When people speak of domestic violence, what often comes to mind is the constant abuse of women by their husbands or sometimes wives against their husbands as the case may be. However, the trend has gone beyond this assumption. Children have mostly been violated and terrorised beyond imagination by authority figures. GABRIEL EMAMEH and EJIKE EJIKE write.
Truly, people find it difficult to imagine how a child is haphazardly terrorised by an authority figure that is supposed to be in the best position to protect them. As with most domestic abuse, physical torture seems to be the only part but psychologically; it hurts the more; a war of attrition: relentless humiliation, terrorism, degradation and bitterness in which most victims can’t ever protest or express their emotions.
The rate in Nigeria is becoming more alarming and children from age two to five are mostly victims, particularly from their stepparents or foster parents.
No one would have imagined that an innocent eight-month-old child could be poisoned by her stepmother over a disagreement with the biological mother. On Sunday, September…, a 20-year-old housewife, Zulac Kabiru, was arrested for feeding her eight-month-old stepdaughter with local poison, Ota Piapia.
What would have led to such evil thought? Zulac had confessed to the police that she had warned her husband against marrying a second wife but he didn’t listen to her advice. She said her mate was in the habit of insulting and assaulting her all the time and the best way to teach her how to respect her superiors in the family was to poison her innocent baby.
A month ago, a picture of a two-year-old baby, Lovelyn William, in Ogun State went viral on social media and it elicited tears and condemnation. Unclad, with her mouth sealed with tape, hands tied backwards and legs tied together, she lay helplessly on the floor of a room.
The stepmother, 28-year-old Christiana Faturoti, allegedly left her in that condition as a punishment because she soiled herself. After putting the child in the room, she padlocked it and left for her workplace.
For over two hours the little girl groaned and moaned, until a neighbour heard the sound and traced it to an unoccupied room, which was padlocked. After peeping and seeing the girl in such a condition, the neighbour quickly alerted the police at Itori police station. Christiana was promptly arrested and is currently undergoing interrogation at the Anti-Human Trafficking section of the Department of Criminal Investigation, Ogun State Police Command.
Lovelyn’s mother was reported to have developed baby blues (mental illness) after birth and is currently at a psychiatric hospital where she is undergoing treatment. Crime Reports learned that the child’s father, Mr Christopher William, met Christiana on Facebook, after which they started a relationship.
Little Lovelyn, until this incident, had suffered all sorts of brutality from her stepmother without knowledge of her father.
“I noticed that my baby was wearing two dresses. I removed the dresses and saw whip marks on my daughter’s body. I also saw another mark on her face and noticed that her eyes were bloodshot. On enquiries, Christiana said my daughter got the marks from school, said Mr Christopher.
“I was surprised when I received a call from Itori police station. When I got there, I was shown my daughter’s picture and I started weeping. On enquiring what I did to warrant the treatment, I was told she said I loved the girl more than her son.”
Christopher said the lady’s family had been begging him but said his relationship with her was over. “If she could do this to my daughter, it means my life is in danger too.
“The girl did not offend me but I was not happy at the way Christopher neglected me and the baby I had for him, and concentrated on his daughter’’, the wicked Christiana had told newsmen during interrogation.
“It is true I beat the girl which left marks on her. She soiled herself and I was angry with her. On February 17, she soiled herself again, so I tied her hands and legs, tapered her mouth and threw her inside the room the father paid for, though yet to move in. I padlocked the room and left for my workplace at about 7am. I just wanted to punish her.”
On December 17, 2017, police men in Edo State Command, officials of Edo State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (MWASD) and Jennifer Ero- led Child Protection Network, a team on a tip-off, went to rescue a little boy who was maltreated and manhandled by the father, Mr Pius Happy and the step-mother, Mrs. Alice Pius, who were later arrested with the help of neighbours in the community.
The little Lucky Pius, less than three years old was, later taken to his new home by officials of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development who are in-charge of the custody of the little boy.
Also in November 2017, three pupils of Wisdom Child International School, Borokiri, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, fled their home and reported themselves to the police.
The pupils, who were identified as Naomi, Faith and Sarah had approached the police that they ran away as a result of maltreatment they went through in the hands of their stepmother.
The pupils, according to reports, were between the ages of 13 and 16, are siblings and lived with their stepmother in the Borokiri area of Port Harcourt.
They had left home for school on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, but fled to a former neighbour’s house in Mile 3. A head teacher at the school explained that the pupils had been living with the unnamed stepmother since their parents divorced.
The Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed the incident and the arrest of the stepmother.
Again in December 2017, the Rapid Response Squad of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in the early hours of last Saturday in Kuje, Abuja arrested Ayo Yahaya, 43, and his wife, Khadijat Yahaya, 30, for the violence meted on a child of less than two years.
The child is the husband’s son from his first marriage that ended less than six months before the incident. The little boy had his hands, buttocks and genitals burnt by his stepmother, who is supposed to be his caregiver, in conspiracy with the father.
Little Ayo, whose real name was not made public, had faced loads of maltreatment, including starvation, since the father forcefully took him away from his biological mother, recently.
The little boy was said to have been starved from morning till 2pm on the fateful day and he crawled to the kitchen where he saw some wraps of moi-moi (Beans meal) and decided to help himself with one. The stepmother, who met him at the spot, descended on him till neighbours, who suspected the incident, intervened after the woman had fiercely used her bathroom slippers to flog and batter the little boy’s body.
Left on cold, wet and muddy floor, the neighbours thought she was done beating the little boy, but that was not the end. The stepmother proceeded to peel a tuber of yam, poured it inside a pot, added water and salt to the yam and placed it on fire.
After cooking, she grabbed this little boy, held both hands and dipped them in the hot boiling water, pinned the hands in the hot water for a while before letting go.
