Our parents’ death responsible for our maltreatment—Esther
Esther Effiom-ItaPlease introduce yourself.
I am Esther Effiom-Ita, aged 13.
How did you come about the bruises on you?
The bruises were inflicted on my younger ones and me by our grandmother who said we were witches. She invited a man one day to beat us. The man came with machete and used it on us. He also used the machete to flog the three of us. On the second day, he took the three of us to another site where we were flogged. They tied our hands and legs and used hot machete to flog us on our back. They insisted that we must confess to be witches otherwise they would kill us.
Was your grandma among those who flogged you?
Yes, she was the one that called the people who beat us with a machete. She was the one who first accused us of witchcraft.
What led to you staying with your grandmother?
It was when my father and mother died that we started staying with her. My father died first. Then, my mother died in September 2016. That was when we relocated to a village in Akamkpa where my grandmother was staying. She (grandmother) was the one that came to carry us after our mother’s death.
Where were you living before the relocation?
We were staying in Calabar before the relocation to Akamkpa. It was my grandmother that came to pick us as I said earlier.
Are you a witch?
I am not and I believe my younger ones are also not witches.
Why do you think your grandmother branded the three of you witches?
I do not know exactly but I know that they subjected us to beating every day, insisting that we must confess to being witches. In one of those days, I asked if it was because my mother was dead that was why they were treating us like this. They said I was the one that killed my mother but I immediately told them that I did not kill my mother. They continued beating me, insisting that I must own up to being a witch. They said they would bury us alive if we refused to admit being witches. As a result of the torture and threats, I had no choice than to say that I was responsible for my mother’s death. I just wanted to be free from the constant torture.
How did you feel when they tortured the three of you for an offence you said you knew nothing about?
I felt so much pains and I believe my younger ones were also going through pains. Again, I felt that it was because my parents were dead that was why they subjected us to that kind of torture.
How did your grandma treat you before she started calling you witches?
She never treated us well from the first day she came to pick us. She made us to start hawking sachet water for survival. We also sold pawpaw and plantain in retail. In fact, the three of us were always going out to hawk goods.
How many times in a day did she provide food for you?
It was twice a day. She used the profit made from the sales to feed us daily.
Were you in school before you started staying with your grandmother?
Yes, we were all in school. I was in primary five when my mother died. That should be in September 2016. Since then, I have not gone back to school because she did not show interest in our returning to school.
How did you feel seeing your mates going to school while you hawked with your siblings?
I felt bad seeing my mates going to school while we hawked. Sometimes I cried, but I later realised that there was little or nothing that we could do. Most times when I cried, I thought seriously about my parents who ensured we went to school when they were alive. If my mother was alive, I would have been in school.
Do you regret staying with your grandmother?
Yes, I regret staying with her.
Who do you think told your grandma that you were witches?
I do not know but the whole thing started suddenly when she accused us of being witches. She said that we were too wicked at home.
Why do you think she labelled the three of you wicked?
There was a day a rope that was used in climbing palm tree cut. I didn’t know it was my sister that did it. She inquired who did it and because I was not the one, I said I did know. My brother also said he was not the one that cut the rope. My sister also said she was not the one that cut it. But my grandmother called my sister and told her to say the truth, promising that she was going to give her sweets.
At that point, my younger sister, a three-year-old, said she was the one that cut it because of the promise of buying sweets for her. Immediately, she didn’t waste time beating her.
What do you want now?
I really want to go back to school.
Do you go to church?
No. My grandmother never allowed us to attend church. Moreover, she did not buy clothes and shoes for us. I do not have any shoes. During Christmas, we felt unhappy seeing other children with new clothes. We used to weep when we are alone.
‘They used fire to burn my back’
What is your name?
I am Mary Effiom-Ita
How old are you?
I am three years old.
How did you get the injury in your back?
It was my grandmother that beat me. She said I was a witch. They used fire to burn my back.
How old were you when your mother died?
(Esther cuts in). She was barely a year and six months old when our mother died. She may not have known her but I do.
Was she in school before your parents died?
(Esther cuts in). Yes, she was already in crèche when our parents died.
Are you still feeling the pains of the beatings?
No. I don’t feel pains.
‘I felt ashamed hawking while my mates were in school’
Tell us about yourself.
I am Blessing Effiom-Ita, a five-year-old boy.
Were you also beaten by your grandmother?
Yes, I was beaten. She injured me on my back.
Why did she beat you?
She said my sisters and me were witches. One day, she invited a man going to the farm to our house to beat us. The man came to our house and started using machete to beat us. He beat us in the house the first day and after then, he took my sisters and me to another compound where he put the machete in the fire and used it to flog us. It was the flogging that led to the injury we have on our backs. It was very painful.
Is your grandma’s allegation true that you are a witch?
No, I am not a witch.
Was it only the farmer that beat you?
No, my grandmother also beat us.
Are you in school?
No. I am not in school.
Why are you not in school?
My grandmother did not send me to school.
Would you like to attend school?
Yes. I hope that someday, someone will help us go to school. I really want to go to school. I felt ashamed hawking while my mates went to school.
What work were you doing for your grandmother?
My sisters and I were always hawking sachet water and pawpaw while others were in school. I sold each pawpaw for N50. She would count the sliced pawpaw in the tray and tell me the amount to return home with.
How many times did you eat at home?
She gave us food twice daily and it was usually garri and soup.
Did she buy you new clothes?
No, she didn’t buy me new clothes. I do not even have any shoes but I have slippers.
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