By Evelyn Usman
It is not difficult to spot them from other children, wherever they are found. The privileged few among them attend public schools, with their uniforms patched in different places and most times, barefooted. If they manage to put on footwears, such, would be glaringly begging to be replaced.
They are the first to wake up in their homes. Yet, they go late to school because they have to finish piled up domestic chores. Some of them are never with textbooks and when they return home, they never have time to do their homework, except at midnight night, when other members of the family would be sleeping. This is because they have to continue from where they stopped with the household chores.
For others who never had the privilege of going to school, they are stuck at home with unending chores as well as taking care of children of their busy bosses. They are treated as slaves: wearing rags, eating leftovers or once a day. Even when they are given food, it is rationed and they are never allowed to eat when other members of the family are eating, as they are always the last to eat and when they are allowed to, they eat in the kitchen or at a corner of the house.
Some of them are never allowed to watch television, rather they sneak to do so but when caught, they get beaten. During bedtime, they are the last to sleep and when they do, they snuggle at a corner or in the kitchen.
This aptly describes the state of a good percentage of housemaids in Nigeria. Some of this house helps are taken against their will from their parents, at tender ages, when they are yet to be tutored on the nitty-gritty of housekeeping.
Those in villages, usually express joy on the planned trip to big cities, with the hope of having brighter future than their counterparts back home. But reality dawns on them as they are turned into glorified slaves on reaching their new homes.
Findings revealed that most parents release their children to relatives and people they do not know, due to their impoverished states, as a result of which they are unable to feed or send their children to school. Some of these maids who are mostly found in every home in Nigeria were reluctantly given out by their widowed mothers, while others are victims of human trafficking, whose parents fell prey to deceit of agents who promised their children better living condition.
Today, many of them: both male and female, have tales of horror to share, that is, for those who survived the ordeal. Sadly, some, who could not withstand the attendant torture, died, in the hands of those they looked up to as helpers of destiny.
Eight-yr-old maid beaten to death
One of them was Eight-year-old Miracle, who was beaten to death by her madam, Oby, in Lagos, on May 20, 2017. The suspect who was pregnant with her third child was arrested by policemen attached to Isolo division, while she was on her way to dispose of the corpse.
Late Miracle, as gathered, was brought from the village alongside one Chinacherem, when she was just six years old.
The suspect was said to have stopped them from going to school and always descended on them at the slightest provocation.
Neighbors who spoke with this writer then said that the girls usually woke up by 4.30 am, while Oby, and her children would still be in bed. That fateful Saturday, neigbours said they heard the little girl’s usual cry but none could go for her help because such action had been greeted with quarrels.
During interrogation, Oby denied culpability, stating rather that Miracle died during a fight with Chinacherem. Upon further interrogation, Chinamerem blew the lid by revealing to the Police how her companion in slavery was killed and how she was brainwashed into admitting that she died during a fight with her.
Another 10yr old tortured to death
Another victim was 10-year-old Joy, who was also beaten to death in Ikorodu, Lagos State, in December 2016.
Her madam who doubled as her assailant reportedly started beating her that fateful December 19, at 3am, until she collapsed in her apartment on Bolanle Oduniyi street, in Okegbegun community, where she lived with her husband and three children,
Favour’s corpse was deposited at the Ikorodu General Hospital morgue by her guardian. But one of the doctors who noticed marks of violence on her body alerted policemen at the Shagamu Road division, who subsequently arrested her assailant identified simply as Alapa.
In some cases, these maids, especially the females, are subjected to sexual abuse by their male bosses. They are used as sex toys and available replacements for their bosses’ wives. These shameless men would creep out of their beds to meet the maids: be they underaged, at their corners, penetrate them and at the same time issuing a stern warning to them to keep sealed lips or be thrown out of the house.
They are also subjected to physical violence by their guardians, which leaves indelible scars on them. One of such victims was five-year-old boy, Seun, whose mother died while giving birth to his younger sister. At age four, he was taken to a relative’s place in Delta state, as he was considered too tender for his father to take care of. By the time he was seen a year after, he looked a shadow of his bubbling self , with marks of violence all over him.
Hot pressing iron attack
In March 2018, a 10-year-old maid who escaped death by the whiskers was rescued from her guardian who attacked her with hot pressing iron, in Lagos. . The victim was reportedly brought to Lagos, two months earlier, from her indigent widowed mother in Umuoju Ngwu area of Abia State.
The maid also had burns she claimed to have sustained from steaming hot water allegedly poured on her by her boss, Mrs Ngwu, a mother of four. Her offence? Her guardian accused her of beating her children.
During an encounter with her then, she narrated in tears how life became a living hell as her boss, who she referred to as mummy, battered her at the slightest provocation.
This writer was informed that neighbours informed Ngwu, that her children usually cried whenever she was away. While trying to force the truth out of the maid on why her children cried on her absence, Ngwu was alleged to have placed a hot pressing iron on the maid’s hands and legs. Not done, she was alleged to have poured hot water on her too. The following day, the maid was seen taking her guardian’s children to school, with the untreated burns. Some concerned women reported the case to the Police, consequent upon which Ngwu was arrested.
Pastor’s wife too?
Five months later, wife of a Pastor, Ezine was arrested in Imo State for maltreating her maid. Her arrest was first effected by neighbours who were moved to tears on seeing the malnourished maid, with swollen blood-stained eyes.
A week earlier, another woman, Ogedegbe, was arrested in Anthony Village , for allegedly brutalizing her maid, Favour . The maid’s father as gathered, gave her to one of his relations who had no child, believing that her presence in the house would bring one.
But barely had she settled in her new home than she began to go through untold torture. Residents alleged that she was found on the street, with blood all over her. When questioned, she disclosed that she ran out of the house because she was unable to withstand the beating. When queried, her uncle’s wife claimed that the teenager made mockery of her barren state.
