Premium Times (Abuja)

15 April 2014

Nigeria: Exclusive - Gang-Raped Girl, Gang-Raped Justice: How Nigeria Police Forced Victim to Free 'Rapists'

Wasila Umar, a 14 year old minor was made under duress, to marry one Umar Sani, a 35 year old man who also had one wife and two children. Two weeks ... ( Resource: Child Bride Poisons Husband, Three Others In Kano

Four boys raped her. Yet, there is no justice for her as the police allegedly forced her to free the rapists.

The Agbado-Oja community in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State is just a sleepwalking distance away from the ever-bustling Ishaga area of Lagos. Despite its proximity to the "Centre of Excellence", the community typifies an eloquent statement in rustic retrogression -- a place where poverty walks on all fours, clothed in the tattered attire of naked, running children, rundown ancient buildings and filth-filled streets.

But poverty is not the only thing that reigns unfettered here. The diabolic mixture of sexual abuse and ignorance appears to be equally holding sway.

Hawawu (full name withheld), the 16 year-old daughter of a struggling bricklayer and an apprentice tailor, recently became the latest victim of the rape virus currently running wild in the community. But in addition, there was the shocking, seeming police complicity in the brutal crime.

As the story goes, on the evening of March 30, Hawawu received a call from her male friend, Adeleke, for a meeting in his house. The previous day, Adeleke, a young man for whom Hawawu reportedly had a soft spot, had arrived in the tailoring shop opposite her house where she resumed apprenticeship two years ago, and a year after she dropped out of Primary Three at the nearby AC Community Primary School. Adeleke, in the company of two other boys, reportedly invited her to an event holding in his house. After the repeated call on Sunday evening, she left for his house. On getting there, Hawawu was said to be initially reluctant entering. Shortly after, Adeleke and three of his friends dragged her into his room after which four of them allegedly took turns raping her.

Later that night, they were said to have dragged the now half-conscious girl writhing in pains all the way down the staircases in the storey building then dumped her in front of her ramshackle house on 4, Isanmi Street in the Adubo-Agopani area of Agbado-Oja.

Her father, Yinusa Olarenwaju, 43, was alerted by neighbours and he took her into the derelict, one room, face-me-I-face-you apartment, a sort of a boys quarters arrangement left to him by his father. It is this room with the brownish and wrinkled roofs falling off, and where he had shared with the victim and her younger sister, Amina, 13, since their mother, Tawa, left him about a decade ago, that he took his dying daughter into.

It was 11p.m. and, as usual, Mr. Olarenwaju was down and out and with no transport easily in site, he tried 'managing' the traumatized girl till the next day.

On Monday morning, a weeping Mr. Olarenwaju headed for the palace of the Baale (local chief), Sunday Oyeogun, to report the matter.

"After Hawawu's father reported, I immediately summoned the parents of the accused boys," Mr. Oyeogun told this reporter recently.

But rather than look out for the victim to extend to her the much needed medical care, they allegedly 'gathered' N200, 000 (Two Hundred Thousand Naira) and brought to the Baale to 'kill' the case. According to him, he refused and directed that the girl be treated as a matter of urgency before any other discussion.

He also, he said, advised the victim's father to report the case at the Divisional Police Headquarters in the area.

Thereafter, a certain Alaba, a police officer attached to the Juvenile, Women and Children's Unit, was assigned the case as the Investigating Police Officer (IPO).

That was where the case took a dangerous turn.

"Alaba ensured that the girl was taken to the Sarabis Medical Centre in the Odo-Oba area of the community, and also got the boys arrested. But shortly after, he called Mr. Olarenwaju and asked him to withdraw the case," said a source in the community familiar with the case. He requested not to be named for fear of being harassed by the police.

When Mr. Olarenwaju protested the idea of what seemed a miscarriage of justice, Alaba slapped him and handcuffed him, 'rough-handling' him at the police station. The poor man thereafter kept mute and offered no more resistance.

Shortly after Hawawu was discharged from the hospital, one evening in the first week of April, Alaba appeared at the front of Hawawu's house, brandishing a paper. He commanded her out of the apartment, thrust a paper in front of her and asked her to sign it. The implication, he explained, was that she had withdrawn the case and would forever keep sealed lips over it.

