Godfrey George tells the story of how a visually-impaired 31-year-old single mum from Benue State, Agnes Jackson, was allegedly impregnated and abandoned by her lover in Lagos and her struggle for survival.

Life, for 31-year-old Agnes Jackson, has been filled with many troubles.

Since when her parents’ marriage packed up when she was around three years old, she has had to fend for herself.

Then in her hometown in Igede, Oju Local Government Area of Benue State, where Agnes lived, she took up odd jobs to fend for herself.

She had earlier stopped schooling for lack of funds long before her parents’ marriage crashed.

According to her, the earliest memory she had of school was when she graduated from nursery school.

“I never entered primary one for one day. I stopped in nursery school. I am not even sure I attended my own graduation ceremony for nursery school. Our poverty was that bad.

“All we longed for was to eat and stay alive to eat again the next day. Schooling was out of the picture for my parents, who were mostly petty farmers.

“The English I speak now, I picked it up when I began to hustle to make ends meet,” Agnes said.

She was a live-in maid for a wealthy household for some years before she became a kitchen assistant for a popular caterer for some months.

She fetched firewood, water and assisted in serving guests during the various events her boss had.

While she did all that, she would, in the evenings, visit the households where she worked part-time as a cleaner to clear out dirty clothes, do the dishes and tend to her boss’s kids.

It was an unending cycle for her, but giving up would be an invitation to poverty so she held on with every last string of hope.

Both her father and mother remarried and she had to live with her father and his new wife.

Agnes said it was hell on earth for her. Although she said she made sure to be in the good books of her step mum, the woman, according to her, made life difficult for her.

She was already overworking herself with doing two heavily-tasking jobs. The least help she needed was a serene atmosphere for her to lay her head when she came back.

But she said that was a mission impossible.

If her parents were not fighting, her step mum was on her neck for forgetting a plate unwashed or leaving the house too early for her work.

As a teenager, Agnes was gasping for a breath of fresh air, which she thought she found in the arms of a 22-year-old boy, Andrew (surname withheld).

He showered her with love, concern and affection. She was only 17.

“Meeting Andrew was dream come true for me. I would go to his house in between jobs and we would spend time together, talk about the future and how our lives would change when we leave the village.

“He gave me everything I needed from the little he earned from the menial jobs he did. He promised to marry me and I was already envisioning a future with him. I even used to spend some nights with him. His mother knew very well that her son was with me,” she said.

Pregnant at 17

After a few months of her relationship with Andrew, she found out that she had conceived.

She said fear gripped her because she was only 17 and did not know what to tell her parents, whom she knew would beat her.

She considered abortion, but the many risks involved made the thought die instantly. She opted to tell Andrew, whom she said expressed surprise that ‘a small boy like him could get her pregnant’.

Weeks after much struggle, Andrew told Agnes it was time to make it official – they both were going to get married.

He informed Agnes’ people, who at first, were mad at him but with no option gave their daughter to him till she would give birth when they would reassess the situation.

He took Agnes to his mother and they both began to live together as husband and wife.

With every passing day, the suffering they faced grew.

Agnes could no longer do two jobs so she was stuck with just her regular part-time cleaning, but the pay was poor.

“I thought I was suffering before my pregnancy, but when I got pregnant, I knew truly that khaki no be leather. There were days I went without any food. I would drink water and eat any fruit I could find.

“Since my parents were not really happy with me, begging them for food was out of the option. As for Andrew, he became something else. He changed completely,” she said.

Agnes said she could not wait to give birth so she could go back to her work and begin to fend for herself again.

She said she and Andrew’s mum began to have issues since she lived in their family house.

If it was not for her sleeping too much, it was her waking up too early to ‘disturb the entire neighbourhood with her kitchen noise’.

Agnes said it became unbearable that she had to report to her boyfriend, who asked her to endure, adding that there was nothing they could do since they lived under the same roof with the woman.

On December 20, 2009, Agnes gave birth to a baby girl, Jessica, now 13, at a local healthcare facility in the area.

