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A catalogue of bestiality: Rapists on rampage despite public uproar

…Police record717 incidents, arrest 799 suspects in five months …Government appears helpless

Despite the public outrage over the bugbear of rape and other sex crimes in Nigeria in recent months, the rapists have continued to defile and violate both mature girls and minors as the government institutions at both federal and state levels appear helpless as to how to tackle the rape rampage.

Hardly had the anger generated by the rape and killing of a 22-year-old University of Benin (Uniben) student, Vera UwaOmozuwa in a church in Benin City, Edo State on May 31, 2020 died down than multiple cases of rape across the nation resurged especially during the lockdown following the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the outcry and demand for justice for the Uniben student rage on, another sad incident was reported from Ibadan, Oyo State just three days later when 18-year-old Barakat Bello was raped and killed by yet-to- be-identified persons in her father’s house on June 4.

Then the situation was made worse by the ugly news of the violation of a 12-year-old girl by a 57-year-old man and his accomplices in JigawaState on June 7.

Once again, Nigerians were stunned bythe story of how a 25-year-old man, AminuBala, allegedly raped and killed his elder brother’s wife in Gusau, ZamfaraState on June 15, 2020

Zamfara State Police command’s spokesperson, SP Mohammed Shehu, while parading AminuBala, said he had already confessed to the crime (of raping his sister-in-law).

On June 14, the Akwa Ibom State Police arrested a 60-year-old village head of IkotInyang, in IbesikpoAsutanLocal Government Area who gave his name as Etteidung Stephen Uyoe for allegedly defiling an 11-year-old girl.

The Police Public Relations Officer, Fredrick Nnudam, who disclosed this to reporters in Uyo,the Akwa Ibom State capital, said the police also arrested one Pastor Victor David in EtimEkpoLocal Government Area for defiling an 8-year-old girl.

On June 15, a Magistrate Court sitting in Isiokpo, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, ordered the remand of a 37-year-old man identified as Sunny Onuegbu, for allegedly using a knife to rape a teenager.

Onuegbu, it was learnt, had used a sharp knife to threaten and rape a 16-year-old girl in Omuigwe, Aluu in Ikwerre LGA, before he was arrested by the police.

Recall that sometime last year; the story of OgbanjeOchanya, a 13-year-old orphan girl broke so many hearts. Ochanya was raped by a man she called father and the situation was even more painful when it was discovered that the man’s son also repeatedly raped the minor until she lost her life.

The recent surge in rape cases in Nigeria alarmed President Muhammadu Buhari so much that he pledged to tackle the plague through the instrumentality of the law.

“I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape, especially of very young girls. The police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice,” Buhari said in a televised Democracy Day address to the nation on Friday June 12, 2020.

“I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender-Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation,” Buhari added.

The countless cases of rape and other gender-based sex crimes prompted stakeholders to analyse the situation in order to address the menace.

Expressing his concerned over the increasing cases of rape in the country, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamuattributed the upsurge to the lockdown imposed by government to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adamu told State House correspondents after a meeting with President Buhari on Monday, June 15 that within five months, the Police have recorded 717 rape incidents, arrested 799 rape suspects, 631 of the cases investigated and charged to court, while investigations are ongoing on 52 of the cases.

Adamu noted that the rise is horrifying, adding that some people indulge in rape for ritual purposes, even as he assured that all those involved in the criminal act will be punished.

The IGP, who hadsince ordered investigations into the inhuman sexual assault and death of the 22-year-old University of Benin (UNIBEN) student,Omosuwa and other cases, said: “It has come to the public knowledge now that because of the COVID-19 restrictions, we have surge in cases of rape and gender-based violence.

“The police and other security agencies and other Non-Governmental Organisations have been collaborating, to see to it that these cases of rape and gender-based violence are dealt with.”

The IGP also ordered the immediate deployment of specialised investigators and additional investigation assets to all the Gender Desks Offices and the Juvenile Welfare Centres (JWC) across the country.

Speaking to BDSUNDAY on the scourge, the Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, attributed the scourge to the decay in the Nigerian society, which she said is struggling to adjust to morality despite the increase and exporting of religion from Nigeria to other nations.

“In a space of 1 hour on the 2nd of June 2020, the WACOL Tamar SARC Centre in Enugu received reports of four (4) cases of rape including a 10-year -old girl. In Lagos, the Domestic and Gender-based Violence Response Team reported a 30percent increase in reported cases of sexual violence in March 2020. While a criminal gang kidnapped three students of the University of Port Harcourt, (Uniport) on April 7th, gang-raped the only female student among them and went further to butcher her to death,” she said.

She noted that the problem is escalating because of lack of accountability, punishment, naming and shaming, stressing that instead the burden and shame is placed on women.

She pointed out that other causes may be increased level of poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and conflict, which are all causal factors, but these are no excuse for offenders to engage in sexual violence.

