Cases of rape and defilement are on the increase because parents of the prefer out-of-court settlements while the victims suffer in silence
| By Chinwe Okafor | Sep. 9, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
FOR the residents of Angwan Daji Quarters in Minna, Niger State, August 23, 2013 was an unforgettable day. It was a day Saliu Lawal, 25 year-old brick layer and a resident of the quarters was arrested for alleged rape of a three year old girl. Lawal, who lured the minor to Nuru Islam Primary School, Angwan Daji, was apprehended when the little girl cried out for help. The cry of the girl attracted passers-by who arrested Lawal in the act.
The suspect was handed over to the police at the Chanchaga Divisional Police Headquarters. He admitted committing the crime but blamed his action on the devil. “I know the parents of the girl, they are my next-door neighbours. I lured her into a classroom at Nuru Islam Primary School at Angwan Daji, where I forced myself on her. It was her cry that attracted some passersby, who caught me unawares. I was shocked when I saw the people and I wanted to run away. But I was caught and beaten up mercilessly. They handed me over to the police,” he said.
Also, Adewale Adeleke, 35-year old bus driver, who lives at Ikotun, Alimosho local government area, Lagos, has been arrested by the police for defiling his 13 and 10 year-old daughters for two years. The girls said that their father had been sleeping with them since 2011 without the knowledge of their mother who separated from their father in 2012. The eldest of them said that their father deflowered her at 11 and her sister at 8 and had since continued the act.
“Our father sleeps with us frequently. The first time he slept with me, I saw blood coming out of my private part and he used a singlet to clean me up,” she said. Adeleke, on his own part, admitted that he had been defiling his daughters since 2011 saying it was the devil that pushed him to do such. The girls are under police protection while their father was arraigned at the Ejigbo Magistrate’s Court.
These are just two out of the many rape cases that happen in Nigeria on a daily basis. Rape, has become a major social problem in Nigeria. The media are inundated with reports of cases of rape which has become a common phenomenon everywhere in homes, the neighbourhoods, schools, worship centres, among others. It has also become so widespread that people hire others to rape their relatives, neighbours or those they consider to be a thorn in their flesh. Experts have raised the alarm on the danger which raping children portends in the society.
Aliu Damilola, a clinical psychologist with the federal neuro-psychiatric hospital, Lagos, said that children are mainly the targets of rapists today because they are naïve and can’t protect themselves as well. “Aside the punishment given to anybody that rapes a child or an adult, parents have a big work to do. Parents should take time to study their children, examine them regularly and create an enabling environment that would enable them to report any one they suspect around them. We should not wait for something to happen before reporting it. And for the adult ladies, they should try and dress decently to avoid harassment,” she said
According to Damilola, children who suffer constant rape or sexual abuse either by their relatives, neighbours or someone older than them, may end up having some psychological symptoms like post-traumatic stress disorder and rape trauma syndrome which is always characterised by symptoms like withdrawal, anxiety and constant nightmares in adulthood. These, she said, are all manifest symptoms of rape tendencies.
Onikepo Oshodi, president, women empowerment movement, a non-governmental organisation, is not impressed by government’s handling of rape cases in the country. She said that her group, in collaboration with other bodies, had started compiling cases of rape and other abuses against the girl-child. “The initiative would enable the group to forward recommendations to the state and federal governments for proactive measures to stop the trend. We want the government to come out and tell us what their position is especially the Ministry of Women Affairs. We cannot continue to watch like this. They have to do more than they have been doing,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ngozi Braide, Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, said the unwillingness of some rape victims and their parents to help the police prosecute the cases are responsible for the increase of the crime in Nigeria. “As long as rape victims and their parents refuse to show interest in prosecuting the case, the offenders will go scot-free and more of such crimes will happen. The victims of rape or defilement are the main witnesses the police need to send the offenders to prison. The case is a serious offence under the Nigerian law. An offender could be sentenced to life imprisonment if found guilty. We have many people who should be behind bars for violent crimes against women, but because the people concerned are not willing to come forward to assist the police in prosecution, they are walking freely and even committing more of such crimes,” Braide said.
Braide then called on parents, particularly women, to show concern and stand behind their wards to prosecute rape offenders, stressing that if the crime remained unchallenged, there would be the possibility of its increase. She said that about four cases of rape and defilement by some men against their daughters were recorded since she assumed duty in Lagos command in the last nine months but regretted that nobody had been prosecuted.
“Parents should know that they are not helping their children by accepting to settle rape cases out of court. They are killing the future of such children. You cannot quantify the pains encountered by the victims with monetary settlement. My advice for women is that they should rise up to fight any form of abuse against women, particularly rape and defilement. The victims and the minors cannot help themselves; their parents must therefore stand for them. The police are willing to prosecute any rape case if those with useful information about it would be willing to come forward with evidence.”