Five months after she was interviewed, her on a sick bed in her dilapidated residence, the mother of Clement Stephen, a Nigerian soldier now serving life sentence, looked slightly less melancholy. The holes in her shoulders and cheeks seemed to have filled up and she could now talk without breaking into tears. Although her memory intermittently failed her, and she would call her late husband’s name instead of her sons, she however looked steadier than she was five months ago.
Clement was initially sentenced to death alongside 53 other soldiers by a nine-member military court martial headed by Brigadier-General, C.C. Okonkwo, in 2014. The court martial found the soldiers guilty of insubordination and attempted murder of their erstwhile General Officer Commanding 7 Division, Major General Ahmed Mohammed, after allegedly shooting at an official vehicle conveying the GOC. But the soldiers were later committed to the Kirikiri Maximum Prison after the death sentence was converted to life sentence.
But Mrs. Stephen seemed to have adjusted to her tragedy in the face of more immediate and life-threatening challenges. Daily living has become a torture for her and her children as there is no one to take care of her responsibilities in the absence of a husband and the only bread-winner son.
The two daughters, Esther and Paulina, staying with her are both physically challenged. Esther, who is the elderly one, lost her sight a few months after the arrest and detention of Corporal Clement who used to fund her eye treatment. The right leg of Paulina, the younger one, is crippled due to a childhood illness. The family now depend on the goodwill of neighbors and some distant family members.
The small house they live in is now dilapidated and every time it rained the rooms are flooded.
Rainwater had opened up sizable holes in the bottom of the walls through which water floods the rooms. On two occasions, they had killed snakes washed into the house by flood.
Whenever there’s rainstorm, they must rush outside and hold the edges of the roof to prevent it being blown away. The heavy logs of wood placed on it to stop the wind from blowing it can no longer do the job. The zinc had rusted and many of the sheets had come off their hooks.
Their only source of drinking water is a well which is no longer useful. A neighbor had built a latrine less than 8 metres away despite protest. The family is in search of N30,000 to build another well.
The family planned to start a small grains business but could not raise N7,500 to register at a micro finance bank to be eligible for a loan.
“We are suffering because my Clement is not around to take care of me. Please tell Buhari to help me release him; I am dying gradually. How can we continue to live like this? Look at my daughters, they can’t do anything. Why should they take Clement from me?” she queried.
Her son and the other soldiers sentenced by the court martial were protesting the deaths of their colleagues killed at the battlefront by Boko Haram insurgents.
They were said to have refused orders from their superiors to return to the battlefront. The soldiers lamented how the insurgents were better equipped than them and that they were often sent into battle without adequate supplies of ammunition.
Clement’s father had developed hypertension and eventually died from the condition shortly after his son was committed to prison. He died as a retired corporal in the military. His family currently resides in a small house in Jigwada village, Keffi, Nasarawa State, where he had resettled them before his death.
Mr Stephen’s 66-year-old widow is however still hopeful that her son would someday regain his freedom from prison so he can return to assisting them with the things they can no longer do for themselves.
The elderly woman lamented how feeding has become a problem for them since Clement’s imprisonment and how they’ve had to rely on assistance from good Samaritans to feed. She had eventually developed ulcer along with other health challenges such as typhoid, malaria and cataract.
Mrs Stephen told our correspondent how she could no longer see properly with her right eye due to the eye condition. The eye could be seen discharging fluid as she continually used her wrapper to clean it. She was advised to undergo a surgery for the cataract to prevent her from completely loosing that eye. She noted that the eye condition had complicated her inability to do any business.
In view of her problems, to save this family, we are appealing to well-meaning individuals and organizations to come to their aid. The family needs a decent accommodation, medical care, and means of livelihood if they are to live normal life.
Their dingy residence is located before an Assemblies of God Church signpost and before the Nasarawa State Government Primary Healthcare Clinic in Jigwada village, Keffi, Local Government Area, Nasarawa State.
Mama has no bank account, but below are details of her grandson’s account number but she could be reached on phone.
ACCOUNT NAME: STEVEN JOSIAH
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 0036230810
BANK: ACCESS ( DIAMOND) BANK
PHONE NUMBERS: 08140039341, 08143768443