With rising spate of child rape and sexual violence against minors being perpetrated by adults, a bleak future awaits many young girls in the face of compromising cultural practices and a criminal justice system that is too defective to right the wrongs, MURITALA AYINLA reports
As she walked briskly into the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Lagos, it was obvious she was in a hurry to pour her mind out. Despite putting up great efforts at mustering up courage to share her plight in the secluded office, wrinkles of anger were crystal clear as she took her seat. However, as Wunmi, a mother of two, started narrating her tales of woe and neglect, she lost the battle to hold back her tears. She sobbed almost endlessly.
Wunmi had enough reasons to be dejected. Besides suffering the nightmare of having her nine-yearold daughter raped by her neighbour, all efforts to get justice seem to be hitting the brick wall, leaving her feeling cheated, hopeless and unprotected. Her journey to unhappiness began two years ago when a neighbour, called Mayowa, defiled her girl in their face-me-I-face-you apartment at Iyana-Oworo area of Lagos.
This took place just three rooms away from hers. Rather than get justice, it became the case of the proverbial hunter becoming the hunted. For daring to raise the alarm and cry for redress, Wunmi was subsequently framed up and detained in the police custody with her two children, including the defiled girl. “I got to know about 2a.m. when my daughter had slept off. I saw semen dripping out from her private part.
I was shocked. I watched closely again, and I discovered her private part was also unusually reddish with some semen still dripping. I was nervous and couldn’t sleep again. “After I inquired from her, she confessed that Uncle Mayowa, our neighbour, did that to her. She told me that after she returned from the errand which the uncle sent her, he shut the door and pushed her to the bed and he immediately used pillow to cover her mouth.
She said she cried but her cries for help went unnoticed. Her pleas never appealed to Mayowa, who was bent at violating her. I watched with awe and consternation as my daughter vividly narrated how Uncle Mayowa raped her and threatened to kill her and me if she dared tell anyone what happened,” the 31-year-old mother said.At this point, Wunmi was unable to speak again, sobbing hysterically for nearly 20 minutes.
The thought of how Mayowa and his family, friends as well as their landlord molested and ridiculed her after the accused was arrested, detained and promptly released by the police triggered her exasperation. “After the randy man was released, he would come to my door step and threatened to kill me and my kids.
Efforts were made by Mayowa’s family and one Kayode, who claimed to be his lawyer, to persuade me to discontinue the case. The lawyer and his family repeatedly brought N100,000 which I refused. My refusal fuelled their anger.
“It was sad that my landlord joined in the accusation and threatened to evict me, saying how would everyone beg me and I refused? Eventually, he evicted me from the house over the matter,” she said amid tears.
“I later left the area when I felt unsafe and became the cynosure of all eyes and subject of ridicule in our area. Prior to that, my daughter too had become the subject of discussion everywhere – in the school, at home and on the streets. “Anytime we go out, people pointed at us, discussing the rape saga.
That was one of the reasons I left the area and relocated my daughter to Ilorin, Kwara State, to save her from embarrassment and stigmatisation,” she said. Now a single parent, Wunmi, who has been rendered homeless following the sexual offence against her daughter in 2014, is unhappy that Mayowa still walks freely in Iyana- Oworo area of Lagos while her life and that of her daughter have been punctured with the incident.
No thanks to frequent adjournments, Wunmi and her daughter are on long walk to justice since the matter became a court issue in 2014. But if the fate that befell Wunmi and her innocent girl was bad and reprehensible, what has happened to Mrs. Kaosara Ogundipe, 35, was downright criminal and completely blood-curdling. After waiting for nine years to reap the fruit of the womb, she was the happiest woman on earth when she eventually became a mother.
So, on August 24, 2014, she rolled out the drums in celebration of the end of her bareness, hosting friends and family, neighbours to a feast in her house at Abeokuta, Ogun State. In the midst of the merrymaking, something horrible however happened, which marred the day for her. As she was engrossed in the partying, greeting well-wishers and others who were helping her to cook outside, a neighbour, simply identified as Mr. Segun, was caught having sexual intercourse with her 40-day old baby right in her room!
