Double Robbery, Multiple Consequences ~ Maryam S Mohammed

Pic: Aminu S Muhammad
BY MARYAM S. MOHAMMED 

Suddenly, there was an inexplicable loud and ominous crash! It more than startled Iman who had until then been sleeping like most women do in their third trimester.  She had just concluded her nightly ritual of speaking to her husband over the phone and telling him how much she loved him and hated having the master bedroom to herself five nights a week, when she drifted to sleep.  The crash sounded so much like a gunshot, but who had a gun on the premises? Or was it the transformer that had exploded again? Anytime the transformer exploded like that, NEPA officials would give the same lame excuse to the individuals affected- “overload”. Iman had never heard the blowing of the transformer sound this close. She was so anxious, she found herself sitting upright in the middle of the bed. She didn’t have much time to wonder as within the next few seconds, there was another crash – louder this time around, as the door to her bedroom was hit by a force - one kick and it flew open.

“Innalillahi wa inna Ilaihi raji’un (from Allah we have come and to him we shall return)” muttered Iman as she watched a tall, dark, hooded figure, holding something that looked like an iron rod (it was too dark to decipher what he was holding), making a grand entrance into the privacy of her bedroom. He was huge and even without seeing his facial expression, she guessed it must have been a frightening one. Thoughts whirled around her head...

It must be a nightmare and you will wake up right now, shut your eyes and open them, he will soon be gone. Iman shut her eyes and opened them but he was still there, asking her where the money was.

“Where is the money? Where is it?” the sound of his voice was so real, she was convinced it was not a nightmare, the hooded guy was a reality, darker than the night.

That morning, Iman had woken up without a dime to her name, but by sheer luck, her mother’s friend had given her money the night before to deliver to her mother, so although the lights in the room were out, she reached for her handbag which was lying at the foot of the bed and brought out all the money and handed it over to him.

This was the beginning of the longest and most traumatic ordeal that took three hours of Iman’s life. In truth, trauma in this situation, was a vast understatement.

‘Are you alone in the house?’ he asked.
 In the hope that the maid would not be discovered, she answered in the affirmative.
‘Give me gold’ he commanded menacingly.

The command sounded like they had a pact and that her own part in fulfilling the deal was to give him gold at three am on a Thursday night but she did not say so aloud, she only said, “Follow me to the other room and I will give you it to you”.

She used the blanket she slept with and covered her pregnant frame, struggled out of her bed and waddled ahead of him. As she walked, she thought to herself, what would she have done if she had slept in the nude? She quickly shook the thought from her head, thankfully, that was not the case.

 “Are you pregnant?” he asked.
Again an affirmative nod and a mumble of something that resembled yes from Iman.

“I heard that you are a lawyer, I will deal with you” he threatened.

At this point, Iman really got frightened. The whole business of knowing who she was and what she did for a living was becoming spookier than his having forced his way into her house.

She recalled that exactly six months ago, she had been robbed.

It was a normal day, for the young couple. They had been out visiting family for most of the day and had returned home shortly after sunset. Iman was in the kitchen, hurriedly trying to prepare dinner when she heard the bell ring. It was usual for people to visit without prior notification therefore it did not strike her as being odd. Besides, it was only seven thirty pm so it was quite an early evening. Her husband was in the sitting room therefore she ignored the bell in order to let him handle the guests. The sound of the door opening, the sound of muffled shuffling and the sound of feet walking into the house towards the kitchen all seemed normal in the ordinary course of events. What did not seem normal however, was the appearance of a total stranger in the house, with a gun preceding his entry- that was abnormal. Additionally, the stranger was, without any preamble, asking for the gold, reaching for her ears and grabbing her neck in order to pull off her jewelry. She dropped the knife she was holding and asked him to wait, then she quickly removed the jewelry and handed over to him. Immediately he held them, he asked for her phone. She asked him to follow her to the room where she requested to remove her sim-card first. Surprisingly, he conceded. Such nerve she had and the calm that overcame her was probably due to the shock. Iman then told him to please take everything he needed but begged him not to harm anyone in the house as she guaranteed them maximum cooperation. That set the pace for all the peaceful transactions that occurred thereafter. There were sounds of feet moving around the house which signified the presence of other robbers in the house. The main man asked her where the rest of the jewelry was and she showed him her trinket. He calmly sorted white gold from yellow gold, fake from real and expertly, took the ones that caught his fancy. He brought out the one he took from her in the kitchen and looked at it with a professional eye- raised it up against the light and then pronounced- this is not gold. Yes Iman replied, it is not gold, it is costume jewelry. He then replied “it may fetch us some dough” then he returned it into his breast pocket.

Having sorted the most important thing, he directed her to bring down her boxes and open her wardrobes which he ransacked. She brought out her newly acquired laptop and offered him. When he took it, she handed over the laptop bag which he declined saying he did not need it. She brought out her perfumes and other valuable which he selected from.

