A nine-year-old girl, working as a child labourer in the home of the Executive Secretary of the Kogi State Scholarship Board, is now living with a deformed foot following a near-death experience in the hands of her Madam who pinned her feet to a hot barbecue stone until the child wailed and passed out. By the time the young girl came to, the soles of her feet were burnt with one badly so she would need a plastic surgery.
Mrs Rebecca Acheneje Omacho, the Executive Secretary, of Kogi Scholarship Board is currently facing trial at the Family High Court, Lokoja, Kogi State, for “ill-treatment of a child and causing grievous body harm”.
A neighbour who would not want her name disclosed, told SATELLITE TIMES that the maid, Favour Makola, then 9 years old had, “…her foot forced onto a hot stone and held down until the sole of her foot peeled off. The neighbour immediately called the Police who rescued, and rushed the girl to Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Lokoja for treatment.”
The case file sighted by this newspaper showed that at age 9, Makola “was already working as a labourer, cleaning the house and preparing meals for the household. She was subjected to daily mental and physical torture by Omacho, her aunt, making her lose the smartness and intelligence that started manifesting in her early childhood. She was also deprived the opportunity of going to school.”
SATELLITE TIMES gathered that little Makola planned to escape but each time her plots were thwarted by her guardian who as a routine kept her like a prisoner, locking her in before departing for work each day. But determined to break the no-to-school rule, the little girl on a certain day scaled the fence of the house and went to school. Thereafter the boss of the scholarship board became furious and unleashed physical violence on her, for flouting her rule.
Arrested in 2017 for child abuse, Mrs Omacho subsequently had her appointment as Executive Secretary of the Kogi State Scholarship Board terminated.
Speaking on the incident, Oluwakemi Omeiza Usman, the legal counsel for the State enthused: “Yes, her appointment was terminated because of the incident. The case is still ongoing until justice is done. The suspect is on bail but comes to court for sittings”.
Favour has since been re-united with her parents while her condition is being monitored by the State Welfare Department.
The case has earned Kogi, one of the few States that has domesticated the Child Right Act, applause from human rights activists and civil society organisations. However, the Kogi State Coordinator, Action Aid Project, Kehinde Orowosegbe observed that incidents of rape of minor and child abuse in the state are on the increase.
“There are numerous cases of rape being reported daily. In several cases, the parents of the victims will go to the police station to beg that the case be settled out of court because of family ties and stigma” observed Orowosegbe.
This story was published under SATELLITE TIMES human rights investigation series
Deaf student cries out over missing N4.4 million from Governor Ambode
– became deaf inside examination hall
He came down with a mysterious illness inside the examination hall only to become deaf within minutes. Anthony Offor was a final year student of Political Science at the University of Lagos.
With the death of his father shortly after, he was faced with a bleak future as no employer would want to hire him. Determined to claw his way out of a terrifying situation, Offor wrote a letter, appealing to the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, for help.
Against all odds, the governor responded and took pity on him, approving N4-4 million for what is called cochlea implant surgery.
That was in June 2017. Once the deaf student was told his cheque was ready but the money has remained elusive with the deaf young man suffering a double jeopardy as health ministry officials endlessly toss him from one desk to another.
When SATELLITE TIMES located him, Anthony Offor was literally at his wits end inside a Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist hospital in Lagos where, communicating only by writing, he made it clear he has been robbed.
My hearing loss
“My predicament started in 2010 while I was writing my final exams at the University of Lagos. I was feeling feverish on campus and at first dismissed it as the normal malaria. It intensified inside the examination hall.
I could see people were talking because their lips were moving but I could not hear a word. Same too with the doctors and nurses who were asking me questions. They could only communicate with me through writing. It was a frightening experience for me.
I got a referral to an ENT hospital where the specialists after examining me said I required to undergo a surgery known as cochlea implant.
At the time in 2010, the cost of the surgery and implant was put at slightly above N3 million. My father could not afford it immediately but promised to run around for it. But about two months after, precisely on November 6, 2010, he died in an auto crash.
That put paid to the surgery. After the death of my father, I forced myself to return to school because I hadn’t written all my last semester papers when that illness struck me. But I could no longer fit into the school system because I could not hear what the lecturers were saying. I however managed to take the last papers and graduated with a Second Class Upper Division.
Tales of woes
“After school, I have faced heart breaking discriminations which persons with hearing loss are made to go through in our society. It has been impossible to find any government ministry, agency or parastatal that is willing to employ someone with hearing loss. Even with my BSC qualification., it has become impossible to secure a job anywhere; not the Army, Police, Customs, among many others. Although I am deaf, my speech is not affected. I can speak and even sing.”
