I burnt the shoulder of my house-help, 8, left her with 8 stitches — Nursing mother
By Funmi Ajumobi
It was victory for an eight-year-old victim of child labour (names withheld), penultimate Tuesday, at a Tinubu Magistrate’s Court hearing the case against one Mrs Blessing Chiwendu Anezu as the Child Protection Network (CPN), the representative of the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development (MYSD) and the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) agreed on N500, 000 fine to send the victim to school up to JSS3 and help the mother to do business and provide for her upkeep.
The suspect in the case who had engaged the underage girl as a house-help and allegedly maltreated her will put down the money.
Initial payment of N300, 000 was transferred to the account of the mother of the victim who came from Anambra State.
She said she would use part of the money to set up business to be able to take care of her daughter and her siblings to avoid further trafficking of her children.
According to Mary-Anne Adegoke-Mapenzi, the representative of Christianah Fate Foundation and CPN Eti Osa, concerned neighbours had called the NGO helpline to come and rescue the eight-year-old girl at Opeyemi Estate, Adeba, off Ibeju-Lekki expressway.
“It was heart-breaking when we got to the estate. This woman, who was supposed to be her ‘aunty’, would starve her, beat her black and blue every day. She would use chain to beat her all over according to the victim. In one of the beating sessions, the supposed aunty punched her in the right eye which has turned black. She burnt the poor girl’s shoulder with a hot kettle and hurt her head so bad she had eight stitches. She can’t sit on her buttocks because they hurt badly. The whole estate came out because they were sick of her wickedness”, the representative said.
“She would cover the girl’s mouth with clothes while beating the daylight out of her. She always slept under the staircase, by the generator and different places in the estate”.
According to Mary-Anne, a neighbour who went to switch off his generator in the midnight saw the girl sleeping on a mat inside the generator room and that is what pushed him to report the case to the authorities.
The suspect was immediately arrested and detained at Ajah police station while the girl was admitted into an orphanage.
During the court hearing, Sunday Vanguard observed the victim with her small frame and concluded it was unfair to have engaged her in the first place as a house-help. She should be under the care of her parents. The bruises on her body resulting from the alleged maltreatment from her ‘aunty’ were glaring.
The suspect pleaded guilty to the charge. The magistrate rose and resorted to a closed door meeting with all the parties involved because it is against the law to try any case involving a child in an open court.
In the interest of the child, the CPN, the MYSD and the suspect agreed to resolve the issue, but when the suspect said she will send the girl to school up to JSS3 and give the mother N200, 000 to start a shop and use the proceeds to take care of the child, the CPN and the representative of the MYSD initially refused on the grounds that it was a token. The victim’s mother has two other children.
At the conclusion of the case, the suspect, Mrs Blessing Chiwendu Anezu, nursing a nine-month-old baby, vowed never to hire an underage again in her life. She spoke when approached by a Sunday Vanguard correspondent who posed as a CPN member. According to her, a neighbour she was not in good terms with did her in.
Several United Nations treaties address violence against children, with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC or the Children’s Convention, adopted in 1989) presenting one of the most comprehensive cases regarding the prohibition of physical punishment of children.
Lagos State has taken proactive steps in this direction. It was the first state in the country to pass the Child Rights Law after the Federal Government pioneered the process in 2003. Under the law, children are fully protected and those who infringe on those rights are apprehended and prosecuted. The state also has a law in place against domestic violence. The law protects women and children from all forms of violence in the home. Through these laws Lagos State has ensured that women and children are reasonably insulated from reckless rights infringements with impunity.