By Archibong Jeremiah
When CrossRiverWatch, over two months ago visited the camp for the displaced people of Bakassi from Efut Obot Ikot camping at St. Mark primary and secondary school, Akwa Ikot Eyo Edem, Akpabuyo (camp 2) to assess the state of the camp, a very interesting twist was discovered at the camp.
A bereaved father in the camp, Mr. Edet Ene who gave his daughter, Mary Ene Edet, age 13 out as collateral for a loan of N600, 000 he collected in 2013 to foot the medical bills of his late daughter, Blessing Ene Edet, age 15, who was diagnosed of blood cancer months before coming to the camp, cried for help to recover his daughter from the slavery she is been put through in his creditor’s home.
Two months after, CrossRiverWatch investigates more details of the ‘transaction’. Where Mary does Mary live? Who are the creditors? How is Mary faring in his home? What effort has been made to pay the debt and get her back to her family?
CrossRiverWatch in company of the camp leader, Mr. Etim Ene Okon and Mary’s father, Mr. Edet Ene went to the residence of Mr. Effiom Asuquo, the creditor who stays at No. 6 Orok Effiom street by Atimbo road, Calabar Municipality to hear his own side of the story and know how Mary is faring.
Mr. Effiom who is a building contractor with Calabar Urban Development Agency, CUDA told our reporter that he neither knew the family of late Blessing nor the camp leader but helped them through his friend and former neighbor, Mr. Ufot Daniel who stays close to the camp.
He added that when Mr. Edet came to him in desperation to get a loan, he knew from the onset that it was a loan that will be paid back but there was no fixed time for the repayment.
“Anybody in need I always help if I can, I pitied the girl very well that is why I gave the loan, all my family savings both from my business and that of the my wife is what I loaned to him, now business and everything is bad we need the money because that was our last hope, because of how bad things became we had to pack from our three bedroom apartment into one bedroom, imagine!”, the creditor, Asuquo lamented.
He disclosed that the loan was collected in installments until it summed up to be six hundred thousand naira, “The money was not given once, and because the money was not paid and Blessing died I asked Mary to be brought as collateral to help us in the house until the money will be paid.
“She has been here for one year plus, she does not go to school, she helps my wife in hawking oil at times garri or pure water (sachet water) at Etim Edem park area, my children are also out of school because of lack of money. Mary is not a bad child, she is honest and not disobedient we need help”.
Mr. Asuquo’s wife when asked told CrossRiverWatch that Mary as well as other children in the house eat once a day because that is what they can afford, although Mary some time ago had told our reporter that she is not happy where she is because her family is far.
She also lamented that it is depressing to know that her hope and future lies on her father’s ability to refund six hundred thousand Naira that no one knows when it will be repaid.
Her father, Mr. Edet Ene on his part said he is doing all he can to see that he gets his daughter back but cannot raise six hundred thousand naira because he has no job.
He said the conditional cash transfer promised by the state government, which was the only hope of getting monthly stipend of five thousand naira for him and others in the camp has not been coming,
Mr. Edet told CrossRiverWatch that he survives with his family at the camp through menial jobs and appealed to the state government and other good spirited individuals to come to his aid as the burden is choking him day by day.
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