The police in Lagos on Monday took into custody, a 40-year-old trader, Mrs. Deborah Gabriel, who brutalised her housemaid, eight-year-old Glory Ugbon, and then put pepper in the girl’s eyes and private part when the girl decided to steal a plate of rice when she was hungry.
Five months after Glory started living with the trader as her housemaid, the girl has been allegedly brutalised many times and there are so many marks all over her body.
Glory, who had been in the servitude of Deborah in Surulere, Lagos since November 2015, said her elder sister simply took her to the woman at the time during her visit to Akwa Ibom State and said she would follow her to Lagos to be her housemaid.
“Madam said she would put me in school and my sister told me that she would treat me well. The woman is not related to us. I work at home all the time but sometimes when she is not happy with me, she beats me till I cannot walk” Glory said.
But on Sunday, April 10, the co-tenants of Deborah decided to take action to prevent the woman from killing the girl when they noticed that she had taken the torture of the girl a notch higher.
The neighbours alerted child rights activists, who promptly notified the police when the little girl would not stop screaming.
Glory, who was later brought to the Aguda Police Division, Surulere, Lagos along with Deborah, said on that particular day, she was simply eating at the backyard of their house, when her madam accused her of stealing food.
Because of that, Deborah brutalised the girl first.
“When she was tired of beating me, she forced my legs apart and rubbed some pepper that she had just ground in my eyes and my bum bum (private part),” she said.
When the pain became unbearable, neighbours raised the alarm when they learnt what the woman did to the girl.
Glory, who was sobbing as she was brought to the police station along with her madam, explained that she was very hungry when Deborah caught her eating and became furious.
Glory’s case is one of many similar incidents in which housemaids have been brutalised by their bosses.
It is unclear under what circumstances Glory was handed over to Deborah. She said she was in Primary 3 before she left her parents in their village.
“Since November that she brought me to Lagos, she has not talked about any school for me,” Glory said.
On Monday after our correspondent spoke with the sobbing girl, she had to be taken to Mirabel Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Ikeja, Lagos for treatment because she would not stop complaining about the pepper, some of which had become lodged inside her.
When our correspondent spoke with Deborah, the woman was apologetic as she explained that “something just came over me” when she tortured the girl.
“Please, help me. I am so sorry for what I did. I know it is wrong but I just could not control my anger. I promise to take care of her and give her adequate treatment now. I am so sorry for what I did.”
When our correspondent spoke with the woman’s husband, Victor, he said that he slept too deeply that day that he did not hear as his wife brutalised the girl and put pepper in her private part.
He said, “My wife flogged the girl because she caught her eating in the backyard. I told the girl too that she should not have eaten at the back of the house. I was the one who even prepared the stew.
“I went to sleep later and when I woke up the following morning, I saw all the wounds on the girl’s body. That was when I also knew that she had put pepper in the girl’s private part.
“I did not know that she beat her so badly. I guess I slept too deeply and did not hear the girl’s screaming because of the drug I took that day. I would have intervened.”
Asked how such an underage girl was brought into their home as a housemaid, Victor said that when his wife brought the girl from Akwa Ibom, during a visit to their hometown, he challenged her because the girl was very young.
“I told her the girl was too young, but she said the girl is hardworking and that she would cope. I really blame my wife for what happened but I assure you sir that we would treat her. We would take her to the hospital for treatment and return her to her parents,” he said.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Deborah was charged with child abuse and assault against a minor at the Surulere Magistrate’s Court, Lagos on Tuesday.
She was remanded at the Kirikiri Prison, pending the perfection of her bail.
Founder and Coordinator of the Jeshabel Touch-A-Heart Foundation, Mrs. Favour Benson, who took up the girl’s case, told Saturday PUNCH that at the moment, Glory is being given refuge in a state government home in Lagos but that effort would be made to contact her parents so that they could take custody of her.
She said, “The girl’s case was particularly annoying because the woman did not express any remorse for the way she tortured the girl.
“With the kind of scars on the girl’s body within the six months she had been with her, it is clear she had been torturing the girl as soon as she started living with her.
“She said she tortured the girl out of frustration and she told us that the girl was always stealing food. We asked her if the girl was stealing anything else, she said no, that it was just food. If Glory was not constantly hungry, she would not steal food.”