Monsurat, a primary 2 pupil, now has burns covering her belly and lap, and was going to live with that for the rest of her life had a rights group and the state’s Office of Public Defender not intervened.
Her guardian, Hafia living on Ola Akinpelu Street, Alimosho, had quickly transferred the girl back to Oyo where she got her after two separate DPOs to whom the matter was initially reported dismissed it as an accident.
That was what Hafia, a nursing mother herself, actually told them.
It was a Good Samaritan in the neighbourhood that first alerted the human rights group, Esther Child Rights Foundation, which reported the case at the Mosalasi Police Station.
According to Chinyere Tony, who rescued Monsurat, the girl told her that she used the N500 to buy a book in the school.
“We found out that the woman used a razor blade on her as a punishment for using her N500 to buy a book. The girl said she was the only who had not bought the book in her class,” said Tony.
“The woman also used a hot iron to burn her abdomen and lap. But she claimed she was ironing clothes when the girl fell on the iron.”
The police initially arrested the woman, but later released her on the orders of the Divisional Police Officer and the girl handed over to her.
Disappointed, the foundation took the case to the neighbouring Isokoko Police Station.
The DPO there also failed to effect Hafia’s arrest.
The co-ordinator of the foundation, Mrs Esther Ogwu, said a petition was written to the Office of the Public Defender, Lagos State Ministry of Justice and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
“The victim was then brought in for her statement alongside the suspect for questioning. The victim, out of fear, said she fell on an iron, which I’d like to believe is not possible. The DPO discharged the case and told us that the evidence is not concrete enough to prosecute the culprit. We took action and wrote a petition to the Office of the Public Defender and NAPTIP.”
The case was further reported at the Anti-Human Trafficking unit, Federal Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Alagbon, and Hafia was arrested.
The head of the unit, ACP Mary Ajunwa, said investigation had commenced on the case and the woman rearrested.
“They took the child to her village in Oyo State; they didn’t want the authorities to see the degree of the injury. My office ordered that the child must be brought back to Lagos and that has been done,” she said.
“We are trying to get exactly what happened. The suspect has been rearrested and she is in custody. We have seen the degree of the injury and we want to ascertain why it is so. The woman is claiming that she fell on the iron. But mere looking at the injury, we don’t think it is a case of the girl falling on the iron. We believe there is more to it which the woman has not been able to tell us.”
The OPD Director, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi, said the agency took up the matter immediately it received a petition from the human rights organisation, but was disappointed over how the police divisions handled the case.
“The girl has deep cuts and the burns are in two places. It is sad. We found out that the two police divisions where the case was initially reported compromised. They said the injury was an accident and they even released the child to the suspect,” she said.
Adeyemi explained that the state government would continue to monitor the matter to ensure that justice prevailed, adding that Monsurat would be taken into protective custody.
The ministry will soon take custody of the girl while investigation continues.
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