Petition to the governor
A copy of the petition he sent to Governor Ambode was made available to SATELLITE TIMES. It was dated October 17, 2016. In it, Offor appealed to the governor for medical assistance to pay for his surgery.
On November 29, 2016, the governor sent a reply in which he directed the Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris to act on Offor’s matter immediately.
On February 18, 2017 he got a message from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) to meet a team of ENT doctors on the orders of the state government.
Upon getting to LASUTH, he was shown a letter written by the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, to the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Wale Oke, to convene a medical board and summon him for examination to determine the actual situation in his case and to know the remedy suitable for the type of hearing loss.
In the letter, they were further directed that the findings and recommendation of the board be submitted to the office of the Permanent Secretary, to facilitate the processing of the payment in the ministry.
Offor was told that LASUTH did not have some of the equipment required to carry out the necessary tests on him, like the Radiology test, Audiology test, and CT Scan.
He was given a request form and was told to go to Mecure Diagnostics Centre located at Oshodi to undergo the three tests and return to LASUTH with the results. He however had to bear the cost of the tests including the administrative cost which totalled about N55, 000.
After so much effort he was able to do all the three tests and returned to LASUTH with the results, together with four X-ray films, one compact disc (the CT scan).
Once again, the panel of LASUTH doctors converged, and this time the Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Prof. Wale Oke, was in attendance. The medical board quickly came out with their findings and recommendations, that he required a cochlea implant surgery.
The doctors however took turns in examining his other organs with their gadgets and equally certified him fit and physically healthy for the surgery, and also wrote a referral, ratifying his admission into the relevant clinic; B.S.A. Hearing and Speech Centre, located at 49, Oluwaleyimu Street, off Allen Avenue Ikeja Lagos.
The corrective surgery and implant according to the medical board would cost about N4.4million and the bill was equally forwarded to the office of the Permanent Secretary by the board. An anonymous donor is said to have last year made a mandatory non-refundable deposit of N400,000 to the hospital.
SATELLITE TIMES confirmed that after the medical board had on June 19, 2017 sent their report and recommendations, duly signed by the Chief Medical Director, to the Permanent Secretary as demanded, Anthony Offor was advised to go to the Health Ministry to collect the cheque and proceed to B.S.A Centre for the surgery.
Anthony went to the Health Ministry in high spirit to collect the cheque but to his greatest bewilderment he met with bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Suddenly, nobody seemed to know where his file is, nobody appeared to have seen the cheque and nobody could be definitive on the way forward. Eighteen months after the ear patient is still in a lurch with the kind governor believing the surgery had long been carried out.
SATELLITE TIMES’ attempts to find out what happened to the N4.4 million took this reporter to the Lagos state Ministry of Health Alausa Ikeja; particularly to the Special Project Unit, Room 516. The ministry officials there all played dumb, with one later saying that the senior medical officer handling Anthony Offor’s case had gone to represent the Ministry at an event to mark the World Mental Health day.
On a subsequent visit, the Director of Public Affairs, Mrs Adeola Salako, said although her office received a brief in respect of SATELLITE TIMES’ enquiry, she was still looking into the matter for updates. She added that as far as the Ministry is concerned, it was not possible for the funds to be diverted or misappropriated because if money had been made available to Anthony Offor surgery, the cheque would be in his name.
EXCLUSIVE: Pregnant woman recounts ordeal in military detention
-I was handcuffed and leg-chained and kept in a toilet for 9 days
Norah Moses Gyang (referred to as Noroh Dung in previous reports) in an exclusive interview with SATELLITE TIMES newspaper narrates her ordeal in military captivity following her arrest and detention on October 3 in Du district of Jos, the Plateau State capital.
SATELLITE TIMES had reported how Norah, a heavily pregnant 20-year-old woman, was abducted in an early-morning military operation that indiscriminately netted 37 citizens – 28 men and 9 women.
Though the Army in a text message sent to this newspaper by Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relation, denied claims of arrest of any pregnant woman, Norah’s narration gives an insight to the siege by the Nigerian Army in search of a missing General. Excerpts:
“The soldiers invaded my neighbourhood in the early hours of the morning of 3rd October 2018. It was around 5.30 am but the morning was still very dark light night. I was heavily pregnant and due for delivery soon but the soldiers dragged me out of bed and took me away together with my mother-in-law. We were all in doors; no one had stepped out of their rooms. In fact, some people were still sleeping when the soldiers came. We heard several rounds of gunshots. We had no idea who the invaders were and why they were shooting. I immediately went into a panic attack. Before we could fully realise what was going on, soldiers had taken over the vicinity.