The maid was taken to the Ministry of Youths and Social Development, where she was taken into custody, as she refused to go back to her guardians.
One of the cases of brutality on a maid was carried out by a policewoman in Bayelsa State, two years ago. One would have expected that as a law enforcement agent , the accused should have known better.
In this case, she allegedly poured hot water on her 15-year-old maid,Chinyere Igwe, who hails from Igbere in Bende local government area of Abia, for wrongfully applying condiments in a pot of soup. Her action prompted the Eboyi State Governor’s wife to call for her immediate arrest
Report had it that officials of the State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development rescued the girl from the policewoman at her home in Mile 50, Abakaliki.
Narrating what happened, the maid said , “I have been living with my madam for over two years. This is because after my father’s death, my poor mother asked me to work as a maid in order to get money to go to school.
“ My madam poured a pot of soup on me. She hit me with an iron, ordered me to bend down and raise one of my legs up, she locked me up in a room, went to boil water which she threatened to pour on me. She went inside, got her tear gas canister and as I was begging her to forgive me she rushed to get the hot water and poured it on me”.
In December 2017, a female lawyer was arrested by the Lagos State Police Command, over alleged incessant abuse on her housemaid.
Arrest of the lawyer identified as Tolu Ola, followed directive from the then command boss, Imohimi Edgal, upon seeing picture of the victim with a deep cut on her forehead, on the internet.
The CP who wondered why one who knew the legal implication of such action could indulge in such, vowed to use her as deterrent to other women who treat maids like piece of rags.
Again, in January 2018, the Lagos State Police Command arrested a woman who locked her maid inside an apartment in Mafoluku area of Lagos.
In this case, then Commissioner of Police, CP Edgal Imohimi, personally went for the 11- year-old maid , Precious Nwafor’s rescue, following complaint of ill treatment by neighbours. The suspect, Nkechiyere Nwajagun, a banker , admitted to have locked Precious inside the apartment but was quick to add that it was only between the time she went to work and returned.
Her name is Peace Goewam. But her living condition was a sharp contrast of her name. First, she was taken away from her parents’ home in Plateau State, at age six, without any inkling of where she was going to, or what she was going to meet there.
In December last year, a video of her being dragged out of a vehicle and thrown up, only to land on the bare floor , went viral on social media. In the clip, she was seen getting up immediately out of fear and ran towards the gate in a bid to escape her guardian’s wrath, not caring to know if she sustained injury or not. Her offence? Her guardian, Mrs Ortolehi, from Ngor-Okpala, Imo State, accused her of making her toddler to cry.
The video clip further showed another woman, probably a neighbour, reprimanding her ,for being rash and at the same time begged on her maid’s behalf. But she paid less attention to the intruder. Rather, she ordered the frightened girl to come into the car. And like an obedient servant, she quietly walked into the car, with her hands on her head, unsure of the magnitude of battering she would receive from her guardian.
It took the intervention of the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Police Command, CP Ahmad AbdurRahman, to rescue the girl, as he he ordered the command’s s technical officers which included the Anti-Terrorism, Anti Cultism and Anti Kidnap,to comb the nooks and crannies of the state for the woman and the child.
Hot water attack
Again, in August 2016, nine-year-old Chiwendu Precious , got more than what she bargained from her madam, one Ifeoma, who poured steaming hot water on her , in Alagbado area of Lagos.
Though she survived the attack but she is still living with the burns scare.
The ugly incident which sparked up reactions from different quarters, when picture of the injured maid on the hospital bed went viral, happened on Sunday, December 27, 2015.
Another pathetic case was that of a maid identified simply as Justina. In her case, her guardian allegedly used a saw to cut her hand , in Meiran, Alagbado area of Lagos state.
Neighbours who heard the pathetic cry of the girl in the woman’s apartment had rushed to see what was the problem, only to meet the door to the apartment locked. By the time they forced it opened, the underage maid was found bleeding profusely while still doing some domestic chores.
One of the visibly angry tenants brought the attention of the Police to the incident.
Attempt to quit
Unable to bear persistent battering, 17-year-old Blessing, another househelp , informed her boss that she wanted to leave the house. But to her shock, her madam, locked her inside a warehouse in her building, preventing her from leaving.
The incident occurred last November in Isheri area of Lagos. Residents attempt to force the door of the warehouse open, in order to free her, failed, until the arrival of policemen who were contacted. Her madam, identified simply as Mary was taken to the station for questioning.
Surprisingly, some of this ill-treatment meted on maids are carried out by their relatives
A vivid instance was the case of a 10-year-old maid who was locked inside a dog kernel by her relative identified as Oyinye, last November.
Video of the boy being led into the dog kernel went viral consequent upon which the Commissioner of Police ordered for the woman’s arrest.
During interrogation, the suspect, identified simply as Oyinye, admitted that the boy was her cousin.
Further investigation revealed that the victim lost his parents and was brought to Lagos in 2012 from Anambra State by Onyinye’s mother along with his two siblings.
Aside maids, some children whose parents are separated, suffer same fate from wicked stepmothers. In almost all these cases, women, are discovered to be responsible for such inhuman treatment, even when most of them have children of their own. Most times these women saddle maids with domestic chores beyond their capabilities, while their biological children are treated as princes and princesses.
In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was created to serve as a legal documentation and protection of Children rights and responsibilities in Nigeria.
The law has three primary purposes among which is to provide the responsibilities of government agencies associated with the law and to integrate children-focused legislation into one comprehensive law. It also acts as legislation against human trafficking as it forbids children from being separated from their parents against their will, except where it is in the best interests of the child.
But most Nigerians violate this Act, as they carry on as thin gods when dealing with maids.