Eleven-year-old Blessing (not real name) is no longer the girl she used to be. Once cheerful and the joy of her mother, she is now a shadow of herself. Managing to say hello to visitors in the hospital, she burst into tears as she tried to recount how she was gang-raped and beaten up by two young men in her village. As she narrated the nightmare, Blessing kept making a plea: “Bring the boys who raped me to justice.”
Blessing, who managed to talk with our correspondent on Monday as she lay on a bed at the Police Clinic at Bende Road, Umuahia in Abia State, said she would be happy if the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, could help her to get justice.
“We are poor and have nobody to help us. The police haven’t helped us. So, I think Mrs. Buhari is the one who can help me to get justice. After they raped me, they were still moving around freely and no one could do anything to them,” Blessing said.
“I also want NGOs to come to my aid. They should help me to get justice by arresting those who raped me. They are walking freely. They are even threatening my family members especially my mother. The police have not also been able to offer help even when my mother ran to them for help,’’ she said, staring at some of the people standing close to her bed stand.
Some of the visitors shed tears while others looked her with pity.
Her mother, Mrs. Ejike, with teary eyes, sat on the edge of the bed, affectionately caressing one of her daughter’s legs.
Blessing let out intermittent screams as she tried to adjust one of her legs to sit upright.
‘‘She cannot walk with one of her legs again. Two animals in human skin raped my daughter and did not stop at that, they also damaged her right leg with an iron,’’ her mother said, sobbing.
How it happened
Blessing covered her face with her two hands and launched into a narration of what happened to her.
She said in a soft, low voice, ‘‘I was at home when one of my friends came to call me last Sunday (June 26). She brought a salad and said we should eat together. I obliged. It was around 8pm and while we were eating the salad not far from my house, a boy came and asked what we were doing at the point we stood. We initially didn’t answer but when we noticed that he was getting angry we showed him what we were eating.’’
Blessing stated that he thereafter told them that they should follow him to see the high chief of the community to explain what they were doing outside their homes by 8pm.
‘‘We showed him the remaining salad but instead, he started dragging us away. When we got to a road that leads to where the high chief lives, he dragged us through another road. We then asked him why we had to take that road and he told us that the high chief was waiting for us in a house on that road, ’’ said Blessing who was trying hard to conceal the pain she was feeling in the leg.
She added that when they arrived at a house, the boy later identified as Ikechukwu Mbakwe, knocked at the door which was opened by two men. One of them left immediately while another boy, Ifeanyi Mbakwe, also known as ‘Fire’, stayed with them in the room.
The little girl said they instantly asked where the high chief was and they were told to remain calm as they would announce their arrival to him.
She cried, adding, ‘‘Ikechukwu went out and returned with two bottles of stout offering the content to us to drink. That was when I stood up to ask where the high chief who he said summoned us was. He became violent and said we should drink the stout. We were forced to drink it. That was all I could recall until I woke up the next day and saw that I was naked. Both of them had raped me all through the night.’’
The girl who is a primary six pupil in one of the schools in Umuosu Okaiga Nkwoegwu in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, where she hails from, further said Ifeanyi walked into the room as she was covering her nakedness.
‘‘He wanted to sleep with me again and I refused. I shouted at him and told him that he raped me with his friend. But he pushed me away to have his way. That was when I held him and he took a metal and hit me with it. He said he would kill me if I didn’t allow him have sex with me. As I tried to stand up, he hit my right leg with the iron. He continued hitting it till I could no longer walk.
“He later pushed me out and ran away. I was crying when some members of a vigilance group came to my rescue. They heard my story and took me to the village square that early morning. I want justice. I want those who molested me to be arrested and killed. They also wanted to kill me,’’ said the chubby girl in a pale, frail voice.
A mother’s pain
Blessing’s mother could no longer contain her urge to speak as her daughter rounded off her conversation with our correspondent.
Mrs. Ejike noted that on June 26, she visited one of her husband’s relations but she was unable to get a tricycle on time to take her home.
She said, ‘‘When I eventually got home, I discovered that my second daughter was not at home. I have four children; my first child is a female while the third and last children are males. Blessing who is the second child will be 12 years on July 23. I searched everywhere for her but later thought she visited my sister as she always did only for her to return from the place and inform me she went there.
“I tried my sister’s mobile number that day but it did not connect. I could not go to her place that night because it was not nearby. As it was getting late, I returned home when I didn’t see her and decided that I would visit my sister the following day which was a Monday. I was very worried but I was sure she was with my sister.’’
Mrs. Ejike explained that the following day around 6am as she set out to go to her sister’s place, someone knocked at her door, shouting that she should come out.
