Tucked somewhere inside the expansive Shari Estate on the Iyana Ipaja – Ipaja Road in Lagos is a small wooden kiosk located around the popular Pako Bus Stop with ‘FOOD IS READY’ boldly written on it.
The three of them have had to settle for this kiosk as their abode since Tomilola was allegedly raped by her stepfather, 60-year-old Joseph Salako, and they were constrained to leave the man’s house. Since there was no money to get an accommodation, they had to make do with the abandoned kiosk.
Apart from the kiosk’s appalling exterior, the interior was decorated on both sides with dusty luggage, including an old wooden bench and a torn mat, on which they all sleep every night.
But life had not always been like this for them. In July 2015, Felicia caught her husband, Tomilola’s stepfather, moment after raping the teenager. And so, their woes began. After she raised the alarm, they were allegedly sent packing by the suspected rapist and they have been living on the street ever since.
Tomilola who is a sickle cell patient said her stepfather had formed the habit of sleeping with her at any slight opportunity and threatening her never to divulge the secret or face death. She recalled that it started one afternoon when she came back from school and went to greet her stepfather upstairs when he lured her and forced himself on her.
“My mum had told me to always go and greet him anytime I got home. So, when I came back from school, I went to greet him. I was about leaving when he called me and said he wanted to tell me something that I must not tell anyone.
He said he wanted to sleep with me. I refused but before I could run away, he carried me and took me inside. He tore my panties and ‘did it’. I was crying because it was paining me but he didn’t stop. I tried to shout but he covered my mouth. When he finished, he cleaned my legs and his ‘thing’ and warned me that he would kill me if I told anyone.”
For the fear of the perceived death, Tomilola refused to tell anyone about the incident. Even when he allegedly raped her repeatedly, the fear would not allow her talk to anyone about it, until the day he was caught.
“That was not the only time he did it. At other times, he would call me and tell me to ‘suck’ him and because I usually refused, he would slap me. Sometimes, in the midnight, he would come down from the bed and ‘do it’ with me. If I tried to shout, he would cover my mouth and ask if I was ready to die. I would have to endure the pain and just keep quiet.
The day my mum saw us was the fifth time. When my mum came in, he was already doing it but when he saw the ray of light from the torch my mum was holding, he quickly stood up and went to block her. He would always promise to buy me anything I needed. We had to leave because of the incident.”
Felicia had lost her husband in 2008 in a motor accident after which she married Salako and moved in with him together with her two children, both of whom are sickle cell patients.
Since the rape incident happened in July, Felicia and her two children, excluding the eight-year-old girl she had with the man, have had to move out of Salako’s house, to avoid the fulfilment of the threat allegedly handed down by Salako’s children, should they report the matter to the police.
Pained by what happened to her daughter, Felicia defied that threat and reported the matter at the Gowon Estate police station. Even though Salako was arrested, he was allegedly released the following day because he promised to pay N50,000 for ‘damages’, the idea Felicia said she was constrained to accept because of the threats by Salako’s children and the need to raise money to take care of the children.
Not only that, she said one of Salako’s daughters took her to the State High Court premises at Ikeja and made her swear an affidavit that she would not press charges.
“They took advantage of the fact that I am not literate,” she said.
Felicia could barely avoid breaking down in tears as she explained how fate had brought them to their present situation.
She explained that she used to have a shop in front of her (new) husband’s house where she was doing a dry-cleaning job and that after closing from the shop, usually in the night, they would all go in and sleep.
On the day of the incident, she said her little boy was asleep in the shop and because of the cold, she sent her daughter to go into their room upstairs and bring a cloth to cover the little boy, who was sick. She said she became unsettled when the girl did not return on time. She continued,
“I was waiting for her to return with the cloth so I could cover her brother, but when I didn’t see her, I took my torch and went upstairs to see why it was taking her too long. When I entered the sitting room, the other children had slept and everywhere was quiet.
So, I went towards the room and suddenly, my husband came out of the room naked and blocked the entrance with his hands. I asked him why he was blocking me but instead of answering me, he asked what I was looking for. So, I passed under his hand to see what was happening. To my greatest surprise, I found my daughter also naked on the floor. I saw my daughter’s panties close to the entrance. When I asked her what happened, she was about explaining when he slapped her and told her to keep quiet. I couldn’t hold it to myself, so I screamed and started shouting.
His other children then came out and told me not to make noise about it so I wouldn’t disgrace their father, but I couldn’t keep it to myself. I slept in the shop with the two of them that night.” After series of threats from Salako’s children, some neighbors who later learnt about the incident, advised her to make a formal report at the police station two weeks later.
“I went to report at the Gowon Estate Police Division. Because of the way the man always pestered me for sex, I used to pray that God should help me so he could reduce his demands. So when he stopped asking, I thought my prayer had been answered not knowing that he had transferred his urge to my daughter.
“I didn’t know he could do that to my child even when he is not the father. This is the man I was married to for nine years. These days, anytime I come across him or his children, they keep threatening me.”
Stuck in frustration and utter depression, Felicia has been taking care of her children with the little money she gets when she helps people to wash their clothes, which she does occasionally.
“I’m willing to work but there is none,” she said. Tomilola has also been helping in sustaining the family with the little she earns from a canteen where she washes plates.