Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
A wedding in Bauchi State turned sorrowful recently. Three children, including a nine-month-old baby, were burnt to death when hot porridge in a huge food container being conveyed to serve guests at the event poured on them.
The incident happened when three adults with five children engaged the services of a commercial tricycle, popularly known as Keke NAPEP, to convey the meal that was put in a big food flask from Yakubu Wanka to the reception venue at Makarahuta, Bauchi.
“We were preparing for my husband’s sister’s wedding and had prepared porridge for guests. We put the flask inside the back of the Keke (tricycle) and asked two of the children – Maryam and Asiya – to climb into the rear and hold it,” said Maryam Ibrahim, 19, mother of nine-month-old Ibrahim.
Maryam had strapped her little baby boy, Ibrahim, to her back. She said: “We were moving smoothly until we approached Makarahuta, near Dadawa’s house, when the tricycle entered a pothole and fell. Soon after, we fell that the porridge had started spilling on us. People rushed to help us and started pulling us out, but my son, Ibrahim was badly burnt. He died instantly because the porridge poured directly on his face and body,” the bereaved mother explained amid sobs.
Two other children also died. Six-year-old Asiya died the next day, while Maryam Mohammed, 12, died two weeks after the incident. But two children, Sadiq, eight, and Khadijat, 12, survived with serious burns on their bodies.
Maryam said they were all rushed to the Specialist Hospital, Bauchi, and were later discharged.
Halima Adamu, a relative, was getting set to take a motorcycle to join them at the reception in Makarahuta when the sad news reached her.
“Khadijat’s mother did not want her daughter to go to Makarahuta, but the little girl was sad. I then persuaded her mother to allow her to go and the mother reluctantly agreed. She survived but with serious burns on her legs and buttocks,” she said.
Halima recalled that everything was going well even as they left Yakubu Wanka for Makarahuta, an area which got its name because it is close to the graveyard.
“We all helped them to lift the big food container into the Keke NAPEP. They left us in the house while we were planning to join them in another tricycle. We were just about to leave the house when the news came that they had an accident and the children were burnt.
“The news brought so much confusion to all of us because the wedding was close and guests were all around. We all started shouting and crying and I still see the images of the children who died every time.
“I would not say it was an act of carelessness or negligence because, if not that the tricycle entered the pothole and fell, the porridge container was strong and well covered, and there was no way that the food would pour on the children. Even if it had fallen alone, the content wouldn’t have spilled like that. It was a painful thing that happened. The death of those children was very painful,” Halima said.
She said the food container could not balance well inside the tricycle, so two of the children were asked to sit in the rear and hold it. “The porridge was placed close to the two children who held it. When they got to a sharp bend, there was a deep hole in the road, which caused the accident.”
Ibrahim’s father, a commercial driver, was in Lagos when the accident happened. He said: “I was told that my son Ibrahim had an accident and died. I rushed down to Bauchi and, since I arrived, I have been encouraging my wife and others that it is the will of God for it to have happened.”
Bilkisu, mother of 12-year-old Khadijat who survived with burns on her legs and buttocks, said the victims were rushed to the Specialist Hospital.
“Asiya died in hospital while Maryam died about 12 days after the accident. She really suffered. It was a difficult period,” she said.
Khadijat, a Primary 4 pupil of Zanuwa Primary School, is finding it difficult to walk after the injury she sustained, Bilkisu said.
For Hamman, mother of the bride, the joyful feeling soon turned to sorrow, as she also lost her youngest child, Asiya.
“I feel sad, although I also see it as a trial, because when God gave her to me, he never consulted me. I feel pained not only for my daughter, Asiya, but for the children that died and those injured,” Hamman said.
The bereaved mother told the reporter at her residence in Yakubu Wanka that, if she had a second chance, she would make sure that such a painful incident never occurred again.
“I call on our women to be more cautious in whatever they are doing, especially when it involves women and children,” she said. She described Asiya as a good and responsible girl.
“She was not in school but she could recite the English alphabet from A to Z, and in Islamic education she was doing excellent as well.
“Asiya had an elder brother but when it comes to Quranic recitation, she performed better than her elder brother,” Hamman said, adding that she felt bad that the accident happened amid the preparations for her daughter’s wedding.
“I felt bad. I was disturbed when the news reached me. We did not do my daughter’s wedding in a relaxed atmosphere.
“I felt glad that my daughter was marrying but felt pained at the same time that my other daughter and two others died on the day of the wedding. My daughter did not even do make up and did not dress her hair on her wedding day because she was so disturbed with the news of the death of Asiya, Maryam and Ibrahim. That was how she was taken to her husband’s house in a mourning mood, and she has not stopped crying,” the bride’s mother said.