Nkeiruka Chidubem Onyejeocha, 52, appears to be the perfect example of how an acorn grows into a big oak that protects those below from the elements above. Onyejeocha, the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker that represents Isikwuato and Umunneochi, is rounding off an unprecedented fourth term in the National Assembly. She is an amazon, a legislator of conscience who must be leaving with head held high given the number of landmark legislations that she shepherded into law. This salute is, therefore, presented to her for the commitment she has shown to tackle the challenges of the disadvantaged, particularly people who are heavily pressed down by the weight of our criminal justice system. Her legislative outputs are quite significant, impactful and commendable.


They shone like a million stars in a country where legislators are perceived more for their mercantilist pursuits than the actual business of lawmaking. Nothing in her political trajectory indicated that she would get landmark legislations passed into law to quell national outcries over oppression of the disadvantaged and vulnerable. But she did it.

I hasten to add here that I have never met this amazon of a woman in person. Nor have I interacted with her before now in any form, including on social media and other virtual platforms. Therefore, this assessment of who she is, what she has done and how she must be feeling at the point of leaving the National Assembly are perfunctory and highly subjective. In other words, one has no idea if and how she impacted her Isikwuato and Umunneochi federal constituents that she represented for 16 years in the lower chamber. The assessment is only based on what the public witnessed and what her legislative records show. They include the debates she contributed to, the motions she raised, and the bills she sponsored or co-sponsored that were successfully passed by both houses and signed into law by the President. Taken together, these demonstrate total commitment to improving the lot of ordinary citizens and safeguarding their rights. They demonstrate the best aspects of activist legislation that is sadly lacking in many legislatures across the land. They put her in a special class.

Take the bills that passed and were signed into law as an example. Onyejeocha essentially focused on finding the best ways to protect the vulnerable in their encounters with Nigeria’s criminal justice system. She responded to aspects of crime fighting that intermittently raised the hackles of Nigerians. A typical example was the unfortunate rejection of victims of gunshot violence by hospitals across the nation. The victims, including those in critical conditions, were required to visit a police station and obtain clearance before approaching hospitals. Whether those were armed robbers or victims of violent criminality, healthcare facilities attended only to those that showed up with formal police reports. What provoked national outrage over hospital inattention to gunshot victims was the presumption that only armed robbers and criminals show up in hospitals with bullet wounds.

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Security did not factor the reality that, oftentimes, only the innocents boldly show up in hospitals in search of treatment for their wounds. Criminal elements, on the other hand, were more likely to quietly patronize traditional healers or unscrupulous orthodox doctors. Onyejeocha’s solution, known as the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act 2017, contains two significant provisions. First, the law empowers hospitals to accept and treat people with gunshot wounds without police clearance. Second, it criminalized failure by police and hospitals to attend to such persons whenever they show up. Refusal or negligence in attending to victims of gunshot wounds attract a fine of N500,000, a five-year prison term, or both fine and imprisonment.

A second bill that she sponsored focused on solving horrific stories of people who have had encounters with law enforcement agents in their stations and holding cells. Stories of physical violence, intimidation, mental abuse and other forms of torture often appear in the popular press and are told in homes where family members encountered aggressive security agents. The bill aimed at protecting suspects, detainees and prisoners in the custody of public agencies from being subjected to physical harm, violence, intimidation and torture. Specifically, the law forbids public officials from inflicting torture on detainees or suspects either to punish and intimidate or to extract information from them. Passed by both houses of parliament, President Muhammadu Buhari had no difficulty signing both bills into law on the same date, December 20, 2017.

After this, Onyejeocha immediately turned her attention to another set of vulnerable citizens that the public service system continues to treat unfairly – the over nine million retirees in government and public sector. Although the legislation focused on the challenges of people above 60, her primary target were seniors undergoing horrific experiences in their bid to secure their terminal entitlements after serving their country. Again, President Buhari found no difficulty in assenting to the National Senior Citizens Centre Act on January 26, 2018.

Taken together, these legislations that successfully passed demonstrate an uncommon empathy to the underprivileged.

What makes Onyejeocha an amazon in my book is not only the landmark bills that became law but the battles that she also fought to retain her seat in the National Assembly. It is a familiar battle that the likes of Senators Chris Anyanwu, Abiodun Olujimi, Uche Ekwunife, and many other brave females waged and won in a male predominated game. Her Wikipedia entry indicates that she was first elected in 2007 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Apparently, she was allowed two more terms before being deftly shunted aside in 2019. But she would have none of it and promptly defected to a party that had little prospects of success in the South-East of the time – APC. She won that election, too, demonstrating a superb understanding of the grassroots game and people support.

It is safe to say that her run of luck would have continued in 2023 but for the entry of the youth movement that swept her former party (PDP) out of power in the region. APC improved its performance in the state, much better than the ruling PDP. The PDP situation is so pitiful that, today, and across the region, only Engr. Osita Ngwu of Enugu State, a newcomer, will be flying the flag of the party for the entire five states in the Senate. The tsunami caught up with the Amazon as well, as she lost gallantly to another newcomer from the Labour Party.

Onyejeocha probably honed her grassroots game from being firmly rooted in local politics. Wikipedia listed her as a former local government chairperson, a commissioner and member of cabinet of Abia State, and a federal legislator for 16 years. That is massive experience and, for her age, it is safe to guess that her star is yet to dim. She is only 52 and can wait out the following four years before making a bid for another significant position that she will be finishing at 60, either for Abia as governor or once again for the country in the Upper Chamber. Nigeria surely needs people with her commitment and drive to reposition our country to work for all.