By Nigerian and international laws, anyone under the age of 18 is considered not qualified to sign undertakings or agreements. Yet, whatever hesitance Hawawu hitherto nurtured must have simply evaporated with Alaba's intimidating presence and the reality of the brutality he had meted out to her father, Mr. Olarenwaju just days before. It was possible that Hawawu, the primary three drop-out, with an eye for fashion designing, had no idea what was on the paper. Nevertheless she capitulated and scribbled an inelegant acceptance to Alaba's white paper.

Alaba then marched triumphantly back to the police station and freed the 'adventurous boys' unconditionally. They were never tried and the victim and his impoverished father had been panel-beaten into frightened silence.

Meanwhile, in a bid to hide the stigmatized girl from prying eyes and wagging tongues in the community, and the fear of harassment from the boys' families (who had allegedly threatened her bricklayer father), Hawawu fled her home, father, sister and her dream of one day becoming a 'Madam', complete with her own tailoring shop, obedient apprentists and who knows, a loving husband untainted by rape instincts.

Mrs. Sauban (she declined to provide her first name), Hawawu's 'Madam' in whose shop she was learning tailoring, described her as 'a gentle girl', and said she knew nothing more about the case. Not even the fact that three of the boys had, a few days to the rape incident, came to her shop to invite the victim, or the fact that she (Mrs. Suban) was the person who went to alert Hawawu's mother, Tawa, the morning after the rape incident.

At the Sarabis Medical Centre where Hawawu was treated, the doctor, Femi Amodu, would also not offer insights into the nature of the victim's injuries for "patient's confidentiality and ethical reasons". It thus remained unclear if she received the right treatment.

Mr. Amodu's hospital in itself raises a number of other questions. First, a source in the community claims Mr. Amodu is a psychiatrist and not a general practitioner. A visit to the hospital shows persons exhibiting signs of mental illness strolling around the vicinities of his white storey building, while a few patients waited in the tiny reception. Another concern is the fact that the hospital is located directly behind 'Bola Federal', a towering dumpsite that oozes acrid stench in the entire area.

A source in the community claims that it is common knowledge that the police always insists on referring rape and other related cases in the community to Sarabis because the two -- the hospital and the police- allegedly shares the N20, 000 fee for 'medical report' on a 50/50 ratio.

Dr. Amodu would not confirm or deny anything, instead, directing the reporter to the police. A second victim was also said to have been raped on the same night but details about that are very sketchy. The doctor wouldn't talk and Hawawu is in flight.

At the Divisional Headquarters, neither the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) nor the IPO, Alaba was available for comments.

Attempts to trace the fleeing Hawawu has so far failed. At the equally rustic Orire community in the Ope-Ilu area, also in Ifo Local Government, Tawa, Hawawu's mother sat despondent. "She was here earlier but she has gone to her father's relatives' place and it is very far away,' she whispered wearily, holding her two children, Latifa, 7, and Kafaya, 4, whom she has for her new husband, Kayode, a gangling electrician with faraway looks.

Hawawu's mother Tawa and children from her second marriage, Latifa, 7, and Ruka, 4

Tawa who hails from Idanre in Ondo State, just returned from her daily routine of hawking 'ogi' (local corn food), looking disheveled, and like her two kids, clearly malnourished.

"What can I do? I will welcome whatever steps are taken to find justice for my daughter," she said in a small, frightened voice.

Madam Samatu, Tawa's 74 year-old mother-inlaw, a woman of stately bearing amidst poverty, was enraged that Tawa concealed the truth from her. "When Hawawu came here, what Iya Awawu (Hawawu's mother) only told me was that she had been involved in a fight and had fled home," she told the reporter, fuming.

"Rape is very rampant in this community now and the police and government must help us as it is getting too much. This particular case was not handled well at all," said Mr. Oyeogun, 35, who had a stint at the Osun State University before his chieftaincy calling.

Joe Okei-Odumakin, president of the rights group, Women Arise, says justice must be brought to the door steps of the suspects as well as the police officers involved in subverting justice.

"This incident goes to show that impunity is on the rise," she said. "How can an underage girl be forced to sign an undertaking? There is jungle justice everywhere. The people that perpetuated the heinous crime are walking free while the victim is on the run! We must ensure that these boys are pulled out of their homes and made to face the wrath of the law," she said.

Mrs. Odumakin, who is currently a delegate at the ongoing National Conference, urged the Senate to pass the anti-rape bill (already passed by the House of Representatives), which stipulates life imprisonment for rape offenders.

"This is one rape too many. This is a wake-up call to all lovers of justice to ensure that we find justice for this poor girl," she added.

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