After being in labour for hours and losing all the strength she had, Agnes said it was a miracle she and her child made it alive without undergoing a Caesarean section.

Agnes said it was as if the birth of the child released more hell on her, as, according to her, Andrew’s mother’s animosity towards her became intolerable.

She also began to hear rumours that her boyfriend was cheating on her with a younger girl in the village, but she endured.

One day, Andrew’s mother had a meeting with the couple, where she told them sternly that they could not marry each other.

According to the woman, Agnes and Andrew were related. She claimed the woman said her (Agnes’) mother and her (Andrew mother’s) husband were from the same village or something of the sort.

“I still don’t understand the family tree she drew then. She just told me some cock and bull story of how we (Andrew and I) were related and could not be married.

“We had been together for nearly two years if not more and it was until I gave birth that she knew that I was not good for her son.

“She told me to carry my child and leave her house, adding that she did not want to see me close to her son again. Andrew did nothing. He was not really in support but he was only 22 and could not fight his mother, or so I was made to believe,” she said.

Jessica, her daughter, was only 10 months old when she left Andrew’s house.

Again, her suffering intensified as her father relocated to Osun State and her mum now had someone else in her life.

She was faced with a dilemma – go to Osun to live with her father and worst nightmare, her stepmum, or stay with her mother and her new partner.

“I really thought Andrew was my last bus stop because my stepmother had always been pressuring me to marry. I couldn’t go to school; there was no money to learn a trade. I now had a child whose welfare was solely dependent on what I brought to the table. It was difficult for me.

“I left that place in 2010 and to date, Andrew has not reached out to me. This year’s December would make it 14 years since I left that relationship. Neither he nor any of his family members have reached out to me or ask about their daughter. It has been me all along taking care of the girl for these years,” Agnes said, letting out soft sobs.

Moving to Lagos

Agnes said she gathered some money and visited Osun to see her father. From there, she came to Lagos in search of greener pastures. Her child was barely three years old then.

She noted that she went to a local catering school on Lagos Island and was attached to a cook, who exposed her to the trade. She said she moved from one colleague’s house to another, as she could not afford a decent place in Lagos.

With much to grapple with, Agnes quit her apprenticeship and took up cleaning. Luckily, she got a few clients on the Island.

She added cooking to it and was able to afford a ‘face-me-I-face-you’ apartment, where she lived with her daughter.

Although the pay from the jobs was meagre, Agnes said she was happy she could fend for herself, however small it might be.

“Sometimes, the people I go to clean their houses would give me tips, which I would save for rent. I also used some money to put Jessica in school. I did not go to school. My child must not suffer the same fate. It was not one of the best schools for a child but I made sure she went every morning and came to join me at my workplace when she closed,” she said.

It was while doing this job that tragedy struck.

Becoming blind

On April 7, 2016, Agnes went to one of her client’s house for regular cleaning but noticed that the house and surrounding had been fumigated. She didn’t want to come back the next day, so she simply ignored the foul smell of the chemicals and did her job.

She said she then noticed that her eyes were watery and her nose peppery, but thought medications would handle the problem.

That was the beginning of her woes.

After a few days, Agnes said she noticed there was a growth in her nose.

“I went to a hospital and was given some medication but it only made matters worse. I could no longer perceive anything anymore and I still felt something growing in my nose.

“I kept on working because I needed the money. If I stopped on account of the illness, who would take care of me?” she queried.

In February 2018, almost two years after, Agnes said she resigned from her cleaning job to investigate what the problem was.

According to her, the growth in one of her nostrils had almost blocked the entire nose, making it nearly impossible for her to smell anything. It was also uncomfortable for her to simply sit still and do nothing.

She was taking her medications and thinking of a less-hazardous job to do when on February 12 she went to sleep and woke up blind.

She said she asked people around her if there was power supply and why everywhere was dark and they told her that it was past 9am.

In confusion, she said she managed to sit on her bed, grabbed a bucket and peed in her room, as she could not go outside to see again.

