Where do you come from?
I come from Rumuekpe.
How many children do you have?
I have four.
Are they done with schooling?
They are still in school. They are still small small. It’s only my first daughter that just got admission to the university. One is in secondary. The other two are in primary school.
When did you lose your husband?
That is a long time.
We buried him last year.
What took it that long?
It’s money. There was no one to assist.
That means you have been carrying the burden of the children alone. You should have family members that should support you.
The family even quarrelled me. They summoned my son and me. The senior brother summoned us to juju. So, we had to go. It was my husband’s family that started the problem. The sisters, some of them are on my side.
What led to your husband’s death? Could it be the circumstances of his death that informed their attitude towards you?
He was killed. We didn’t know that it was the elder brother that killed him. It was by the grace of God that the first son of the man now confessed that it is the father and mother that gave him something to put on my husband’s shoe. That he’s the one that brought the thing to our compound in Port Harcourt.
Were you accused of having anything to do with your husband’s death?
Yes. The first time, they accused me because the sickness started in 2019. All of them accused me. I was quarreling with all of them. But it was just my husband and only me, even when he was sick. He was sick seriously. The sickness started in January 2001. So, they accused me. My husband said I should not mind them. They even said that I have abandoned him, even one of them that is living abroad. He called around midnight and told my husband to look for one photograph at that time of the night. My husband wanted to know why he was calling at that time to look for one picture. He said he wanted to know the date of that photograph. My husband then asked me to go and look for that picture. I got the picture and saw that there was no date on it. My husband asked him why he is checking the pictures. He said no problem, no problem. It was after that my husband said it was because of what they told him that I had abandoned him. He thought I had abandoned him. My husband now called the elder sisters and asked them why they were accusing his wife of abandoning him. He told them that his wife was taking good care of him. He said if they were in his wife’s position, they would not tolerate it for their husband to be down and not able to do anything, that his wife was doing it for him.
They only stopped suspecting me after their elder brother’s son confessed to the family that his father had a hand in my husband’s condition. He came back to beg me and my husband. But the senior brother did not come again.
Since you lost your husband how have you been coping?
My brother, it’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. Since I lost my husband we have been in court, going to juju house, police station. Even on the day of the burial, his elder brother did not allow me to enter the compound, that they would not bring the corpse there. I challenged him. The family intervened but the man and his children refused. They were ready to fight.
So, I called the FIDA President who asked me to go to Rumuji Police Station that she had called the DPO (Divisional Police Officer), that they should give me police protection. I went to Rumuji that night before they gave me police, then we went there. They asked me to pack out of the compound. They asked them who was the owner of the house, they said it was my late husband. They asked me to pack before they started the burial. So, it has not been easy.
So what have you been doing to keep going?
Dear, what I am doing because of the borrowing and borrowing, I didn’t have anything. So, I entered this Kpofire business. I don’t have any other thing or business to lay hands on or business. I didn’t even have capital to start off any business. It’s not easy for that business. But I do not have any other choice. So, it’s the only thing I am doing.
What part do you play in the business? Do you boil the crude oil or bag it after processing?
For the first time, I didn’t have money to buy the crude. So, I started working for people by tying the product. When I tie, they would pay me according to the number of bags. If I tie four or five drums I tie that day I will go with five thousand naira. The next day I would return by six o’clock in the night.
From six in the night till morning?
Yes. It’s only in the night that we do the work.
Is it at Rumuekpe?
Yes. I continued until I was able to save money to buy two drums. The man I used to work for now gave me crude oil, five drums of crude oil to go and cook. After I had cooked I should bring the money. That is how I started doing it.
For how many years have you been doing this?
I started this last year. I had finished burying my husband when I started.
Does it give you enough money to take care of the family and other needs?
No. Sometimes soldiers would come and burn down everything. Sometimes after cooking, they would carry everything. But it is even better than staying idle.
You are not doing any other economic engagement like farming?
No. I am not farming. I am a teacher.
Oh, you are also a teacher; teacher in a government school?
No; in a private school.
Is it in Rumuekpe or where are you doing it?
It’s in Port Harcourt.
Do you go back to the village to do it?
Yes. During that first time that they gave me a break, I stayed in the village to do it. That was before I returned to Port Harcourt. So, every Friday, once we close from work I go to the village.
Are you the only woman into it or there are also others?
It’s not only me. They are many. There are many suffering for it. They are mostly widows.
Are children involved too?
Yes. Children are involved. Even the one that died two months ago, it is because of the children’s school fees that she went into it. She died with her son. It was for her son to help her in tying the products and she would be bringing the crude oil. That was two months ago.
How many people died in that incident?
About 33 died in that incident.
Did government show any support for the families that lost dear ones in the incident?
Nothing o. They didn’t come o. They didn’t support anything.
But are you people being harassed?
Yes. I was there on that day.
What do you do now after that fire incident?
We are still doing it, managing. What will I do? I am still managing it. I don’t have any choice. I don’t have anything to lay hands on. Even when my daughter got admission, she told me that they said 13th of April was the final day for the clearance. If they didn’t do the clearance, they would cancel the admission. Then I said, eh! What would I do? I don’t have; who do I run to? I don’t have anything to do. So, I had to run to the village that Friday when we closed school. So, I ran to the village and started looking for crude. And in that village, if you don’t have capital to buy crude, that is another problem. They just paid me that money, I carried the money to go and do the payment. So, that crude, I started cooking. When I cook, I send money to her. If I sell, I send money to her, just like that until she finished the clearance remaining the school fees and the other things.
How much do you buy a drum of crude oil?
We use to buy N13,000 for a drum.
And how much do you sell after cooking?
Like the pot I am using, enters five drums. Then I will buy another drum I will use to boil it. So, at the end of the day, we sell three drums and four rubbers.
If you have any other thing to do would you leave crude oil cooking?
If I see any business to do, I will leave that business o. I am just looking for capital to start up a business. That is it. I will leave it.
What kind of business do you want to start?
I plan to sell foodstuff with this my job. But the woman doesn’t me allow much freedom. If I close from my work, I will start the business. I will go to my shop. That is what I plan.
How old are you?
I am 43.
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Where do you come from?