Nigeria — Brooklyn, New York, United States — Birmingham, England — This story connects three continents. A Brooklyn-based Nigerian is accused of abandoning his family 18 years ago. The mother of his child is now seekind support for their 18-year-old boy.
Afoke Chizea as a young child
“When my baby was 8 months, he said he was going on holiday to America for two weeks,” Ofunne Chizea, 45, narrates. “My whole world was turned upside down the day I realized he wasn’t coming back.”
Now the woman tries to get him to pay child support for the now 18-year-old boy.
“I’m speaking out now because I didn’t want to keep quiet any longer… I’ve reached the end of the road,” Chizea speaks from her home in Birmingham, England, where she and Afoke now live on government assistance.
“I’m begging him to take some responsibility now. I want Chris to be involved in Afoke’s life. I don’t hate him, but his rejection for his son — I just can’t comprehend it.”
Eribo, 47,now lives with his new wife in the two-story home in Valley Stream, L.I.
A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn D.A.’s office says the mom has it all wrong.
“This is a man who is anything but a deadbeat,” she said of Eribo. “He has been trying to be a father to the son, financially and in every other way.”
The mother has been keeping them apart, Goldberg said.
The story Chizea and Afoke tell is far, far different.
“There is a call I wait for every year on my birthday, and it doesn’t come,” Afoke said.
Chizea said she met Eribo in Lagos in 1994, when she was working as a receptionist, and he had a meeting with her boss. A stormy relationship followed, and Eribo was upset when he found out she was pregnant in 1995, the mom said.
Eribo “promised to look after” her and the baby, and, despite frequent arguments, he was with her at the hospital when she gave birth and paid the hospital bill.
After he left for the U.S., the woman “was devastated and a little bit scared.” She lost her job when she was pregnant, and didn’t think she could support her son by herself.
That August, Chizea said she got a letter from Eribo’s sister, telling her he wasn’t coming back and that she should sell his car and his belongings to help her make ends meet. The money ran out early in 1997.
Looking to provide a better life for her son, she moved to England in 2001. That same year, Eribo — who’d gotten his law degree in Nigeria — went to work in the Brooklyn DA’s office.
The prosecutor sent his ex an email in 2001, saying, “I am quite aware of my obligations as a father to Afoke, and I’m trying to meet those obligations. I crave only to be as good a father to my son as I can be, if you’ll let me.”
Eribo came to visit his son once in London in 2003, taking him to McDonald’s and buying him a Playstation 2, but he never returned. She said he called only once after that in 2005, to make sure Afoke was okay after bombings in July targeting the public transportation system in London.
Home of Christopher Eribo in Valley Stream, Long Island
Eribo’s career, meanwhile, continued to soar. He handled successful high-profile prosecutions, including gun cases. He also tied the knot with a Nigerian woman in 2007 — and continued to ignore calls and emails asking for financial help from Chizea, the mom said.
Chizea said she spoke to lawyers in London about suing him for child support there, but she couldn’t afford their $650-an-hour rates.
A parent can seek child support until the child turns 21 — meaning Chizea still has three years to press a claim.
Experts said the mom wouldn’t even have to travel to the U.S. to start support proceedings in Brooklyn. She can testify by phone or video link. And she can seek child support and other expenses under New York state law until her son turns 21.
Chizea said she’s weighing her options.
Of his dad, the teen said flatly, “I’m disappointed in him.”