That day, her neighbours took her to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, where she was told she needed a scan.

When she went to a laboratory to enquire about the cost of the test, Agnes said she was told N130,000.

“The money was too much. I was not making up to N30,000 as my income monthly. Where then was I to manufacture N130,000? I knew I was doomed.

“After a few months, a church helped me to raise and pay the money and I got the test done in Abuja. After the test, which was done at a popular private hospital in Abuja, the professionals there said I had a brain infection and that they could do the surgery for me. I was told to bring N1.9m. This was July 2018.

“I simply returned to Lagos to see how I could raise the money. All this while, it was my young daughter, who was barely 10 years old then, that was taking me everywhere, even when I needed to travel for my medical needs. She stopped schooling and became my caregiver,” she added.

After a few months of waiting, Agnes said a few of her church members told her there was a doctor at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, that could be of help. So, they gathered some money and gave it to Agnes to visit UCH.

The church was said to have deposited the sum of N400,000 into the account of the hospital for surgery to take out the growth in her nose, so at least, she could breathe well.

The surgery was done in November 2018 at UCH as she also relocated to Osun with Jessica to stay with her father.

It was from there she visited UCH every two weeks for check-ups. Because of the distance, Agnes said she told the doctors to refer her to a hospital close to her hometown in Benue. According to her, it was not comfortable for her to live in Osun.

She was referred to a medical facility in Ayangba, Kogi State, where the doctors told her that brain surgery could also be done so she could regain her sight.

“When I got to Kogi and I heard the amount they were calling, I simply told my daughter to take me back home because there was no way in this world I would be able to get the money.

“I was given a report and told to come back for the surgery soon so that the eye does not become permanently impaired, as my brain situation had worsened over time.

“My father is a farmer. There is nothing I could do. It has been five years and my eyes have been like that,” she said.


Thirteen-year-old Jessica has had to care for her mother since she became blind in 2018.

Because of the condition, her education was affected.

“My daughter, I can tell, is not happy. I have been carrying her from one place to another. We have gone from Lagos to Osun to Kogi, back to Osun and to Lagos again. The young girl has not been allowed to live her own life.

“Since I don’t work again, you can imagine how she has been managing. Even my daughter became really sick when I was in Osun State.

“She could not walk. To date, I cannot tell what happened to her. She simply woke up and her legs could no longer carry her. She had become a vegetable. I was blind and living with my father and step mum. Jessica was my eyes. Now, she also needed care,” she stated.

As the days went by, Agnes said her daughter’s legs were swollen until she was taken to a church where, according to her, she was prayed for and she got better.

On whether she took the young girl to a hospital to know what really caused the illness, Agnes said she did not because ‘I didn’t have money and I believe in God’.

Getting pregnant again

Agnes said she used to have a friend in Lagos who helped her out with “some things” then.

She called him, explained her condition and he told her to move back to Lagos, promising to take care of her.

“When I got to Lagos, he got a place for me and my daughter in 2021. When he saw me, he was sad and said he could not leave me in this kind of condition because of people who might want to ‘do evil to me,’ so he said he would stay with us.

“He claimed he was not married. He promised to marry me, so I allowed him to sleep with me until I became pregnant,” she said.

Agnes said immediately she became pregnant, the man left for more than six months; no calls, no text messages. It was just her and her daughter all alone again in a house where she could barely afford the rent.

In the seventh month, I managed to reach out to him and he said he might not be the owner of the pregnancy, which was why he left.

“I was livid. This was someone that moved me from Osun State to Lagos and we were living together. No night would pass without us sleeping together. He was the only one I knew. How then was he saying he was not sure the pregnancy was his?

“I called some of my family members who called him and asked him to take care of his responsibility. People around helped me to rent another apartment, where I stayed with my daughter till I had my baby,” she added.

In March 2022, Agnes said she gave birth to a baby, Excel.

According to her, the man was forced to take care of part of the hospital bills.

