A teenage girl in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, South-south Nigeria, on Wednesday gave birth to a newborn baby and quickly buried her alive.
The girl, identified as Bright, 18, apparently did not want the baby after giving birth, and had to bury her in a shallow grave she dug in a garden inside a sprawling compound in Ifa Ikot Okpon community, Uyo Local Government Area.
She lives with her parents in a rented house inside the compound.
Bright said she did not know she was pregnant until the moment she gave birth. But from what her father, Okon Ekpenyong and others, who are familiar with the incident, said, it appears she lied.
‘I saw a baby coming out of my body’
“My body was paining me. All of a sudden, I now fell down here (pointing at the garden where she buried the baby), I saw a baby coming out of my body. I started crying,” she said, sobbing.
“The baby was dead. I was unconscious. I dug a small place to keep the baby until my mother comes back, so I can show her,” she added.
“Why didn’t you take the baby inside the house, is that a place where a baby should be kept?” PREMIUM TIMES asked Bright.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she responded.
“Can you sleep there, at that place?”
“I was in shock when I gave birth,” she responded, again. “There was no one to tell me what to do.”
In the garden where the baby was buried, there was a white piece of cloth stained with blood discarded at the edge of the tiny grave. Near it, there was a leaf from a plantain tree, which Bright had used to cover the baby while inside the grave.
Two people who witnessed the incident faulted Bright’s claim that the baby was already dead before she buried it.
A co-tenant in the compound, Matthew, said the baby was still alive before Bright buried it.
“The baby was crying,” he said.
Besides, Matthew said Bright dug the grave a previous day, not on the day she gave birth.
A midwife, Elizabeth Okon, who lives in the community, corroborated Matthew’s claim that the baby was still alive before it was buried.
She said a man who is the caretaker of the compound got attracted by the baby’s cry and called to inform her (the midwife) about the incident.
Mrs Okon said, because she was among the first responders, she took the baby out of the grave, cleaned her up a bit, and hurried to the roadside to take her to the hospital.
“Keke (commercial tricycle riders) refused to collect the old naira notes, and that kept us for several hours on the road until the baby eventually died,” she said.
“I had examined the baby before then, it was still breathing,” she added.
As of 2:30 p.m., the baby’s corpse was still kept in the compound which belongs to the late village head of the community. By then, curious residents had gathered in front of the gate because of the incident.
‘Didn’t know she was pregnant’ – Girl’s father
Bright’s father, Mr Ekpenyong, disclosed that his daughter ran away from home a few days ago when he and his wife suspected she was pregnant when they wanted to take her out for a checkup.
When PREMIUM TIMES asked Bright to respond to her father’s claim, she said she went to a church to look for a midwife who could help her with the pregnancy, clearly contradicting her other claim that she was unaware she was pregnant until the very moment she gave birth.
Bright said a man named Ezekiel, who lives in the community, was responsible for the pregnancy. She said her parents had been seeing the boy whenever he visited her.
Mr Effiong said he and his wife were unaware that their daughter was pregnant until some three days ago or so.
“It was on Sunday that I suspected she was pregnant. I noticed the changes in her body. She told me and the mum that there was nothing wrong with her,” said Mr Effiong, who said he works as a labourer on a farm.
Bright’s mother was not available in the compound when our reporter visited, she was said to have gone to work.
Gynecologist, police speak about incident
An Abuja-based gynaecologist, Taiwo William, told PREMIUM TIMES it was impossible for Bright to be unaware she was pregnant.
“Of course, with the baby in her womb, her tummy would protrude. And also, the baby moves and kicks inside the womb. Other persons might not know but the person who is pregnant would know,” he said.
Mr William said Bright must have experienced some discomfort usually associated with pregnancy but may have prepared herself emotionally to endure it in order not to expose the pregnancy.
“That is the difference between someone who is carrying a pregnancy that is desired and an undesired pregnancy. The one that you desire, you want to show everybody that you are pregnant, but the one you don’t want, you don’t want people to be aware of.
“So they hide some of those things. That is why it may look as if she didn’t go through any trouble. She might, but she might have tried to cover up and pretended as if nothing happened,” the doctor said.
He advised parents to avoid being judgmental in such a situation and rather visit a qualified medical facility to seek help because of the life of their pregnant daughter.
Police spokesperson in Akwa Ibom, Odiko Macdon, said he had not yet been briefed about the incident and, therefore, would not comment on it.
“It’s a crime. Nobody has the right to bury somebody alive, even if it’s a child. That i, if it is true,” he said.