Even before Idowu Owohunwa, the Lagos Commissioner of Police’s, warning to Lagosians to undertake proper vetting of their domestic servants, there had been serious concerns about the insidiously wicked activities of domestic servants, as many had been reported to have conspired with outsiders to rob, killed and done wicked things to their house owners and bosses.
The rising cases of this phenomenon, especially in Lagos State underscored the concern raised by Owohunwa, as part of security to safe guard homes of Lagosians. Two weeks ago, he advised intending employers to carry out a thorough background check before employing unknown persons as domestic aides.
Speaking in the wake of a recent parade of some suspects in Lagos, he hinted that it was necessary to carry out a complete investigation of prospective employees to prevent harm and crime in the home. This, he said had become necessary in view of the upsurge in crimes associated with domestic servants.
One case that readily comes to mind was that of Joseph Ogbu, who was sentenced to death on 27 March,. 2023 by a Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, for killing his employer, Oreoluwa John, 38 and her mother, Adejoke, 89.
Ogbu reportedly stabbed Oreoluwa to death with a sharp object and strangled her mother to death two days after he was employed.
According to police report, Ogbu robbed them of a Toyota Camry Saloon car, an LG plasma TV, a Motorway handset, one Gionee handset, one Nokia phone, one i-Tel Phone, and a power bank but luck ran out of him as he was arrested by police on patrol while trying to escape.
In related case, on 18 March, a driver murdered his employer, an ex-Permanent Secretary with the Ogun State Government, Femi Egbeoluwa and his wife, Funmi, at their residence in Ikeja, Lagos.
Preliminary investigation into the crime established that the criminal made away with the sum of £5,000 (N2.8 million) meant for late Mr. Egbeoluwa’s medical expenses abroad.
Another case was reported in Awka sometimes in July this year. A domestic servant allegedly killed his employer with a pestle in Awka, Anambra State capital. The deceased, Chima Anolue, a lecturer at the Psychology Department at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, was attacked with the pestle when a fight ensued between him and the domestic servant. It was gathered that the incident happened on Friday night, July 14, 2023, at Ifite village in Awka.
Recall also that in August this year the police in Lagos arrested a driver, who stole his madam’s vehicle a few weeks after employment and sold it. The police were able to trace and arrested him only to discover that he was a major armed robber and an English pistol was recovered from him in his room, where he stayed with his madam.
In the same August, the police arrested a “maiguard” (someone, who guards the gate and building), who also stole his principal’s Mercedes Benz, took it to Owode, Ogun and sold it. The police later traced him, arrested him and recovered the vehicle.
Owohunwa said: “This is a pointer that there is need to undertake full vetting of the personal aides we engage. The closer they get to you, the more they know your secret and routine, the more vulnerable you become.”
According to him, the police can help in the investigation.If you are unsure, we always encourage citizens to partner with the police. we can assist in the vetting process,” he said.
In the same vein, a security expert, Adebayo Daniel of Premierguard Security Ltd, said that there was a need for serious profiling to know the background of the person to hire as that would save employers a lot of trouble.
“Do not rush into hiring a helper, there is need to verify if the person who he or she really claimed to be, and the check should also reveal whether the person has records of criminal offences or had been jailed,” he said.
According to him, some helpers have no motive of working but only came into the house with an intention to steal or kill, some even molest or assault the children in their care.
Dr. Fred Funsho, a psychologist told Business Hallmark that “the criminal mind is complex and very good at processing data and information. What I will advise is that any issues relating to members of the family, their movements, cash transactions and all that should never be discussed in the presence of housekeepers, as such information could be used to rob or harm them.”
He said that security gadgets such as Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) could be installed to monitor the activities of servants, adding that footage from such cameras had exposed many, who did unimaginable and irrational things.
Society keeps evolving, and has become a global village. A lot of the attitudes of Western society have permeated the life of the Nigerian middle and upper classes, according to Funsho. He noted that in recent years, most Nigerian upper and middle class families have resorted to engaging domestic servants to help them take care of things at home.
“I can tell you that the engagement of these domestic servants are done without any background checks on them. Often times, they are hired through agents, who more often than not, collude with these servants to kill their bosses with the intention to take their belongings.
“Funny enough, some employers hire domestic servants online, which is even more dangerous, as some of these online companies do not even know much about the applicants on their platforms and can’t vouch for them.
“Another source of concern is the fact that most of the domestic servants in highbrow areas across the country, are not even Nigerians, which makes it more difficult to track them when incident of murder or stealing occurs.
Even before the current upsurge in crimes associated with domestic servants, there were cases in the last one decade that have presaged the current wave.
Recall that on May 21, 2019, the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, sentenced a Cameroonian maid, Leudjoe Koyemen Joel, to death for murdering her Nigerian employer, Mrs. Dayo Adeleke.
Also in May 2019, two security guards, Ayuba Idris and Tasiu Abubakar, were arrested in Kano and Sokoto States respectively for killing their boss, Mr. Richard Kwakye and his daughter, Tope, a young graduate waiting to be mobilized for the compulsory one-year national service, in Ondo State.
Both men according to the police, blamed the stimulus behind their actions on Tramadol and excess intake of Indian hemp.
