A 20 -year old housewife, Caroline Barka, who was arrested for allegedly stabbing her husband to death in Adamawa State tells HINDI LIVINUS that she is a victim of domestic violence and spousal deprivation which forced her into doing menial jobs for N1,000
How did you meet with your deceased husband?
My name is Caroline Barka. I am 20 years old and a mother of one. I met my late husband when I was still a pupil in a secondary school at Deywanga, in the Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State. He was a mason. His aunt lived in our compound, so he usually visited her. It was the aunt who first introduced him to me and suggested he take me as his wife. I was 17 years old at that time. Shortly after she introduced us, he got a building job in Jos, Plateau State, where he stayed for a year. It was after he returned that his aunt told him to marry me as his wife.
Did your parents approve of the marriage?
My parents did not approve of the marriage. They said he was a drunkard and that it would be dangerous to marry an individual like him. But I refused to heed their advice. I said I would marry him because he loved me and I loved him too. I couldn’t see myself living without him. I told myself I would live with him be it in lack or abundance. This was despite my parents’ opposition to the marriage. So, I went ahead and got married to him. It was after we got married that it dawned on me what my parents said to me. They also told me that he would not take care of me but I refused to listen, saying I would leave everything in God’s hands.
After the marriage what did you experience?
The first year was pleasant. But after that, it was a living hell. Every day after our first anniversary was marred by fighting until the day he died. I didn’t have joy, not even for a single day.
Can you explain the circumstances that resulted in stabbing your husband?
Before the stabbing incident that led to my husband’s death, we usually got food coupons which we use to collect food items given to returnee internally displaced persons. We usually get food assistance with the coupons, but my husband used to collect the food with the coupons and refused to bring the food items home for our use. He started indulging in selling the items and spent the proceeds on drinking of alcohol. This usually got us into a fight every time I challenged him over his actions. In his defence, he used to say my name was not on the food stamp. I couldn’t challenge him based on his argument. So, I ignored him. For my survival and that of my baby, who I was breastfeeding, I had to take up menial jobs because there was no food in the home. I usually go to any construction site to work as a labourer and get paid N1,000 for a day’s work. In Madaali, female labourers are usually paid N1,000 and I used the money to buy grains for our sustenance.
But I don’t know how the information that I had taken up menial jobs as a labourer got to his aunt who became furious with me and informed my husband. I guess she spoke to him because he was also angry and he refused to eat the food I cooked with the grains. Later, his aunty also called me and spoke to me, asking me not to ever go out again to do hard labour. So on that fateful day, he came back home heavily drunk and started insulting me. His actions had been that way for over two weeks; each time he returned home drunk, he refused to eat my food. He only played with his daughter and went to bed.
Did he later tell you why he refused to eat the food you prepared?
I don’t know the reason for his refusal. But for me, they (menial jobs) were the only way I could support myself and my child since there was nothing at home to eat and I didn’t want to starve. Also, I did it because my husband used to leave us hungry by his decision to sell the food items we received and used the money to take alcohol. We started receiving food stamps this year, in March, as IDPs displaced from the border between Borno and Adamawa states, and the food ration will end in September. The authorities included us on the food ration after our complaints that we had been displaced from our home along the border between Borno and Adamawa States. And it was this food assistance that he diverted and sold, causing us to go hungry, and forcing me to do menial jobs to survive.
Tell us what happened afterwards.
That Thursday, our baby took ill, so I asked him for money to take the child to the hospital but he refused to give me the money. But after his aunt, spoke to him, he brought out N1,000 and gave it to me. I took the baby to the clinic and spent N3,000 for her medication and had to source the balance elsewhere. On Friday, the day the incident happened, I told him to give me some money for seasoning cubes as there were none in the house and I could not eat the food I wanted to cook without seasoning it. But instead, he started insulting me. I told him I was going to my mother’s place to get money which I would use to buy the seasoning cubes, but he said I could go because I had ceased to be his wife since he told me to stop doing menial jobs as a labourer and I refused. He said, if it weren’t for the refusal of his aunt, he would have since sent me away from the house, adding that I should be grateful to his aunt, who was behind the union, for her objecting to his action. I eventually went to my mother’s place and she gave me several items, including seasoning cubes, fish and other household necessities, which I took home along with the N500 she gave to me that Friday.
Did he eat the food?