“The church paid everything else. The child is one year and three months now. My 13-year-old daughter is in primary four. I have a toddler to care for. I am blind. I don’t know how I got myself into this mess. If not that this man promised to marry me, why would I have agreed to get pregnant for him? He took advantage of me. I need help,” she said.

When our correspondent contacted the phone number of the man alleged to be responsible for the pregnancy, the line rang out.

Text messages sent to the line were not replied to as of the time of filing this report.

A human rights activist who has been on the matter for more than two years, Mrs Comfort Ray, said Agnes was a victim of circumstances.

“People have taken advantage of this young and enterprising young lady since when she was a teenager. She needs not just financial help to get her surgery done but also rehabilitation to make sure she is more equipped to face life and love,” she said.

Stance of the law

Rejection is one common factor in the lives of many women, especially during their days of unplanned pregnancy. There are often high cases of school-age girls being expelled and dropped out of school or being rejected by their parents because they are pregnant. Many African parents will reject and even abandon their children, who became pregnant while at school and without a husband.

Most boys and men often deny, reject or abandon their pregnant girlfriends and fiancees where there is an unplanned pregnancy.

In Lagos State, for instance, there is a law that makes the abandonment of pregnant women a crime. Abandonment, here, covers failure to pay maternity bills. It is important to add that marriage is immaterial to this discussion.

It is an offence in the state for any person that impregnated a woman or girl to fail, refuse or neglect “…to contribute to maternity-related costs from antenatal to postnatal stages…”.

So, abandonment does not just cover physical but extends to refusal to provide needed maternity care and finance for a pregnant woman/girl and her baby, during and after pregnancy.

A human rights lawyer, Selena Onuoha, on her part, said maternity-related cost, in this case, includes ‘all medical expenses, food expenses, reasonable shelter and other necessaries’.

However, she noted, the provision of maternity care is determined according to the ‘…means and resource available…’ to the person that impregnated the woman or girl. This is a means to strike a balance.

Like an offence, there is a punishment for any person that abandons a pregnant woman or girl and fails or refuses or neglects to ‘…contribute to maternity costs from antenatal to postnatal stages’. The punishment is a fine of N45,000 plus the cost ‘ that any other person may have reasonably incurred in relation to the upkeep of the (pregnant) woman or girl.

Unwanted pregnancies

In Nigeria, the unintended pregnancy rate stayed about the same between 1990 to 1994 and 2015 to 2019, according to data from Guttmacher Institute, a global health statistics platform.

During the same period, the abortion rate increased by 39 per cent. The share of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion rose from 35 per cent to 48 per cent.

From the data obtained between 2015 and 2019, there were a total of 10,500,000 pregnancies annually.

Of these, 2,990,000 pregnancies were unintended and 1,430,000 ended in abortion. Abortion in Nigeria is legal only to save a pregnant person’s life.

In 2021, due to what they described as unmet needs of contraceptives in Nigeria, health experts have said Nigeria annually records about 2.5 million cases of unintended pregnancy.

An obstetrician and gynaecologist at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, Christopher Aimakhu, and a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Abubakar Panti, gave the startling statistics about family planning in Nigeria in a health seminar in 2021.

The event was organised by the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health Nigeria in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, and the German Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development.

The United Nations Population Fund at an event to mark the 2023 World Population Day, organised by the National Population Commission, in Abuja, noted that over 700,000 unintended pregnancies, which would further lead to 300,000 unplanned births and 300,000 unsafe abortions may be recorded at the end of 2023 if left unchecked.

Further speaking, Onuoha said the young lady should report the matter to the Gender Unit of the police and get a lawyer.

“The truth of the matter is that she needs to get a lawyer. That will be after she has involved the police who would commandeer the young man to take care of his responsibility.

“If he says the pregnancy is not his,  he has to prove it. DNA can be arranged between both parties, but before all that is done, the infant has to be taken good care of. The government and well-meaning Nigerians have to come into this matter and make sure that this lady is given a better life. She has suffered many woes,” she added.


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