Perhaps, only few women, including men, would remain in one piece after experiencing what Ms. Calista Offor, 45, has gone through in the hands of her ex-husband, 50-year-old Felix Oshai.
For a woman who worked hard to build a thriving company, had good cars and did well for herself, but now living at the mercy of well-wishers because her husband (allegedly) arrived from the United States and hijacked her company, sold two of her cars, took the remaining one for himself, gave her serious beating, converted her properties into his and worst still, married their sales girl, her emotional and psychological wellness can only be imagined.
When our correspondent visited her where she now resides in Lagos during the week, her story is one that could make anyone cry, more so that she alleges that the same man has not stopped humiliating and threatening her as each day passes by. She made strenuous efforts to hold back tears from rolling down her cheeks throughout the conversation, thus every word came out with so much effort and pain.
Flanked by her only child, identified as Onyeka, 17, who suffers from autism, Calista’s torturous journey to her present predicament began when her husband was allegedly deported from the prison in the US and he moved in with her.
Soon after, all she had worked for vanished before she could say, because according to her, he took over the company, took all she had and went away with the company’s sales girl.
Following series of battery, his absence from home for about a year, his refusal to take care of the autistic girl and his alleged infidelity, which made her to contract venereal disease, a sexually transmitted disease, Calista filed for divorce in 2010, which an Ikeja High Court granted in 2016.
Since he left with “everything”, Calista and her autistic daughter had been living from hand to mouth. With the support of Child Dignity Foundation and others, Onyeka now enjoys scholarship at a special school for people with her condition, but getting transport fare from Ipaja, where she lives with her mum, to school is usually a herculean task and so she’s absent regularly. And this is after she had been out of school and therapy for four years due to lack of funds.
A beautiful woman with confidence and good accent, Calista, in an emotive voice, explained that they met while both of them were in school but he travelled to the US while she went for the National Youth Service Corps programme.
She added, “I was 25 when we got married. I was under serious pressure to get married on time, and then he seemed to me as a good man; gentle, meek, intelligent, caring and I was intrigued by his ingenuity. If we had courted much, I would have seen that violent part of him.”
She said it was not until they got married and she joined him in the US that she found out he was involved in nefarious activities. She also recalled that her experience with him in the US ranged from frustrating to ridiculous.
Calista, a graduate of Mass Communication, said, “In the US, we lived with his sister who later threw us out. We moved to an uncompleted building where we lived with all kinds of reptiles before we could raise money to rent an apartment. He confessed to me he was involved in credit card fraud and that he was released from jail to pay restitution. He couldn’t pay up and they rearrested him. I needed to survive, so I got a job in a company. There, I had leg injury and I had to use crutches for some time.
“I was eight-months pregnant when he was rearrested and he was in jail when I had my baby, Onyeka. It was when my daughter was two months old that he was released, with the mandate that he must pay back that money. Onyeka became autistic when she was two years old. I had to sell my jewellery and native wear to raise money and survive.
“Given all the troubles, he suggested we should come back to Nigeria to start afresh but that I should go first so he could work some more and continue paying the restitution.”
While she came back to Nigeria to start life afresh, Calista alleged that she never knew Felix went back to the same credit card fraud, which led to his arrest again before he was later deported.
But while Felix was allegedly languishing in cell in the US prior to his deportation, Calista accepted fate, took the N2m she had saved before travelling and established a company, called FELCAL International Ltd. in Mushin, Lagos.
She said FELCAL was an acronym of their names; Felix and Calista. She said the company which was into selling printing materials, got the sole distributorship for a top product in West Africa, making people from other countries to come to Nigeria to buy the product.
Providence smiled on her and the company began to flourish. When Felix returned from his sojourn, and failing to raise money to start anything, he joined his wife in the business, and they lived as a family.
But, according to her, running the company together was the beginning of the end to her happiness and that of her daughter.
She recalled, “At a point, he told me to stop coming to the office. I had to get a job in a consulting firm. I decided to build a career there and I was getting promotion as and when due. Then, he came again and said I should stop working in the firm, but I refused. I felt I was dreaming, but he beat me black and blue. I lost two of my teeth to that battery.”
Unknown to Calista, more troubles lay ahead. She added, “It’s by miracle that I’m alive. He was beating me, hitting my head against the wall and punching my breasts. There were times he would lock me inside the store in the house from morning till evening for me not to go to work. Knowing I’m asthmatic, he would seize my inhaler and beat me like drum.
“He would say the rate at which they were promoting me, I would soon become a boss and it would get into my head, so, in his words, he needed to stop me.”
Eventually, Calista left the job and resorted to travelling abroad to buy things to sell, but that didn’t change anything.
She said, “Despite the money he was making from the company he already hijacked from me, he was still stealing my money. He forced me to close my personal account and insisted that we run a joint account, which he cleaned up before he left.
He really dealt with me. He refused to take care of Onyeka because of her condition and he would even tell me I don’t have a real child. I wouldn’t know whether his attitude was because of Onyeka’s condition. Whereas, autism runs in his family, because one of his siblings was autistic while one has an autistic child. So, he’s even the one who has the problem.
