Case 4

Acid attack on B.U. and her two sisters from Ebonyi State, Nigeria

Objective

  1. To show the level of impunity regarding acid attacks on women in Nigeria

B.U.’s Story: Self narrative has been summarized

I was a 26 year-old patent medicine vendor based in a town in Ebonyi State. There was Isusu [1] (Thrift Contribution) among some business men and women in the town which I joined. We contributed N10,000 (Ten thousand Naira) every month. After some months, it was my turn to receive the sum of N150,000 (in August 2006). I kept N135,000 in my house planning  to use if to replenish my stock the following day.

Later that day, a customer called me from the bedroom to come and give treatment to his sick mother. I left my bedroom and crossed over to the shop to attend to the customer. I returned to the room only to find out that the N135,000 was no longer there. It had been stolen. On enquiry, one woman told me that she saw a young man named N” coming out from the back door of my room. When I confronted him about the missing money, he denied any knowledge. “N” is an electrician from the same state. He is my neighbour at work. When I arrived in the town to start the business, he had asked me to be his girlfriend which I turned down. That notwithstanding, we were still greeting each other.

Not knowing what else to do, I travelled to my village and informed my parents about the stolen money. They came back with meN” to swear an oath before a well-known shrine in the village to prove his innocence, which he refused. When he found out that my parents were bent on taking him to the shrine, he then admitted stealing my N135,000. As is customary in the area, his hands and feet were tied and disgraced publicly as a thief. His relations were invited and oral agreement was reached that the entire money would be paid back to me in instalments. I accepted this agreement as I had no choice.

A few days later, at about 3-4 a.m, I heard a knock on my door. It wasNs” voice claiming he was saying that he had come to return some of the money. I was reluctant to open the door at that time of the night, but my youngest sister (F.U.) who was visiting, urged me to open the door and receive the money no matter how small instead of allowing him to go back with it.

By then, my kid sister [2] with whom I live in Akwunakwuna had woken up and joined us at the door. As I opened the door, I felt very hot liquid and burning sensation on my face and I cried out to neighbours for help, shouting that hot water had been poured on me. At the same time my two siblings were shouting as the same liquid was also poured on them.

My two sisters and I, F.U., now 24 years old and O. U. now 12 years old were rushed (unconscious) to the Teaching Hospital where we spent the first 7 months on intensive treatment. Only part of our hospital bills of N450,000 were paid for by my parents through the sale of my father’s parcels of land.

The hospital management detained us in the hospital for months because our bills were not paid. In all, we spent a total of 20 months in the hospital.

Throughout our stay in the hospital, no relation ofN” came to the hospital to see us nor our parents to sympathize with them till date.N” has not returned the stolen money either. We later heard thatN” was arrested, detained and released later by the police. Presently, I am hearing thatN” is going round our village boasting that since I was the cause of his disgrace, he would kill me and kill himself any day he set eyes on me [3].

Since the incident in 2006, I have not gone to the village to see my mother. I am told that my mother is so broken hearted that she cannot bear to see me this way and that she now behaves abnormally [4].

 

Postscript:

Blessing lost her left ear and requires another operation on her left eye if she is to retain vision. There are no hairs on the part of her left scalp which was burnt .[5]

 

Learning Points

[1] The story shows clearly efforts at self-empowerment by B. U. through the local thrift system used as a savings scheme called Isusu (1).

[2] The system of distributive wealth is shown through the fact that B.U was supporting her younger sister, who lived with her

[3] The aspect of the level of impunity is evident through the fact that the perpetrator is still walking around free in the community.

[4] The impact of violence on close family members is often ignored. In this case not only B.U.’s two sisters were injured, but the incident still affects her mother psychologically.

 

Background information (2)

Acid throwing, also called an acid attack, a vit attack or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The most common types of acid used in these attacks are sulfuric and nitric acid. The long term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties.

 

References

(1) Isusu: Women Entrepreneurship and Development: The Gendering of Microfinance in Nigeria : http://www.gdrc.org/icm/country/nigeria-women.html (accessed 22 th of November 2014).

(2) . According to wikipedia. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_throwing (accessed 22 th of November 2014).

(3) Nigeria: Curbing Incessant Acid Attacks http://allafrica.com/stories/201110060699.html
(accessed 22 th of November 2014).

 

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