A woman filmed walking naked on the road in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria’s South-south, said she had a mental breakdown after a Nigerian soldier who got her pregnant ran away with her nine-month-old child.
The woman, Blessing Martins, 25, said her problem was compounded when another man, under the pretext of helping her, took her into his house in Uyo for about four days and then raped her.
She left the man’s house and turned to the street for survival. She realised she was pregnant for the man, a month after.
Ms Martins, a secondary school graduate, is from a broken home.
She stayed with her mum in Lagos, where she ran into the soldier and from there got involved in a relationship with him.
She had difficulties coping with her poor dad and her step-mum in Akwa Ibom State, and is said to have, sometimes, gone without food for days in her dad’s house, before her dad sent her away from the house.
In Nigeria, where unemployment rate is increasingly high, unskilled persons like Ms Martins could find it extremely difficult coming across job opportunities.
At some point in her life, she picked up a casual job as a dishwasher in a small restaurant in Uyo but was kicked out by the owner after some days.
Ms Martins was rescued around November 16 by kind-hearted Nigerians. By then, passers-by had filmed her walking stark naked and uploaded video of her on Facebook and WhatsApp.
Some blogs published the video and mischaracterised her as a ‘runs babe’ – a prostitute.
Ms Martins’ rescuers, worried by the wrong labelling, got in touch with a journalist in Uyo, Edidiong Udobia, to help tell her true story to the public.
“The reason I walked naked on the road is not because I was mad,” Ms Martins said in a video of the interview with Mr Udobia. “I am not mad, I have never been mad in my life.”
The interview was published on Mr Udobia’s Facebook page.
“I gave birth to a baby girl for a soldier. I was living with him from when I was one month pregnant till I gave birth to the child.
“So when the child was nine months old, that was when the father took the child away from me, sent me away from his house, and ran away with the child to Makurdi, Benue State, where he comes from.
“This thing happened last year December, so since that time till now I have not seen the child again,” Ms Martins said in the interview.
Ms Martins and the soldier, whose name she did not mention in the interview, were living together in Akure, Ondo State, she said.
She said she had travelled twice to Jaji military cantonment, Kaduna, where the soldier, according to her, was on training, but she could not see her daughter.
“When I came back to Akwa Ibom things were not easy, I was homeless. I was not working. No job.
“I was not doing anything to get money. In fact, I was so frustrated, I had nothing. I did not even have food to eat. A man offered to help me. He took me into his house and accepted that I should live with him, I stayed with him. I discovered he was taking advantage of me. I had to leave his house.
“I didn’t know that I had already taken in (for him). He denied the pregnancy. He told me I would carry my cross alone,” Ms Martins said.
The journalist, Mr Udobia, on November 27, displayed as his Facebook profile picture a photo of himself with Ms Martins.
“To everyone who’s been judged without being heard; and everyone who’s been condemned when they needed help,” Mr Udobia said of the photo which captured both of them smiling happily.
Ms Martins, in the interview, explained to the journalist what happened on the day she took off her dress and walked naked on the street.
“Everything came at once – the thought of my baby being snatched from me, the thought of me being homeless, the thought of me being pregnant again. I was frustrated, I was depressed. I had a mental breakdown. I didn’t know when I took off my clothes until some people came to help me,” she said.
“I want to apologise to the public, I am sorry for what happened,” she added.
PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday, contacted a woman, Imelda Mathias, who, together with others, covered Ms Martins with a piece of cloth and took her away from the road to a safe place, when they spotted her along a major road in Uyo.
“She started crying when I asked her why she was naked,” Mrs Mathias told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mrs Mathias and about four other persons are working out a rehabilitation plan for Ms Martins which includes registering her in a hospital for antenatal care, getting her a room to stay, food and other needs until she delivers her baby.
Afterwards, she would “learn a trade” and then write an examination to enable her to get admission into university, said Mrs Mathias, an entrepreneur, who runs a hair shop in Uyo.
“We don’t give because we have, we give because we care. We don’t have plenty, the little we have we are willing to use it to help her,” she said.
Mrs Mathias and others travelled with Ms Martins from Uyo to Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area, about 27 kilometres, to meet with Ms Martins’ dad who is a farmer.
The young woman was said to have accused the dad of not taking care of her and, therefore, pushing her into the street, to which the dad responded that she was of age to either get herself a job or a husband, instead of expecting him to continually take care of her.
Ms Martins is in a stable condition for now, Mrs Mathias said.
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