Is it how you treat your house help that they behave to you ?
Do you Treat your househelp well ?
Ijeoma Ugwumba’s euphoric mood over the date she had just had was shattered when she waltzed into her Lekki apartment one sultry Sunday evening. “I saw a note from my househelp, Oluchi (Muoghalu), saying that she had left,” said the mid-level federal civil servant.
“Her (mobile phone) number was not going, I called her parents (in Anambara State) and they said they did not see her. I was rushing to keep an appointment with my date, so I gave her N30,000 to pay into the bank for me. When I came back, Oluchi had disappeared with her bags and my money.
“Not only that; she left with my DVD (player), my manicure kit, and even had the audacity to take some of my underwear,
” she added. Ms. Ugwumba’s four days of an extensive manhunt eventually unearthed Ms. Muoghalu in far away Delta State.
She had aborted a pregnancy
, unknown to her employer, and eloped with a boyfriend to Asaba. She had also, to Ms. Ugwumba’s chagrin, borrowed N10,000 from a neighbour on her employer’s behalf. Ms. Ugwumba’s plight represents that which a growing number of Lagos residents pass through in the hands of domestic workers like maids and houseboys.
The rapidly growing number of working women and the demands of living in an overpopulated mega city like Lagos has necessitated the need for hired helps to take care of homes, and children in some cases. In downtown Surulere, Bernadene Ihekweme, got a scare recently when she got home from work, around 10pm one night, to find her maid and three children missing. “Apart from my first son, (Jude), the rest are normally in bed by that time. I nearly had a heart attack.
I panicked and started calling every neighbour to know where they were,” she said. Her fears were assuaged when it turned out her husband, who works and resides in Abuja, had paid a surprise visit and played a prank on her by whisking the family away. “Normally, I shouldn’t have panicked like that, but in this era of maids and houseboys conniving with kidnappers, do you blame me?” added Ms. Ihekweme.
Her suspicions are equally mirrored by majority of respondents; even in cases where domestic servants have been with their employers for long periods.
Having served her employer for a “loyal” eight years, Kikelomo Olarenwaju, is indignant at the suggestion that her trustworthiness could be suspect. “That one can never happen,” she declared. “My madam (Abisola John-Martins) can never try to suspect me for anything. I have been here for so long that I can’t mess up. In short, I am now a part of the family. My madam has already registered for my JAMB; that is because she now wants me to go to university just like her children.” Emilia Ike is an economics graduate, and manages a cyber cafe at Aguda, Surulere.
She has served as a househelp to Cyprain and Geraldine Okwara since 1996. “There was a time I had a problem with madam, but since then I have a very good relationship with them,” she said. “I am very grateful to them; oga sponsored my education from secondary to polytechnic, and even opened this cyber cafe for me to manage. I will stay with them until I marry.”
Dave Uko, a legal practitioner, believes that some of these domestic workers that misbehave do so as a reaction to the unfair conditions of labour they might be subjected to. “Some of these people that complain about their maid or houseboy did this and that are the cause of their woes,” he said. “What do you expect from a maid who is overlaboured and underpaid? There are bound to be feelings of resentment in such cases.
How many people know that their domestic servants, who are not relatives, are entitled to workmen’s compensation insurance under the Workmen Compensation Act? Domestic servants are human, and should be treated with the utmost respect.” Ms Ugwumba is adamant that she treated her erstwhile maid well, and believes she has been unfairly rewarded. “Now, her ungrateful parents are accusing me of all sorts of rubbish and even threatened my father when he went to their house to explain what happened,” she said.