She was sitting in a corner of her space beneath the bridge in Lagos’ Empire neighborhood of Surulere, shivering in the cold with her eyes wide open. She held herself to keep warm as raindrops fell on her from some openings in the bridge.
Blessing Okon is her full name. But given the barrage of obstacles fate has thrown in her path, she is left to question if she will ever live to live up to her name.
She and her daughter have been living on the streets for five years. Before she and other people with mental illnesses were picked up by representatives of the Lagos State Government at the Lagos State Rehabilitation and Training Centre, located on Owutu Road in the Ikorodu area of the State, she was brought to the rehabilitation center by a kind stranger.
But after receiving therapy, it was determined that her condition was depression brought on by being kicked out of her one-room flat on Vining Street, Idi-Araba, and her husband’s inability to pay for other housing.
On September 16, 2022, the remainder of her hospital stay of two months came to an end. However, it might be for nothing since she will probably end up back on the street unless something miraculous happens to provide housing for her.
In an interview with Crime Guard, the single mother said how her situation began in 2017, when her husband Samuel, a gardener at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Idi- Araba, was detained and imprisoned for stealing a few bottles of beer.
The 28-year-old Akwa-Ibom, who left her native town for Lagos in 2015 after losing her widowed mother, described the situation that forced her into the psychiatric hospital. She added, ” I met Samuel, five years after I came to Lagos. He was a gardener at LUTH.
” I had my baby towards the end of 2017. In 2018, my husband and a man from Ibadan stole some bottles of beer at a party. His friend managed to escape. But my husband was unlucky. They beat him and took him to the office of the Oduua People’s Congress from where he was handed over to the Police. The case was charged to court and he has been at the Kirikiri prison since then.
” As if that was not enough, our building on 2, Ewunmi street, Idi-Araba was sold and our new landlord evacuated the tenants.
“Since there was no money to rent a new apartment, I took my eight months old baby and started living on the streets.
Some people told me to come live in front of their shops First, I was living in front of people’s shops and homes but their intention was to take my child from me and I didn’t want that. So, I had to leave their homes and decided to be sleeping from one bridge to another, with my baby”.
She said, “I am from a poor family” when asked why she didn’t return to her village or contact her relatives, she said.
I have nobody to go stay in the village. My father died when I was barely one year old. Our family’s house in the village has collapsed. I have five siblings. The eldest is a single parent that is struggling to fend for her seven children”.
She admitted that she had to leave the stadium bridge for Empire because of sexual harassment, only to find that nothing had changed.
She claimed that multiple times, some males would park their cars across the street and approach her, offering her money in exchange for having sex. Other times, she claimed, certain people would seek to impose their will.
When some neighbors realized she wasn’t crazy, they had to employ a deaf and dumb person to chase the invaders at night.
When such visitors came, the gathered deaf and dumb would throw stones at them while also raising the alarm.
Traders at a shopping center across from the empire bridge acknowledged they knew Blessing when Crime Guard visited the former residence of her and her five-year-old kid.
Some of them claimed that they assisted her because of her infant.
Alhaja Hasanat was the name of one of the traders. She remarked, ” when she was here, I personally gave her money to buy food because of her daughter. She was a good woman. All she needs is assistance. We knew she was not mad. The only problem was her alcohol intake”.
One particularly notable piece of help she received came from Mr. Kenneth Obaraye, who took Blessing’s five-year-old daughter home and registered her for school.
Additionally, he organized the general public to generate funds for Blessing’s medical care at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital.
But he voiced concern about the success of the procedure and added worries about her going back to the bridge.
When Lagos State Government authorities came to pick her up along with other homeless persons, Obaraye stated that she was locked up with mad people, even though she was not mad.
Someone requested that she be taken for treatment, and I decided to cover the cost of the care on my own. I’ve spent about N500,000 so far.
Her two-month treatment is already complete. However, I was given two weeks to search for housing for her. However, the social worker suggested avoiding neighborhoods like Mushin and Surulere.
Blessing was beaming with a smile when this reporter visited her on Thursday at the Adejoke Orekoya ward of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre. It appears that she assumed the visit was to tell her about her new dwelling.
The opposite emotion, however, was replaced with a dejected look.
She pleaded with Nigerians to assist her in finding housing as a result.
She said, ” please help use your medium to beg Nigerians to assist me to get accommodation. I am not asking for much. I only need a room apartment where I can live with my daughter. I don’t want to go back to the bridge, where we were exposed to mosquitoes and all manner of harsh conditions”, she said in tears.
Mr. Obaraye helped Blessing open an account with the following information: BLESSING OKON, 0721307441(account) Guarantee Trust Bank, is asking Nigerians to donate money so that she can rent an apartment as the two-week extension of her hospital stay nears its end.