16 March 2010

Nigeria: Child Sexual Abuse - the Raging Storm

Lagos — JUST last Friday, 35-year old man, David Orji, appeared before an Asaba Magistrate Court, Delta Stata, for allegedly raping a six-year old girl. Police prosecutor, Emmanuel Adaba, told the court that the accused committed the act on February 1, at a place opposite Summit Park in the Asaba metropolis.

Now, Orji is being remanded in prison custody as ordered by Chief Magistrate Patricia Nsolo who is handling the case pending next hearing of the case. Also, an 18-year-old Olanike (surname withheld) told Osogbo Magistrate Court, in Osun State, that she was raped and de-flowered by one Mr. Paul Inaolaji, a neighbour.

The little girl, who was 15 years old at the time of the incident, said she lost her virginity in the process. Narrating her ordeal, Olanike said she was asleep when Inaolaji crept into her bedroom and forcefully had carnal knowledge of her.

"Though I struggled hard with him to prevent him from sleeping (having sexual intercourse) with me, but he overpowered me," she told the court. For a proven of the act, Mr. Taiwo Adegoke, a police prosecutor of the case presented some exhibit recovered at the scene, which includes blood-stain pant and bed spread.

Adegoke further told the court that Inaolaji had admitted to the crime, claiming to have been motivated by the nakedness of the sleeping girl. Another pathetic one involved eight students of the Pako Nursery and Primary School, Lambe, in Ifo Local Government area of Ogun State.

They were sexually abused by their teacher, identified simply as Pastor Hose. Each of the students, whose ages range from seven to 12 years, was abused at different times by Pastor Hose in his residence in the neighbourhood of the school.

Pastor Hose was caught in the act by his landlord with one of the victims, a 10- year-old girl, and he confessed to the policemen at Ajuwon Plice Station where the matter was incidented and also at Ogun State Criminal Investigations Department Eleweran, in Abeokuta, to have committed the crime.

To make the matter worse for the students, the alleged rapist usually cleaned his victims' private parts with a white apron as part of requirements for diabolically money making ritual.

Sometime ago too, at St. Annes' School, Molete, Ibadan, Oyo State, four students of the institution were raped by hoodlums. The students were said to be asleep in their hostel when the rapists invaded their rooms, sexually abused them and escaped.

Narrating her own awful tale, a 17-year-old secondary school student, who would not want her name in print in Ogba, Ikeja area of Lagos, was bathing when a neighbour, who is I5 years older, forced the bathroom door opened and raped her.

Only the two of them were alone in the house at the period and the rapist raised the volume of his stereo set very high such that the girls screaming did not get beyond the room less to talk of drawing attention of people in the neighbourhood.

"Even when I was bleeding, he did not look to my side but he continued," the victim recalled sobbing. "And he was still threatening to kill me if I should tell anybody about the incident."

The girl, however, could not stomach the experience. She narrated it to her mum immediately she returned home. The mother in turn reported the matter at Area 'G' Police Station, Ogba, where this reporter cornered the victim for an interview.

The girl's dad, who is based abroad, objected to taking the culprit to court considering the girl's future which he (father) believes is more important. Also, a 16-year-old girl was reportedly raped by one corporal Friday last year, a serving police officer attached to the Onicha-Ugbo Police post, in Aniocha North Local Government, Delta State.

The policeman was said to have arrested the innocent girl on her way from farm, detained her in a separate cell, where he turned her to sex bout for four days. Friday's senior colleagues tried all they could including transferring him to Asele Police Station so as to cover-up the case and frustrate the efforts of the victim's mother to obtain justice.

But eventually, the higher police authority has waded in and the state police spokesman, Mr. CharleS Mua at the time did not only confirm the incident, but said justice would prevail. Another case involving a four-year-old girl in Pondogari Village of Niger State also comes to mind.

The little girl was visiting her father from another town where she lived with her divorced mother when she was lured into a corner by one depraved Falruna Ibrahim, who offered her biscuits.

