Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Her name is Masenengen Targbo. She is a symbol of all that is wrong with our ever-eroding societal value, of how far we have gone in our descent into moral turpitude. Just ten years old, she has just been delivered of a baby girl.
It was an abomination that started when she became pregnant nine months ago. On Friday, August 2, 2019, she went into labour and struggled to be delivered of the baby naturally for two days. After those two grueling days of labour in which she could have easily lost her life and that of her baby, she was to go under the knife, with the help of Good Samaritans who learnt of her plight through a social media photo post and were ready to foot the bill. That was how she was delivered of a healthy looking baby girl weighing 2.5 kg in Makurdi, Benue State.
Her uncle, Zaki Iornja, her father’s relative, with whom she was staying before she became pregnant under a murky circumstance said that they had to rush her to General Hospital, North Bank, Makurdi, when it became apparent it would not be possible for her to be delivered of the baby through her own efforts at home. According to him, at the General Hospital, the young girl continued to writhe in pains as the labour progressed without any hope in sight, despite efforts by health workers at the medical facility to make her deliver without much stress. Saturday Sun gathered that it was one of those who saw Masenengen and pitied her condition that snapped a photo of her and posted it on social media in a bid to attract some help for her.
Her journey from public to private hospital
Soon after her story went viral, a Benue-based humanitarian activist, Ukan Kurugh and other civil society activists quickly rushed to the General Hospital and made arrangements for her to be transferred to the Foundation Memorial Hospital in Makurdi where a good Samaritan agreed to foot the bill for a caesarean section. That was how she was delivered of a baby girl at the hospital on Monday, August 5, 2019 at about 12: 11am.
The girl’s actual age is unknown but Iornja, said she was born before her father died over ten years ago while her mother is said to have since re-married after the death of the man, leaving the girl and her siblings with her first husband’s family.
From frying pan to fire
Her uncle, Zaki Iornja, a native of Mbagwen in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State had moved to Makurdi with Masenengen and her siblings following herdsmen’ attacks on the community about five years ago and had settled somewhere in the North Bank area of the metropolis. He said he couldn’t go back to his ancestral home because of the attacks, which had intensified and rendered the village completely deserted till this day.
“It is over five years since we have been living in the North Bank area of the Benue State capital,” he said. “We can’t return home because of Fulani invasion. They keep coming to our village and killing people the moment they see people returning.”
It was during this period of waiting that the unthinkable happened: Masenengen was found to be pregnant in inexplicable circumstance. “When I discovered that she was pregnant, at first I didn’t believe it but when it became obvious that what was growing inside of her was actually a baby, I tried to prevail on her to tell me who was responsible for the pregnancy but she didn’t say,” he told Saturday Sun. “At a point, I got angry and thought of sending her out of the house since she wouldn’t divulge the identity of the person who put her in the family way. But again, I thought to myself that if I sent her away, where would she go? Throughout the period of the pregnancy, the girl could not disclose the identity of who was responsible. She refused to tell us who did it. Even today, it took extra efforts to get her to reveal the identity of the person.”
Exasperated, he decided to send her to stay with his sister. She was the one that took care of her until she went into labour last Friday. “We tried everything to see that she delivered on her own because we didn’t have money to take her to the hospital but she couldn’t,” he explained on why it appeared they were unwilling to take her to hospital for proper medical care. “By Sunday morning when she still hadn’t delivered and the labour pangs increased, I damned the consequences and took her to the General Hospital in North Bank while I continued to pray for a miracle. We were there when suddenly people started coming around to help us. Before I knew what was happening, I saw them already making arrangements to transfer her from there to another hospital. It was like a dream to me when they wheeled her to the theatre and within one hour, operated her and I’m happy that both her and the baby survived it.”
Controversy surrounding the pregnancy
At the time our correspondent visited the Foundation Hospital where Masenengen was delivered of a baby, access to her and her baby has been restrained by the hospital authorities as people continue to troop into the premises to catch a glimpse of the “Baby Mama and her baby.” Ukan Kurugh and Ms. Josephine Habba, National Coordinator of Jireh Doo Foundation, who have been coordinating civil societies in the state for action on the situation disclosed that the suspected rapist, a teenager simply identified as Orpaka, has been picked by the Police.
The young man, according to Kurugh and Habba admitted having carnal knowledge of Masenenengen only once. But while he is said to have admitted as much, he is however said to have denied responsibility, as he is sceptical as to whether such one night stand may have been responsible for the pregnancy. On account of his doubt, he is said to be contemplating asking for a DNA test. His arrest was made easier by the support of Benue State Vigilante Group (BNSVG) although Ward One 1 Commander of the group, Felix Anwuna who effected the arrest said that the teenager has no criminal record.
Putting the blame squarely on her caretakers, Anwuna who spoke briefly with Saturday Sun on the matter, said: “I have been against the situation whereby parents let their wards to go out at night. It was discovered that the girl went for a wake and when she complained that she had no place to sleep that night, the boy offered to have her sleep in his room and then took advantage of her in the process. Some of these things are avoidable.” Masenengen, it was gathered, has four other siblings, two boys and two girls, and has no benefit of formal education.
Intervention from Benue State First Lady
In the meantime, Benue State First Lady, Mrs. Eunice Ortom, through her pet project Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF), has paid her medical bills and that of another internally displaced woman. Both were said to have been delivered of babies through caesarean section (CS) on the same day.
Presenting the cheque, Mrs Ortom, represented by the Foundation’s Board member, Dr Magdalyne Dura, explained that the action was in furtherance of the Foundation’s commitment to supporting most needy persons to live healthy and decent lives. Expressing her displeasure over the abuse of a 10-year-old minor leading to pregnancy and her delivery of a child, Ortom stated that her foundation would work closely with the Ministry of Women Affairs among other partners, to identify the perpetrator and bring him to justice.
While lamenting the increasing spate of sexual and gender-based violence in the state and across the country, Ortom said concrete actions including advocacy and sensitization would need to be deepened in order to arrest the trend. In the meantime, she disclosed that the state Ministry of Women Affairs would take over the care of the two mothers and their babies.