* Comfort, as she was on Thursday
By Itoro BASSEY
A middle aged woman, Aniedi Etim Akpan, is now talking to members of the Norms Restoration Movement, a group against child abuse, after inflicting serious injuries on her 10-year old daughter, Comfort Usen Okon, for stealing N200, the sum which is less than a dollar.
President of the group, Mr. David John, told Propeller Newspaper, Friday, that investigation had begun into the case, noting that Aniedi’s action was against the rule of law.
John vowed that his organization would do “everything humanly possible” to sanction those responsible for the “ugly and heart touching act”.
Propeller Newspaper gathered on Thursday that Aniedi, an indigene of Ibiaku Itam in Itu local government area of Akwa Ibom State, had plugged an electric iron and pressed the hot surface on Comfort’s body, injuring her on the right leg and face.
The incident was said to have happened immediately after the woman discovered that her money was missing early on Thursday morning.
Aniedi, it was also gathered, left for the Itam market for her trading business after committing the act, leaving the hapless girl to suffer the pains she inflicted on her.
It was the girl’s stepfather who took her to a nearby pharmacy along Calabar/Itu Road for treatment, the place where this reporter met her on the day of the incident.
“She beat me, stripped me naked and dragged me on the floor. The flat stick she uses to cut vegetables was the object she use to hit me on my face and I got injured by my right eye, Comfort said.
“She later plugged the electric iron and pressed it on my face and leg; she did this like four times”, she added.
When this reporter visited the house where Comfort lives with her mother, her step father, whose name could not be ascertained at press time, and a woman who said she was the little girl’s elder sister, said that the missing money was stolen by her, and that she deserved the “punishment”.
The victim, a Primary 5 pupil of RCM Group School, near Itam Itam Police Divisional Headquarters, was still dressed in her school uniform and had not taken breakfast as at 11.30 am on Thursday.
It was this reporter who bought a loaf of bread and a bottle Coca-Cola so that she could eat something before being administered with what the pharmacy attendant called “inflammatory injection” to stop the pain.
Although Comfort denied stealing her mother’s money, she told Propeller Newspaperthat anytime money gets missing from her step father’s pocket or in the house, the theft would be attributed to her.
Comfort has an elder sister who is not of the same father with her. Other children who live in the compound had either gone to the market or school at the time this reporter visited.
Shortly after the minor treatment, Comfort willingly led this reporter to her biological father, Usen Okon Etukudoh, a bricklayer who lives just close to where his daughter lives with her mother.
As soon as the girl and this reporter approached her father’s compound at Ikot Ekang Itam, very close to Ibiaku Itam, she stopped and pointed out Usen in the group of people who were there.
Usen was visibly angry upon seeing injuries on the girl’s face. He said that his daughter had opted to stay with her mother after their separation some years back, but that he would stab his former “wife” with pieces of broken bottle if anything happens to his daughter.
“Comfort is Aniedi’s second daughter, and the only child she has for me. We were never married. I used to live in her father’s compound as a tenant when her pregnancy occurred ten years ago.
“I have four children now with my current wife. If she comes to live with me, then they will be five altogether. I didn’t asked her to leave my house, she was the one who opted to stay with her mother.
“Whatever wrongdoing that caused her to be treated that way was what she learned from her mother’s house. I have previously warned the woman about this type of maltreatment, I will personally stab her with broken bottle if something dangerous happens to my child”, Usen said in vernacular.
No one was found at home when this reporter, together with Mr John of Norms Restoration Movement, visited both houses of Comfort’s parents on Friday morning at exactly 8.45 am. The girl was said to have gone to school at the time.
When the team arrived RCM Group School where neighbours said Comfort would be found, a picture of her taken with a smart mobile phone with the injuries covered with sticking plaster was shown to the headteacher for identification.
After identifying the child, the headteacher led the team to the school’s Primary 5 classroom, but Comfort was absent. It was promotional examination period. Her classmates said she was also absent on Thursday.
The headteacher, who expressed sadness over Comfort’s condition, said it was not the first time he had noticed injuries and burns on her body.
He said his effort to look into the matter in the past had been unsuccessful because it was only her mother who usually brought her to school.
A request was further made to trace Comforts mother, Aniedi, and the school’s headteacher accepted and released a teacher and Comfort’s friend, the duo who led the team to where her mother trades in the Itam market.
When finally found in one of the shades at the market, Aniedi, after she was shown pictures of Comfort with injuries and plaster on her face, admitted that the girl is her daughter. She appeared unperturbed about the girl’s condition.
The woman who trades in the local gin known as ‘ogogoro’, mixed with herbs, told this reporter that her daughter had been stealingher money several times and that she had to teach her a lesson she would never forget.
Both Aniedi and Usen were served letters of invitation to appear at the Uyo office of Norms Restoration Movement for further findings.
It was observed late on Friday evening that the woman who earlier identified herself as Aniedi’s elder sister also sells ogogoro at the Ikot Ekwere-Itam junction, just by the motorcycle Park.
one of her customers, unconscious of this reporter’s mission at her marketplace, alleged that Comfort might have been sexually abused in her mother’s compound.