Living in a house with a total stranger, the one you know nothing about his or her background as a domestic servant, can be a dangerous bargain. It can also end in fatality and heart-rending stories.
While some were lucky, others have had sad tales to tell. Domestic servants, especially those living with their employers, can be a threat to employers who live alone. Some unfortunate employers have been either killed or injured by their domestic servants Some weeks ago, two domestic servants from Benin Republic allegedly poisoned their employers in order to rob him.
In Lagos, an elderly man was strangled to death by his driver, who made away with some dollars sent by the employer’s children from the United States. Till now, the driver is yet to be apprehended.
A housemaid was arrested along with an accomplice for allegedly killing her boss, a restauranteur, who lived alone. She reportedly killed the woman in her house and threw her remains into a nearby well with a generator. She also gave neighbours the impression that her victim had travelled out of town. In January 2015, a 20-year-old domestic servant, Akan Solomon, was arrested in Lagos for conniving with robbers to steal his master’s car.
A civil servant in Abuja, Mrs. Kike Anibaba, also, was robbed by a teenage girl, who was introduced to her by a gardener who claimed the help was his close relative. Reacting to the recent case involving Freedom Maddy, a house help, who stole the jewellery of her boss in collaboration with some unscrupulous elements, security expert, Prof. Femi Adegbulu, said that hiring questionable characters as house helps is extremely dangerous.
He noted that the compelling need for households to hire domestic servants has provided many unscrupulous elements with the opportunity to harm their employers.
A banker, Toriola Ajimobi, recently narrated that despite the fair treatment she showed her housemaid, the servant still went ahead to steal her clothes and money within a few months of getting employed. Also, Mr. Yusuf Hassan, a trader, alleged that his house help, in spite of his generosity to her, once attempted to kidnap one of his children.
When she was arrested, she claimed that she was “manipulated by the devil to commit the crime.’’
But the Secretary-General, Federation of Informal Workers Organisations of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, said the despicable activities of some domestic servants could be as a result of their ill-treatment by employers. He lamented the criminal acts of some domestic servants such as robbery or kidnapping, stressing that their ill-treatment should not be an excuse to commit crime.
He attributed the rising wave of misdemeanour among domestic servants to the faulty method of recruiting house helps without due regard for specific guidelines. Speaking on the theme: ‘Domestic Servants and Marriages,’ recently, Senior Pastor of the Fountain of Life Church, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, urged employers to shun ill-treatment of their employees.
He said that they should instead show them the love that Christ preached, saying that the fact that they are from disadvantaged homes means they require rehabilitation from their masters to help them build their homes. “If you can’t improve the life of the servants under your care, don’t make it worse by impregnating them. They deserve good treatment like your biological children,” he stated. Meanwhile, the available records on human trafficking indicate that more than 60 per cent of domestic servants in the South-West are recruited from Togo or Benin Republic.
A growing concern is on putting measures in place to forestall a situation whereby domestic servants constitute major security threats to the households where they work.
On a global scene, a recent report of the International Labour Organisation indicates that not less than 52 million people across the world are domestic workers, while only 10 per cent of them are actually protected by extant labour laws.
The report also states that in 2012, 72 per cent of the population of countries in Sub- Saharan Africa is engaged in vulnerable employment, which includes domestic service, mostly undertaken by minors and women. In major Nigerian cities, especially Lagos and Abuja, the demand for domestic servants such as house maids, cooks and security guards is quite high because of the long hours of work which keep most couples out late.
Hence, hiring strangers becomes pertinent. The Lagos Zonal Commander of the National Agency for Prosecution of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters, Mr. Joseph Famakin, who said it is most dangerous to live alone in a house with strangers as house helps, especially non- Nigerians, who do not have international passports, advised the public to register their domestic servants with the agency and police.
Famakin said it is wrong to engage minors as domestic servants, noting that the registration of domestic workers will reduce the incidence of crime in homes and make it easier for the authorities to apprehend child traffickers.
In the same vein, the Coordinator of Live-Well Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, Mrs. Bisi Bright, underscored the need for the government to intervene in the situation. She urged government to put in place a system where only registered employment agents would be involved in the domestic servants’ recruitment business in collaboration with NAPTIP and the police. She opined that the system would also provide a channel for house helps to lodge complaints about their employers whenever the need arises.
If you can’t improve the life of the servants under your care, don’t make it worse by impregnating them. They deserve good treatment like your biological children Former Director of State Security Service and Managing Director, Sovereign Guards Ltd, a private security outfit based in Lekki, Lagos, Dr. Joe Obuse, advised the public to always verify the identities of prospective domestic staff.
A Criminal Psychologist at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Dr. Elochukwu Jonas, said staying alone, especially without close neighbours, leaves the person open to a number of risks. “When someone lives alone, he becomes vulnerable. He or she can easily be killed by anybody because nobody would be there to say what happened.
Again, such a person, if depressed, could commit suicide because nobody can talk to him or stop him in such times. For instance, a young girl who committed suicide after being raped by armed robbers did that because nobody was with her. Women who live alone are easily targeted for rape and robbery.
“When criminals discover that people live alone, they might go there. That is why you hear a number of rape cases on campuses where female students live in isolated areas. Sometimes, they might not live alone but the fact that about three of them are living in a room far away from others is enough for them to be targeted. “Robbery and criminal acts come from uncontrolled thoughts.
A man beat his wife to death in an estate and nobody got a clue about that. According to the report, they were always fighting and because they lived in an isolated area, nobody could intervene.
The woman had once run away from the house, telling the man to relocate before she could come back. The man convinced her that he had changed but the fight repeated again which led to her death.
“Now, when you have a domestic servant with a criminal mind, what do you expect? You can imagine you leaving your father with an unknown house help and your househelp is aware that you load your father with money. The money will tempt him to do evil. If there is no other person there, he can do anything.
By and large, it is dangerous living with a stranger in the house, especially when he has a questionable character. Your life is at stake,” he said. A domestic employee, Josephine Akpan, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph, said she had never stolen from her employers and would never do such a thing. She, however, appealed to employers of domestic servants to see them as children of other women who deserve good lives, saying that “most of employers are more evil than their servants and, therefore, deserve whatever they get.”
However, the Deputy Spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Mrs. Patricia Amadin, urged the employers of domestic servants to ascertain the backgrounds and credibility of persons they want to employ. She stated that while some househelps are of good behaviour, records had shown that most of them aid and abetted criminals such as robbers and kidnappers.