‘‘Since I was already dressed to go out, I did not waste time before I opened the door and the person turned out to be a distant friend in the area. She told me to follow her to the village square which was not far from my house. When I got there, I saw my missing daughter on the floor writhing in pain. She could not walk.
“Members of the vigilance group who assisted her to get to that spot said they saw her in front of a house crying and decided to bring her to our area when she told them she lived there. They said a boy who ran away before they got there raped her and broke one of her legs with an iron when she refused to allow him have more sex with her after they had gang-raped her a night before,’’ Mrs. Ejike said throwing her hands up in the air.
Trying to fight back tears, she stated that she was heartbroken seeing the pitiable state of her daughter, writhing with pain on the floor.
She noted, ‘‘I tried carrying her but I could not. It was a man in the village who used his vehicle to take her to our home. The people who were at the scene at that time of the day were many.’’
Mrs. Ejike explained that the two men that raped her daughter have since fled the village.
‘‘I did not know them. It was when this incident happened that I learnt they are from the same village with me. The other girl was not injured and her parents said she was not molested. I reported the matter to the police at Afugiri Police Station.”
According to the distraught mother, the police were of no help to her. “When I did not get a positive response from the police, I went to meet a lawyer who I know has been taking up cases for the poor. The most annoying thing is that one of the fathers of the suspects came to threaten me to desist from the case or be dealt with. Is it because I have no money? I will fight for my daughter’s rights with the last blood in my veins, ’’ she added.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Ejike, who said her husband travelled to Lagos before the incident, moved Blessing out of the hospital because she could no longer afford to pay the bills.
‘‘There is no money to continue with the treatment in the hospital. I have to take her away. She sobs everyday but I told her not to cry anymore because I know that God will wipe her tears. I try to cater for my children with the little I have. I cannot believe what happened to her. It is still like a dream and the perpetrators are walking freely, ’’ Mrs. Ejike said to our correspondent on Thursday.
Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH, the lawyer who Blessing’s mother contacted, Mr. Jasper Ejimofor, said he was particularly pained that the suspects hijacked the victim from her house and gang-raped her.
Ejimofor said when the matter was brought to his attention, he immediately wrote a petition to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 9, Umuahia, Abia State and the state’s commissioner of police.
Noting that there was no response from either of the two, the lawyer added that he was reliably informed by the police that one of the suspectsâ€‘Ikechukwu, was planning to leave the country through Lagos.
He stated, ‘‘But we have been assured that he would be arrested together with his accomplice. It pained me that the suspects prearranged such a heinous crime.’’
He also said the two suspects were not from the same parents but from the same clan.
A copy of the petition obtained by SUNDAY PUNCH read in part, ‘‘On June 26 during the hours of 8pm, two boys named Ikechukwu Mbakwe and Ifeanyi Mbakwe who are also natives of Umuoso Okaiga Nkwoegwu in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State intercepted a girl of 11 years who was in front of her house with other children.
‘‘The boys, using the threat of death on the girl, forcefully took her to a building belonging to one of the uncles of Ikechukwu Mbakwe who lives in the city and thereafter raped her. The boys heartlessly used an iron to break the girl’s leg to prevent her from running away. The mother reported the matter at Afugiri Police Station where she further mobilised the officers to arrest the boys.
‘‘It is therefore our plea that you use your good offices to investigate the heinous crime against the young, innocent girl to ensure that the boys are brought to justice.’’
Commenting on the matter, a child protection consultant and Executive Director, Media Concern Initiative, Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, who condemned the act, lamented the poor response of the country to emergency situations despite its abundant human and natural resources.
She also noted that by now, the rapists should have been apprehended and made to face the law.
The criminal justice psychologist further said efforts should made by the government to protect the citizens against any form of abuse regardless of gender or status.
Olufemi-Kayode said, “Most times, it is always the vulnerable who suffer most in our society. I hope the daughter and mother get help. They will be in distress at the moment. I also hope the governor of the state will rise up to help them. It is a sad story, very sad.’’
When contacted, the spokesperson for the Abia State Police Command, Mr. Nta Ogbonnaya Nta, confirmed the incident.
He added that the police had intensified a search for the suspects who he said were on the run.
Nta said, ‘‘The matter was reported at the police station three days after the incident. The suspects have fled but we have launched a manhunt for them. Abia police do not condone such indecent assault. We also advise parents and residents to always report cases to us promptly so we can move into action swiftly.’’
But Mrs. Ejike disagreed with Nta that she reported the matter late, adding that she did that on the Monday her daughter was found.
“All I want is for Mrs. Buhari and NGOs to come to our aid. The police have not helped us and the relatives of my daughter’s rapists are threatening us. Is this life?” she said.