Cries of pain rent the Emergency Ward of the Ikorodu General Hospital, Lagos State, on Tuesday as medical officers battled to save the life of five-year-old Aliyah Masaku.
The victim, who groaned with pain as his crying father held her close, was attacked by three giant Alsatian dogs belonging to her father’s landlord on Alhaji Abdul Hakeem Bin Sulaimon Avenue, off Ewuren Road, Ikorodu.
Aside damaging an eye and removing a tooth, the dogs inflicted multiple injuries on Aliyah during the attack which lasted for about two hours.
A medical official at the general hospital, who did not want to be identified, said Aliyah might need a plastic surgery to regain the use of the affected eye.
She said, “When she was brought here, we thought she was dead. One of her eyes is damaged. It might take a plastic surgery for her to see again. A tooth was removed by the dogs, while the other teeth were seriously affected. She has multiple lacerations in her face, legs, arms and other parts.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that Aliyah’s father, Wasiu, a vulcaniser, was in charge of feeding the dogs after their owner travelled to London, United Kingdom.
He had reportedly gone to get the dogs’ feed on Monday and left Aliyah in the house.
One of the dogs, identified as Rover, however, allegedly broke loose from the kennel and entered into Wasiu’s apartment.
The dog reportedly dragged her from the house to the backyard, where two other dogs joined in attacking her.
Wasiu told our correspondent that he was alerted to the incident by a neighbour.
He said, “Aliyah, my daughter, was formerly staying with her mother in Cotonou, Benin Republic, before she started living with me. Since then, she had become familiar with the dogs and played with them. If any visitor is scared of coming into the house, she goes out to bring them in.
“She was supposed to go to school yesterday (Monday), but because I had an issue with her teacher, I asked her to stay at home till I get her a new school. I left her in the house around 3pm and went to buy feed for the dogs. I left two of the dogs roaming free because they were docile. I, however, put Rover in a kennel because it was ferocious and had broken free several times.
“Some minutes after I went to the market, I got a call that my daughter had been attacked by the dogs. I ran back home and checked the compound without seeing anything. I searched the street as well without any result. Later, somebody raised the alarm that she was at the backyard. There, I saw three dogs on my daughter, who lay still.”
He said he subdued the dogs with a stick and chased them away.
Residents, who spoke with PUNCH Metro on condition of anonymity, said the attack lasted for about two hours, adding that they could do nothing because the fence of the house was high and there were many dogs at the main gate.
A resident said the alternate exit out of the house, through which Aliyah could have also escaped, had been shut permanently.
“Initially, we thought it was the child’s father that was beating her when she started crying for help. When we realised that the dogs were attacking her, we couldn’t do anything because there were many dogs at the main gate,” she said.
She added that the dogs bit Wasiu and a veterinary doctor who had also arrived at the scene.
A tenant, Wale Anjorin, said chaos broke out around 11pm when some hoodlums invaded the house with sticks and cutlass, threatening to burn down the house.
Anjorin, who claimed to have been cut with a cutlass, said the men vandalised some property on the premises before killing Rover.
“They said the dog cannot live within the same neighbourhood with them. They wanted to burn down the house. They smashed the windscreen of a tricycle on the premises and later killed the dog,” he said.
PUNCH Metro, during a visit to the one storeyed-building, observed bloodstains at three different spots at the backyard where the dogs attacked Aliyah.
More than 10 dogs, consisting of different breeds, including Alsatian, Bullmastiff, Bulldog, were kept in two kennels near the main gate of the house.
Our correspondent was also shown a shallow grave where the slain dog was buried.
The residents urged the state government to take away the dogs from the area, saying they constituted nuisance and threats to their lives.
A woman, who did not want to be identified, said, “The landlord just returned to the UK six days ago. When he came, he asked them to take the dogs out because they had been infested with lice and ticks. He said the house should be fumigated. But that is not enough. We don’t want the dogs again.”
The owner of the dogs, Alhaji Abdul-Akeem Sulaimon, said he could not take responsibility for the attack since he had already handed over the dogs to Wasiu.
Sulaimon, who spoke with PUNCH Metro from his London base, said, “Why not question those on the ground? Ask those who were principally involved. Someone is responsible. Those involved are there with you.”
A delegation from the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender, led by the Director, Mrs. Olubukola Salami, which visited the house and the hospital, said the state government would remove the dogs from the house to forestall a recurrence.
Salami said, “This is a shocking case enough to break the heart of even the most hardened person. If proper care is not taken, this girl could lose her life because of negligence and greed. Proper safety measures were not followed and someone tried to cut corners in the feeding and maintenance of the dogs. It is not wise to leave children and dangerous dogs alone without close supervision as it has happened in this case.
“The Lagos State Government will look into extant laws on breeding dogs in residential areas with a view to evacuating those dogs and preventing such from happening again in the future. Regarding the young girl, we are looking on how to alleviate her pain and suffering.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Dolapo Badmos, said the case was not reported to the police.