“Due to beating and stress, I had two miscarriages respectively. Already, he was cheating on me. He would come back late and tell me not to sleep until he came back. He was very mean and would beat me at any opportunity. I noticed he stopped moving close to me, but I didn’t know he had infected me with venereal disease. He was already treating himself but he never told me.
“I must tell you that the infection pains me more than the money he stole from me, because I’m still suffering from it as I’m talking to you.”
Soon after Calista discovered she was infected with the disease, Felix moved out of the house, but not without leaving her empty.
She said, “He knew he was leaving and was already making plans, so he cleaned the joint account and forged my signature to sell two of my cars I bought in the company’s name; Chrysler, a sport utility vehicle and a Mazda car. He also took the Honda Civic saloon car I was using to sustain myself and move my daughter. He’s still making attempts to take over my property in Ajah. He connived with the lawyer to alter the document and told me to forget the property.”
“Since he went with my last car, we now board public transport, and given my daughter’s condition, she could be touching people and be acting funny in the bus, which some people find embarrassing. I learnt he gave the car to his new wife who used to be the company’s salesgirl.”
Interestingly, when Calista took the matter to court in 2010, the presiding judge, Justice (Mrs.) L.A.M. Folami, admitted several documents tendered by Calista.
Calista alleged that Justice Folami, in her judgment in June 2016, granted her ownership of the property, among other rulings. However, according to the judgment’s Certified True Copy, sighted by our correspondent, Felix has ownership while a quarter of the property was given to the child (Onyeka).
This didn’t go down well with Calista, who also alleged that the judge was silent about the ownership of the company.
But on the other hand, the obligations the court imposed on Felix had not been fulfilled till date, which from all indications, had hampered the well-being of the autistic child.
According to the CTC, Felix (the respondent) was directed to “pay the school fees of the child to university level and pay the medical bills of the child; the respondent shall pay the sum of N50,000 monthly (subject to review) for the upkeep and maintenance of the child; and a lump sum of N5m is awarded in favour of the petitioner (Calista) to be paid forthwith, among other issues.”
But Calista said Felix had not done anything since the judgment was given in June 2016.
At the moment, Calista is facing another likely eviction as her rent would soon expire, with no hope of being able to raise a quarter of it.
She said the company makes money till date and that it operates three accounts, out of which only one of the banks made the statement of account available in court, “and which was in millions.”
In spite of the judgment, Calista and her daughter have continued to live from hand to mouth, and at the mercy of well-wishers; the girl had been out of therapy, which is why she throws tantrums and eats her own hand, among other challenges. While on the other hand, Felix allegedly lives in affluence with the millions of naira in the company’s account, domiciled in naira, US Dollars, British Pounds and Euros, according to the bank statements sighted by our correspondent.
Beyond these, he has also, allegedly, married the company’s sales girl, Blessing Oshai, with whom he now has children and they live as a family.
But a child protection, development and advocacy organisation, Child Dignity Foundation, which intervened in the matter, followed the case and ensures that Calista does not sleep outside or go to bed hungry, has called on the state government to intervene in the matter and compel the girl’s father to obey the court judgment and “act responsibly.”
The Executive Director, CDF, Mrs. Amaka Awogu, thanked the sponsor of her scholarship and the school that admitted her, noting, however, that lack of funding as it is at the moment could pose grievous harm to the child, especially in terms of her therapy, supplements and diet.
She said, “For autism and any condition that needs intervention, early intervention is always key, coupled with enabled environment. This child has not got any of these. She was out of school for two years. For people with autism, there are dos and don’ts in their feeding, but how can this woman afford that. We have also spent so much and we no longer have the capital to sustain the prescribed feeding. Whereas, since last year, the court ordered the father to pay those bills, more so that he could afford it, but he flouts the court order in style and nothing happens.
“We need the government to intervene. The mother is also psychologically affected and her life is at a standstill. She can’t do anything for herself. They are struggling and it is worrisome for us. Emotionally, that child is not doing too well, and it’s not her fault that she was born like that. She was once used to a good lifestyle until the father came into the show. Government needs to do something.
“We went to Corporate Affairs Commission and saw that truly, that woman registered the company in her name while he was still in the US. She later gave the man 40 per cent of the company, she took 30 per cent and gave her daughter 30 per cent.
“For us, the child shouldn’t suffer as she is at the moment. All we want is a better life for the girl. The father should be responsible.”
Awogu said even though the foundation gives the woman some money monthly, it couldn’t be enough to meet their needs. She added, “Even if it covers their feeding, what about their transportation? We even planned to get her a job, but that child is her major occupation at the moment.
“We know how he (Felix) threatens the woman, and we have their audio conversation. Lagos State government needs to step in and that case didn’t need to be in court for seven years, given that a child with special needs was involved.”
Meanwhile, the man at the centre of the issue, Felix, in an interview with our correspondent on the phone on Thursday, claimed that the case was still in court. When reminded that judgment was delivered in June 2016, he said he had appealed the case.
“I can’t say much because the matter is in Appeal Court,” he said. But our correspondent was reliably informed that he only filed preliminary objection at the commencement of the original petition that his new wife, Blessing, should not be joined in the case in 2010, and it was after that objection that the matter was heard for six years and the judgment given in 2016.