course. We’re talking about gender-based violence. Like I was telling you, it’s all-encompassing. I tried to talk about rape, defilement, domestic violence and so on. Widowhood is also something that Her Excellency is also passionate about but like I mentioned earlier, she cannot do everything and so sometimes when an issue also has to do with that office comes up, she responds as soon as she can.

The Association of Female Lawyers (FIDA) is there and you know how passionate they are about advocating and prosecuting anything that has to do with widows’ rights and so if a matter comes to us we’d only treat it within what we can handle and when it goes beyond that, she would draw the attention of the necessary organization to handle that.

Even the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) is involved in the fight against gender-based violence. How are they involved? While we are there going to facilitate arrests and so on, they are making public what is going on, they’re making the society aware of the ills going on around that community.

That is why I said Her Excellency alone cannot accomplish results in all the areas of concern and passion she has for the people of Akwa Ibom State. She has to work through levels, mediums, people and units. Like now, I am talking to you and at the end of the day you’re going to publish it, which is going to make the Akwa Ibom community aware of what is going on and people will be aware, and if they see a semblance of what we are crying out against, they would be able to call out our attention.


Finally, how has FEYReP enjoyed the support of public and private individuals? Has FEYReP been getting support from companies and firms we have in the state to aid in carrying out all these projects and programmes in the state knowing fully well that it is an NGO and not a government parastatal?

Without partnership I do not think that we will be able to accomplish the much that we have. I talked about UNFPA that has partnered us to set up GBV rescue centres supported by the Norwegian government.

In that manner also, there are several other people either individually or by organization that are partnering us depending on the area of their interest.

Like we have support when we do our Back to School programme which we do once in a year where Her Excellency sends indigent children back to school, MTN gives us material support such as school bags, pencil cases, exercise books as part of the materials to send these kids back to school with. Without the support of people, it is not possible for FEYReP or even Her Excellency to do the much that she has been able to do.

That is why she calls out for support and for partnership every time because as you’re supporting in this programme you find out that one programme could give birth to another programme and we would also need support in that area. So I’m asking you people to join us in the call for partnership and tell people not to be tired of us because we call for support when the need arises.

We call for support when occasion demands that we should call for it. For instance, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, FEYReP is not going to fold its arms and sit back and watch the government do it alone because no one government can singlehandedly do everything for its people. People will have to support in their own respective ways.

If you leave governance for the government alone, it will not work because you cannot achieve what you want to achieve in collectivity and so what is FEYReP doing? When people were crying of hunger, FEYReP had to package foodstuffs in her own little way. While government was sending palliatives, FEYReP also went to those areas where people were sending SOS messages to FEYReP to also support the government’s effort.

Now we’re talking about hand sanitizers and face masks as the new culture. FEYReP will have to partner government or support government by carrying this sensitization to the rural areas, letting the people know the value and the benefits of having to wear their face masks in the face of this pandemic. As a result, we will have people living in a controlled environment as far as this disease is concerned. We’re hoping to achieve the result of minimizing the spread of this disease.

So when we tell people to come partner us because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is real, it is a necessity that has come up and we have to rise to the occasion because that is what we represent. So please spread the word for FEYReP that we’re doing a good job and we need people to rise up and partner us. Nothing is too small and nothing is too big. When you give us your support we’ll show you result and we’ll provide reasons to give us more. Thank you.

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