Man tortures kids, scrubs son’s skin with sandpaper...‘I did it to cure him of ringworm’

“Please don’t release our daddy, but you can release our mummy. We don’t want to go back home please.” These were the words of Peace Adiza, a nine-year-old boy in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. He was rescued along with three of his siblings by a non-governmental organization, Operation Rescue (OPERA) and the National Anti- Corruption Volunteers Corps (NAVC), led by Princess Elizabeth Egbe in collaboration with authorities of the Ministry of Gender in Bayelsa State.

 Encountering the children for the first time, it would not be difficult to see that they are traumatized. It was written all over them that they lacked love. Born into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Sunday Adiza, it was learnt that Blessing, Peace, Cynthia and Miracle has, since birth, gone through hell in the hands of their biological parents who allegedly relish torturing and starving them.

 According to their former neighbour, one Mrs. Alaka, the children were last year burnt with hot iron. And in spite of threats by neighbours that they were committing crime against the children, the parents refused to change. Alaka said she had to mandate some other concerned neighbours to keep tabs on the activities of the parents in relation with the children, so that the matter could be reported if they didn’t change. Few weeks ago, Peace was not sighted in the neighbourhood and the neighbours raised the alarm, calling Mrs. Alaka who promptly approached Princess Egbe.

 Egbe took over the story: “One Mrs. Alaka came to my house on Sunday, March 19 to report the story of children who are being abused to my organization, Operation Rescue. She said it was a case of children who are perpetually being abused by their parents. I was told that in 2011, two of them were burnt with hot iron. And that this year, they had burnt one of them again and hid him from neighbours that have been complaining about the ways they were maltreating the children. They torture them with starvation.

 The neighbours tried in vain to make the parents see reason why they should not be torturing the children, but they refused to listen. So, when Mrs. Alaka was packing from the area, she solicited the neighbours’ cooperation, saying she wanted to know how the parents were treating the children. “She mandated people to call anytime there was suspicion that the children had been tortured or molested. So someone called her and disclosed that one of the sons had been out of sight for some days, and that there was suspicion that he had been tortured.

 “When the boy came out few days later, they saw bumps all over his body. And when he was questioned, he said his father put sand paper on fire and placed it over his body, after which he also used charcoal.” Egbe, who went with some people to the house, questioned the mother, who denied knowledge of anyone torturing her children. She also exonerated her husband from the allegation. However, convinced that there was some conspiracy between both parents to cover their tracks, she demanded to see the children.

 It was at the school that the children narrated what they had gone through in the hands of their parents. She captured it better: “We went with some people to the house and met the mother of the children, who denied knowing anything. She claimed she had been in the river all the while selling local gin. She maintained that her children were stubborn and that they decided to share them among their relations. We told her to take us to the school of the children so that we could see things for ourselves. The children, especially the elder boy, (Blessing) was too shy to talk to us.

 We suspected that it had to do with the presence of the mother, so we told her to excuse us. It was then that the children were free and narrated all that their parents had been doing to them. The boy disclosed that it was the father that used hot sandpaper on his body and used charcoal to rub it. He warned the boy not to shout, threatening to beat him. The second girl, Cynthia, also showed us a wound on her leg which was allegedly inflicted on her by the father.

 “We told the mother this was a crime and immediately arranged for the proprietor to take custody of the children. We made arrangements to get the police involved and the parents were arrested and detained, while the Ministry of Gender was put in the picture. They have invited the parents and after the interview they would decide whether to take custody of the children or return them to the parents but with strict supervision.”

 In an interview, Mr. Sunday Adiza denied torturing his children. He admitted, however, that he often beats them because they are stubborn. He said the wound Peace claimed was inflicted on him was ringworm that he tried to heal using hot sand paper after the hospitals fail to cure it. His words: “I have four children with my wife. I am not maltreating my children. My son Peace has ringworm and I have tried everything I could to ensure she is cured. The thing is really worrying him and anytime he comes from the school, he complains of body aches.

 I have bought drugs and taken her to hospitals. On Friday March 16, somebody advised me that I use local herbs and use sandpaper to scrub it and it would peel and heal. And actually when we applied it, it was improving. He also confirmed that his body was improving.

 “I was surprised when someone called on phone where I was working and said they arrested my wife. He asked if anything had happened to my child, Peace and I said no. He said it was because of him that they arrested my wife. I decided to inform my community people living in Yenagoa and I told our chairman the whole story. I was shocked that I did not do anything to the child. I went to the police station and I saw my wife. I was also detained and questioned on how I handle my children at home. I told them, I only beat them. I am shocked that I would be accused of maltreating my children. Then what I am I working for? Even the time I was trading, it was hard for me to pay their schools fees, but I still do it. I was accused that after drinking, I beat my children, but I denied it.”

 His wife, Onome, also corroborated him. According to her, they had been wrongly accused. She said God would be the judge between them and their accusers. Officials of the Ministry of Gender told our reporter that the parents resort to beating and maltreating their children after consuming alcohol. An official of the ministry said both were reeking of alcohol throughout the interview, vowing that the ministry would take the children from them and hand them over to relatives.

 An agreement eventually reached at the ministry said the four children would be handed over to the father’s sister while under the watchful eyes of the officials of the ministry. The ministry warned that the slightest trace of further maltreatment means the family would lose the custody of the children.

 Egbe called on Bayelsans to be vigilant and report any case of child abuse to her organization, saying they were ready to fight for the rights of Bayelsa children. She appealed to the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to urgently pass the Child Rights Bill into law so that Bayelsans would know it is illegal to maltreat one’s child.
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