From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
When the parents of a four-year-old hearing-impaired girl (names withheld) put their special daughter on a school bus at about 6:30am on June 10, there was no premonition of evil awaiting her within the next six hours.
She was expected to be away from them in her quest to acquire writing skills even though she could not speak nor hear verbal conversations around her.
Her parents lived and operated a studio business in Kachia, Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State, about 30 minutes’ drive from Kaduna, the state capital. She is their only daughter and a special one for that matter.
On the day of the incident, she spent about two extra hours in school beyond the normal closing time on Thursdays and Fridays in the school. This, as gathered, got the parents apprehensive as they wondered what was amis.
Her father, Tyinmvak Musa, said: “On Thursdays and Fridays, the closing time of Ffad Goshen Academy is 12pm. But the school bus did not return my daughter until around 2pm.
“The girl is my only daughter. She has hearing and speaking impairment. But because she was eager to learn how to write, that was why we enrolled her in Ffad Goshen Academy, Gumei, along Zonkwa Road, in Kachia. We did that so that she could learn with other children. She is in the pre-primary section.
“On June 10, I personally put her in the school bus around 6.30am. There were about three other children in the vehicle. Ideally, her school closes by 12 noon on Thursdays and Fridays. When we did not see her when it was past 12 noon, her mother was disturbed. But around 2pm, the school bus returned and parked in front of our shop. My wife went to the bus to receive our daughter. But, to her surprise, the girl was not at the back of the bus. The mother later found her lying in the front passenger foot spot.
“When she asked the driver why, he didn’t say a word. When I saw the girl, I knew all was not well with her. By the time I carried her from the mother, she was touching her lower abdomen and her ‘bumbum’, demonstrating how she was slapped and had her mouth covered and penetrated by someone. Since she was just coming from school, we were eager to know who must have done that to her in or around the school.
“We tried to give her food but she refused. She then slept after a while. Amazingly, when she woke up, she rushed outside to urinate but she urinated on her body and that got me worried because she had never done that before. It was when my wife removed her pant and saw the blood stain that it dawned on us that someone had capitalised on her condition to defile her.
“That was how we stayed awake throughout that night. That night appeared longer than normal.
“The following day, which was Saturday, June 11, we took her to a hospital where a doctor confirmed to us that she was penetrated. At that time, the doctor was trying to push back her womb inside but the girl was groaning, shouting and crying. Water rolled down freely on our cheeks as we were referred to General Hospital, Kachia, where another doctor confirmed the absence of hymen (loss of virginity). The doctor prescribed drugs for us and recommended six tests. That was June 12.
“As we were returning from the General Hospital, Kachia, we went straight to the house of the proprietress of the school, Mrs. Rebecca Barde. She collected my number and told me that she would get back to us. Along the line, we were shuttling between the school and the hospital. But, when we saw that we were not making progress, we then involved the police.
“She was not acting concerned at all. She didn’t even bother to check on the girl. The police then swung into action and arrested three staff of the school, the head teacher, our daughter’s class teacher and the school bus driver. The school bus driver later turned out as the prime suspect and I believe he has been helping the police in their investigations.
“Mrs. Barde claimed that her coming to sympathise with the girl would mean she was accepting the girl was violated in her school. Even when the police called and asked her to come so that the case could be treated amicably before it escalated, she didn’t bother.
“Along the line, when the class teacher was asked who carried the girl from her class, she said she did but did not place her in the front seat. When the driver was asked he said the girl was making trouble and that she wanted to come to the front and that was how she came to the front. But would she be on the floor and not on the seat?
“That was how we met with the Commissioner, Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba; director, Gender Studies, Kaduna State University, Prof. Hauwau Evelyn Yusuf; and human rights lawyer, Bukola Ajao, who has been of tremendous help in our predicament.”
Ajao, who has been following the development, confirmed that the girl was badly damaged and that her womb protruded outside her genitals, “too scary for me to behold”.
According to her, “as a human rights activist and civil society person, Prof. Huawau referred the matter to me and we have been following up on the case.
“When I met the little girl, she described how someone slapped her, used hand to cover her mouth and had sexual intercourse with her.
“We have been able to meet with a deputy commissioner of police who referred us back to the gender unit. The matter has been referred to the legal department. The only suspect we have in the police is the school driver and since the police are doing their work, we are following them as they do their investigations.
“Unfortunately, we were told the girl has to undergo corrective surgery before it is too late.”
Reacting, Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Mohammed-Baba, expressed concern over the development and added that the state government would leverage on relevant laws and security agencies to get justice for the survivor.
She said: “We felt sad because of the circumstances of the child. The girl cannot speak or hear. We saw that she was truly severely damaged. We have gone to the hospital and they said she would undergo corrective surgery.
“I want to assure you that the government of Kaduna State will take responsibility for the surgery because she is our girl.
“The school has been closed down because it is still under investigation. That school will remain closed until all investigations are concluded and until we get clearance from the court because that girl deserves justice and that is what we are going to do.
“We have laws in place on issues like this and we are implementing these laws. I believe the law will take its full course and since security agencies are already investigating the matter, whoever is responsible will be fixed.
“But in the meantime, we are asking the proprietress and staff of the school to refrain from attempting to reopen the school until the girl gets justice.”