Being one of them in the neighbourhood, other well-wishers had left Segun, 45, in the room alone with the baby to join their colleagues who were frying bean cakes meant for the guests.
To the residents and well-wishers, it was a disbelief galore, as it became unbelievable that the man, who was older than Mrs. Ogundipe, could violate the little girl whom they had all, including the perpetrator, come to celebrate her thanksgiving/naming ceremony.
“Doubts persisted until a medical doctor confirmed a penetration in the baby’s private part,” Ogundipe lamented. The culprit was arrested by the police, but surprisingly, he got bail that same day.
Yet all efforts to re-arrest and possibly prosecute him were frustrated by the people. Like in the case of Wunmi, it was her relatives and other highly placed personalities in their community that mounted pressure on her to move on.
Today, she does not only live with that sad memory; she also worries about the stigma and psychological trauma, as well as medical implication of the horrible incident on Remilekun, her innocent girl.
“They kept calling and begging me not to prosecute the man. The man was eventually asked to vacate our area. Since then, I haven’t set my eyes on him. I am told he has travelled to the northern part of the country,” Ogundipe, who agreed to speak on the phone for fear of stigmatisation, told this reporter amidst tears. Perhaps what will bring closure to Mrs. Abigail Kushenla’s traumatised heart is to have Kingsley Chucks jailed for life.
Kingsley, a teacher in one of the private schools in Bariga, Lagos State, ripped a hole in Kushenla’s heart when he allegedly defiled her six-year-old daughter in the school. She observed that her little girl complained of frequent hitching with some malodorous discharge on her private part, an observation that forced the mother to prevail on her child to spill the beans.
By the time the girl was man enough to narrate her frequent and secret experience with her teacher, the distraught mother almost collapsed. When the family slammed Kingsley with threats of prosecution, the randy teacher finally owned up to the fact that he had not only repeatedly defiled the poor girl, but had penetrated her with pencil and finger during private coaching after the school hours.
The school authority, which initially denied such illicit affairs of the teacher, eventually succumbed to begging Kushenla after the facts were laid bare. What forced the hands of the private school, which later dismissed the randy teacher, were threats of inviting the media to feast on the matter. But that is not the end. Having relieved Kingsley of his appointment, the private school believed it had served justice to all parties in the sad incident.
Therefore, in the estimation of the school management, the Kushelas should just go home and lick their wounds and take what happened as an inevitable fate. To achieve this, a concerted arrangement was worked out to silence the family of the victim, as unrelenting pressure from the school, community leaders, as well religious bigwigs in the vicinity attempted to stop any prosecution effort to get justice for the child.
For the 32-year-old mother, her hope of getting justice was further dashed owing to persistent threats to her life and that of her family if she insisted on pressing further on the matter. The poor woman finally bowed to pressure and let the man off the hook when one “revered man of God intervened.”
Digging into the heart of the matter
As gory and unpleasant as the cases seem, they are just few in the rising cases of sexual molestation against children and the agonies mothers are made to face whenever their daughters fall victim of sexual assault.
To avoid the social stigma, many cases of sexual violence against children go unreported, leaving innocent girls to the rapaciousness of sexually famished men. Although reliable national statistics is not available, child rights advocates said cases of rape of minors is fast rising, now assuming alarming rate in the country.
Unfortunately, this persists because of defective and unreliable avenues for seeking redress. And for victims of the ignoble act, life is permanently bruised by the stigma associated with it and the lifelong trauma, which can trigger fatality, especially if there is no pragmatic intervention that will put the life of the victim back on the track.
The majority of child rapes are perpetrated by members of the family, but children are also sexually abused by neighbours and close associates. But experts agree that sexual assault against minors happens every second and every minute, and almost in every place – from the homes of the rich to the abodes of the teeming poor.