When I cooked that evening, he refused to eat, thinking it was the grains I bought with proceeds from my menial work. But I informed him that the grain I used for the meal was brought from his family house and pleaded with him to eat. When he went out and returned that afternoon, he ate the food. Thereafter, he left for his usual outings and returned at some minutes past 9pm. While trying to open the door and enter the apartment, he fell on our sick baby, who was running temperature; this made me angry because he was drunk. So, I insulted him; I called him a useless man because he could have killed the sick baby under the influence of alcohol. He then warned me against insulting him, saying if it weren’t for his aunt, I wouldn’t be in his house. He dared me to insult him again, threatening that he would teach me a lesson. I questioned his decision to stay out late beyond the curfew time of 7pm in Madagali. Before I could say another word, he took a stick he used for his vigilance work to hit me on the back and the stick also fell from his hands. He had a knife which he used as a vigilante but he left it on the table. He immediately reached for it and started to use it to inflict cuts all over my body. I was carrying the baby at that point, so I dropped her and wrestled the knife from him. I wanted him to also feel the pain he inflicted on me, so I stabbed him with the knife around his rib cage. In the ensuing struggle to dispossess me of the knife, we fell and the knife pierced him a second time.
Did you call for help when he attacked you with the knife?
Before he started inflicting the knife cuts on me when he held me by the neck, I screamed but no help came, even though his house was next to that of his elder brother who all claimed they didn’t hear my screams that night because they were all asleep.
Did he die on the spot after the stabbing?
No, he didn’t die immediately. He died on the way to the hospital because he lost so much blood. I was outside on the veranda weeping and wailing because all the neighbours were outside by then and there was blood everywhere. People helped him onto the back of a tricycle called ‘Jega’ for conveying farm produce and he was rushed to the hospital accompanied by his uncle. I learnt they did not reach the hospital before he gave up the ghost. They were unaware he had died, it was in the hospital that they were informed.
What came to your mind when you realised that he was dead?
I regretted the whole incident. I wished I had allowed him to do whatever he wanted to do with me. I would have wished he remained in the world while I was the one who died. If I knew his stabbing could lead to his death I wouldn’t have done it. I just wanted him to feel the same pain he was inflicting on me with the knife. I really regret my actions.
How did his relatives react when they learnt about his death?
Before he was pronounced dead, they entered the house and saw blood everywhere, there was blood all over my body and his. All the neighbours who came, including my husband’s relatives, sought to know what transpired. I told them I had been shouting for help, that when he came and got hold of my neck I screamed but nobody came to my rescue. I said had anyone shown up, the tragedy could have been averted. When they wanted to blame me for taking his life, I told his brother, who was screaming at me for killing his brother, that I didn’t deliberately kill my husband. I said it wasn’t at all my wish, and that I was trying to rescue the baby and also stop him from inflicting further wounds on me with the knife when the incident occurred.
What was their response?
They never said a word after what I told them. I have regrets because I didn’t heed the advice of my parents. The last incident wasn’t the first time I had been attacked with a knife; that incident made it the second time he attacked me with that knife anytime he was angry after drinking alcohol. There were times he also threatened to kill me with his gun; it is the neighbours that often came to my rescue and retrieved the gun from him. After such altercations, my mother used to ask that I separate from him and saying it was safer for me than living in an abusive relationship. But I refused to listen to her counsel. I told her I didn’t want to leave my husband’s house and be re-married after a divorce. It has been a traumatic experience for me, the emotional torture I faced at the police station in Gulak in the public glare makes me regret not listening to my mother. I wish I had been separated from him.
Did you mean you suffered domestic violence from the beginning of the marriage?
No, I said we only spent one year that was free of any violence. We were married for two years. However, the abuse started after the first year up until this incident which claimed my husband’s life. The last year has been a strife because it’s not like he didn’t get money but he chose to enjoy his earnings all alone. He didn’t care; he spent his money on alcohol. Since he married me, he never bought any clothes for me. He also didn’t meet my needs when they arose. What led to me stabbing him, which was not deliberate on my part, were the wounds he inflicted on me. It wasn’t because he wasn’t looking after our welfare; that was not the concern at that time. It was his use of the knife on me that resulted in the stabbing.
I want to call on young girls like me to never discard the advice of their parents. I ignored my parents’ advice; now, see what has befallen me. I believe if I had hearkened to the advice of my parents and not followed my emotions to take control of me, the violation I faced and the tragedy would not have happened.