By Ndifreke Jacob
Born to Bury
A teenager from Ifa Ikot Okpon in Uyo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, South-south Nigeria, shocked her community on Wednesday when she gave birth and then buried the child alive.
The girl, 18, named Bright, was said to have delivered the baby unassisted in a rented compound she shares with her low-income earning parents on the outskirts of Uyo Metropolis.
Earlier, when confronted by members of the community, Bright claimed she had no idea she was pregnant, insisting she still noticed her monthly menstrual flow in January.
However, while answering questions from our correspondent, she stated that she suddenly began feeling pains around her lower abdomen in the early hours of Wednesday, before seeing a baby come out of her body.
”My body was paining me. All of a sudden, I now fell down here (pointing at the filthy backyard where she buried the baby), I saw a baby coming out of my body. I started crying,” she told our correspondent.
Asked what happened after she had the baby, she continued, “The baby was dead. I was unconscious. I dug a small place to keep the baby until my mother comes back, so I can show her.”
Asked why she didn’t take the baby inside, the teen mother explained that she didn’t know what to do with the baby, adding, “I was in shock when I gave birth. There was no one to tell me what to do.”
Again asked who was responsible for the pregnancy, she said it was a young man named Ezekiel who lived in the community and that her parents saw him every time he visited.
A blood-stained white mosquito net was discovered when our correspondent examined the site where the baby was buried more closely.
Fresh plantain leaves were also present, which Bright had used to cover the newborn baby before placing her in the shallow grave located by a refuse dump in the compound.
Don’t Prosecute my Girl
Bright’s father, Okon Ekpenyong, while speaking with our correspondent, dismissed the claim that the daughter was unaware of her pregnancy.
He said he suspected foul play on the daughter’s part, adding that she disappeared from home after the mother offered to take her to a midwife in the neighbourhood.
Mr. Ekpenyong, a farm labourer, said he usually leaves home early to meet his work schedule, and that his neighbours informed him of what his daughter had done.
“It was on Sunday that I suspected she was pregnant. I noticed the changes in her body. She told me and the mum that there was nothing wrong with her,” Mr. Ekpenyong said.
The distressed father also disclosed he had lost one out of his four children and pleaded that Bright should not be prosecuted.
While Mr. Ekpenyong is begging for his daughter to be spared prosecution, the fact is that only the police and the director of public prosecution in the state’s ministry of justice would decide on her fate.
Moreso, is the fact that at 18, Bright is an adult and cannot be shielded from facing the consequences of her action.
Bright’s Uncoordinated Stories
Following the father’s claim that Bright fled the house before her mum could take her to see a midwife, our correspondent had confronted the teem mum to clear the air on the allegation.
Her response was an uncoordinated stories that questioned most of the things she said earlier when our correspondent engaged with her.
Responding to claims that she fled the house to avoid seeing a midwife, Bright said she actually went to church to look for a midwife to attend to her persistent discomfort.
Her response to the question, however, showed that she knew that she was pregnant against her earlier claims of ignorance.
GuardPost could not verify whether the claim that she went to church to look for a midwife was true because neither Bright nor her parent could speak to the issue.
Two neighbours who claimed they heard Bright’s scream while pushing out the baby faulted her earlier claim that the baby died after delivery.
A neightbour, who gave his name simply as Matthew, whose apartment is close to where the baby was buried alive said that he heard the baby cry and was still alive before Bright buried it.
Mr. Matthew further revealed that the grave was dug by Bright the previous day before she had the baby, and not on the day she gave birth.
The neighbour would not say why he did not raise the alarm when he found Bright digging what turned out to be a shallow grave.
How the new Naira Policy also Killed the Baby
A midwife, Elizabeth Okon, who shares compound with Bright’s family corroborated Mr. Matthew’s claim that the baby was alive before Bright buried it.
Mrs. Okon said her attention was drawn to the incident by the caretaker of the compound who heard the baby’s cry.
The midwife said on getting to where the newborn baby was buried, she immediately took her out of the grave, cleaned her up and rushed to the road to get a tricycle (Keke), to take her to a nearby hospital.
Unfortunately, her rescue efforts were thwarted because keke riders would not take the old naira notes she had but rather demanded the new notes as required by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“I had examined the baby before we decided to take her to the hospital, and she was still breathing. Keke rider’s refusal to collect the old naira notes delayed us on the road for hours till the baby died,” the midwife told our correspondent.
Our correspondent later found that the compound where the incident happened belonged to the late village head of Ifa Ikot Okpon.
Meanwhile, many villagers and neighbours had gathered in their numbers in front of the compound and were heaping curses on the girl.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), MacDon Odiko, ahd when contacted said he was he was yet to be briefed on the matter and will rather not comment on it.
“It’s a crime. Nobody has the right to bury somebody alive, even if it’s a child. That’s, if it is true,” Mr. Odika had said.