As the great, wonderful, resilient people of the United States of America today pause to remember, for the 22nd time, the nearly 3000 people who were killed when hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, a Pennsylvania field and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 (9/11), with tears in my eyes, I look back on Sept. 11, 2022, for it was on the night of this day that I witnessed a horrendous act that’s been etched in my mind indelibly. And, no matter how hard I try to shake it off my head, it simply refuses to go away. 

To put it differently, as the 9/11 attacks reshaped American foreign policy and domestic fears, what I saw that night is killing me on the inside, albeit rather slowly, because ever since then I am no longer able to sleep past a couple of hours or thereabouts in a 24-hour period. 

What I witnessed is despicably evil and the height of wickedness, to my mind. It is bad imagining it. It is even worse witnessing it, firsthand. It is not something to be wished on one’s worst enemy.

As I write about it now, I’m reliving the whole experience all over. But I have got to tell the tale with hope that, by telling it, it can help save lives and help make the practice that precipitated it history. 

The day of September the 11th fell on a Sunday in 2022. It was pitch-black outside the block of eight flats where my wife and I and our then five-year-old daughter lived in Umuahia, Nigeria. My girls were already snoring away in the bedroom while I sat in the living room, catching up on the day’s international news on television. 

Suddenly, I heard a loud cry for help coming from the outside. Pressing the remote, I quickly checked what time it was on TV: 10:16 p.m.

When the cry grew louder and louder and showed no sign of abating, I turned on my security light, unbolted the iron main door of my apartment, opened it, walked out into my balcony and looked down from it because my flat was situated upstairs.

Therein I saw a stark naked girl child, staggering, groping, falling-and-picking-herself-up and screaming (with all her might) for help with a broken lip. She was pointing and heading in the direction of my apartment: Flat 4.

Almost immediately, my security guard came out and followed her from behind. I asked him to kindly guide her to my flat.

When she managed to make it to me, she was hopping from foot-to-foot whilst frantically fanning her eyes with her hands. 

As I asked her questions with a view to ascertaining what truly happened to her, I managed to video her in this state for 46 seconds just for the records.

In the video, she’s crying and pleading: “Please, Sir, help me! I no go back in that house again, please! Please, Sir, I no go back again! Please, help me, help me, help me! Help me, Sir…” 

I asked her what her name was and her age.

Her name is Glory (I withheld the surname for security reasons), she said. She’s 11 (now 12) years old and a domestic help (or what’s called house girl or maid in Nigerian parlance) to a couple that lived on Flat 7 on the ground floor. 

Then she told me her story.

Glory told me that her guardians (Uzochukwu and Lolita Madu from Olokoro, Umuahia) flogged her mercilessly with a cain before rubbing wet dried, ground pepper all over her body, including eyes and vulva – causing her severe pain and temporary blindness.

She begged me very profusely never to hand her back to her guardians, telling me that that night’s incident was the fifth time the couple had meted out such treatment to her and that her only crime was not remembering in time to inform the husband and wife that their two young children had ran out of food.

She said the previous four times they meted out such cruel treatment to her, they would lock her up in the toilet until the following morning. But this particular night, for some reason, this couple thought they had locked the backdoor to their apartment. So after giving Glory the pepper treatment, they thought it was business as usual and had confidently gone inside to their bedroom. In her desperation to escape, Glory – even as blinded as she was – started trying to see if by providence any of the doors in the flat was not locked. Luck smiled at her as the backdoor was not. That was how she escaped, yelling for help.

As Glory was narrating her ordeal to me in between sobbing, her male guardian rushed down to my apartment (flat) with a cairn, the type that’s used to make cairn chairs, warning me never to get involved in the matter and threatening to harm me if I didn’t hand the visibly shaken and deeply traumatized girl over to him.

At this point, I resolved to rather die than hand over the girl back to him but I had to go wake my wife from sleep so she could look after Glory in case I needed to fight to fend the aggressor off.

My wife literally broke down and started crying when she saw the condition Glory was in. She managed to gather herself to carry the helpless girl into the bathroom to wash her under the shower. As she did, she saw all over the girl’s back lines of wound scars that emanated from repeated cairn floggings.

Glory later said her male guardian would flog her on the back until blood dripped off her skin before his wife would apply wet, dried pepper on the wounds. That was happening on a very frequent basis, she added.

After washing Glory, my wife clothed her in one of her dresses. The dress was way much bigger than her. Then she made her a meal at that unholy hour. When she was done eating, my wife made the bed in our guest room all nicely up for her. Within a few minutes, Glory was snoring away.

In the meantime, not minding the hell and brimstone he threatened, I was able to hold off her guardian from entering my flat.

Then the hardest part of this whole episode set in.

What were we going to do with this innocent, abused child?

I thought of reporting the matter to the police. My wife dissuaded me, saying if anything untoward happened to the girl while she’s in the custody of the police that I would be held responsible.

We brainstormed and arrived at an agreement.

My wife called a classmate of hers who works for an organization called NAPTIP: The (Nigerian) National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons. The agency promised to come first thing the following day to come get Glory and take her to safety.

The following morning, Sept. 12th, as early as 6, Glory’s guardians (the man and his wife) showed up on my door and demanded that my wife and I hand over the girl – who was still sleeping – to them. We vehemently refused. They made all the noise and threats they could but we put our foot down. 

No sooner had they left my place than a NAPTIP official called to ask for the direction to our residence. Instead of wasting time directing him to a place he was finding difficult figuring out how to locate because of bad roads and poor street-naming and numbering system in this part of the world, I hopped into my truck and drove down to his office to fetch him while my wife made breakfast for Glory and got her ready.

To say that the official was very appalled at Glory’s ordeal, especially after watching the video I made the previous night, would be an understatement.

Glory’s guardian Uzochukwu Madu

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