Mr Happiness Essien, claimed that he started having carnal knowledge of the eight-year-old girl last year.
The Primary 4 pupil narrated her ordeal to The Nation news on the premises of the Esther Child Rights Foundation, an NGO in the Akowonjo area of Lagos where her mother first reported the case. Recalling the initial experience, she said: “It happened in the room at daytime. It was during the holiday, and my mummy went out, so it was just me and Uncle Happiness at home. When I shouted, he told me to shut up. He said I should not tell my mummy, that if I tell her, he would stop giving me money.”
The minor, who spoke in a subdued tone, confessed that the accused had sex with her up to six times and threatened her not to disclose the deed to anyone. She was compelled to open up on a recent trip to Benin with her mother when the latter discovered unusual developments in her child’s body. The mother, a 30-year-old graduate of political science from the University of Benin who preferred not to give her name, said she became suspicious when bubbly sounds emanated from her daughter’s vagina.
“When I started noticing that she was farting through her vagina, I knew someone was molesting her. So I threatened to report her to my brother and she got scared. When I asked her who was doing it, she said it was Uncle Happiness (my husband), and the food in her hands dropped”.
The mother added that peculiar movements between her husband and 8-year-old daughter raised initial misgiving. “Sometimes,” she said, “when I return to the house unexpectedly, I get to knock for a very long time before the door would be opened. The excuse she usually gave for the delay is that she was playing games with Uncle Happiness. There was another time I came back to the house and she was tying towel, even though she had her bath before I left. I accused her, and the man came out to say he told her to go to the bathroom since she complained that her body was itching.” An intuition that the person molesting her daughter might be her husband preceded the development but the mother wanted the girl to confirm her hunch. Fighting back tears, the woman who is nursing a nine-month-old son for the accused, said the sordid left her all but broken.
“I carried her for 11 months and two weeks. I dropped out of school when I had her. My mates graduated in 2008 but I had to graduate in 2012 because I wanted to take care of her. I forfeited my travelling out plans because of her.”
The girl had been taken to the Mirabel Rape Centre in LASUTH where various tests and treatment were conducted on her.
The accused has since been charged to court. The 31-year-old man who works as a marketer with SKF Company was charged to an Ikeja magistrate court on Thursday. He was arrested after the mother of the victim reported the case to the police station in Afonka, Shasha, Egbeda.
It was learnt that the chief magistrate, Mr Tajudeen Elias, remanded him in the Kirikiri Prison and adjourned the case till May 25 for Directorate of Public Prosecution’s legal advice.
Mrs Esther Ogwu, the founder of Esther Child Rights Foundation, the NGO advocating retribution for the victim, said she is bent on pursuing the case to a logical end.
“We have been seeing several cases of children being molested, and it is very sad. We are watching to ensure justice is done. As far as rape issue is concerned, it is a crime in Lagos state. It is not something you can beg for. Why a lot of people don’t come out is because they are afraid of the trauma. So I think, for now, the most important thing is for the accused to face the wrath of the law.” She said
The victim’s mother, however, appealed to the public for her safety and the financial responsibility of catering to her two children. “Ever since the case has been on, I have been noticing strange movements around my house,” she said.
“Many times, some people would just come and shine torchlight in the middle of the night. My husband’s family has been causing uproar. I believe they are also waging a spiritual battle against me because, as I speak to you now, I am not myself.”