A 13-year-old housemaid, Monsurat, was allegedly inflicted with a hot electric iron on the stomach and lap by her boss,one Mrs Mariam Hafia.
Monsurat lived with Hafia and her husband on Ola Akinpelu Street, Alimosho area of Lagos and was said to have been hired out to the couple by her parents based in Oyo State.
Sources disclosed that Hafia had given Monsurat, a Primary 2 pupil, N1, 500 to keep on September 29, but the girl presented N1, 000 the following day when told to bring the money.
Hafia, a nursing mother, reportedly accused Monsurat of spending the money and used a sharp object to inflict her body. she allegedly plugged an iron and pressed it on the girl’s stomach.
It was gathered that the woman left Monsurat groaning with pains, and refused to treat the injuries she sustained.
A good Samaritan in the neighbourhood who heard of the incident was said to have alerted a human rights group, Esther Child Rights Foundation, which reported the case at the Mosalasi Police Station.
A social worker at the foundation, Mrs Chinyere Tony, who rescued Monsurat, said the girl told her that she used the N500 to buy a book in the school.
Tony said, “Someone called our office to report the case on October 8 and we went for the rescue the next day. We found out that the woman used a razor blade on her as a punishment for using her N500 to buy a book. The girl said she was the only who had not bought the book in her class.
“The woman also used a hot iron to burn her abdomen and lap. But she claimed she was ironing clothes when the girl fell on the iron.”
It was learnt that the police arrested the woman, but later released her on the orders of the Divisional Police Officer and the girl handed over to her.
Shocked by the DPO’s decision, the foundation reported the case at the neighbouring Isokoko Police Station whose DPO also reportedly failed to effect Hafia’s arrest.
The Coordinator of the foundation, Mrs Esther Ogwu, said a petition was written to the Office of the Public Defender, Lagos State Ministry of Justice and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
She said, “According to the victim, Hafia gave her N1, 500 to keep for her and the next day when she requested the money, it was short by N500. I feel really terrible. It’s sad to believe that cases like this still come up in our society. What hurts the most was how the matter was handled by the police. This case was first reported to Moshalashi Police Station where the culprit was called in for questioning. Before hand, the culprit had already threatened the victim; stating that if she opens up about what really happened, she would be denied her right to go to school.
“The victim was then brought in for her statement alongside the suspect for questioning. The victim, out of fear, said she fell on an iron, which I’d like to believe is not possible. The DPO discharged the case and told us that the evidence is not concrete enough to prosecute the culprit. We took action and wrote a petition to the Office of the Public Defender and NAPTIP.”
The case was further reported at the Anti-Human Trafficking unit, Federal Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Alagbon, and Hafia was arrested.
The head of the unit, ACP Mary Ajunwa, said investigation had commenced on the case and the woman rearrested.
She said, “They took the child to her village in Oyo State; they didn’t want the authorities to see the degree of the injury. My office ordered that the child must be brought back to Lagos and that has been done. We are trying to get exactly what happened. The suspect has been rearrested and she is in custody. We have seen the degree of the injury and we want to ascertain why it is so. The woman is claiming that she fell on the iron. But mere looking at the injury, we don’t think it is a case of the girl falling on the iron. We believe there is more to it which the woman has not been able to tell us.”
The OPD Director, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi, said the agency took up the matter immediately it received a petition from the human rights organisation, but was disappointed over how the police divisions handled the case.
She said, “I have never seen that kind of abuse before and the woman is claiming that he child fell on an iron. How would a child fall on an iron and the injury would be that much? If she actually fell on an iron, it would be the edge of the iron that would burn her.
“The girl has deep cuts and the burns are in two places. It is sad. We found out that the two police divisions where the case was initially reported compromised. They said the injury was an accident and they even released the child to the suspect.”
Adeyemi explained that the state government would continue to monitor the matter to ensure that justice prevailed, adding that Monsurat would be taken into protective custody.
She added, “We learnt that the girl was hired out as a home help. Her parents were also hiding because NAPTIP has learnt about the case. Eventually, they brought the girl to Lagos.
“What we plan to do now is to take the child away from them and put her in a protective shelter and get medical attention for her while the police continue the prosecution. We don’t want the girl to live outside Lagos State jurisdiction because the offence was committed in Lagos.”