They went from house to house kicking in the doors. They were screaming and ransacking and smashing everything in the house as they went from room to room. I had no idea what they were looking for. I must have passed out with fright because when I became conscious of what was going on again, everything around me was spinning. Then I could hear people screaming as the soldiers began to hit them, demanding to know the whereabouts of the missing General (retired Major General Idris Alkali). The beating continued and eventually we were all dragged to the Rukuba Army Barrack.
Fed once a day
The soldiers fed us once a day. At times we would not even see food to eat. We were not allowed to say a word, not to the soldiers and not to our fellow detainees. So, you couldn’t even open your mouth to say you are hungry or that you needed water to drink. We were dumped in a toilet, five of us cramped in one toilet.
We were about 58 people and I was the only pregnant person; though we were five women. The rest were men and they were kept where the soldiers use to rear goats. Every body was chained in groups to the next person. We were leg-chained and even handcuffed; we could not move from one place to another. Even if you’re going to urinate, there was an armed soldier to escort you. Even if you want to use the toilet, if you get the permission, you must drag along the person chained to you. But that was nothing compared to the beating and physical punishment people received on the first day of our arrest. But after that first day, none of us was again assaulted.
But the scars of those beatings are still very visible, especially on the men. Yes, people were really hurt that first day. If you see some of the men today, their skins from their toes to their backs are peeling off because of the punishments and the horrible condition of the floor of the goat house.
Baby still unborn
We were the first set of detainees to be kept in that place in Rukuba Barrack. I spent nine days in detention. The saddest thing is that nobody has told me what my offence was. I am still living with the trauma. It is difficult to shake it off. The most difficult aspect was that I was not allowed to speak or cry out in my agony throughout my detention. When I was released, words were not coming out easily from my mouth. It was like learning how to talk all over again.
I am still suffering even after I had regained freedom. Because the whole thing has also affected my unborn baby apparently. I was due for delivery last month (September) but as I speak to you now, the baby has refused to come out. This is the most shattering experience I have had since I was born.”
Missing General: Detained PUNCH journalist saw heavily pregnant woman in Army dungeon in Jos
While agitations trail the detainment of a heavily pregnant 20-year-old woman, Noroh Dung, new revelations about her arrest and possible identity has been made following the arrest of Friday Olokor, a Plateau State Correspondent of THE PUNCH newspaper in Jos.
Noroh was on midnight of October 2 arrested on suspicions of probable links to the disappearance of a retired Army General by name Idris Alkali who according to Maj. Gen. Augustine Agundu, Commander, Special Task Force in charge of security on the Plateau, was a victim of fracas at Dura, when irate youths blocked roads and attacked travelers following the invasion of the community on September 2.
The 3rd Division Nigerian Army has remained in denial about the identity of Noroh, refuting claims that she was in their custody. “No such name in our custody,” Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations said in response to a text sent to him by SATELLITE TIMES newspaper.
The arrest of Olokor has further revealed how the Nigerian Army in their search and rescue operation indiscriminately arrested and detained 37 people comprising of 28 men and 9 women.
According to Olokor the raid happened on October 6 in Rayfield area of Jos when about 30 masked men swooped in and started shooting indiscriminately at sight and arrested every human being they sighted.
“My initial feeling during the shooting was that they were either the Fulani herdsmen (who had been a thorn in the flesh of the Berom ethnic nationality), fake soldiers on military uniform or Boko Haram. Many of them were masked,” he said as he narrated his encounter.
“Passers-by were not spared; women and persons who were living in nearby houses were picked. Even my identification that I’m a journalist with PUNCH Newspapers didn’t help matters as they did not even want to see my Identity Card. We were 37 victims of invasion, 28 men and 9 women” he added.
As he further narrated his ordeal, he said 28 of the men arrested were taken to the 3rd Division of the Nigerian Army in Rukuba Barracks, where they were kept in an uncompleted building.
There in the dungeon, they were greeted by 30 persons who were also detainees including an unidentified pregnant woman who is suspected to be Noroh Dung, the 20-year-old who was arrested during the search and rescue operation at Dura district in Jos.
Olokor’s narrative gives authority to SATELLITE TIMES report on the missing 20-year-old Noroh Dung whose arrest has been vehemently denied by the Nigerian Army.
Prior to the arrest of Olokor and the 36 others on October 6, the Nigerian Army had earlier arrested 30 suspects in Du district of Jos South LGA, in connection with the disappearance of Mr. Alkali.
While the army has remained in denial of Noroh’s arrest and detainment, it is suspected that more pregnant women could be sharing the same fate at the 3rd Division of the Nigerian Army in Rukuba Barracks.
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