“I saw my daughter just beside the okpa, burning; she was still alive and struggling in the fire”.
In this heart wrenching interview, a devastated mother of five told PREMIUM TIMES how she watched her first child burn to death in the April 14 Boko Haram bomb attack on Nyanya motor park in Abuja.
Lydia Nwange, who sells okpa (Bambara groundnut), a local breakfast delicacy at the park, had set her 15-year-old daughter with a one day sales portion of okpa.
She went off and shortly after, the terrorists detonated the bomb at the spot she left her daughter.
By the time Mrs. Nwange got back, her daughter was, from her ankle up, in flames and battled to sniff any oxygen she could get.
In this Interview with Amina Mohammed, she explains how her efforts to save her daughter failed and the trauma she’s had to live with since that day.
PT: You sold okpa at the bus park before the bomb blast. One of your daughters was killed in that attack. Tell us about her and how it all happened.
Mrs. Nwange: Her name was Chinazor Nwange, she was 15 years old in SSS 2, and was in Government Secondary school Karu.
PT: Do you want to tell us more about her?
Mrs. Nwange: She was my first born, the closest to me, very hard working and a dedicated Christian. In fact she helped me always at home. She was always bothered about the upkeep of the house, helped me with the house chores and was friendly with everybody around the compound.
She only helped to sell when the school was on break. Like when the school was on Easter break, she went with me to Nyanya to sell.
PT: What Happened on the day she died?
Mrs. Nwange: A day before she died, she told me that that day (the day of the bomb blast) would be her last to go with me because she would be travelling for a church retreat, the day after. So I agreed.
On the day of the bomb blast in the morning after I had cooked the okpa, we both went to the park and I divided the okpa into two. I told her to go and sit just in front of the buses with an umbrella so she could sell to customers at that spot while I went to sell mine at the other end.
Just as I settled down to sell mine, I heard a loud sound then I looked forward I saw fire and flames then I ran towards that side shouting, my child, my child. As I got to the spot, I saw the okpa on a tray and the umbrella just where I told my daughter to sit, then I saw my daughter just right beside the okpa, burning; she was still alive and struggling in the fire. It was just her toes left. I screamed and rushed to rescue my daughter but I realised people were holding me back, warning that I might be consumed in the fire too.
They dragged me away from the spot. Later, some people came and took my child [at this point she was dead] into a van and left.
I cried. I wailed. I could not think. I immediately entered a bus and went home to tell my husband what happened. Everybody broke down into tears. They tried to console me.
Since then I have not been myself. I do not sell okpa again. Nobody helps me around the house. I have just been indoors in pains and tears.
PT: Have you located your daughter’s body?
Mrs. Nwange: I have not seen my daughter’s body yet. I and my husband have visited many hospitals, nothing yet. The last one we went to is Asokoro general hospital. I asked those working in the mortuary about my daughter because I explained to them what my daughter was wearing, they told me they saw the type of the shoes on the body, but that the body had been taken to another place. I and my husband went to the other place, we did not see the body, and so we returned back to the hospital. Then a lady told us that if we see the body, we will not be allowed to carry the body because I could only identify the body with the leg. We then returned home.
PT: How have you been faring since the death of your daughter?
Mrs. Nwange: All I do is to pray and hope my husband sees her body. I can’t make the okpa anymore, my mind is still not settled, at every move I make in the house I remember her and how I saw her burn to death and could do nothing to save her.