It is frequently experienced by children of the well-to-do and the less privileged, while several cases are unreported due to ignorance and fear of stigmatisation and embarrassment that sometimes last a lifetime. According to accounts of victims and their families, the menace happens when it is least expected and from the people one can never imagine as perpetrators, for most of them are family members, trusted friends, allies and confidants.
Investigations revealed that child sexual offenders are mostly male adults who could be chauffeurs, messengers, coaches, religious leaders, teachers, gardeners, cooks and other house helps.
Sometimes, the disdainful act is perpetrated by those who are relatives of the children’s parents or someone too close to the family. Sadly, this act also takes incestuous dimension as many fathers, brothers and sisters are now sexually and crazily molesting and impregnating their own little girls. Interestingly, sexual child abuse syndrome has no barrier regarding the areas or types of houses or places where it happens.
But available details seem to suggest that it occurs more frequently in multiple houses that densely populated by heterogeneous people, popularly known as “the face-me-and-I-face you” apartments and in the highbrow areas dotted with multi-million naira mansions often occupied by the sorich citizens.
The ugly spectre covers every part of the country. Recently, the Medical Director of Funtua General Hospital in Kastina State, Dr Tijjani Bakori, raised the alarm over the spate of child rape in the country, saying that no fewer than 13 rape victims whose ages were below 13 were treated in the hospital within four months.
He said most of the cases were so severe such that surgeries were carried out on the victims. Also, two brothers who are children of a pastor in Ebonyi State were also arrested recently for raping two sisters, Favour and Uloma, aged seven and nine respectively.
The brothers allegedly lured the unsuspecting sisters to a corner in their father’s church before carrying out the act. In Kano Municipal in 2014, it was reported that a 14-year-old girl was raped by her 65-year-old old father, who was subsequently arrested by the police. Another incident reported in 2015 in Dawakin Tofa, in the state, involved the rape and subsequent pregnancy of a 17-yearold girl who accused her 27-year-old boyfriend and her stepfather of perpetrating the crime.
Just recently, the Human Rights Watch indicted Nigerian Government officials and other authorities of raping and sexually exploiting women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram, saying no fewer than 43 women and girls living in seven internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, were abused. According to HRW’s report released on October 31, 2016, four of the victims were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.
The sexually abused victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa.
A rising problem
Although whether the increase in reported cases is due to improved awareness is debatable, the general impression being created is that defilement cases have become more rampant and complicated today, leading to deaths and permanent deformity of many victims. And sadly, some children have contracted STDs and tested HIV positive after being defiled, since the despicable act is usually accompanied by force which leaves painful lacerations on the child’s private parts.
Experts say if the menace is not checked, it may also lead to long-term psycho-somatic problems like extreme fear and anxiety, nightmares and bed-wetting among the affected children, since a child rape victim could be too scared to get up at night even when fully awake. According to a recent global study undertaken by the Women’s World Summit Foundation, a humanitarian organisation serving the advancement of women and children’s rights, 90 per cent of the total number of defiled children stand high chances of becoming abusers in the future.
The study also added that “95 per cent of prostitutes and 80 per cent of substance abusers were abused as children.” Fears are rife that Nigeria is gradually moving towards joining the leagues of countries with terrible cases of child rape and sexual abuse, going by the spate of reported cases and the growing army of child rapists in the country.
Even when the police are alerted as the statutory agency for the enforcement of the law, lawyers with experience in the prosecution of children victims of rape say security agents are largely unequipped to effectively handle the growing cases.
Speaking with New Telegraph on the ugly development, the immediate past director of Lagos State Office of Public Defender (OPD), an agency which handles cases involving victims of rape, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, a lawyer, said while she was in the agency, the state had hundreds of child defilement and rape cases on monthly basis.
She lamented that in spite of the law against child abuse, the social problem continues in silence and the society pretends as if nothing is wrong with the practice. Based on the agency’s findings, the perpetrators of the crime are mostly trusted by the victims and their parents. “Defilers gradually groom the child, particularly the girl child until they are able to initiate the girl into sex,” she said.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW
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