Children, in many societies around the world, are seen as perhaps the best gift in any marriage. Apart from the fact that they give such unions more strength and help to carry on with the family’s lineage, they exist also to provide care and love for their parents when such grow old.
The situation is not different in Nigeria where children are largely seen as the icing on the cake of any marriage and sources of great joy in such homes. Childless couples are in fact put under intense pressure as a result of this phenomenon to the extent that some engage in diabolical means to get a baby or even approach human traffickers to buy one. The situation is that serious.
However, as in-demand as children are in many Nigerian homes, these ‘gifts from God,’ as innocent and tender as they are, have now become easy targets at the hands of some parents, who should love and care for them. In brief, brutal moments of ‘madness’, some parents across the country have now transformed to ‘monsters’, terribly abusing and hacking their offspring to death in the most insane manner.
For example, on February 24, Awada Obosi, a sleepy town in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, was thrown into chaos when a 47-year-old man, Stephen Nnadiogo, unleashed the ‘demon’ in him. Described as a relatively calm individual, he hacked his four children to death with a knife one after the other before turning to their 18-year-old home help, Ogechi, to register several deadly stabs on her. Not done with his ‘madness’, Nnadiogo soon took his own life after consuming a poisonous liquid.
According to reports, the 47-year-old and his wife, Chika, had fallen out in recent times after he accused her of sleeping with other men. But rather than calmly defend herself, the 32-year-old woman is said to be in the habit of always taunting her husband that he was not the father of their four children aged between two and 10. Unable to cope with the ‘heat’, Nnadiogo decided to take matters to his own ‘court’, where justice was served in a deadly way.
“Whenever the couple had issues, the woman would always tell her husband that he was not the biological father of their kids,” a neighbour said. “Instead of telling him his suspicion was wrong, she would tell the man that she engaged in extra marital affairs because he was impotent. The man would in anger call her a prostitute who could not be satisfied by one man.
“So, on Saturday, as the woman left home for her medicine store in the evening, the husband called the children one after the other and after observing their face closely, began to stab them with a knife.
“He also killed their maid before hiding in a room where he committed suicide by taking poison,” the neighbour added.
But gruesome as it is, parental abuse becoming a regular thing in many parts of Nigeria today. While the motive behind such acts against their own children by some parents have varied, the damage it had caused appears to be the same – brutal and devastating. Rape, torture, death – the treatments have been frightening.
Two weeks before the incident in Imo, residents of Eket in Akwa Ibom State got a rude shock when a 53-year-old man, Edem Okon, was apprehended for attempting to poison his son.
The man, who claimed that the little boy killed him in a dream he had, visited the orphanage where the child and his sibling were kept, to deliver bread laced with poison to him. But just before he could force the boy to eat the deadly item, officials at the home found out his evil plan and raised the alarm. Lucky escape, if you like.
But a five-day-old baby in Bauchi State was not so fortunate on January 21 when his father perfected the evil plot to send him back to “wherever” he was coming from. Unable to raise the money for the child’s naming ceremony, Habibu Bala, a resident of Ningi Local Government Area, killed his newly born son in the most gruesome way by feeding him with insecticide.
“As a result, the baby became unconscious and was later taken to Ningi General Hospital, where a medical doctor certified him dead,” Public Relations Officer for state Police Command, DSP Kamal Abubakar, said confirming the incident.
That same month in Lagos, a policeman took out his anger on his 19-year-old son in the most extreme manner. On January 5, three days before the boy was to resume for studies as an undergraduate at a university, his father pummeled him to death after he was alleged to have misplaced the sum of N2,000. The incident, which happened in the Ikotun area of the state, has continued to baffle residents especially neighbours, who never envisaged such calamity coming upon their community.
Also in January, a father turned himself in to the police in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, after snuffing life out of his 19-year-old daughter, Chiburuoma Boms. Accusing the young lady, who had been ill for about seven months at the time of the incident of promiscuity, the enraged man dragged her out of the house one morning, strangled and dumped her body in a septic tank behind the compound. She died not too long afterwards.
In the Idi Araba area of Lagos, a 32-year-old man, Edet Asuquo, like Bala, left many Nigerians wondering what manner of evil the society now contends with when in January he served his newly born baby a deadly blow. The man, angered by the delivery of a girl by his partner, Rosemary, gave the baby a ‘hot’ slap while threatening to kill her. Due to the severity of the assault, the baby named Gift, was said to have convulsed and died shortly after being rushed to a hospital. Unwilling to face the wrath of the law, the man, said to be a bus conductor, fled the family’s apartment, abandoning his partner to deal with the pains of the loss alone.
Disturbingly, the plethora of callous acts against one’s own children by parents in many parts of Nigeria is not limited to the first few weeks of 2018 alone – in the preceding year – the country witnessed a catalogue of similar wicked acts against kids in several communities.
