News Analysis by Moses Omorogieva
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
On June 14, 2020,the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu, disclosed that the police arrested 799 rape and related suspects from January 2020 to June 2020 and conclusively investigated and charged to court, 631 cases.
Adamu also revealed that the police were investigating 52 cases.
The police chief was responding to public outcry against increased rape in the Nigerian society.
“It has come to public knowledge that because of the COVID-19 restrictions, we have a surge in cases of rape and gender-based violence,” he said.
According to Adamu, law enforcement agents have been dealing with such cases but many members of the public are not aware of the efforts of the law enforcers.
Adamu gave the assurance that police would partner with stakeholders across West Africa to tackle rape and defilement.
“The police and other security agencies and non-governmental organisations have been collaborating to see that cases of rape and gender-based violence are dealt with.
“I call on every Nigerian that comes across any victim of sexual offences, rape or gender-based violence to quickly report to law enforcement agents, because keeping quiet will give room for perpetrators to continue to commit the offences,” he said.
“It is a very wicked offence.
Some are doing it for ritual purposes. Such people should not be allowed to go scot-free.”
The IGP’s statements have been greeted with mixed reactions from members of the society.
While some people commended the police for a job well done, others said the number of rape cases being handled by the police is a far cry from the reality.
Rape is as old as human existence. While some nations treat it with much seriousness and execute those found guilty, others treat it as a common crime that allows the offender to spend between two and five years in jail.
Analysts note that some rape and defilement victims lose their lives in the process while others get traumaised all through life.
They also note that rape and defilement inflict depression, pain and shame on victims.
They are worried that females of all ages including babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and even those in their 60s and 80s are being defiled or raped.
They believe that many cases of rape and defilement are not reported due to fear of stigmatisation.
One the cases that recently sparked public outcry and protests was the rape and murder of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology student of the University of Benin, in a church in Benin City.
Human rights campaigners, female journalists and even governors’ wives have protested against rape and defilement in recent times.
Some men have also publicly condemned the trend.
They all seek prosecution of suspected rapists and adequate punishment for offenders.
They believe that men should show love and care for the feminine gender instead of raping or defiling them.
In Nigeria, the law provides for a maximum of life jail for convicted rapists.
However, due to increase in the trend, different individuals, groups and organisations have suggested different penalties against rape and defilement, including death sentence, castration, naming and shaming, to stem the tide.
Different police commands in Nigeria have had sad stories to tell about rape and defilement in terms of challenges in prosecuting the cases.
In Lagos, the state police command received no fewer than 32 reports of defilement and rape, including incest and sodomy, from January 2020 to June 2020.
Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Bala Elkana, who confirmed the figure to journalists, said that Lagos had been commended for establishing a strong bond between hospitals and the police.
According to him, the link has helped the police to be abreast of rape and defilement cases.
“We have arrested 39 suspects in connection with the 32 rape cases.
“We have charged 29 of those suspects to court, with three persons remaining in custody because their cases just came some days ago,” he says.
Elkana remarks that rape and related cases will be easy to resolve if victims will present themselves early for medical examinations and forensic evidence.
“This is where non-government organisations such as Mirabel Center have proved useful. They have a team of counsellors and medical experts who attend to victims and help secure pieces of evidence.”
He notes that rape cases are not all about girls and women.
“It also involves boys. The important thing is for the victims to present themselves early for treatment and further investigation,” he adds.
For the National Human Rights Commission Coordinator in Lagos State, Mr Lucas Koyejo, real men don’t rape.
“Women are our mothers, sisters, wives. They should be treated with dignity,” he urges.
Mr Osai Ojigho, the Director for Amnesty International in Nigeria, is worried that rape and defilement occur even where women and girls should be safest – home, schools and worship centres.
He advises that relevant authorities should intensify efforts and restragise to be able to deter rapists, and protect women and girls.
Pastor Friday Omofoma, General Overseer of the Good Tiding Pentecostal Church, Mushin, Lagos, believes that religious leaders should share in blame for the crimes due to inaction.
He is of the opinion that religious leaders should create more time to work against rape and defilement through prayers, sermons and guidance.
“Some altars have been turned to business. Thus, the devil has invaded the church.
“Increase in rape is a way to bring destruction to humans.
“We should return to Bethel to supplicate not only for salvation but also for deliverance,” he urges.
Mr Folorunsho Attah, a security expert, blames rape and defilement on idleness.
He calls for a stiffer penalty for the crimes, while urging parents to guard their children properly.
A retired Commissioner of Police, Mr Ibe Aghanya, who notes an increase in crime generally, says rape cases were compounded by reluctance of victims and their parents to report the crime due to fear of stigmatisation.
According to him, even if a case of rape or defilement is reported and charged to court, lack of forensic evidence and other challenges hinder prosecution.
He adds that sometimes prosecution of the cases takes too long, resulting in lack of interest by witnesses.
The retired police boss calls for provision of tools to aid extraction of forensic evidence to prosecute rape cases.
“Rape cases must be tried within a very short time and the guilty given long term imprisonment.
“Any rape case in court must not be withdrawn by parents because it is an offence against the state.
“In countries such as U.S., victims or parents don’t fail to report rape cases to the police for prosecution,” he says.
He also argues that rape is increasing due to moral decadence.
“Parents and religious bodies can help to effect a change.
“Robust administration of justice will ensure punishment for rapist.”
Analysts are calling for collective, intensified and consistent efforts to tackle rape, defilement and related offences to make Nigeria a better society.