By Luka Binniyat
Her name is Comfort Sunday, but she is presently in dire need of comfort. Indeed hers is the heart-rending story of a young girl who was declared a witch and member of a secret cult by some members of her family.
And in a bid to compel her to confess to being guilty as charged, she was bathed with an acidic substance by her father, James Sunday.
As a result, Comfort was not only disfigured but has become a horror figure, a far cry from her former beautiful self. Here she tells her story, while pleading with relevant authorities and indeed all Nigerians to rally to her aid.
I am Comfort
Sunday; I am 14 years old and in Junior Secondary School 1, Akwanga South. I played volley ball and I am a fast runner. I will like to be a scientist when I grow up. I presently don’t have any of my past pictures; I had to tear all of them because they no longer represent who I am.
Some two years back, when we were on holidays, my dad said I should go and help my maternal grandfather on the farm. He lives somewhere not far from here. But my grandfather said that he did not need help on the farm at that time. He said I should return after a week or so to help one of his daughters (my aunty) harvest beans.
So I left to visit one of my sisters who was staying with my paternal grandfather. I was to spend my holidays there. I stayed for a few days. I returned home one Friday so that I ccould attend a wedding on Saturday before going to my maternal grandfather to help his daughter on the farm.
When I came home that Friday, I saw a fresh grave behind our house. I asked what happened and was told that my grandfather who had not been too well, fell ill and died. That it was his grave. I wept so much, because he was a very good Baba to me. He loved me very much. Anything I asked of him, he tried to give me.
Then the following day, being a Saturday, my father’s sister, Aunty Barmani, came with one pastor from Abuja. She works in Abuja. I don’t know what kind of work she is doing.
She and that pastor called me. They asked me if I was in the secret cult. I told them that I am not in any secret cult. I told them that I don’t know anything about secret cult.
The pastor came with a bag. I don’t know what was inside. He asked me several questions, but I told him I don’t know anything about what he was asking me. He then called my sister aside. My sister came back and told me that I was in the secret cult.
The pastor left that afternoon. Aunty Barmani slept in the house.
But, early in the morning, she woke us up for prayers. It was then she told us that I was in the secret cult; that one of my grandfathers who lives at Alushi should come and hear about what she has found out about me.
Later, the grandfather came with one of our brothers. Barmani told them that I was the one that killed my grandfather. My father was very angry with me. He ordered me to pack my things from my other grandfathers’s house and return home.
I did so. After about two weeks of my return, one of my step brothers took ill. His name is Abel, and he is five years old. My father said that I was the cause of my brother’s sickness. But I said I was not the one.
The next day, I went to school. But I was very sad, so I returned home. The next morning, around 4 o’clock, my father woke me from sleep. He said that I should escort him to the village.
My step mother woke up and ask where we were going, and my father told her that we were going to the village. We left and followed the path that passed through the home of Mary Ewungulu (a member of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly).
As we walked on my father asked me when we would be writing our exams. And I told him it would be next Monday. He was carrying something in a bag. I didn’t know what was in the back. We arrived an uncompleted building that night. It was the only building around the place. He then told me that it was the village we were visiting. And I said I have never been to this village.
He said I should sit down. At that point I became afraid. He looked at me and shook his head. He then started folding his trousers. He then opened the bag and removed a container with some liquid in it. He poured some in a cup and gave it to me. He said if I was a witch and I drank it I would vomit. That If I was not, I would not vomit.
I said I was not a witch. I took the cup. I first tasted it with my tongue and the thing burnt my tongue. So I refused to drink it, and I poured it away. He said I must drink it, but I refused. So he held me and we struggled.
I started to run, and he was pursuing me. As I was running, he threw the liquid on my hands and my legs. I felt it burning my skin. I ran very fast, and then I hit something and fell. That was when he reached me. He grabbed and pulled me up, and I started begging him to have mercy on me. I told him that If I was a witch, he should take me to our Reverend Father to pray for me.
But he dragged me back to the uncompleted building. When we reached there, he poured the liquid on me again. By now my hands and legs were burrning, and my back too. He said I must drink the liquid. I said I would not. He started forcing me to drink, but I refused.
He was shouting: “You must drink this”! But I pleaded with him, saying: “I don’t want to drink it, please Baba “.
When he could not force me to drink it, he splashed the liquid in the cup he was holding on my face. I started shouting. He poured some more on my body and I started running, not seeing where I was going.
I opened my eyes, and it was already getting bright. I saw a man riding Okada. I ran to him and begged him to help me. As he was asking me what happened, my father emerged from the bush. I ran back in the direction of the remote house. From there I managed to get back home.
When my stepmother saw me, she gave me water to bathed with.
I could not talk at this point. My step mother thought that I was beaten. But, some boys around our house told her that it was acid that was poured on me. I don’t know who told them. There were some dark, round swellings on my face and body.
My father returned home and found me. He called me into the room. When I went in he started to cry. He said that I should forgive him. I told him I had forgiven him.
He then took me back to my grandfather at Alushi and left me there. He said he did not want my mother’s people to see the way I was looking. He never visited me again. I don’t know how long I was there. But one day, one of my mother’s brothers came; his name is Luka. He works at Our Lady of Apostle (OLA) Hospital.
He heard what happened so he came to see me.
When my uncle saw me, he was very angry. He went to our house and made trouble for my father. He threatened to deal with my father if he did not treat me. The following day, my father came with two men, who gave me injection. I think they were doctors.
But, the growth on my face and body only seemed to increase the more. Then one retired doctor came again, gave more injections and rubbed the places with engine oil. I felt no improvement
I was taken to a pharmacist who gave me another injection. The next day I was taken to one Sister Franka. She is a Police woman.
She was to pray for me. The woman told me that I was a witch; that I was a wicked person. While, there, our most senior sister, Alice who is a teacher, came there. I don’t know the name of her school. She said that if she ever saw me at home, she would not allow me go to sleep; that she would pour petrol on me and burn me. I ran to one Ibo man who is a pastor by name, Pastor Chukwu. His house is on the way to Wanba. I told him about my problem.
He said that if he allowed me stay with him, people may start gossipping about it. The pastor, however, went to our Reverend Father and told him about me. The Father promised to help treat my wounds, but told the pastor to take me to the police station.
At the station, the pastor wrote down what happened to me.My father was invited to station. He was put behind the counter.
My father spoke in our language and told me not to say that he poured something on me. But one of the police men happen to come from our area and understood what he said. He was very angry. He told the other police men what my father said. They started beating my father and later locked him up.
The police men said that I should call any of my mother’s relations. So, we called Luka. The DPO said that Luka should take me with him. But, Luka was also angry. He said that my father never allowed me to visit him. That my father had killed my mother when I was small. That my father should just go on and kill me too.
I had to return home. But my father was eventually taken to Lafia Police Station. He later returned. I was told that one of his nephews who is a lawyer, stood bail for him.
I have forgiven my father because it is good to forgive people. But I want to go back to school. Please tell the government to help me. I want the public to help me too. I don’t want to live like this.
All attempts to meet the father for his side of the story were not possible, as he played hide-and-seek with Vanguard Metro team.
When Vanguard Metro visited the Divisional Police Headquarters, Akwanga, its Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr Damon Peters (SP) confirmed the case. He told Vanguard Metro that the case was brought to the Station before he was posted to Akwanga.
He brought the case file, and corroborated all that Comfort told Vanguard Metro.
On why the suspect was still moving free, he said: “The case is now with the Criminal Investigation Department in Lafia. I cannot say he is free of the charges yet. But, this Station has no more hand in that case.
The only place you can get more information is in Lafia”.