Operation in that room having been completed, he asked her to follow him to the next room. She followed. Another member of the gang stood over her husband and the security man with a gun. They were both lying face down on the floor. Immediately Iman entered, the armed man started leering at her. Leering turned to rape threats. Main man would not hear of any such thing therefore he interfered. He told Iman that she had to listen to what they had to say carefully “people who know your husband sent us to you and we would advise you to sell off this house and move otherwise, we will be back. Now move towards that bed and lie down. Do not make any attempt to go out or seek help because we will be lurking and there will be dire consequences if you make any funny moves. Do not leave this house until after thirty minutes at least”.

That was months ago. Part of the gang had been apprehended by the police and she had identified them without any witness protection. After calling her to identify the robbers in the police station, the police brought the suspects and paraded them in front of Iman like they were advertising wares for her to choose from. In their presence, she was asked if she ever saw them. She had not answered but they the robbers said they remembered her, they had invaded her house and forcefully carted away x, y, z… Were they out on bail? How could they be, when a robbery charge was being pressed against them? But how did the large hooded robber know my profession? Iman thought. She recalled that the first batch of robbers told her husband to sell the house and leave the neighborhood or else, they would return. She was petrified.

Iman’s heart skipped several beats but she tried to retain her composure in the worst of circumstances. She hoped the neighbors from the adjoining apartment had heard the sounds and would come to her rescue, or the security guard at the gate, but she could only keep hoping.

She opened the door to the room where she kept her jewelry and opened the jewelry kit, brought out most of what she had left from the previous robbery which was not much, and handed it over to him. He took the jewelry and like the money, put in his pocket as if she had been keeping them safely for him.

“Lie down on your stomach’ was the next command”. She replied,
“I cannot lie on my stomach because of my eight-month-old pregnancy”.
He answered her with a series of hits and slaps, snarling, “what useless pregnancy are you talking about? When I give orders… you take them, you don’t argue with me, do as you are told!” he was vicious.

Iman found herself rolling like a ball, dizzy from the slaps, but more worrying was the little life within her. She had been hit all over and she desperately didn’t want her baby harmed by this thug. In her life, she had never been hit by anyone except at a much younger age by her mum - and that was not remotely for brutal intentions.

So this was how battered women felt? It was degrading and humiliating. Why would a man ever raise his hands to beat a woman? Someone so defenseless? It is the lowliest, most degrading act a man could execute, ever. Such men didn’t deserve to be called men, in fact wife battering must be inserted in the penal code as an offence and maybe punishment for wife battering should be castration- Iman had the time to think in those lines.

The huge man towered over her balled frame, obviously trying to calm himself.
Helpless, Iman lay there, mumbling all the prayers that came to her head, for Allah to help her out of the situation.

‘Give me your car keys and follow me to undo the security’ he said.
She whimpered as she got to her feet, she looked for the key and gave it to him.
“There is no security but if it fails to start, please check the battery because it is weak” Iman said. He took the key.

“Now come with me” he barked.
Walking was difficult for Iman, she winced with pain and felt woozy but she managed to waddle and wobble her way and followed him to the master bedroom. He asked for more jewelry and she said she didn’t have any more. This angered him so much that the punch to her face knocked her to the ground. This time she screamed for all that she was worth, screaming till her voice thinned out while the blows kept on coming.

Lord only knows how long this lasted but at some point the punches had stopped and Iman sensed absence. It was a relief, albeit, short lived. Iman lay there too shocked to cry or move, she just shivered uncontrollably.

‘No, please leave me alone, I don’t want to, please!’
It was the maid, pleading with the ruthless man to leave her alone. Without thinking, Iman waddled hurriedly to the next room to find him huddled over her. Oh God, no! Iman entered the room and went straight to Talatu’s side and joined in the plea.

Talatu caught sight of Iman and shouted ‘ANTY!’ Iman instinctively ran to her. They held unto each other like sisters and begged him not to rape her. In their desperate and pathetic state, they tried to make the best of the situation therefore kept begging and he kept trying to yank them apart - they held on.

There was a fourth person in the room, no one saw or heard him come in but he was suddenly at Iman’s side. He seemed to float into the room, like he did not have feet. His movement was noiseless and his voice had a certain authority about it.

‘Just leave them’, he said to Mugu as the name formed in Iman’s head.
Mugu hissed and got off her thighs like a predator that had been deprived of a prized game. His movements were in that moment the definition of the word reluctant. His extra large limbs moved off her slowly, every motion signifying regret at the loss of a treat that could have and would have been. It was at that moment that both Iman and Talatu got a glimpse of Mugu’s dark angled facial features. He was truly an ugly man. An ugly man on sight, at heart and in actuality.

Iman felt like hugging the seemingly nicer robber in appreciation for his intervention, but she did no such thing.  Mugu- the guardian angel was small in stature, really slim and quite short for a man. He seemed to have only persuasive authority over Mugu but for Iman, any sort of authority was good enough. He seemed calmer and in control, as if he was not high on any substance and although it was obvious he was not the gang leader, he was no novice in the game of robbery.

