by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
Following the recent incident in Jos, the Plateau State capital – on the sad report of the cruel and untimely death of an 11 years’ old girl, Margaret Joshua, from Kebbi State, who was maltreated from child abuse, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Plateau State Branch, has expressed sadness over the cruel and bastardly act.
President of FIDA, Obioma Ngozi Achilefu, while reacting on the sad event, asserted that the death allegedly followed the grievous physical abuse meted on the victim girl by one Nneamaka Nwachukwu.
According to her, the perpetrator took this displaced girl by reason of the crisis in her State as a house girl, from Kebbi State, where the victim hailed from. The incident took place in Vom, in Plateau State.
“It is no gain saying that people are awakened to the reality of the evils perpetrated in our society and are calling for justice, and this is shown through numerous calls from different places seeking to know the steps that FIDA in the State has taken to see that justice is done,” she stated.
She said, “A whistle-blower called the Chairperson of FIDA Plateau on Monday, 14th Nov, 2022, and reported that a case of child abuse was lodged in K Vom Police Station, and said that the child was hospitalized in Mandela Hospital and later taken to Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) where she was immediately supported with oxygen, medications and thereafter had blood transfusion.
The President noted that, “Shortly after the call, there was another call again, to say that she had passed on. It was devastating news,” she noted.
According to her, “FIDA quickly called the DPO of the Station to verify the information, and he (DPO) confirmed same to be true; and they told him that they are interested in the matter and would want to meet with him, but he didn’t oblige the request because he was at the SCID for briefing.”
He gave them appointment to meet him on Wednesday the 16th Nov, 2022, because, according to him, Tuesday was not convenient. FIDA was at K VOM Police Station on the said Wednesday where she met the perpetrator, Mrs. Nneamaka Nwachukwu, who hails from Enugu State, but married to Imo State indigene.
She is 31 years’ old mother of two children, and a Microbiologist with National Institute of Trypanomiasis Research Vom. According to him, on interaction with her on the issue over the counter, she said that Margaret was given to masturbation and lesbianism.
“That, according to her, she said that it was the water she boiled to soak her towel before beating Margaret that she fell into. She further said that she could not immediately take her to hospital because her husband was not at home and nobody could take care of her two little children.
“She further told us that Margaret ran away from home after the incident and that she could not look for her because she needed to wait for 48 hours before searching for her or reporting to the police that she has not seen her house help.
“It was at the station that we knew that it was a Good Samaritan that picked Margaret by the side of his house that took her to the police and the hospital,” she noted.
She added that, “The case was transferred to State CID on 18th Nov, 2022, and FIDANS went there and met the Assistant Commissioner of Police, who assured us of their commitment to doing the needful in this case.”
While appreciating the Nigeria Police for what they have done so far, she hoped that the investigation will soon be concluded and the perpetrator prosecuted, because the world is listening, watching and waiting for the outcome of this case.
She stressed that, “The case of late Miss Margaret Joshua is one that attracts national lamentation,” saying, “her case further proves that the rate of child abuse in Nigeria is at its peak.”
“We can’t continue to allow these inhumane and animalistic acts to thrive in our society. Child abuse is, indeed, a social ill that must be addressed with actionable commitment, else the future of our country will be made up of abused children, who grow up to become loveless, emotionally withdrawn and hardened; thereby, leading to involvement in all sorts of social vices, which often lead to a troubled society,” she urged.
“We must ensure that this heinous crime is eliminated from our society; and what is before us in Margaret’s case is more than physical abuse. The grievous, physical abuse of Margaret has metamorphosed to death,” he stated.
“This is sad, indeed! Worst still, the so-called father of late Margaret came to Jos on hearing that his daughter is dead. We met him in the office of Assistant Commissioner of Police.
She added that, “He went to court and obtained Affidavit of withdrawal of the case, saying that, this is unfortunate when the corpse is still in the morgue at JUTH. In this regard, FIDA has suggested the following recommendations must be implemented, while the perpetrators must be held responsible and punishment meted out must establish deterrence to others in the society.
“There are numerous legislations, which criminalize Child-abuse and the attendant punishment. These should be effectively relied on to hold the perpetrators accountable, and it is heartwarming that the State has since adopted the Child’s Right Law, Administration of Criminal Justice Law, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law and the Plateau State Penal Code No.7 2017 Vol. 1.”
She stressed that, “All these laws provide more expansive protection for victims of Child-abuse, and the protection will be evidenced when the force of law is not in the books but in its implementation.”
Barrister Achilefu explained further that, “The Criminal Justice System can no longer afford to delay justice for the victims and survivors,” and urged the Judiciary to make the designated Courts more functional to ensure speedy dispensation of such cases.
While urging the society to play its expected and mandatory role in ensuring that the Child-abuse pandemic is no longer patronized in Nigeria, she added that, “There must be a greater concern and total condemnation of such heinous acts by all and sundry; and we can no longer encourage and promote the repugnant culture of silence.
According to her, “The trending slogan is, ‘When you see something, say something and something will be done to save the ugly situation.’ Importantly, couples should have the number of children they can parent.
“It is not a sign of responsibility to produce children and abandon them with people you don’t know to carter for. FIDA Plateau State Branch is pained that, Miss Margaret Joshua did not survive to see justice served for her and against the perpetrator,” she noted.
“However, her death – which has gone viral – has served as a trigger needed to ensure that we will persevere in the pursuit of justice of this case until the perpetrator is held accountable for her animalistic demonstration of wickedness,” she noted.
She assured that, “FIDA in Plateau State remains resolute to securing justice for women and children whose rights are violated in Nigeria through the provision of free legal representation and advocacy for gender-friendly reforms of the law; and we will not rest on our oars until there has been justice for Margaret.”
Also, the coordinator of the NHRC, Mrs Grace N. Pam, said, “Between January and October, this year, about 247 cases has been received by the Commission, which some are minor, while some were abandoned by their fathers.
“Not all of them are serious cases like Margaret Joshua, but they are different cases of maltreatment. This includes young boys and girls are being abused. All the cases are under investigation,” she said, and called on the public to always report cases of Child-abuse to the Commission.
Speaking also, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Chairman, Mrs Nene Dung, said “Plateau State was one of the first states to domesticate the Child’s Right Act 2015 and passed into law. This means that, there is an instrument of the law that protects the child from all forms of abuse.”
She observed that, the state has recording cases of child maltreatment almost on a daily basis and, some even leading to death.
“NAWOJ calls for justice for Margaret’s death and cannot be swept under the carpet; neither should the perpetrators be allowed to go scot free.”
The chairperson, Mrs Nene Dung, further explained that, “There are several cases brought to the knowledge of NAWOJ on child maltreatment in different parts of the state,” adding that, “The perpetrators of Child-abuse should be served justice,” and urged the Nigeria Police not to disrupt the process, while prosecution and justice should be served as deterrent to the perpetrators of the act.
She also called on the State Government to provide safe homes, which would serve as a shelter for children being abused.