Many people were shocked yesterday that two children starved to death on Tuesday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The discovery followed an unscheduled visit by the state police command to Celestial Street in Agbowo.
The street is densely populated with sparse lines of demarcation, typical of similar densely populated city neighbourhoods. The area is close to the nation’s premier university, the University of Ibadan (UI).
Despite the area’s proximity to affluent neighbourhoods, the children could not get help, according to their host.
When the police convoy arrived in the area, surprise was written on the faces of residents and passersby. Many followed their vehicles to find out if a heavy crime had been committed in the area.
But they soon discovered that Amarachi Ukoha, 16, and Munachi Madagu, three, died because the breadwinner of the family, Mr Kunle Ayoola, could not feed them.
He also failed to provide the medical treatment for them because he had no money to take hem to the hospital.
Ayoola, 20, said he could not help the children because of his poor income, adding that those who could help were also unavailable.
He is married to Chinonye, also 20. They have an 18-month old baby. Chinonye had Munachi for her first husband and brought him to her new home. Her younger sister, Amarachi, 16, came to live with them.
She was said to have died of hunger, which was compounded by diarrhoea when the family was preparing to bury Munachi.
Both died in an eight-room bungalow. They were thought to have been struck by a strange illness that caused their death. But Ayoola confessed that death visited them because he could not feed them. Munachi’s photo showed that he was malnourished.
Ayoola said: “I think they died as a result of poor medical care. I tried my best to save them but there was no money. The only people that could help were not at home when I visited them.”
The family man gathers metals from dustbins and dump sites and sells them at Ogunpa Market in Ibadan. But the income, according to him, is so small that he could not afford to feed his family well.
He said he earned about N500 whenever business was good. But that was a far cry from meeting the basic needs of his six-member family, which includes his maternal grandmother.
Ayoola said: “I sell scraps at Ogunpa Market. I make between N500 and N1,000 daily when business is good. I did not learn any work before starting the scrap business. I dropped out of school in Primary Six because there was no money.”
The scraps seller said he was making efforts to bury Munachi when he approached the priest of a church opposite the house for advice. But the man advised him not to bury the boy because he was not his father. He took him to the police station to report the death.
But before the police arrived the house, Amarachi had also passed on, complicating the case for Ayoola. The deaths were reported to Police Commissioner Muhammed Katsina later in the day.
The priest, Most Superior Evangelist Tosin Otakoya, said: “On Tuesday, one boy called Kunle Ayoola, who is living in front of my church, came to me and said one of his babies had died. I asked if the baby truly belonged to him and he said no. I told him he had no right to bury the baby unless his dad authorised him to do so. When we tried to get the baby’s father on phone and the number was not going, I told him to go to police station and report himself because he could not keep the body in his house.
“I said it was not ideal for him to bury a boy that he did not father. On getting to the station, I met with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and explained the situation to her. She volunteered to go to the house with me. When we got to the house, we met another 16-year-old lady, who was already dead, on the floor. It was strange to us.
“So, she contacted the Area Commander and the police commissioner to come to our rescue. The Area Commander came and evacuated the two bodies to the mortuary. I noticed these people died of poverty. They had nothing to eat or money to take care of themselves. The lady and that baby were sick and there was no care before they died.”