Recall that on February 19, officers of the Lagos State Police Command arrested a house help, Noah Matthew, for allegedly killing his employer, Mrs. Caroline Uba, 40, with a knife in the Ajah area of the state. Uba was reportedly stabbed in the heat of an argument that ensued between them.
Police report said the suspect after the gruesome murder carted away some valuables in his employer’s house, loaded them into her car and ran off from the scene of the crime. However, nemesis caught up with him when he was accosted by policemen on patrol duty, who suspected his moves, arrested and detained him.
The case of the murders of the Fatinoyes is still fresh in the minds of Lagosians. Lekan Adekanbi, the driver of a former employee of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kehinde Fatinoye, confessed on February 10 to killing the Fatinoyes.
Fatinoye, his wife, Bukola, a former staff of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, and their only son, were murdered on New Year Day, (December 31, 2022) because, according to him, “the couple refused to increase his salary, and grant his loan request to buy a motorcycle.”
Kehinde and Bukola Fatinoye were killed in the most gruesome manner at their apartment at the GRA Abeokuta, Ogun State, on New Year Day, immediately after they returned from the crossover service. The murderers also set their bodies ablaze to cover their crime.
Adekanbi, aka Koroba, who had been the couple’s driver since 2018, made the confession after his arrest and his two accomplices – Ahmed Odetola, aka Akamo and Waheed Adeniji aka Koffi, confessed to the operatives of the state police command that he invited the other two suspects to join him to rob his boss.
Also, in December 2022, the CEO of Empire’s Villa Hotel, Lagos, Gbenga Adeshina, was murdered in his Magodo home allegedly by his Togolese cook, Bridget Bafor. According to the police, Bafor saw the absence of Adeshina’s family as an opportunity to carry out her evil plan. She broke into his bedroom and allegedly stabbed him to death with a knife, and made away with his jewellery and other items.
Similarly, at 11.50pm in October 2022, Mrs. Amarachi Wellington was murdered in cold blood with a knife by her Ghanaian home help, Abena Akosua , at her Bell Estate, Ikeja, Lagos, home. On the morning of that tragic day, Akosua reportedly requested a two-week leave, instead of the official one-week leave, but his request was not granted.
He was said to have made the request a second time later when his boss returned from work in the evening. As he was turned down again, the furious Akosua grabbed a knife and stabbed Wellington in the stomach, which resulted in her death.
The recent death of one Obialo Ibe, an Abuja-based radiologist, and his yet-to-be-identified friend, in his residence in the Games Village area of the federal capital territory was another eye opener.
Although the true nature of their death was yet to be ascertained pending the outcome of a police investigation, Adanna, the younger sister of late Ibe, alleged that the domestic staff killed her brother and his friend on the day they were scheduled to travel to the United States.
Many households have complained about their experiences with bad house helps. CCTV footages have revealed how domestic staff molest, assault, and inflict excruciating pains on the children left in their care.
But Mrs.Adedoyin Adebo, a retired director told Business Hallmark that it’s not all of them that are bad.
“We had one until she retired last year upon clocking 65. She is older than my husband and I. Her name is Rukayyat, and she stayed with us for 20 years, very nice and caring, truthful and reliable. She was like a mother to our children, as she raised all of them – three altogether. Though we paid her back in kind for her good nature by sponsoring the education of her son, Ahmed at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The son is now working.”
There are other cases where house helps have become part of the households where they are working, but the rising cases of bad eggs in their midst have become a source of worry to many Nigerians.
Dr. Funsho noted that “Whether it is a cook who prepares the meals or driver who takes the children to school or a cleaner who has access to your bedroom, the entire household is at their mercy. It’s a tough call, more like a Catch-22 situation.
“You’re not even sure who your security guard is hobnobbing with in the neighbourhood and beyond but woe betide you if the guard is a fake whistleblower, spreading falsehood about your family. Get rid of the guard as soon as you can.
Professor Ibrahim Abdullahi a sociologist says “part of the problem is the extent of disclosure of family secret in the hands of house helps. Don’t discuss vital matters in their presence, and don’t mistreat them. I will also suggest that to reduce incidence of this phenomenon, I call on the Ministries of Justice and other relevant ministries across the states, to ensure proper documentation of agencies that provide services relating to hiring of domestic servants.
“Those that operate online, should be made to set up recognizable offices, where they can be contacted on face to face basis and failure to do so, the government should blacklist them and inform the general public not to have anything to do with them.
“Also, stricter guidelines should be given to them for foreigners, who want to be hired as domestic servants. We suggest that for a non-Nigerian to be hired, one of the criteria should be that the person must have an international passport issued by his/her home country. This should be followed by a guarantor who will attest for this person and be held accountable in the case of any eventuality.
“More so, Nigerians who wish to be hired, should be made to provide a government issued document, such as driver’s licence, international passport, national identity card or voter card and a guarantor as well, before they can be considered to be hired.
“The agencies should be made to submit these documents to the police for a background check before recommending them for hiring by a prospective boss.
“We believe that when all these measures are put in place, it will not only ensure the security of the lives of those, who hire domestic servants, it will also ensure the safety of the servants”.
He advised that intending employers of house help should endeavour to undertake a background check, and if possible involve police in doing the background check.