On the socio-psychological impacts of rape on the victims and society, Hassan said: “No one ever gets cured of the wounds, the burden never leaves, we only create alternatives to a life of dignity as we pick up the pieces to recreate a life that is humane, just and productive, it becomes a lifetime event that demands a constant alternative to cover the pain and brushes, even with justice and forgiveness.”

She added that rape takes away the victims sense of humanity, will and liberty which is a basic human right, leads to different levels of depression, and in some cases suicidal thoughts and attempts through prolonged hopelessness.

“In such instances, the society becomes the secondary victims of an act they never wished nor planned for, the families, father, mother, husband or wife, children, and colleagues and even organisations who then bear the burden of a negatively disrupted personality, with their time and energy expanded to care for such victims that further drains the society hours of productive lifestyle, sense of community and family that is based on love and trust,” she added.

On whether the law and institutions established to tackle this menace have done enough, the CDD director said: “Beyond the criminal code, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) passed by the National Assembly in 2015 provides a reasonable number of innovations and instruments we should explore in holding perpetrators of SGBV accountable.

“It further defined the minimum penalty for rape to 12 years for an individual and 20years in the case of gang rape.”

She said the Ministry of Women and Social Welfare at the national and state levels and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) are all established institutions with the mandate and support of other state and non-state actors to combat and address the challenges of SGBV.

She however, expressed doubt about the funding capacities of these institutions and human resources available to their disbursal, stressing that they might not be enough to address this growing trend and culture of SGBV.

“While we would appreciate the efforts of these institutions, it is important to mention that the approach, strategy, and funding available to these institutions may be further reviewed and attuned to the growing culture, impunity, and cases of SGBV,” she added.

A clinical forensic psychologist, Law Mefor, gave insights into the mind of a rapist and proffered solutions. He said there are number factors responsible for sex crimes.

“It is usually coming from individuals suffering from anti-social personality disorders and narcissism. They are the ones often into sexualised violence, false entitlements and absurdities, sexual deviations and sexual variations. These disorders are learned and dysfunctional. Their origin is difficult to pin down.

“But psychologists believe child abuse is key to understanding this kind of weird behaviour. Today’s abused child becomes tomorrow’s abuser. What is going on can be seen as a kind of an individual’s cry for vengeance and maternal help. Abuse can be emotional, physical or verbal,” he said.

Another dimension he said is also found in childhood upbringing, adding that some have a sense of entitlement and cannot negotiate sexual pleasure and tend to take it by force which is rape.

“Another factor is environmental. Sexual crimes can be learned from gangs and peers. Students who join cults will soon become rapists because of the culture of gang which promotes molestation of non-cooperative and vulnerable female students.

“It is also important to note that many perpetrators of sexual crimes use the crime to assert control and get back to authority and to compensate for presumed privations. For example, a man who couldn’t get a girl of class can resort to raping such girl. The deprivation is coming from poor socialisation, a kind of arrested development in the upbringing of the individual,” he said.

He called for a more effective way of enforcing the law and to strengthen the institutions to make more efficient.

Nigerian women groups have made strident efforts through advocacy to tame the monster of rape but the crime continues to grow despite advocacy.

They have made repeated calls to the federal and state governments to take deliberate actions to protect women and girls. Government have been urged to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (VAPP) Act (2015) and the Child Rights Act (2003) in their respective states to prevent this ugly trend and there has been years of advocacy especially in the north around this issue . But these appear to have fallen on deaf ears as governments seem to have paid little attention to the issue of rape until the recent cases. It is also pathetic that only seven states have reportedly domesticated the VAPP act so far.

The West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), and the Global Network for Women Peacebuilding have repeatedly urged government to domesticate the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, the Sustainable Development Goal 5 – which call for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa: an instrument for advancing reproductive and sexual right.

It is believed that if governments at all levels had heeded these calls, perhaps, this ugly trend would have been drastically reduced.

Bridget Osakwe, national coordinator, WANEP on Tuesday, expressed concern over the increasing sexual assault and rape of women and girls in the country. She said there was an urgent need to end gender-based violence and protect the rights of women and girls in Nigeria.

Nonye Lawrence-Welle, chief medical director of Police Hospital, while confirming the scourge said Nigeria’s slow judicial process and the accompanied delay in getting justice for victims of sexual abuse is one of the major reasons sexual violence in the form of rape and other gender-based violence are extremely prevalent in Nigeria.

The Medical Director explained that the delay in punishing perpetrators makes other sexual offenders believe they can commit the crime and get away with it.

The outrage continues but the rapists appear undaunted. It might require more drastic measures to address this plague than the usual declarations in various quarters not backed by appropriate actions.

 

Innocent Odoh, GodsgiftOnyedinefu and Gift Wada, Abuja

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