Penultimate week, three events happened in Jos, the Plateau State capital, involving a housewife and an 11-year-old girl in Vom, Jos South local government and the subsequent rescue of a 17-year-old girl by the Plateau State police command reportedly locked up by her aunt in Rikkos area of Jos North LGA of the state as well as an assault on a 9-year-old girl recently.
Indeed, the incessant violation of human rights and abuses of minors calls for aggressive efforts to combat the menace of violence against women and children, the girl-child in particular.
It would be recalled that an 11-year-old girl, identified as Margaret Joshua recently died in Jos as a result of alleged physical abuse by her guardian, Mrs Nneamaka Nwachuku, a Microbiologist who works with one of the research institutes in Vom, Jos South local government area of Plateau State.
The victim is from Kebbi State and was fleeing from insecurity in her community before some supposed helpers brought her to Jos to serve in Nwachukwu’s home.
The alleged killer of Margaret, a mother of two, did not enrol the victim in any school in the over one year that the girl had spent with them, rather, she indulged in the daily beating of the girl until she finally died as a result of the repeated assault on her.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that after a recent beating, the girl was forced to sit on a container with hot water which burnt her buttocks resulting to germs-infested wounds; she died in the hospital.
The Plateau State coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission, Mrs Grace Pam whose office is following up on the case said based on the number of scars and wounds on her body, her guardian(s) must have subjected her to a series of torture during the period that she stayed with the family.
“Our attention was called to the situation on Monday by a staff in the hospital who said that an 11-year-old girl was seriously beaten and injured by her guardian, Mrs Nneamaka Nwachukwu in Vom. The girl had scars and burns on her body. We were told that she was taken to Mandela Hospital in Kaduna Vom before she was referred to come to Jos.
“Mrs Nwachukwu, when accosted at the Police Station in Vom where she was detained, confessed that she has been beating her and claimed the girl used to masturbate so she was punishing her so she could stop. She claimed she did not know what used to come over her because she felt bad anytime she beats the child,” Pam stated.
Speaking on the burns on the victim’s buttocks, she said the guardian claimed: “she fell into hot water and ran out of the house after the incident for almost 24 hours.”
It was however gathered that someone saw the traumatised girl on the street and took her to the Police station at Kaduna Vom, the Police took the girl to the hospital before calling the attention of her guardian.
Mrs Pam expressed worry that, “no action was taken to take care of the girl in her condition for about 24 hours until someone saw her and took her to the Police station.”
It was also gathered that this was not the first time the Nwachukwus would assault the girl as the Police had earlier warned them against maltreating the girl and asked them to return the girl to her parents. The supposed guardians have not met the girl’s parents who are in Kebbi State but are said to have been speaking with them on phone.
However, the case has been transferred from the Police Station in Kaduna to the Police command headquarters in Jos as investigations continue.
Similarly, not quite long, the Plateau State police command rescued a 17-year-old girl reportedly locked up by her aunt in Jos. The girl was rescued in Rikkos area of Jos North LGA.
Investigation by LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that the victim was brought to live with her aunt after her grandmother, who was taking care of her, became sick and could not continue to care for her. The information from an anonymous complainant said that the girl was locked up on the balcony of a house by her aunt.
The complainant alleged that the aunt travelled for close to a week and left the girl without food. Investigation also revealed that the girl was truly malnourished and had scars on her hands, neck and other parts of her body. The marks resulted from incessant beatings she received from her aunt.
According to the anonymous complainant, the matter was reported to the police where the aunt’s statement was taken upon return from her trip.
“The girl has been provided with temporary shelter until she recovers. We also found out that the orphan girl was never allowed to go out, but was locked up in the house and not fed.
“She has been taken to hospital by one of our partners to ensure proper medical care.”
Piqued by this developement, the NHCR coordinator expressed concerns over the recent upsurge in cases of assault against minors, adding that “as we speak, there is a case of abuse of another victim, a nine-year-old girl, who came to stay with her aunt barely two months ago.”
In the same vein, speaking during a joint press conference, the chairperson of National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Plateau State chapter, Nene Dung and her counterpart of Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), Obioma Ngozi Achilefu, said from January to October this year, over 247 cases of child abuse were reported in the state. They appealed to the state government through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Developement to establish safe home for the victims of child abuse.
According to them, “the rate of child abuse in Nigeria has reached its peak and is indeed a social ill that must be addressed with actionable commitment else the future of the country will be made up of abused children who’d grow up to become loveless, emotionally withdrawn and hardened thereby leading to involvement in all sorts of social vices which often leads to a troubled society.”
They lamented that the so-called father of the late Margaret who came to Jos on hearing that his daughter is dead went to court and obtained affidavit of withdrawal of the case stressing that the development is unfortunate when the corpse is still in the morgue at JUTH.
The duo further explained that there are numerous legislations which criminalise child abuse and should be effectively relied on to hold the perpetrators accountable.
“It is heart-warming that Plateau State has since adopted the Child’s Right Law, Administration of Criminal Justice Law, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law and the Plateau State Penal Code No.7 2017 Vol. 1. All these laws provide more expansive protection for victims of child abuse. The protection will be evidenced when the force of law is not in the books but in its implementation.”
They also said, “the criminal justice system can no longer afford to delay justice for the victims and survivors. The judiciary should make the designated courts more functional to ensure speedy dispensation of such cases.
“Above all, the police should ensure that they discharge their duties without fear or favour and to see that the perpetrators of human rights abuses be charged to court of competent jurisdiction when investigations have been concluded so that the victims of this heinous act will get justice.”