In another incident on the same issue, the Nigeria Police Force recently arrested one Mrs Ifeoma Obinwa for allegedly inflicting grievous body injury on her 14-year-old stepchild, who she turned into a house help in Dutse Alhaji, Abuja.
Speaking on behalf of the police at the station, Inspector John Ari said that the victim was not enrolled in school and was always being physically and emotionally abused.
According to him, the victim was always beaten by the suspect with sticks, wire and sharp objects and such treatment had left wounds and scars on her body including her head.
“The last incident that led to the suspect’s arrest happened on September 12, 2018, when the suspect, who accused the victim of beating her child, allegedly placed a knife on fire until it became very hot and then placed it on the victim’s thigh and buttocks.
“And that caused grievous body injuries and the victim was also left untreated until operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking (NAPTIP) rescued her.”
Also, speaking in her confessional statement, Obinwa admitted to the allegation of using hot object on the 14-year-old victim, saying that she did it out of anger.
Other cases of this nature have been experienced all over the country.
The NAPTIP’s Director of Investigation and Monitoring, Mr Josiah Emerole, revealed that one Mrs Sandra Obiosio from Rivers State, who lives in Jabi, Abuja was also arrested for maltreating her 14-year-old house help, who was brought from Nasarawa.
He said that the little girl, who looked malnourished was subjected to all manner of abuse and ill-treatment.
He added that the victim narrated that “she goes to bed 1am to 2am and wakes up at 4am daily” and the suspect did not enrol her in school as promised before she was engaged.
The director noted that all the cases were contrary to various sections of the trafficking in persons’ enforcement and administration act 2015.
He said that as soon as investigation was concluded, the cases would be charged to court.
One of the most prominent cases was when the Osun Police Command arrested the wife of a traditional ruler and two persons suspected to have set ablaze the house of her rival, killing her three-year-old step daughter in the process.
The commissioner of police in the state, Mr Olafimihan Adeoye, said the husband of the suspect and a traditional ruler, Oba Morufudeen Olawale, reported the incident to the Force.
Olawale is the Alabudo of Abudo in Egbedore local government area of Osun.
According to the report, Adeoye alleged that the suspect and her accomplices at about 1am on June 6 left their base in Ede for Abudo where the other wife and her late daughter reside and set her house ablaze while both were inside.
He said the inferno led to the death of the minor while the other wife was seriously injured.
Adeoye said police investigation revealed that the suspect was the third wife of the monarch while the victim’s mother was the fourth and noted that the three suspects would soon be charged to court.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old 200-level student of Statistics at the University of Abuja, Awal Sani, was also stabbed to death by his mother’s rival during a family feud at their home in Kubwa area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Sani’s step-mum, Rukayat Abdulkareem, had confronted her mate, Sani’s mother, over their missing husband.
It was while Sani was trying to calm his stepmother that she stabbed him to death.
Younger brother to the victim’s mother, who narrated the unfortunate incident, said: “Between 10pm and 10.30pm, I heard someone banging on the door and I came outside. I asked her what she wanted and she said she was looking for her husband.
“I know the woman, they were living close to us here in Pipeline before they packed to Kaduna road. I told her that I would check and see if I could call the husband for her. I went inside to meet my sister and informed her that the man’s wife was outside looking for him. My sister said she was going to meet the woman, I tried to stop her and told her she was not the one the woman came for but she insisted.
“So, I followed her because I didn’t want any problem. We met the woman and then I realised that if they started talking, it might result to another thing. So, I asked my sister to go inside and went to pipeline police station and invited a policeman.
“When the policeman came, he asked the woman what the problem was; she said she was there to see her husband. The policeman asked her to follow him to the station so she could write a statement and then, they would both return to pick her husband. But she said she was not going anywhere and so the policeman left.
“I went inside the house and the next thing I heard was that they had stabbed Awal. I rushed out; we did all we could to save him. We rushed him to the hospital where the doctor confirmed him dead and we brought him back home. She had left when I rushed out but the vigilante men caught and brought her later and we kept her till the police arrived.”
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, Johnson Andrew, a retired teacher, wondered why people are becoming so heartless that they could treat children in such inhumane manner. He said men are to be blamed for it.
‘’Some men are fond of rushing to collect their children from their wives after separation, thereby putting lives of their children at the mercy of their stepmothers. Take a look at the reports here and there; it is always stepmother killing, poisoning, beating children like animals and so on.
‘’You must have an understanding with the next woman you are bringing into your house about her relationship with your children if you must take them away from their biological mother, advised Mr Andrew.
‘’No responsible mother will do that to her own child. I think the police and other appropriate authorities must take it serious and put in place stiffer measures to protect the rights of children’’, he said.
‘’My childhood was taken away from me by my stepmother. Sometimes I wonder if the man in the house was my real father because he was so blind to see how my stepmother was treating me, said Sandra Otorkena, a graduate of the University of Benin.
‘’I have forgiven her but I will never forget. That was why, while growing up, I promised to adopt a child to heal that wound and bitterness planted in me by my late stepmother who did not live long to see me graduate from the university. Every child wants to be loved, particularly when a child loses the privilege of growing under care of his or her biological parents’’, said Sandra who had tears rolling down her cheeks while speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday.
‘’Children are gifts from God and should be protected jealously, said Mrs Justine Wilson, a 56-year-old mother.
‘’I keep wondering when I hear of women maltreating their stepchildren and even in some cases, their own. It is evil in nature and by every standard, condemnable’’.
‘’When a child is inhumanely treated the way we hear in the news these days, it takes years for such a child let go of the fear of trusting or living with a stranger. Most often, these children get confused and are psychologically affected for the rest of their lives’’.
‘’This must stop’’, warned Mrs Justine, who advised men to watch out for the kind of women they bring into their homes after divorce.