Esther Nkwede, an 11-year-old girl, from Ebonyi State, yesterday jumped from a two-storey building in a bid to escape ill-treatment meted out to her by one Mr. Collins Muonye, her guardian.
Dr. Friday Nkwede, a lecturer in the State University and Esther’s Uncle, was said to have handed her over to Collins to look after her.
Blackboxnigeria gathered that Esther was entrusted to Mr. Collins on the ground of his friendship with Dr. Nkwede, Esther’s uncle, to enable her live with him and be taken care of as a child.
“Mr Collins came to me complaining that Esther slept on their matrimonial bed and they are annoyed. I asked if they have taken their time to teach the child what a matrimonial bed is all about and knowing the fact that she is just coming from a village background; I asked them but they said nothing, that they only came to report to me.
“I also asked them if Esther is a lazy type or steals from them, they said no, then I told them that sleeping on their matrimonial bed to me is not a big deal because they have never told her not to sleep there and she disobeyed. Esther is still a Virgin and there is no side .
“That is the only complain I ever got from them but the next thing I heard is this ugly incident that occurred and before they even reported to me that she slept on their matrimonial bed Esther had gotten injuries.
“When I took her home, she started telling me her experiences, that even before Collins and wife came complaining to me about that case of matrimonial bed she was already suffering wounds of beating they gave her.
“Mr Collins confessed that he beat Esther the previous night after I got the call, for pouring water on the floor while washing plates and after beating her she was crying and then his wife told her not to cry and if she dare cry, she will beat her again.
When Esther discovered that her master meant his threats and saw that he had prepared a place for her beating and having been under torture, humiliation for a long time and was already fed up with the whole thing, she decided to run away for her dare life instead of her to be killed in their house.
“She took to jumping through the balcony of a two-storey building and landed on a concrete cover of soakaway pit and from there, she ran to the gate but the gate was already closed and she climbed through uncompleted gateman post house and jump over the fence and She ran into the bush and slept there.
“I saw the two women that brought her home the next day when I got to Mr Collins’ house and they were querying him but at the end of it all, it came to me as a shock that an adult can do such thing to a minor.
“This is a friend I trusted so much that I decided to give him Esther as adopted child when he requested that he needed a child that will be staying with them to groom the child.
“I’m still surprised that a friend could do that to a minor despite all the levels of education he has attained.
Dr. Friday further noted that Esther’s health stability was ongoing when the NHRC came on board.
“I took over Esther’s medical treatment after she has undergone a lot of medical test and not only treatment she is still undergoing rehabilitation and stabilizing her health condition, which I have done to a reasonable extent and now she is medically okay according to medical practitioners.
“While I was treating Esther, National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) came. In fact, 3 days later and within that week, I was busy running from one hospital to another and from one doctor to another to stabilize the child first before thinking about the next line of action, the Commission came into the matter.
“Let there be justice over the matter because Mr. Collins is my friend and I don’t want crisis because when you get justice you get peace and National Human Right Commission is handling the matter now, so I am relying on them for justice.” Dr. Nkwede expressed.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC), Ebonyi through the State Coordinator, Mr. Christopher Okorie confirmed the incident and their intercession in the case of Esther, where the Coordinator noted that a good spirited Nigerian revealed Esther’s maltreatment through a phone call and that investigation by the Commission proved right about the statements of Dr. Nkwede concerning Esther.
“We got a call from an unknown person who is a good spirited citizen of Nigeria, telling us about the situation of a little child who has been maltreated, punished and treated inhuman in a degrading manner, in the hands of the person she was living with, one Mr Collins, so much so that she jumped from a two storey building out of fear of ill-treatment she was receiving.
“As a little girl of about ten years old, she jumped out of two storey building and survived out of the special grace because according to the call, she landed on a cemented stucked pit and from there she escaped and jumped the fence of the building.
“So, when we got this report, as usual with National Human Rights Commission, we do not care much about the informant, we went straight ahead to investigate the situation and our preliminary investigation shows that Esther Nkwede, a little minor aged 11 years was actually living with Mr. Collins.
That it was through Esther’s uncle, Mr. Friday Nkwede that Esther got into the custody of Mr Collins.
“So we had to invite Friday Nkwede to come with the girl and with the help of our female staff, we took pictures of her body showing lots of marks, showing beating, flogging and everything. The marks was still so vivid and obvious.
The whole back, neck, laps, behind and everything.” Mr. Okorie explained.
However, the Coordinator noted that in the course of interrogation, Esther revealed that Mr Collins and wife beat her. The Commission also registered worries over Esther’s maltreatment, describing it as child labour, saying that the culprit, Collins, was invited to the NHRC office where he admitted to some of the allegations in oral terms but denied through writing.
According to him, “We asked Esther questions about what really happened, why she was in such mood and she told us that she lives with Mr Collins and they beat her every time and they have continued to beat her.
“But what we are worried about is that, one, we are not supposed to treat children in such an inhuman condition which any body, but especially children, why, because, children are defenceless. They are our children, we are supposed to care for them.
“Secondly, Esther within the period she was living with this family, was not enrolled in school.
“She was handed over to them 24th of January, 2020 and academic session for second term started 11th January, 2020 which means barely about 11 days when she came and it was enough for them to enroll her in school.
Even though there was breach in gap in school because of COVID-19 but we know that COVID-19 has started even when children were already writing their exams, Esther was suppose to be in that exam before the disruption took place, so why was Esther not in school in the first instance?
“Which means family of Mr. Collins was keeping Esther as maid and not as a child and it’s child labour, which is against the law (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria).
“Thirdly, the beating of Esther and the scars she had on her body was not supposed to be as a child of a human being. If you feel you cannot take care of a child handed over to you, please take that child back to his/her parents.
“So, after all these our investigations, we invited Mr. Collins to give us his own side of the story. Orally, he admitted some of the allegations made by Esther.
“However, when we asked him to go and put it into writing, he involved a lawyer who then thwarted the whole thing and he denied everything in the writing.
So, we had to take the matter to the police as he denied that he didn’t beat Esther, he denied he was not responsible for Esther’s falling and all that, that is why we took it to the police , so that they can investigate and find out who actually inflicted all those inhuman injuries on this little girl.”
The Commission vowed to give the minor justice, saying “Esther deserves justice and National Human Rights Commission will give Esther or any other child or children anywhere in Ebonyi state that is so maltreated, they will equally have justice.
However, all effort made by Blackboxnigeria to hear from the Culprit, Collins, proved abortive as he maintained that the case is still under police investigations as at the time of the reportage