Residents of Albarkawa area of Gusau metropolis in Zamfara State are still battling to come to terms with why a 17-year-old girl should set herself ablaze over her boyfriend’s inability to pay her bride price.
Last week, a young girl identified as Aisha decided to take her own life by setting herself ablaze after she realized that her boyfriend had no money to pay her dowry.
Aisha’s neighbour, Badamasi Aminu, who spoke to our correspondent in Gusau, said “I was sitting in front of my house around 7am with a friend on that fateful Sunday when I noticed heavy smoke from Aisha’s residence, just few yards from mine.
“My friend presumed that it could be fire from a burning motorbike inside the house. A few minutes after, the girl ran out of the house in flames.
“She kept screaming for help; running from one person to another. As she was contemplating rolling inside a gutter in front of their house, I ran inside the house and came out with a bucket of water which I poured on her to put out the raging flames.
“Initially, I thought it was an accident involving cooking gas, but when I asked her what happened, she said she decided to take her life after she discovered that her boyfriend had no money to pay her dowry,” Badamasi said.
A young girl, who is also Aisha’s neighbour, told Daily Trust on Sunday that Aisha took the dangerous decision when her parents were not around.
“On that day, she told her younger sister what she was planning to do. She brought a gallon of petrol and got herself completely drenched in it. She then brought a matchbox and tried to strike the match to ignite fire.
“Her younger sister tried severally to stop her but couldn’t. She got tired and went away, then Aisha ignited the fire and within a second she was engulfed in flames,” she said.
Aisha, who is currently receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre in Gusau, told our correspondent, “I can’t engage in pre-marital sex or commit fornication; I would rather die than do that.”
“I have been in love with Umar for a long time and I learnt that he had no money to marry me. I can’t afford to lose him. I love him. I did what I did despite the fact that I know committing suicide is against the tenets of my religion, Islam,” Aisha added.
Aisha’s father, Alhaji Aminu Muhammad, said he wasn’t around when the incident happened, only to come home to meet his daughter in a critical condition.
“I had only N750 when the incident happened, that was why we couldn’t take her to the hospital on that day. We resorted to traditional medicine but later managed to take her to hospital.
“She has been dating the boy in question for more than a year now. She brought up the issue of marriage and we asked him to present his parents for the marital contract to be sealed, but he told us he had no money.
“Later, we learnt that he was jobless and merely depending on commercial motorcycling. Even the motorbike he uses is not his own. He hires the bike and only makes little at the end of the day,” he said.
Attempts by Daily Trust on Sunday to get Aisha’s boyfriend was not successful. Our correspondent was told that he had gone into hiding since the incident happened.
But, he was quoted by his brother Hassan as saying that he is still committed to marrying Aisha despite her condition, and that nothing would stop him from marrying her as soon as his financial standing improves.
“Umar was shocked when he heard that Aisha had burnt herself in protest of his inability to marry her. He slumped when he heard it and was taken to the hospital too,” Hassan said.
Some residents who spoke to our correspondent said the girl may have taken the decision out of youthful exuberance.
“Since the boyfriend had told her the truth about his financial standing, she should have put everything behind her and forged ahead. Allah in His infinite mercy will bring another suitor for her,” a resident, Abubakar Sani, said.
But, another resident, Mustapha Hamza, said if Aisha had earlier sought the intervention of elderly persons, they would have counselled her wisely.
“She kept the secret to herself, no one knew what she was planning to do except her younger sister. She ought to have understood that even if she married the man, she wouldn’t find life easy in her matrimonial home since the husband is jobless. The incident is really heartbreaking,” he added.