Martina occasionally helps her parents on the farm in the outskirts of their village. Mostly during holidays and weekends, she follows her mother to work on the farm.
It was something she started doing since she was nine and had never encountered problems. She noticed that herdsmen came to graze their cattle in the farm near the stream and occasionally, they crossed parts and sometimes exchanged greetings.
If her mother noticed a certain look on the faces of the herdsmen and the way they now looked at her now 15-year-old daughter, she said nothing about it until the day they took turns and almost raped her to death.
The abominable act is not something peculiar to herdsmen. It cuts across all levels of men in the society: the poor and the rich; the low and the high.
Stories abound of neighbours raping girls in the neighbourhood; uncles raping nieces and even fathers raping daughters; employers raping female employees and so on.
Rape is a social melee that is spreading like a wildfire. Cases of rape are reported daily but not much of prosecution is recorded. It is a worrying situation that calls for a drastic measure.
Rape cases are becoming too frequent in our society and South East is not left out. This worrisome and evil act usually inflicts life time trauma and lifetime stigmatization on the victims.
Healing is hard to come; it is there for life. In some cases, the victims lost their lives. The case of a teenage girl, Ngozi Eze who was allegedly raped to death by unknown persons at Imufu community, Enugu Ezike, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State is still fresh.
The deceased's body was found in a bush behind Community Secondary School, Imufu.
She had gone for her Joint Admission and Matriculations Board (JAMB) lessons in preparation for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Her body was found several hours after her family had declared her missing.
Rape has been described as an epidemic that requires national emergency.
Many people, including NGOs, churches, and even governments have come out to condemn it and laws were even made in some states, prescribing punishments. Yet, it is not known that many have been prosecuted for the evil act.
Little statistics available
At least 295 cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence, SGB were recorded in Enugu State between April and July 2020. Out of the number, 33 were rape/defilement and incest cases.
According to the records, majority of the incidents documented were processed and resolved amicably. Police were involved in all cases relating to sexual assault, spousal battery, rape and defilement, while several arrests were made. Three cases went to court and the perpetrators remanded in a correctional centre pending the determination of the matter.
Also, in 2018, there was confession to the police by no fewer than 30 teenage girls in some Junior Secondary School classes, who testified that they were repeatedly gang-raped during and after initiation into some weird confraternities.
However, a breakthrough in the fight against rape in the state was made in 2017 when an Enugu State High Court sentenced a 39 year-old-man, Ede Eze to 10 years imprisonment for rape.
The trial judge, Justice Ngozi Oji who convicted the accused said it was to serve as a deterrent to others who see rape as just something ordinary or minor.
The conviction was secured shortly after a school headmaster identified as Nathaniel Idoko, was arrested by the police for alleged defilement of four female pupils of his school. Idoko, 50, who hails from Mkpamteulo Enugu Ezike, Igboeze North Local Government Area of the state was the headmaster in charge of Migrant Farmers Children School, located in Aguibeji community, Enugu-Ezike.
He was said to have cornered the four students, whose ages were given as between five and six years to a bush near the school and abused them sexually.
In September 2017, the Police in Enugu State announced that they had nabbed nine suspected rapists who specialized in raping female members of a church at the outskirts of Enugu.
Within 2016, the Enugu State recorded no fewer than 471 cases of rape, defilement, sexual assaults as well as domestic violence, most of the cases involving minors between the ages of eight months and 18 years.
However, the Enugu State government had however reaffirmed commitment to the effective implementation of the Violence against Persons Prohibition, VAPP, Law in the state.
The issue of rape in Anambra State assumed a worrisome level during the Coronavirus pandemic period. Records from the state Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and Social Welfare showed that no fewer than 80 cases of rape were recorded in parts of the state during the lockdown in the state.
The ugly development is such that most of the culprits were relations of the victims and were mainly much older people. The Director of Child Welfare Services in the Ministry, Mrs Nkechi Anazodo said before the lockdown, only about 32 rape cases were reported, adding that the upsurge had necessitated the need for a state-wide campaign in the 21 local government areas to be mounted.
She said: "Sexual violence has become the order of the day, especially during the period of lockdown. Even old men now rape children of 12 years and below. The problem we have is that people don't report.
"Recently, a case was brought to us of a 70 year- old man that raped a four-year-old child. The case has gone to the police.
"Before the recent Covid -19 lockdown, we had only 32 reported cases of rape in the ministry, but the figure recorded within the last few months is over 80.
"It is unfortunate that some men have left their wives to be having sexual relationship with children less than five years.
"The most worrisome is that some fathers raped their daughters more during the lockdown. In many cases, fathers who rape their daughters threaten to kill them if they report.
"The problem, therefore, is that many people don't report these cases because they feel that the victim might be stigmatized. That is why the ministry has been going round the 21 local government areas of the state to create awareness on this problem."
Anazodo also explained that the Anambra State Child's Right implementation committee has been properly positioned to handle, among other issues, child abuse of any form.
