…As arsonists set her home ablaze
From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
An octogenarian grandmother in Tse-Abagher village, Lumbur ward in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State, Unumbe Uan, who escaped death by the whiskers, after arsonists set her home ablaze on May 29 this year, has told the story of her miraculous survival.
Grandma Uan was sleeping when she suddenly noticed at midnight that her house was on fire and she was trapped in the room. Faced with the grim reality of death, the woman, Unumbe Uan, prayed fervently for the repose of her soul, and wished for no more pains in the great beyond. But just in the nick of time help came her way.
Ironically, she was rescued by one of the arsonists who announced their mission in a deep voice: “Old woman come out, our instruction is to burn the house, not to kill.”
With her body still in flames, the rescuer dragged her out of the hut, and he pushed her to the ground, where she rolled to extinguish the flames.
By the time the men disappeared into the darkness, after their mission had been accomplished, the grandma had suffered severe burns all over her body. She is yet to fathom the motive of her assailants, but glorified God for the divine intervention.
Recounting the horrific ordeal, she said: “I was asleep. When I suddenly opened my eyes from sleep, I discovered that my house was on fire. It was late night. Then somebody held my hand and said, ‘Old woman come out; we came to burn, not to kill.’ That day was the worst in my life. Not even the experience of losing my husband could be compared to what I felt that day. Just imagine the whole of your body in flames; the excruciating pain and the fear of dying any moment tormented me throughout.”
Being a person from a background of abject poverty, raising funds to enable her access proper medical help became a major problem. She could only taken to a primary healthcare centre at Afia for treatment. Even at that, she was discharged after four days due to lack of funds. Uan was later attended to at home by a sympathetic private healthcare provider. She is currently undergoing traditional treatment at Tse Unar, a village she was relocated by family members after the gruesome incident.
Though she survived, Uan suffered severe burns to her chest, abdomen, back and part of her limbs. She said that she would never forget that day in her lifetime. For more than a week after incident, she could not lie down to sleep, but sat all day and night as a result of injuries on her back and chest regions. Throughout the period, her daughter, Mammenge, remained in shock.
Both mother and child are yet to comprehend the motive of the attackers. “I don’t know. What could an old woman like me do to anybody to warrant such barbaric treatment in a community where I have lived all my life? I pray God to forgive them; after all, He has spared my life. But the law should take its course,” Unumbe remarked.
Her stepson, Akume Joseph, linked the incident to a land dispute among members of the same family. He said a day earlier unknown persons had raided farmlands belonging to the Akume Abagher family and uprooted the crops, only to return the next day to burn their homes. “The whole family compound was razed. They looted our belongings including three motorcycles, pigs, sheep, wheelbarrows, computers and other valuables,” he said.
Meanwhile, the old widow is still in pains at Tse Unar village where she took refuge after being rendered homeless. She is still recuperating from the injuries she sustained. “If you had seen me earlier than today, you would only be thanking God for sparing my life,” she said.