“Now lie down and do not make any more noise, ok?” Mugu –the guardian angel said, as if coaxing them to obey.  Iman and Talatu obeyed without the slightest hesitation, feeling as if they had found an ally in the devil himself.

A long period of time passed, everywhere was quiet except for the noise emitted by all the air conditioning systems which had been switched on at full blast by the robbers. Iman also realized that all the lights had been switched on, and the doors had been left wide open. She was sure that the robbers had left for good.

She got up, checked for her mobile phone. It was gone. She proceeded to lock most of the doors, switched off the lights and the air conditioners. Talatu was in tow - terrified as hell. It was time to lock the front door and she made an effort to, but voices cursed and she heard sounds of feet coming towards them once again.

This time around, Iman and Talatu ran into the house in panic and locked themselves in the nearest bathroom. It was a complete and utter waste of time, as a single kick brought Mugu to them once again. Cursing and hissing, he pulled Iman out first and with his iron rod, kept hitting her right arm until she thought he had broken it. He gave her what seemed like a minute of respite after leading her to the room, then came back, an electronic stabilizer in hand. WHAMM!!! It landed on her head! The only protection being her blanket and a nearby pillow she had hurriedly grabbed. Next, Talatu was dragged out of the room thereafter.

There was a crunching sound and a scream. It was Talatu’s scream, the natural reaction to the impact of a flying stabilizer on her face.

A few more minutes, he came back.
“You dare disobey me! I will kill you. I have killed many like you and nothing has happened to me”. Intimidating and threatening he kept chanting how he would kill, he sounded like he relished the thought of killing someone and that someone was Iman. He moved towards her until his large frame was within reach of her neck- he never stopped cursing. His large hands found their way to the lifelines that held her body alive, the veins that let oxygen and blood circulate.

It was then that Iman prayed to Allah to forgive her for all her past errors and grant her Jannatul Firdaus (eternal paradise). Her last thought was about the child within her whom God had destined she would never lay eyes on. She prayed that her corpse would be found soon enough to operate on so that her child would survive. She hoped that he would survive, although he would never know how much she loved him already, she hoped that both her family and her husband’s family would tell him about her…

There was an iron grip of something that felt indescribable around her neck. He had the strength of ten horses. At first, she struggled hard but the blood and air circulation stopped, she began to weaken, and weaken further and further till she lay on the brink. She was in another world, she did not know where, but she was floating towards it.

Meanwhile, Talatu was directed to lie on the bed. Iron fists held her legs, a knife to her throat, Mugu, atop her, defiling her, she cried and shrunk from his dirty repulsive thrusts. Her muffled sobbing could only be heard by Mugu. She sobbed through the pain as she lost her virginity to a ruthless stranger, in the matrimonial bed of her madam!

For what seemed like an eternity, Iman drifted. Then she slowly regained consciousness when the weight of something fell upon her. Was it the sand that was being thrown over her in the grave? What happened to her baby? Her first child! Faintly, she could hear sobbing, her mourners probably. She wished she had the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to her mother, and told her mother how much she appreciated everything: her sisters and brothers too. She wondered how soon her husband would remarry, he always used to say he would never remarry if anything happened to Iman or them as a couple, or he would just not marry a Nigerian?. Hmm, sweet talks Iman always said... On and on her thoughts drifted.

The sobbing increased and the weight was now shoving into Iman’s back. “Anty, he used me”. Iman heard this for sure, was certain she was not dead when she opened her eyes to see Talatu in the dark. Although she could not see her eyes, she knew Talatu had been crying. She could even smell Mugu on her.

Now fully awake, Iman cried. She cried for all the injustice. It was grossly unfair! But she had to stop crying in order to be strong for Talatu, a young teenager who did not deserve this at all. For crying out loud, she was until that incident, a virgin.

The sound of one of the songs Iman had downloaded on her phone the previous week announced Mugu’s arrival to the room. He breezed in, judging by his mood, he was pleased with himself.  He inspected the duo, inspected the house and left the room. Mugu- the guardian angel came in and did his own inspection too. He always had words of encouragement on his visits like “remain calm”; “do not do anything to upset him” etc They continued coming in and going out, while the two women were lying there weak, and terrified until finally they waited and waited but the mugu’s never came back.

For Iman and Talatu, every minute felt like an hour. Time had never been this slow to pass. Two lives were drastically changed within three hours as they learnt from the security guard, when the morning finally came.

Iman and Talatu did not have the courage to move from the positions they were for fear, fear that Mugu would return and batter them further. So they laid there till the security man came with the news that Mugu and his cohort had left the premises.

*****


Maryam Shehu Mohammed holds a PhD in Law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She is the Founder and President, Charity to Cheer Foundation, a non-governmental organization that focuses on facilitating access to medical care for the destitute and caters for the welfare of orphans.

Maryam is a 2015 Associate Fellow of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) and a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow.


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