An investigation by South East Voice (SEV) indicates that there are low numbers of reported cases of rape in the South East because DPOs and Area Commands who don't have the authority to handle rape cases, usually make concerted effort to end any matter reported to them at their level, after alleged exchange of money and the case file is removed so that it does not get to the command headquarters, where such is treated.
Victims narrate their experiences
A rape victim, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told South East Voice that she would want the genitals of culprits cut off as a commensurate punishment for such inhuman act.
According to her, though, the incident happened in 2016; the experience is still fresh in her head due to the excruciating pain she passed through when two young men took turns on her, leaving her bleeding profusely.
"I was on transit when it happened. Our bus was attacked and the robbers drove it to the bush to enable them carry out their plans.
"Inside the bush, they ordered us out, asking us to bring all our valuables as we came down. We gave our phones, cash, for some of us ladies, jewellery. After that, they asked us all to lie face flat on the ground which we did.
"They then got on the bus to check for other valuables after which they asked us to get up.
"On getting up, one of them said, pointing at a lady who had very big breast, "Na this type I dey like," he hit her with his gun and asked her to undress. She hesitated and the others got angry and pounced on all of us ladies.
"The first one to get on me was a skinny young man in his mid 20s. He was brutal as he had his way on me. I tried to struggle but was firmly held to the ground by one of their members, a lady and another guy.
"The rapist at a point made a fist and put it inside of me. I cried and begged, due to the pain I felt but he was laughing as though the plan was to inflict pain.
"While he was having his turn with me, three others were having same with three other girls while the others cheered them on and made videos of the scene.
"He was through in about 10 minutes and told the others how much he enjoyed it and encouraged them to have a try.
"The second person was scary. I haven't seen such a person who has his size of penis ever before. I shivered in fear and self pity.
"I felt like the ground should swallow me. He came on, really hard, giving me anal sex. I could feel it in my stomach. I was dead in pains but it didn't matter to him.
"He was done with anal sex and decided to do it the natural way. I bled for real. My blood was spilling so badly all over. I tried to fake fainting but it didn't make him stop until he finished with me. Then, they hurriedly left us.
"The bleeding continued until one of us, a pregnant lady who wasn't raped, got some herbs and stopped the bleeding.
"We later got out and got to a hospital where we received proper treatment. I really do not think any punishment actually equates the harm.
"The pain is for life. Imagine someone violating you? That is unforgivable. The genital of rapists should be cut off as a good way to punish them.
"In other cases, rape do result in death or even suicide so life imprisonment isn't a bad idea either, so they never have the opportunity of perpetrating such evil again," she said.
Another victim, Juliet, was only 16 and in secondary school when she was raped by her school mate's brother. She simply but unintentionally fell into her girl friend's trap. The story is best told by the victim.
"I had this schoolmate, Jane. We loved ourselves so much or so I thought until her brother messed up my life. Jane talked me into accepting to attend her brother's birthday from our dormitory.
"There was so much to eat and drink at the event. I am not a fan of alcoholic beverages and I maintained it while the birthday celebration progressed. I cannot say what came over my friend, Jane and she served me a spiked soft drink.
"I simply did not know what happened to me thereafter until I woke up the next morning. I found inexplicable blood stains on my dress, especially as I was not menstruating.
"When the effect of the drug started wearing out, a painful sensation from my private part became another issue. I knew then that I had been raped by Jane's brother and his two friends.
"I wept uncontrollably. I could not shout for fear of shame. I did not know how to tell my parents about the incident. How could I have explained why I left the dormitory for a birthday party outside our school?
"There were more questions than answers and all seemed to point against me.
"Jane tried to console me and reassured that there was no cause for alarm. I refused to eat any other thing they offered me and sadly left for school.
"Let me use this opportunity to warn young girls to be very mindful of the people they call their girlfriends.
"They can be part of a rape plot, without your knowledge."
Ekaette (not real name), who also fell victim to rapists is from Akwa Ibom. She was in Owerri for the first time in her life to place an advertorial in an Owerri based newspaper for her congregation.
She did not know her bearing in the municipality and had to rely on the services of a commercial motorcyclist. The unfortunate girl was taken into the bushy, lonely Industrial Layout and mercilessly raped, after a spirited struggle to free herself from the rapist. She passed out.
There was also Oluchi (surname withheld), an alumnus of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede. She equally had this bitter experience during her industrial training.
Hear her story: "I visited the school to confirm my admission for Higher National Diploma. It was actually getting dark when I left Owerri for a town in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State.
"The vehicle I boarded stopped me at Ahiara Junction, Mbaise. Finding out that I was stranded but very determined to get to my destination, I decided to accept the proposal of a commercial motorcyclist in the place.
"We agreed on a price and I mounted the motorcycle. He sped off and after a short while, he veered off the tarred road. When I complained, he told me that he wanted to take a shorter route. This turned out to be a very costly mistake on my part.
