By Ralph Madugu
Women groups made up of theNational Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Women Rights Advocacy and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), have expressed worry over rising cases of child abuse and gross human rights violations cases in Plateau State.
Addressing journalists in Jos, the groups said that the violators capitalized on the helplessness of most of the victims who were mostly from crises zones to abuse them.
The groups called on the Plateau State Government and the Plateau State Police Command not to allow the case of Margret to be swept under the carpet by ensuring that the culprit is brought to justice so as to serve as a deterrent to those who take pleasure in violating the rights of helpless children.
Recall that Margaret Joshua, an 11-year-old from Kebbi State recently died following injuries inflicted on her by one Mrs. Nneamaka Nwachukwu who brought her from Kebbi State to work as a house help.
Mrs. Nene Dung, State Chairperson of NAWOJ, expressed concern that despite the passage of the Child Rights Act into law in Plateau, the state had in recent times experienced an upsurge in cases of brutality against young girls and called on security agencies to ensure that the culprit in the case of Margret is made to face justice.
Said she: “Margaret ran away from the machete of the bandits and armed robbers only for her to fall into the hands of another evil minded human being.”
Narrating the circumstances that led to the death of Margaret Joshua, State Chairperson of FIDA, Mrs. Obioma Ngozi, said, “FIDA is indeed sad to report the cruel and untimely passing on of Margret Joshua, 11-year-old girl from Kebbi State.
“The death allegedly followed the grievous physical abuse meted on her by one Neamaka Nwachukwu. The perpetrator took this displaced girl by reason of the crisis in her State as a house girl.
“A whistle blower called the Chairperson of FIDA Plateau State on Monday, 14 November 2022 and reported that a case of child abuse was lodged in K-Vom police station. He said that the child was hospitalized in Mandela Hospital and later taken to Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) where she was immediately supported with oxygen, medications and thereafter had blood transfusion.
“Shortly after the call, he called again to say that she had passed on. It was a devastating news.
“FIDA quickly called the DPO of the station to verify the information and he confirmed same to be true.
“FIDA was at K-Vom Police Station on the said Wednesday where she met the perpetrator, Mrs. Nneamaka Nwachukwu, from Enugu State but married to Imo State indigene. She is 31 years old mother of two children and a Microbiologist with National Institute of Trypanosomiasis Research Vom.
“On interaction with her, on the issue over the counter, she said that Margret was given to masturbation and lesbianism. She said that it was the water she boiled to soak her towel before beating Margret, that she fell into.”
The FIDA Chairperson added that Margret’s case had attracted national attention, adding that it further proved tshat the rate of child abuse in Nigeria was till at its peak.
“Almost every day, theirs is a case of child abuse reported in the media or shared on the social media. Enough is enough. We can’t continue to allow these inhumane and animalistic acts to thrive in our society. Child abuse is indeed a social ill that must be addressed with actionable commitment else the future of our country will be made up of abused children who grow up to become loveless, emotionally withdrawn and hardened thereby leading to involvement in all sorts of social vices which often leads to a troubled society. We must ensure that this heinous crime is eliminated from our society.”
While appealing to the public to rise up and fight against child abuse, Mrs. Ngozi added, “Perpetrators must be held responsible and punishment meted out must be establish must establish deterrence to others in the society.
“Society must play its expected and mandatory role in ensuring that the child abuse pandemic is no longer patronized in Nigeria.
“There must be greater concern and total condemnation of such heinous acts by all.
“FIDA Plateau State branch is pained that miss Margret Joshua did not survive to see justice served for her and against the perpetrator.
“FIDA remains resolute to securing justice for women and children whose rights are violated in Nigeria through the provision of free legal representation and advocacy for gender friendly reforms of the law.”
Lending her voice to the demand for justice for late Margret, Coordinator of the Jos Zonal office of the National Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Grace Pam, tasked the police to expedite investigations for speedy dispensation of justice.
Mrs. Pam disclosed that between January to October this year, the Commission recorded 247 case of child abuse across the state.
According to her, the upsurge in such cases and other related incidents of rights violations were “questioning our humanity and society must speak against such ills.
“Children below 18 are not supposed to be working. They are supposed to be in school. It is child labour to subject children below 18 to hard labour.”
The groups called on the Plateau State Government to provide safe homes where victims of maltreatment could be catered for before they are reunited with their families and the society.