A 13-year-old girl has been freed from torturous confinement after being caged for eight months by her aunt, FIJ can exclusively report.
The aunt, known as ‘Mama Happiness’, and her husband had caged and starved the girl at their residence in the Sokoto Cinema area of the state, claiming that she was “mad”.
When Mama Happiness moved into the apartment in 2020, residents said, she came with her husband and two daughters, excluding Joy, the girl who would later be caged by them.
Few days after coming to the house, she told the caretaker of the house that she wanted to build a cage that would serve as a store. Unknown to the caretaker, Mama Happiness was going put Joy in the cage for months.
“She brought her in the cage at night when people were fast asleep and kept the girl in there for eight months,” a resident told FIJ.
How could the girl be kept in the cage for months without any of the neighbours noticing before now?
“The woman was a cruel person to everyone,” one neighbour said. “Nobody wanted to be associated with her even before this incident.”
On Thursday, what Mama Happiness had hidden from the public for eight months was exposed during the Eid-l-fitr celebration, when some children were playing near the cage.
“Some kids were playing around the cage built by Mama Happiness and suddenly ran back towards us saying that there was somebody in the cage,” said Felix Anyanwu, one of the neighbours.
“So I picked a big kitchen spoon to see what they were running away from. When I hit the cage, the person inside wasn’t saying anything.”
Several neighbours who spoke to FIJ said they believed the whole family knew about the illegal confinement of the girl. But Mama Happiness and her husband claimed the girl was mad and they kept her in detention “so that she would not cause any damage to the neighbours”.
“When the girl was brought out of the refrigerator in the cage, the first thing she asked for was food,” said another neighbour who witnessed the incident.
The caretaker of the house and other neighbours held an emergency meeting over the matter and decided that the girl should be taken to the psychiatric hospital with immediate effect but the aunt said she did not have funds for the bill.
“So tenants in the house contributed money and moved the girl to a psychiatric hospital in Sokoto.
“But on getting there, doctors confirmed that the girl had no mental disorder but was only suffering from starvation and malnutrition.”
Pictures of the girl seen by FIJ show someone suffering from acute malnutrition, her legs and hands thin and bonny.
When contacted by FIJ, Abubakar Sunusi, spokesman of the Police in Sokoto, said the woman and her husband are now in the police custody for the cruel incarceration of the girl.
He said the State Commissioner of Police was aware of the matter and had shown keen interest in it.
“I am assuring you that this case will not go without proper justice,” he said on Sunday. “We’ve have visited the scene of the occurrence and we have detained the aunt and husband who have caged that girl in that manner.”
Sunusi also said the case had been transferred to the state’s Criminal Investigation Department, adding that the caged girl is now in good condition receiving treatment in hospital.
In August, 2020, news of persons incarcerated by their parents and guardians broke in Nigeria’s northwestern states. In the first instance, Jibrilu Aliyu, a 10-year-old boy in Kebbi State, was found chained by his parents for two years in a stall for livestock.
There was also a case of a six-year-old orphan, Umar Ubale, who was rescued from a 12 months confinement by his stepmother in Kano. Three other cases in the same state involved Ahmad Aminu, a 32-year-old man found locked up for seven years by his father on allegation of drug abuse; 31-year-old Ibrahim Lawan found incarcerated by his father for 15 years; and 55-year-old Murtala Muhammad who was locked up in a room for 30 years by his relatives on grounds of mental ill-health.
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