Sometime last year, a two year old girl in Karu Town, in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, was also raped by a tenant in the house where her father was a security guard. The rapist took the girl away from her mother sight with the offer to buy her sweets.

In Damaturu, Gombe State, the case of a man, who kept having carnal knowledge of his two daughters, is presently in court. The matter brought to public knowledge when one of the young girls told their mother of the act.

Another awful tale of rape involved one Blessing, aged eight, who returned home from school sometime in November last year to complain of severe pain in her vulva and claimed that her teacher, Mr. Akeem Toriola fingered her. This took place in Lagos.

Following the little girl's complaint, she was taken to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja where medical examination revealed that for real, she had been sexually assaulted.

A star Nollywood actress, Winifred Ugwu Iwunze in an interview with a national daily (not Daily Champion), last year recalled her childhood days, when she was abused sexually by her uncle.

For older victims, the case involving a part time undergraduate student of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye, Ogun State also comes to mind. She was raped by a commercial motorcyclist popularly known as Okada rider, Mr Ojo Adunbarin right on her matrimonial bed.

The reporter spoke with both parties at the Oodua Peoples Congress 'den' in Iju-Ishaga, Ifako-Ijaiye, a rural Lagos suburb where the case was referred.

The victim, Bola (surname withheld) said Ojo Adunbarin, father of two, who had once served two year jail term for similar offence in Ekiti, his home state, said: "I didn't know how it happened until after this useless man (pointing to Ojo) had

affairs with me," the lady from Ijebu Ode, Ogun State said, while claiming that she was charmed. Ojo, however, countered the claim, saying he had only tricked the lady into believing that he was a spiritualist and would help her.

Though, Ojo escaped wrath of the law at that time, he 'smelled pepper' in the hands of the OPC's men, who detained and tortured him for 12 days in their den. The victim objected that Ojo should be handed over to the police to prevent possible stigmatisation from the public.

"Even my husband didn't know about the incident. I could not summon the courage to tell him and also my mum advised that I should keep it to myself because my husband could drive me away if he should get to know", the 21-year-old student told this reporter. "That is why I would not support handing the man over to the police."

Ojo, however, went to his vomit again. He used the same method to rape a 15-year-old school girl. This time around, the matter was reported at Elere Police Station, in Agege, and was charged to court.

Similar to this was a newly wed simply called Funmi (surname withheld), who was raped by a neighbour, a 23-year-old Uzor Eke, three weeks after her wedding.

Uzor, 23, and a resident of Abule Odu, in Egbeda, Lagos, attacked the new wife with a cutlass before he raped her in her apartment. The reporter had an encounter at the period, with the culprit, Uzor, at the Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Panti Street,Yaba, Lagos, where he was detained.

He said he was motivated by the beauty of his victim. There was also a case involving a seven-year-old girl, sexually abused severally by her father, who had been separated from her mother for three years.

Expectedly, as soon as the estranged wife got the slightest wind of the act, it was learnt, she raised an alarm but the man, who was desperate to protect his image accused the woman of blackmail.

Iyaloja General of Ojodu Market, in Ifako Ijaiye, Mrs. Bolatito Akinremi painted a picture of a 14-year-old groundnut seller that was raped and put in a family way by a metro bus driver. The mid-aged woman, who spoke at a workshop organised by Median Concern for women and Children, a Lagos-based non profit making group said the experience was harrowing.

The man popularly known as Alfa, according to Mrs. Akinremi, lured the girl into one dark corner under the guise of buying some groundnut from her. And sooner they gone out of sight, he pounced on the innocent girl until he was satisfied with his sexual urge.

The bubble burst four months later, when the girl was bleeding from her private part as a result of complication arose from abortion she underwent.

"The girl without the knowledge of her aunt, whom she stayed with, has applied some pills to abort the pregnancy, but it resulted in complication," the market leader narrated in Yoruba.

So, it was after much plea and threat by her aunt that she finally opened up and named the man responsible. And when we confronted the said man, he admitted, but blamed the devil for the act.

