A Peep Into The Pit Of Harrowing Experiences Of Housemaids
If there is any sordid and pathetic story which Nigerians, particularly Lagosians, will forever be recalling, it is the one that has it that in 2018 the Lagos State Police Command arrested a woman who allegedly abused her 14-year-old house help by locking her in the toilet.
The suspect whose name was not given by the police was said to be in the habit of locking her maid (name withheld) in the toilet any time she is going out. While briefing the press, the Commissioner of Police at the time, Mr. EdgalImohimi, said the suspect was arrested on November 4 in that year, at about 1330hrs, at her Baruwa Estate home.
The Police Boss said “a concerned neighbor reported the case of the woman to the police, explaining her several abuses on the victim.
“As usual, the woman locked her maid in the toilet and went to church, and when the neighbor could not take it anymore, reports were made to the police, and based on complaints, the DPO of Ipaja Division visited the house at Baruwa Estate and forced the door open to rescue the victim.
Edgal further said that the child narrated her ordeal since she started living with the suspect. He said, “On close examination by the Command’s Gender Personnel, wounds were seen all over the victims’ body, and the suspect will soon be charged to court.”
The suspect, however denied the allegations of locking her maid in the toilet always. While speaking with journalists, she said the maid has been living with her for six months and she does not maltreat her.
“On the said day, she refused to go to church, and she is used to such habit and I don’t usually lock her up in the toilet. I don’t maltreat her, I take good care of her and she attends the same school with my children. She does not do much at home and I don’t treat her as a maid.
She continued, “I only locked her in the toilet for the first time to punish her, so that she can change. Those who reported that I was in the habit of locking her in the toilet framed me up,” she said.
There are also similar pathetic cases that were analytically reported by HumAngle in the month of February this year. HumAngle is a niche media platform committed to insightful and objective coverage of Africa’s conflict, humanitarian, and development issues.
It reported that “John Akinkunmi (not real name) was trafficked from Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria to work as a house help at Ilorin, capital of Kwara State, in the North-central region of the country.
“After spending some time in Ilorin, he moved to the Southwest, at Adebowale area in Akure, Ondo State, with a middle-aged woman, Opeyemi Omoyemi, who used him as a house help. The 10-year-old boy said his boss usually feeds him once daily and as a result, he steals from the kitchen.
“Social media network, Twitter, went agog on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022 after the young boy was caught stealing meat from his boss’ pot. His boss, Omoyemi, used a razor blade to inflict deep cuts on the minor’s body.
Without any scintilla of exaggerations, the media landscape is replete with news reports about women who maltreated their housemaids like slaves, In fact, a video that depicted where a woman locked her housemaid outside by midnight recently trended on social media platforms, then there was a another similar video which showed where a boy performed laundry job till 1 am. Worse still, there are instances where most of the housemaids committed suicide as a result of the traumatic situation they are made to face by “Madam” as they frightfully call them.
“According to a video seen by HumAngle, there were over 10 different slashes on the victim’s body, causing him to lose pints of blood. The viral video of the incident got the attention of the wife of the state’s governor, Betty Anyawu-Akeredolu, and some rights activists who facilitated the arrest of Omoyemi.
“While the woman was apprehended for her ugly actions, the abused child was taken to hospital for medical care. The state’s police spokesperson at the time, FunmilayoOdunlami, said “so far, her claim is that the small boy stole meat from her pot of soup.”
It added that Omoyemi was arraigned before an AkureMagistrate court, on Feb. 7, 2022, on a five-count charge bothering on child abuse, attempted murder, violenceagainst person, among others, and that the Magistrate handling the matter, O. A. Edwin said in her ruling that the defendant was guilty of child abuse and violence against person but argued that she does not have jurisdiction to hear the count that deals with attempted murder.
The online news platform explained that the defendant was asked to be kept in police custody till next adjournment day.
At this juncture, there is no denying the fact that the phenomenon of house help is by each passing day becoming a jeopardy in Nigeria so much that house maids that were in the first instance engaged to do domestic works within the confines of homes are been made to be hawking in traffics while many are made to perform strenuous jobs of cooking, cleaning and performing laundry jobs across various homes all over the country.
In fact, there have been various reports on how these children are poorly treated with little or no remuneration. In cases where they are unable to meet their basic tasks, they are subjected to verbal and physical assaults, and in some cases denied feeding. On why their abusers keep drawing from the pool of human resource, human rights activists who have handled various cases of child molestation were of the view that parents are sometimes promised that their children would be put in school but the reverse has always the case.
As gathered, findings revealed that most of the children used as house helps are recruited from rural areas within Nigeria or from neighboring countries through agents or family members, while the agents often serve as guarantors or buffer between employers and the children, even as payments are sometimes made to parents, and guarantors are mostly the receivers when the children’s parents are far away.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to contextually advocate that there is an urgent need to urge all the three tiers of government in Nigeria and preponderance of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) committed to the well-being of children and teenagers to deepen their efforts towards the protection of these vulnerable demographic segment of the society in line with UNICEF’s recommendations.
Sandra Ijeoma Okoye (Author)