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I am tired of working as housemaid-14-year-old girl

When she was taken from her village in Iyin, Oji River area of Enugu State last October, the understanding was that 14-year-old Uchechukwu Oji, an SSS 1 student of Girls High School, Iyin, would continue her education in Lagos State where she would be staying with her aunt, identified simply as Mrs. Mba.

Two months after her sojourn in Lagos, Oji has realised that she was only given an empty promise. Rather than being allowed to go to school, she ended up as a housemaid in strange houses. But she believed that her destiny could not be to perform only domestic chores while her mates are in school.

Oji said she was determined to return to Enugu where her education was guaranteed. To make good her promise, she ran away from the house she was working as a housemaid. But her movement to Enugu was hampered as she has no money with her.

Apart from that, she said she did not know anywhere in Lagos apart from the area where Mama Esther lived. Oji told PUNCH METRO that even if money was provided for her transportation to Enugu, she might still find it difficult to go to her village.

She said her journey to Lagos two months ago was her first journey outside her village. But despite the obstacles, Oji said she was determined to return to her village.

“I am tired. They keep using me as a housemaid and refused to send me to school. They beat me and starved me; I can’t endure it any more. I am determined to go home,” she said.

She told our correspondent that she became suspicious that her aunt would not fulfil her promise of sending her to school in her first night in Lagos. She said. “My aunty called one woman and told her that she had brought the girl. When I asked her whether she was talking about me, she said I should shut up.

“The woman came the next day and took me to her house. Her name is Mama Mezoma. When I got to her house, she was not nice to me at all because I insisted that I wanted to go to school. She did not give me food. Everyday she would give me N55 to feed myself. N50 was meant for food, while N5 was for water. After three weeks, we went to my aunt’s church where her husband is a pastor. I told my aunt that I could not cope in the house; I said I wanted to go back to the village so that I can go back to school. She promised to do something.”

But instead of sending her to the village, she said Mba sent her to another house where she also worked as a housemaid.

Oji said, “Initially my new aunt in that house, Mama Ester, did not beat me. But when I insisted that I wanted to continue my education; she started beating me. Anytime I raised that issue, she would beat me with a belt or wooden ladle. She would say that she did not want any housemaid and that Mba forced me on her.

“She would throw my things outside. But today (Wednesday) she did it again and I decided that I am going home. After all I was not going to school here. I know that if I get back to the village, my parents would put me back in school.”

With that determination, she packed her clothes in a black nylon bag and headed for home. But it was not as easy as she thought. At the bus park, she told the conductor that she was going to Enugu; the conductor told her that she could not get Enugu bus in Okota and advised her to go to Lagos- Apapa Expressway.

However, the conductor said she must pay for the bus fare before she alighted. This prompted Oji to narrate her experience in the past two months in Lagos to other passengers. When asked where Mba is staying, Oji said she could not remember the location.

One of the passengers, Ann Njoku, volunteered to take her to the office of the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer in Ikeja, Lagos.

The PPRO, Mr. Frank Mba, assured the girl that the command would get to the root of the problem and seek legal action on her behalf if necessary.

He said, “She gave us the number of one of her relatives in Enugu and we are going to use the number to trace how she can be reunited with her family in Lagos. Once we are able to do that, we will make sure that they take her home.”

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