These are only a tip of the iceberg of the horrible sexual violence cases, which increases by the day in our society.

Call it the height of societal degeneracy, the truth is that rape, or defilement, or general known as sexual violence, perpetrated against toddlers or older persons as the case may be, is continued to take geometrically toll on the rest of the humanity.

Of a truth, the story is the same in all the Nigerian 36 states and Abuja, FCT. The simple language to this is to say that sexmanias are on the prowl, hunting for minors or youngs and old women to sexually abuse.

However, research has also shown that males can as well be sexually abused, most times by older woman. But the practice is not so pronounced as other way round in Nigeria and many other societies particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Equally, it has been observed that sometimes, married women are fallen victims of rape. But the remaining mystery is targeting infant kids for the act

This worried situation was brought to fore last weekend in Lagos at a one-day sectoral approach workshop organised by Media Concern (MedianCon) Initiative, a civil society group advocates for free sexual violence society.

The forum had in attendance counsellors from secondary schools in Agege District.

Participants there brainstormed on causes and prevention of the act.

What actually is rape?

Webminister's Comprehensive Dictionary defines rape as any unlawful sexual intercourse or sexual connection by force or threat, or as an act of a man having sexual intercourse with a woman against her will or (called statutory rape) with a girl below the age of consent.

Explaining it in its simpler form, the Nigerian Criminal Code as in the South of Nigeria, describes rape in Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act (Nigerian law Chapter 38), as, "Any person, who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent"

The law also points out that consent could however, obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation, as to the nature of the act.

Having sexual relationship with a girl or woman of unsound mind is also unlawful.

Also, in the North of Nigeria, Penal Code, Nigerian Law Chapter 89 criminalises rape and defilement (rape against a girl below 1 3 years).

The conditions are as in the Southern Nigeria.

Biblical injunction (Deuteronomy 22:25-27), also considers rape or any other form of sexual violence as a serious crime. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) for instance, specifies unequivocally, that rape- initial rape or sexual abuse, is violence against women.

Nevertheless, law also recognises inappropriate touching of sensitive parts of a girl, or woman or using sex-induced materials such as pornography; coercing a child to be sexual with animals; oral or anal intercourse with children as sexual violence among others.

However, rape or any other form of sexual abuses attracts degrees of penalty under the law. These include life imprisonment, jail term, fines and canning as a possible addition.

But, it is anybody's guess, who really are the people perpetrating the act? And why in particular it is so rampant in recent time.

Investigations have shown that perpetrators of rape range from fathers, relations, neighbours, clerics, school mates, teachers, bosses, cooks, drivers, hoodlums and so forth.

Though, rape is an aged long social ill, it occurrence is more rampant these days and the situation has almost getting out of hand.

Many factors are said to be responsible and they are categorised as soicio-pyschological, spiritual and inadequate legal framework and so on.

Dr. Oni Bamkole Fagboungbe of the Department of Pyschology, University of Lagos, identifies lust and the desire to satisfy sexual urge as the commonest reason.

Some people either sex, also perpetrate the act for diabolical means of getting rich quick, or acquiring power or fame.

Investigations have also shown that some men take advantage on some female children and wards, who are neglected by their parents for certain reason or another.

Mrs. Mopelola Omoegun, an Associate Professor, Guidance and Counselling Department, University of Lagos, painted a story of a cook, who was persistently inserting his manhood in the mouth of an eight-month- old baby girl after bringing her home from baby care home.

The little baby, she said, innocently sucking the man's manhood thinking it was a feeder until the man would release sperm in her mouth.

But one day, the man was caught pant down but after damaged had been done.

"The baby took ill and died as a result of the babaric act," Mopelola said.

Similarly, ignorance is another factor particuarly when it involves underaged girls. They may want to taste sexual intercouse either as a result of peer influence or happenings around them.

It has also been established that poverty also plays it own role on child sexual abuse.

Some children fall victims simply by enticing them with a mere biscuits, sweet, or small amount of money.

