What offense would lead a father to use a pressing iron on his 10-year-old son? This was the question on the lips of Lokoja residents when the news of the assault by a principal of one of the secondary schools within the Kogi State capital on his son broke out.
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It is one trauma Stephen Ogbeun said would continue to linger on in his mind as long as he lives. The 10-year-old was surprised that his biological father grabbed his two hands, tied them behind his back, laid him on the bed face up, removed the his inner wear and stuffed a towel into his mouth. His surprise turned into fear when the old man grabbed an electric pressing iron already plugged into a socket and started torturing him with it.
The incident, which happened on Monday, January 21, and shocked the entire neighbourhood in Lokoja, Kogi State.
According to Stephen, he was subjected to all the inhumane treatment as a result of a missing document.
Stephen told Weekly Trust from his bed at the Specialist Hospital, Lokoja, where he is being treated for injuries sustained during the attack, that he has consistently denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the said document when his father, a principal with the Government Day Secondary School, in Oshokoshoko in Lokoja Local Government Area asked him.
Stephen, who is apparently in pains as he was clutching to his mother for comfort, relayed his story to the Weekly Trust thus: "My father called me earlier when my mother was around to ask me about the missing document and I told him that I don’t know anything about it. He did not press me further probably because my mother was present then.
"When my mother traveled, he called me again to ask about the missing document which I still denied seeing. But this time he insisted that I took the document and probably destroyed it.
"When I told him that I did know anything about the certificate, he grabbed my two hands, twisted them to the back and tied them with a rope which he was apparently keeping by. He removed the inner wear I was putting on, stuffed it into my mouth and also tied it with a rope so that I cannot shout; and he started using a hot pressing iron on my body and in the process inflicted several injuries on me."
The boy says he passed out in the process and that he did not know when the police who took him to the hospital got to know of it and arrested his father.
Stephen’s mother, Sarah Stephen Ogbewun blamed the devil for the act. She wondered how a father could do such a thing to his son.
"He was not in his senses, I still believe it was the devil’s work, because he has never misbehaved or acted in such a manner. I cannot really say what happened and I find it difficult to believe that he did it with clear eye," she told Weekly Trust.
She said they were both looking for the document, but could not find it before she traveled out of Lokoja, adding that it was an approval given to his school to be coordinating external examination there.
"We called the boy and asked him if he has seen the document, but he denied, and we then agreed to continue searching for it. I was surprised when he called me while I was away and said that something tells him that our son was responsible for the missing document and that he tore it. I pleaded with him to exercise patience, not knowing the deed has already been done. I only came back to meet my son in this condition," she said.
The tears that cascade down Sarah’s cheek are not only due to the condition of her son. The incident has thrown up multiple of problems. The hospital bills need to be paid, the family needs to feed, and the breadwinner - the embattled husband - is in incarceration as a result of the crisis in Koton Karfe prison.
She said it was her husband's sister who has been taking care of the expenses at the hospital since the incident.
"My husband is the breadwinner of the house because I am out of job. When it happened, the sister rallied round to make sure that they paid part of the hospital bill. Some of the bills, like money for the test, carried out and the drugs are still unpaid. I don’t even know where we would go from here if we are discharge and how we would cope. We are here fighting to survive, and my husband is being remanded in Koton Karfe Prison. Who will take care of the house?" she queried.
She called on the government, well-meaning individuals and organisations to come to their aid.
The father of the boy tells his side of the story. When he discovered that the document was missing, he called his son and asked him to return it, but all efforts to get the truth from him failed as the boy kept denying seeing the document in the first place, adding that he was certain that he was the one who took the certificate.
The father says, in the process of threatening his son, he had to apply hot pressing iron, adding that he never knew that the impact will be that bad.
Parading Mr. Christopher Ogbewun before the press at the state command recently, the Commissioner of Police, Muhammed Katsina said it was the ambush squad that saved the boy from being killed by his father.
According to him, the suspect tied his son with a rope, covered his mouth with towel so that he could not raise alarm while he was busy applying hot pressing iron on the hapless boy.
The CP said it was the eagle eyes of the Ambush Squad that saved the boy, adding that the father would soon be charged to court for attempted murder.
He advised mothers and neighbors to be vigilant not to fall victims to evil doers, adding that the command has put in place mechanism to deal with deviant behaviors of some parents who were in the habit of abusing their children.
Also, the wife of the governor, Hajia Ladi Wada described the action of the father as unfortunate. She called on the law enforcement agents to subject him to psychiatric examination. She said child abuse of whatever form is ungodly and would not be tolerated any longer in the state, adding that her NGO, Kogi Women Empowerment Network, is now positioned to fight abuses against children and women in the state.
The Chief Medical Director of the Specialists Hospital, Dr. Amodu Paul, who spoke on the condition of the boy, said the child has since been stabilised and that the hospital would ensure his quick recovery.