24 September 2011

Nigeria: Sex Video Scandal - Police Release Suspects

Photo: Pierre Holtz/IRIN
A young man ferries bananas for sale.

THERE was jubilation across the world following the news three of the five students whose video of their shocking rape of a hapless female student sparked outrage across the globe.

The marathon rape was alleged to have involved students of the Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), South East Nigeria, but reportedly off campus.

But those who rejoiced over the news of the arrests may have done so too soon.

Speaking with The Moment On Sunday evening of Saturday September, the Abia State Police Commissioner, Mr. Bala Hassan, confirmed that arrests were made but the suspects had been released after questioning.

Hassan said that those arrested were released when they convinced the police that they were not the people mentioned online and knew nothing about the gang rape.

He said the police was handicapped in investigating the incident because the victim was yet to report the incident to the police.

'If we had seen her, we would question her, play the video footage and see if she can identify the suspects,' the police commissioner said.

'For now, it is pretty difficult for us to fish out the culprits because it is only the girl that can be of immense help. We are still urging the public to furnish us with genuine information on this case so that the police can make a breakthrough,' Hassan added.

There has been global outcry over the alleged rape incident the video of which was uploaded on the internet and has become an online hit.

Dubbed 'The Gang Rape' the sickening video depicts the five young men in their animalistic worst.

In the horrendous movie the face of the girl is clearly seen, while the male characters could hardly be identified; but that the audio is clear with the script delivered in Igbo and English languages.

The rapists are heard referring to each other by name, one of them saying, 'Wisdom don dey talk now.'

Other names the rapists called themselves during the unholy act include Chisom, Zaki, and Uchenna. Zaki even bragged to the victim, 'Do you know who Zaki is?'

The fifth name is a little muffled but sounded very much like Ifeanyi.

One of them identified himself as a 400 level law student, while another claimed to be studying IT or Information Technology.

The girl could be seen trying to fight off her attackers.

When her efforts failed amid beatings, she resorted to pleading with her captors to spare her but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

And when she could not take the excruciating pain any longer, she begged them to kill her, instead of her to live with the stigma of the incident all her life.

As she pleaded with them, the young men laughed and mocked her, asking her to 'co-operate' or face two more days of torture by rape.

When the existence of the sex video became public knowledge, the identity of the rapists were shrouded in secrecy, hence the maze of controversy trailing the gang rape.

Some reports claimed that the incident took place in August, likely on the 16th or 17th.

There are different tales about how the girl fell into the evil trap of her rapists.

One version has it that the victim got in contact with one of the rapists while charting on the internet and they reached an agreement to meet at the location where she ended up being gang-raped.

Another version is that the rape incident was a fall-out of love making gone awry.

Those who bear this tale say the victim is a girlfriend of one of the rapists; that the girl visited him and they made love.

As the story goes, the boyfriend failed to satisfy the girl, who took to taunting him that he was not a man, as he could not go beyond one round.

The boyfriend was said to have felt thoroughly humiliated and to avenge this slight, invited his friends and alleged fellow cultists to come and assist him in satisfying the girl, hence the gang rape, to teach the girl the lesson of her life.

Almost one month after the rape had taken place and the video clip was gaining popularity, both the Abia State government and authorities of the ABSU came out to deny that it ever happened.

Receiving the governing board and management of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) led by Prof. Asisi Asobie, at the executive chambers of Government House on Monday, September 19, Governor Theodore Orji exploded in anger over reports linking the state with the rape scandal.

The governor declared that blackmailers were at work again to tarnish the image of the state by posting on the web the video of an imaginary rape incident, which they claimed happened in the state-owned university.

Orji said without equivocation that the incident never happened in ABSU.

The video, however, gained wider publicity after the governor's outburst. This made the ABSU authorities to come out openly to disown, both the video, the rapists and the victim.

At a joint press briefing in Umuahia on Wednesday, September 21, the Dean, Student Affairs, Udo Nwokocha, and the President of the Students Union Government, Comrade Christian Afulike, described the publications in some national dailies, which said that the rapists were students of the institution as 'malicious, unfounded and absolutely incorrect.'

They completely distanced the university from the incident and the persons involved in the act.

They said that the university had conducted thorough investigations and discovered that 'the purported incident never took place anywhere in Abia State University nor were the rapists or victim students of Abia State University, as alleged in the said mischievous publications.'

Denying categorically that the incident took place in the university or that the persons were students of the institution, Nwokocha said that they learnt that the same video clip had circulated in 'other universities in the country in the past few months,' and wondered why it was being linked to the university this time around.

'We want to vouch for the enviable reputation of our students and therefore want to disassociate them from this immoral, animalistic and dehumanising act. The Abia State University community is grossly embarrassed by the publication and its concomitant negative effect on the image of the university,' he added.

In investigating the rape incident, Nwokocha said the university authorities engaged the students to watch the video clip and see if they could identify any of the persons in the video.

He admitted, however, that the university authorities had been receiving telephone calls from all over the world on the issue, hence the university decided to clarify the position because ABSU's image was at stake.

As the issue gained wider prominence, the Abia State government, again on Friday, reiterated its denial that the alleged gang rape did not take place in Abia.

This time, the Special Adviser on Information and Social orientation, Dr. Eze Chikamnayo, said the purported video clip was a figment of the imagination of the idle minds that produced it.

He addressed Government House Press Corps at Government House and blamed the opposition for spate negative publicity the state was experiencing.

Hardly had the governor's aide finished his briefing than online publications started coming out with names of three of the suspected rapists: Ifeanyi Justin Ogu, Jonah Uche (final or extra year accountancy) and Zaki, who is alleged to reside in Duberville Lodge of ABSU.

The other name being mentioned is Wisdom (whose real name, it was gathered is Wiston Okoye Chinomso).

To worsen matters, Minister of Youth Development, Mallam Mobolaji Abdullahi, said on Thursday in Lagos at a meeting with youth organisations that one of the suspects in the gang rape had been identified but expressed doubts that the suspects would be convicted based on the available evidence.

'More than 70 per cent of the information we have on the rape will not be said here for obvious security reasons. But I can tell you we have information on it. The girl is not a student of Abia State University. She was raped in an off-campus residential area of students. One of them (suspects) has been identified conclusively,' the minister said.

He assured that the National Human Rights Commission was on top of the situation, saying: 'The National Human Rights Commission is working with the Ministry of Youth Development. The commission, which is headed by a competent lawyer, is on top of this case. This is law, if we cannot press for rape, there are other charges that we can press for. I can assure you that justice will be done.'

The Federal Government is believed to be interested in the matter and it is being speculated that the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqqayatu Rufai, may have established contact with the victim shortly after the incident.

Wading into the matter on Friday, the House of Representatives passed a motion urging the Inspector-General of Police to get to the root of the barbaric act.

The uproar surrounding the rape video is said to have reached even the United Nations General Assembly, which just ended its meeting in New York.

Reports said gender based non-governmental organisations in New York, USA, have begun agitating for elected representatives of the Congressional Black Caucus of the United States Congress to speak on the matter.

Back home, several NGOs are said to be warming up for protest rallies across major cities of the country to protest the alleged gang rape in particular and the scourge of rape in Nigeria by October 5.

The rallies are expectedly being coordinated by civil society groups and will hold in Lagos, Abuja, Umuahia and Asaba simultaneously, according to postings on Twitter and Facebook last Friday.

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