A girl that is loose and always in the midst of boys even at obscure places and odd hours is also prone to sexual harrassment including rape.

So also those who dress but with sentitive parts of their body such as breast and thigh expose to opposite sex.

However, irrespective of reasons for perpetrating the act, consequences particularly on victims are not only painful but damaging.

A sexually abused girl may find it extremely difficult to get over the truama for life.

Investigations have also shown that some victims of rape find it difficult to enjoy sex even after marriage while some become loose and promiscous.

Similarly, victims may also develop sense of mistrust for the opposite sex including husband not only in term of sexual relationship but on every other issue.

If the victim is a teenager, who has reached puberty, the act could lead to unplanned pregnancy with all it attendant risks including untimely death.

A Vicaatim or perpetrator(s) of rape in particularly may also contract sexually transmitted diseases, including incurable Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS). The consequences of this often time are distrsatrous.

It has also been estabilshed that victims of rape are usually subjected to stigmatisation by relations, friends, neighbours, colleaques, schoolmates and the society at large.

"And since focus is usually more on victims rather than culprits, you find the culprits galvanising around the streets and neighbourhood, while victims cover their faces in shame and atimes relocate elsewhere without minding the inconveniency," said Dr. Fagboungbe.

Then on the way out of the social ill, experts advocate for multi-sectoral approach.

"This should start from home," says Dr. Mopelola, "let every member of a home imbibes moral values in his or her lifestyle."

Parents should begin teaching their children and wards sex eduaction right from when they are about three years old and they can identify their body organs, the university don opines, noting that sex education is not all about sexual intercourse."'

Dr. Mopelola adds that what to teach could be graded according to their ages and understanding until they reach puberty and begin to have urge for sexual intercourse.

Parents should also be taught of their parental roles for their children especially the female ones and the consequences of their failure to do them.

Aside, the work is beyond just those above.

"There is also need to pay more attention to the issue, especailly rape by the government across tiers." said Princess Olufemi-Kayode, Executive Director, Median Concern (MediaCon) for Women and Children.

There are lots of issues begging for attention particularly from the low level of awareness, lack of understanding of the situation, mostly on the part of law enforcement agencies and the judicary.

"There should be thorough enforcement of law on cases involving sexual violence especially when it invlove kids, says Olufemi-Kayode. "But many of them are not even gotten to conventional courts for prosecution mostly because of defective legal system or non cooperatiion of victims' relations."

Corroborating the claim, Mrs. Yinka Adeyemi, an Assistant Director at the Office of Public Defender, an arm of Lagos State Ministry of Judiciary, notes that, the percentage of child abuse cases that were prosecuted in the country were very minimal, adding that the perpetrators most times go scot free.

She said it was disheartening that the relatives of the victims usually turned around to impede prosecution of offenders on cultural grounds

In the Criminal Code, she points out, the law says if a child is defiled of course with evidence, it is supposed to be life improsnmnet.

"But how many people have received such a punishment? I don't know of any, " Olufemi-Kayode points out.

The practice is for judges to send culprits to some months' imprisonment or ask them to pay some amount of money as fine."

She said from all indications, the society is not taking the issue seriously and that there can't be any progress until the offenders are prosecuted and jailed accordingly.

Aggreeing with her, Dr. Mopelola adds that our culture too is constituting impediment to progress at checking the menace.

According to her, the situation whereby victims keep silent over the act probably because of threat by perpetractor or stigma instead of reporting to appropriate quarters for the law to take its full course will not help the situation.

"Failure to report will continue to encourage recurrence of the act in future, either by perpetrators or someone else, " she says.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa regional office, she says, had since 2004 declared child sexual abuse a silent epidemic, and that all children were at risk of being sexually molested.

Then, above all, all segments of the society, including families, churches, mosques, schools, civil society groups, the media, private and public organisations and most importantly the governmnets across tiers need to rise for the protection of children from sexual abuse.

But the emphasis, Dr. Mopelola adds, should be more on prevetion.

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