A stepmother has deployed a hot knife to wreak serious injuries on her stepson’s eyes and other parts of his body for daring to take food from the pot in her absence.
Eight years old Ahmad Shehu Amir, who is said to be suffering from sickle cell anaemia, said he had returned from his Islamic school very hungry but met the absence of his stepmother, Mariam Danjuma.
And since there was food in the pot, he felt that it would not be of any harm if he helped himself to some. That, however, turned out the tonic his stepmother needed to unleash horror on him.
In a fit of anger, she put a knife in the fire and waited until it was red hot before she cruelly landed it on his eyes and some other parts of his body.
Thereafter, she threatened to kill Ahmad if he continued to stay in the house.
Maryam was not alone in the act as the father, Shehu Musa Danjuma, was said to have stood by and idly watched as his wife inflicted the serious injuries on Ahmad.
Maryam, however, said she did not set out to be cruel but did what she did in order to punish Ahmad for taking food from her pot on his own, which she said amounted to stealing.
In a statement she made upon her invitation by a child rights agency, she said: “What happened was that I cooked three cups of rice and spaghetti. I did not leave any for their father but I gave all of them. The remaining food in the pot was for his brother.
“When the brother returned from Islamiyya, he could not find the food so I asked all of them if they took the food. They all denied, but since I knew him with such acts, I insisted until he finally confessed.
“This was not the first time he would take such things, and I always preached to him. I usually scared him with fire whenever he did such things.
“On that day, I held a small phone in my hand. As I was taking the knife towards his hand, he hit it with his head.
“I was not even aware of the burn until the next morning when his father complained. I called the boy and made him know that my target was not his head but his hand.
“Everything I did to him to stop him from stealing had proved abortive so I decided that he should be returned to his mother since everyone was watching to see how I would treat a child who is not mine.”
Maryam said she was the one that was taking care of the family’s feeding and did not understand why Ahmad would keep stealing from her.
She said: “I have been the one taking care of them since their father is no longer financially stable. I can also decide to stop doing that since it is my money, and I could sell the foodstuffs I receive in exchange for teaching at the place where I work.”
Ahmad’s father, Shehu Musa Danjuma, explained that he said nothing when Maryam was punishing Ahmad because he did not want to complain about her actions in the presence of the children.
He described the eight-year-old boy as a spoilt child and blamed his mother for making things worse.
She said,: “It is the mother that spoilt him. Because we live in the same area, she would come to our area and give him money.
“She even gives our neighbours money to keep for them in case they would need it. She would give a boy as small as Ahmad N20 or N50 to spend.”
Ahmad’s mother, Aisha Baba Zagunu, who reported the incident to the Niger State Child Rights Agency, said she was informed about the incident by her eldest son, Musa Shehu, who is 15 years old and also lives with their father and his wife.
Aisha said: “Musa said they went to an Islamic school and returned and Ahmad was hungry. Since the stepmother was not at home, he took food from the pot and ate.
“He said that when she returned and asked about the rice, he admitted to having eaten it because he was hungry.
“Musa then said she took a knife, put it in the gas fire, and when it was hot, she used it on him and said she did not want to see him in the house again or she would kill him.
“That was why he called me to come and take Ahmad away before she would kill him.”
Aisha, who said she had separated from her husband for three years, said she was prevented from taking custody of her children, adding that she would be glad to do so.
She said: “I did not report the incident in order to fight her. I just want the law to take its course.
” I want the law to fight for me and give me custody of my children. This shows that they are not safe in their father’s house.”
The Director-General of the Niger State Child Rights Agency, Barrister Mariam Kolo, after listening to all sides, directed that the case be taken to the state CID for proper investigation and prosecution.
Kolo said it was a case of serious act of cruelty to a child, adding that the father should also be punished for watching while his son, who he knows is a sickler, was being punished cruelly.
She said: “The Agency will not take it easy on this issue because the report we just heard is very harrowing. This is how it begins before it becomes a mega crime meted out to a child.
“Once a mother or stepmother begins to show signs of cruelty to a child, the child has to be removed immediately from that environment because the life of the child is in danger.
“There is no reason for such cruelty. There is no reason for one to put a knife in the fire and saying you want to scare a child by inflicting injury on him: that is not punishment but cruelty. Is there no other punishment?
“As a stepmother to a sickler, she should have understood his nature by now. Sicklers get hungry multiple times a day and need special treatment, and they are always under crisis.
“What if he had a crisis when she was inflicting him with the hot knife?
“The matter will be properly investigated by the CID, and if need be, she will be prosecuted by a court of law alongside the father for standing there while injury was being inflicted on his child. He should not have allowed it.
“The mother will also be investigated for leaving a child that needs special attention for the father and the wife.”
The case has been referred to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Niger State Police Command for further investigation.
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