"The road was lined by a thick bush and very lonely. Not long after, he stopped his motorcycle, brought out a jackknife and ordered me to undress or risk losing my life. He not only had his way but also robbed me of my Automated Teller Machine card and mobile phone.
"He abandoned me there, after obtaining my ATM pin. I kept wandering in that lonely bush, not knowing exactly where I was or the closest village. I eventually found myself in one old woman's house.
"I narrated my sordid experience to her. She was full of pity and harboured me that night. In the morning, she gave me money for transport. I thanked her and left. I thank God that I am alive to tell my story".
Monarchs, church leaders condemn rape
The traditional ruler of Ihe Nsukka autonomous community in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, Igwe George Asadu has prescribed life incarceration for anyone who commits rape in the society.
The monarch who described rape as an abomination which should be fought both legally and traditionally said only lunatics stoop to do such dastardly act.
"It is a taboo of the highest order and anyone who indulges in such must appease the land, otherwise, he would be excommunicated from any social engagement in our community", the monarch said.
For the Anglican Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. David O. C. Onuoha "the incidence of rape in Nigeria has reached such an alarming proportion that something urgent and drastic must be done to save our nation from becoming the modern Sodom and Gomorrah. Babies, small girls, ladies, mothers and even grandmothers are targets and victims of this evil act.
"Again, the growing cases of incest keeps one wondering what this nation is turning to. That a man will constantly and regularly 'enjoy' sexual relationship with his daughters without any twig of compunction reveals the regrettable and pitiable level to which the society has degenerated.
Stigmatization, an obstacle to fight against rape
At the Ifite area of Awka, the capital of Anambra State, a 42-year-old security guard in one of the estates in the area raped a seven-year-old girl who was a friend to his own daughter.
The parents of the victim, rather than take the matter up to the appropriate quarters, negotiated with the guard to pay them the sum of N40, 000 to close the case. Instead of paying the money as agreed, the rapist relocated his family to his home town in Achina, Aguata local government area and disappeared from Awka.
The parents of the girl, on the other hand, refused to report the matter to the police or to the Ministry and up till now, the seven-year-old has not been taken to any hospital for examination.
Effort by NGOs to tackle the menace
Disturbed by the increasing incidence of rape cases, Umuada Igbo, an Igbo woman, called on the federal and state governments to declare a total state of emergency on sexual abuse and gender-based violence against Nigerian women to halt the frequency.
The leader of the women group, Lolo Kate Ezeofor, said that rape has become a cankerworm in the society.
According to her, the increasing reports of children being defiled is becoming a source of worry to parents and concerned residents across the country, demanded stiffer penalties for rapists.
"Rape is not good at all. Can you imagining a girl child, woman going on her business, a man jump on her and start raping her without her concept? Some time the victim ends up with disease, pregnancy or death.
"The lady is dehumanized and the trauma is forever, the victim may live with it all the days of her life. I am calling on federal government, all the state government and National Assembly to really see what they can do to reduce rape saga. It is causing a lot of problems in the society.
"The trauma on rape victims is too much; some of them are living with it for the rest of their life. I know that if the federal and state government comes into it and make law against rape saga that the citizens will stop rapping.
"I am also calling on government at all level to see what they can do on unemployment of youths. An idle man is devils workshop. We have youths with 10 years of good certificate but no job. Let the government create companies, training centers and more things where youths can be gainfully employed", she appealed.
Ezeoffor also advised females to dress decently and urged parents to educate their wards. Also, civil society organization, Alliances for Africa, AA, operated by Blessing Duru has said that to end sexual violence against women that was need to have state policy against it in Imo State. She said in the last one year, they had recorded over 30 cases.
Executive Director of Sexual Assault Referral Centre, SARC, Prof. Joy Ezeilo stated that her agency has been busy dealing with such issues as they arose, noting that some convictions of culprits were also secured. Some of these rapes were allegedly committed by some rogue Fulani herdsmen.
Another Non Governmental Organization, Protect the Precious Foundation attributed the low rate of prosecution of rapists to the culture of silence among victims.
According to Nora Okafor, the Executive Director of the Foundation, the NGO has handled over 30 cases on pro bono, lamented that they could not make progress on some of the cases because most the victims and their families refuse to cooperate with the Foundation.
But the Executive Director of Integrated Anti Human Trafficking and Community Development Initiative, and a Co-Chairman, Anambra State Child Right Implementation Committee, Hope Nkiruka, Okoye said that many people engage in the evil act of rape because they are ignorant of the laws and the consequences of their action.
Okoye who is the Coordinator, Violence against Persons Prohibition Implementation Committee explained that many people are ignorant of the existence of anti-rape law and existence of the law, and therefore engage in the illicit act.
She said that with the help of European Union, the Anambra State Government, under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice, have actually established a Sexual Assault Referral Center, domiciled at Enugu Ukwu General Hospital Anambra State, where victims can lodge their complaint and equally get free medical examination and free treatment.
Vanguard News Nigeria.