A few days to the last Christmas, a father, Sunday Ibrahim, desperate to get back at his estranged wife in the most brutal way, strangled his 14-year-old son, Musa, to death in the Apo area of Abuja while also attempting to poison their 17-year-old daughter, Maimuna.
The 44-year-old hatched the evil plot after a court dissolved his marriage with the woman.
“After killing the son, Ibrahim ran to the house of his uncle, Haruna Isah, who resides at Airport Road, Abuja, to confess that he had killed Musa.
“Isah promptly reported the matter at the Ido Police Station. He also arrested Ibrahim and handed him over to the Apo Police Station, from where the case was subsequently transferred to the homicide section of the FCT Criminal Investigation Department of the police Command,” Commissioner of Police in the Federal Capital Territory at the time, Mohammed Mustapha, said while confirming the incident.
That same week, a man, Andrew Koku, beheaded his six-month-old daughter in the Abeokuta area of Ogun State.
“The accused said he decided to kill the baby because his wife was having extra-marital affairs with her ex-lover.
“He said the wife’s adulterous lifestyle angered him and he believed killing the only child, which was the only bond between him and the woman would end the marriage,” a police prosecutor, Sunday Eigbejiale, said.
When paraded before Chief Magistrate Adeola Adelaja of the Abeokuta Chief Magistrates’ Court, Koku owned up to the crime.
In September 2017, a 50-year-old man killed his 14-year-old daughter after impregnating her. The incident, which happened in Emure Local Government Area of Ekiti State, sent the entire community into chaos after the discovery was made.
The man named Williams, had separated from the girl’s mother before taking advantage of her. He was caught by residents of the community while digging a grave to secretly bury the girl after allegedly strangling her to death.
“Williams killed his pregnant girl so as to cover up his crime because the girl’s pregnancy was already becoming very conspicuous and everyone knew that it was her father, who slept with her.
“It took us a while before we were able to apprehend Williams and drag him to the Oba’s palace,” a resident said following the incident.
In other parts of the country like Port Harcourt, Plateau, Nasarawa, Bayelsa and Niger, cases of parents taking out their anger or carrying out pre-meditated evil against their children was rife throughout the year.
According to child’s rights expert, Stella Anubugu, the plethora of violent acts against children in the country was enough laws signal for the government to strengthen existing and enact new ones to protect such vulnerable group in the society.
She said that without stiff punishments, more people especially parents would continue to perpetrate all manner of evil acts against children in different parts of the country.
“As far as I am concerned, our weak laws which have failed to adequately protect children, is part of factors responsible for the level of evil treatment against this category of persons we now witness in our society.
“In many communities today, people don’t interfere in issues relating to a parent and their child because they feel that such own that child and can do whatever he or she likes to them. But that is a wrong line of thought. Of course you might be the parent of that child, but the kids have their own rights too which you cannot trample upon.
“So, until we begin to get people to understand this fact and punish offenders severely by getting children to even testify against parents who abuse their rights, we might not make much progress as a society.
“The truth is that we must take concrete steps to avert these types of evil in our communities,” she said.
Sociologist, Boma Davies, told Saturday PUNCH that apart from the need to reassess our values as a society, factors that push parents to commit such wicked acts like rape, torture and death against their own children must be critically addressed.
“While these acts of callousness by parents against own children are not totally new in Nigeria, the dimension at which they are assuming in recent times indeed calls for urgent intervention by all well-meaning people of the society.
“Part of the problem is the fact that as a people, our value system has been badly eroded. That is, life no longer matters to a lot of people. In the past when values were intact, you’d hardly hear of incidents like these. So, we must look in this direction to correct some of these mistakes.
“Also, individuals have different abilities to deal with pressure or withstand temptation. For example, a man or woman is most likely to be behaving out of place when hunger and extreme poverty gets hold of them. As a result of the economic situation in the country, many parents are not able to meet up with their responsibilities to their families, hence a rise in the level of anger and frustration among such persons. At the slightest provocation, such individuals are going to transform into animals, unleashing mayhem without minding the consequence most times.
“This is part of what we are witnessing in the country today. If you dig down to find out why some of these parents commit these atrocities against their children, you’ll discover that hardship and poverty is at the heart of it.
“So, to avert incidents like these, the government and in fact the society in general must look at ways through which hunger, lack and especially unemployment can be reduced. The moment people can eat to their satisfaction and have the capacity to afford basic things, you’ll see a drastic drop in the level of tension in the society,” he said.
Religious leaders, Femi Paul, and Ahmed Jimoh, told Saturday PUNCH that the society was witnessing all manner of problems because the people had drifted away from God.
According to the Christian and Muslim heads, who spoke with our correspondent in separate interviews earlier in the week, the lack of fear of God among many Nigerians today was responsible for the wickedness now exhibited in the society including parents against own children.
Though there are no known statistics, experts say dozens of children are abused and even killed by own parents in many parts of Nigeria each year. While only few of these are reported to law enforcement agencies, hundreds more remain undocumented, allowing perpetrators to roam about freely.