VICTIMS OF POVERTY: THE IMPRISONED BRIDE
As most new brides will tell you, the honeymoon is far from over one month after the wedding. But for Blessing John, the story was completely different. A mere one month after her wedding, trouble came to her doorstep in the form of two fighting neighbours. Their shouts and grunts as they slapped, kicked and punched each other brought Blessing and other neighbours running from their own homes.
Everyone tried desperately to separate the fighting women to no avail. Blessing lent her voice to her neighbors’ pleading with the pair to stop fighting. They didn’t listen; rather they became increasingly violent, their senses dulled by adrenaline and riotous anger. They overturned objects in the vicinity as they tangled and pelted each other with violent blows.
In the course of the fracas, a little child was flung against a wall and it promptly burst into tears as a huge, bloody gash appeared on its head. That didn’t stop the duo; they continued to fight with even more violence, seemingly determined to inflict grievous bodily harm on each other. Blessing tried to separate the pugilists bodily but they roughly shoved her out of the way.
Finally, in a fit of desperation, Blessing looked around wildly for something to distract them with. She spied a pot of boiling water and without pausing to think; she grabbed it straight from the fire and flung its contents at the pair. It worked like magic; they stopped fighting instantly. Their yelps of pain and shocked disbelief quickly gave way to outrage. Before her very eyes, two enemies united against a new common enemy: Blessing John. A police complaint was made and in record time, a dazed Blessing found herself in a dock answering to criminal charges. Abject poverty and lack of information meant they had no lawyer to defend her during the trial and in short order, she was found guilty and sentenced to one year imprisonment with an option of fine of N300,000.
Unfortunately, for a family barely keeping its head above water, N300,000 was an astronomical figure. Even when the court tried to mitigate the cost, the family still could not afford the fine. They barely managed to comply with the court’s order to treat the complainants who were nursing burns from the hot water. Blessing went to jail in lieu of fine.
Three months later, on 14th May, 2018 a few days after her story came to the ears of the founder of Rock of Ages Empowerment Foundation (RAEF) IG Newman, Blessing’s release was secured when RAEF paid the fine. Her release was sudden and unexpected to Blessing and to her family. As she exited the prison, she stared wide-eyed at the strangers who had come to take her home. Curiously she followed us meekly out of the prison, not asking any questions of us whatsoever. It was almost as though all questions had been taken from her during her stint in jail.
Her family members were conspicuously absent because they too had been unaware that she would find favor that fateful day. When the RAEF staff attempted to take her home, we were shocked to discover that Blessing had become so disoriented and traumatized by her prison-stay that she could not recall the directions to her own home!!! Her husband was away at work and we ended up having to roam the entire neighborhood until we were fortunate enough to stumble across someone who recognized her and knew her home; a neighbour she called Mama Bright. So deep was Blessing’s disbelief at her new-found freedom that she kept glancing fearfully over her shoulders as though expecting the prison officials to show up and drag her kicking and screaming back to what had to be the worst place she had ever been in.
If the family had had the funds to hire a lawyer or pay the fine, Blessing might not have spent three months of her life in traumatic and harrowing conditions. Poverty has destroyed and is still destroying several homes which is why we at RAEF are so passionate about empowerment of widows, orphans and the indigent.
As Nelson Mandela said, when we fight against poverty, it’s not charity it’s justice because poverty is man-made.