To many residents of the Okota area of Lagos, Mercy Nnadi’s issue is a forgotten one, as they assume that she did not survive the third degree burns she sustained from the attack by her spouse. But how wrong they are! The 36-year-old Mercy, whose husband killed their only son eight months ago, and burnt her with hot pressing iron over allegation that she was having an affair with his father, the very woman who once looked a shadow of her old self, is back to life.
[WARNING! Violent content & Explicit photos]
She is presently occupying a one-room apartment in Agege area of Lagos, courtesy of three Non-Governmental Organisations: Project Alert on Violence Against Women, Centa for Development, and Zaharawomen. Aside the apartment, the NGOs also gave her the sum of N150, 000 to start life afresh.
Mercy Nnadi (second on the left) receives a cheque for N150,000 from Mrs Josephine Effah-Chukwuma (first right); with Nkiru of Centa for Development (second right) and a representative of WAPA.
Even in the light of all this, in this exclusive interview Mercy said nothing could fill the vacuum created by the demise of her son, Ebuka, who was barely one-year-old then. Although she stated that she had forgiven her husband for making her go through untold anguish, she vowed never to reunite with him again.
Recalling the incident of Saturday, April 7, 2012, which almost sent her to an unprepared grave, Mercy recalled amidst tears: “On that fateful Saturday evening, my husband told me to cook yam for supper before leaving the house. After a long wait for him to come back so that we could eat together, I ate mine and slept with my baby.
"When he came back, he ate, put on the power generating set before going to bed. Later, a neighbor knocked on the door to inform us that power had been restored, and he [the husband] went to put off the power generating set. He came inside and started ironing customers clothes because he is a dry cleaner.
"By then, the room became hot and I left to take a shower and stayed outside waiting for when he would be through. When he was done, he told me to fetch water for him to bathe, and I did. While I was going to fetch the water, he started smoking before going to take his bath. We both retired inside and I slept off after breast-feeding our baby, Ebuka.
"But a sharp pain woke me up from sleep. At first, I thought I was dreaming. But no! Right in front of me was my husband of two years, placing the hot pressing iron on me. I screamed and begged him to stop. When I raised my hand to stop him, he placed the hot iron on the hand.
"I lifted my leg to prevent him from further attack, only for him to place it on my thighs, instructing me to keep quiet. As if that was not enough, as he placed the hot iron on me, he used a screw driver to pull off the skin, pressing the hot iron harder on the same spot. As he was doing it, he kept asking me how many times his father had slept with me.
"I begged him passionately, but he would not listen. He warned me to keep quiet informing that other members of his gang were outside. I did not know what he meant by that.
"He concentrated more on my chest, by leaving the hot iron there for what seemed like eternity. Just then, our son Ebuka, woke up crying. I begged my husband to allow me breast feed him, so he could go back to sleep. Instead, he placed the pressing iron on my two breasts and at the same time used the screw driver to peel off the skin.
"I shouted for help. But it was far from me. At that point, he took my son away. Immediately he left the room, I rushed out to the kitchen where a neighbor offered me a wrapper to cover my nakedness. That was all I could remember until I found myself at New Evolution hospital”.
While Mercy succeeded in escaping from the shadow of death, same could not be said of her helpless son, Ebuka. Eyewitnesses said Henry dragged the crying baby by his left arm.
As gathered, Henry landed a metal right on Ebuka’s head, thereby prompting him to let out a shrill cry, which forced out some excreta. As if the pains were not excruciating enough for the fragile baby, his father, who, many concluded, was possessed by a demon, landed the metal again on his head.
This time around, instead of crying, there was dead silence, which sent the hapless Ebuka to the land of no return, with his remains buried a few days later.
News of my son’s death shattered me
All through her stay in the hospital, Mercy was made to believe that her son was in good condition of health. Thus, when she was discharged, she yearned to see Ebuka. But nobody could tell her the true position of things until she visited Ago Police division, where the case was earlier incidented - only to be consoled by one of the policemen who was oblivious of the development.
"Initially, I did not get what the policeman was trying to say. But after a while, I discovered it had to do with my son Ebuka. I broke down in tears, without knowing what to do. I kept asking why Henry would kill an innocent child over nothing? I was shattered by the news of my son’s death.
“Oh! My son died without being allowed to have the last suck of my breast milk.
"The last memory I have of him was when he woke up crying. How callous! He was the reason for my hanging on in the marriage because I never wanted to have a broken home. Had he been alive, he would have been my only consolation”, Mercy stated amidst tears.
I forgive my husband, but…
Asked if she would accept her husband back if he comes begging, Mercy smiled, saying: “I have forgiven him no doubt. But I will never go back to him. I learnt he is in Ikoyi prison awaiting trial. I was told he called his younger sister and asked if I was okay and even told her to give me the phone so he could speak with me. I tried the number once but it rang without response.
"My mind is made up. The only thing that would have made me have a re-think is my son. But since he is no more, nothing is worth my staying back.
"That was not the first time he would beat me. I have always complained to my father-in-law about his batterings and he had always cautioned him. At a point, he warned his father to stop interfering in his family matter and further told him to stop coming to our house. He also stopped me from going to his father’s house, warning that he would break my leg if I disobeyed him.”
My neighbors fled on sighting me
In order to make do her threat of leaving Henry, Mercy visited number 3 Lambe street, in Ago-Okota, which used to be her matrimonial home, to move her belongings. But a mild drama unfolded as those who recognized her took to their heels, apparently thinking it was her ghost.
“I was shocked at first. But I was later made to understand that news went round that I was dead. They later came around to thank God with me. As I was leaving with my belongings, I bid farewell to what used to be home...”
At this point, she wept profusely, on remembering how her son used to crawl on the veranda of the building. After satisfying her emotions, she expressed gratitude to God for at least sparing her life and giving her a second chance.
”Even though I know that the death of my son has left a vacuum that will never be replaced in my life, I am still grateful to God for granting me the privilege of being alive”.
“That I am alive today is by the grace of God and help from good Nigerians. These Nigerians whom I never knew from Adam, had compassion on me and donated money for my treatment.
"Even the first lady of Akwa-Ibom state came to my rescue by paying over 300,000 for my treatment and feeding. Ah! Can you imagine, a nobody like me gaining such recognition! Isn’t God wonderful? My sincere gratitude goes to the management team of New Evolution Hospital who managed the situation when I was rushed in , until I was transferred to government hospital.
"I really did not know when I was taken there. Even when I regained consciousness, I could not bathe and clean myself. The nurses were there for me. What more can I say about my father in-law, his wife and daughter, they were by my side all through.
"My appreciation will be incomplete if I fail to mention the three NGOs that gave voice to my cry. They went as far as involving the Lagos state government and in the process, offset my outstanding bills at New Evolution hospital and even gave me shelter at Ipaja before I was given an accommodation in Agege. From the donations they got from members of the public, I was given the sum of N150,000 to start life afresh”
Again, she paused, fiddled with her nails and by the time she looked up, it was obvious she was fighting hard to hold back the tears. But she could not as they trickled down her cheeks.
In an emotion-laden voice, she said, “I wish my son was alive, then my joy would have been complete. I honestly wished I was given the accommodation money, I would have relocated back to my village because I do not want anything that would remind me of the death of my first experience of motherhood”.
Speaking on behalf of the NGOs during the formal rehabilitation of Mercy at the conference room of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation WAPA, Alausa, Lagos, the Executive Director, Project Alert on Violence Against Women, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, said, “We sought to help Mercy pay her steadily mounting hospital bills, and rehabilitate her. We are proud to say we have been able to accomplish all these, along with some funds for her to start life afresh”.