Recently, cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence in Lagos State were brought to the front burner as revelations from the 2018 report by Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) frightened not just a few. ISIOMA MADIKE looks at the issue which has become topical
A few days ago, Lagos State government said it recorded over 3, 089 cases of sexual and domestic violence in just a little over eight months. This alarming revelation, according to many, portends a terrible moral character for the Nigerian society. Incidentally, it has been an upward surge in recent times, as both the traditional and social media are daily inundated with tales of abuses, either domestic or sexual.
This figure however, only accounts for the reported cases in 2018. It also represents over 200 per cent increase compared to the previous year’s figure of 1,044, according to the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT). The unit was created by the government in 2014 as a response to the increase incidents of rape, defilement, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect and maltreatment in the state.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, made the disclosure at the commemoration of this year’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness month. The theme for this year’s discussion: “Securing the Home against Violence: Everyone’s Responsibility,” seemed apt for the occasion. Kazeem, who is the chairman of the team, said seven people were convicted during the period under review. According to him, from January till August 2018, the team handled 1,037 cases in the office comprising: 930 domestic violence, 245 child abuse cases, 40 defilement cases, 22 rape cases and 13 cases of attempt to commit rape and sexual assault by penetration.
The commissioner also said 10 cases of sexual assault by penetration and 48 other cases were recorded, adding that DSVRT sees an average of 150 new cases monthly. “An alarming number of Nigerian children are regularly being sexually abused by person (s) who is supposed to protect them,” Kazeem said.
The state’s Office of the Chief Judge has also disclosed a staggering 134 per cent increase compared with 2017, representing “a total number of 2,356 cases, including 1,750 domestic violence cases, 279 child abuse cases, 78 defilement cases, 44 rape cases, 51 attempted rape cases and 154 other cases that were handled compared to the 1,044 cases treated in the preceding year.”
Professor of Sociology at the University of Lagos, Fatai Badru, lent his voice to the disgusting issue when he revealed that not less than five cases of domestic violence were being reported daily in Lagos. Badru, who spoke at the symposium organised by DSVRT, said recent doctoral studies showed that domestic violence was more prevalent in the urban areas than the rural areas. He said: “According to the DSVRT statistics, there has been an increase in domestic violence daily in Lagos. At least, a minimum of five incidences are reported daily.”
The sociologist attributed the high level of domestic violence in urban areas to psychological factors and stressful living conditions. “People with disabilities are also highly vulnerable to violence,” he added. However, some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) has been on the issue before this exposé. For instance, on January 28, a coalition of NGOs led by Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, executive director, Project Alert on Violence Against Women, took the issue of Child Sexual Abuse and Systemic Failure in responding to cases to the media. The parley dissected the institutional challenges and dysfunctional systems that frustrate victims/survivors as well as family and friends at getting the needed help and justice.
The dysfunctionality and poor response to domestic and sexual violence cases in the criminal justice system, according to Effah-Chukwuma, starts at the police station with unprofessional insensitive response along with demands for the victims to fund the search for justice. The ministries, she pointed out, do not have basic intervention services such as a good fostering system for molested children, shelter for abused women and resources to follow-up on cases.
Because of these, she said, lives are being lost on a daily basis. It was agreed at the meeting that Nigerians should from now on hold the government at all levels accountable for the impunity with which domestic and sexual violence are being perpetrated against women and girls.
The media was also advised to continually bring the issue to the fore and to help task both politicians and political office holders to make it a priority while designing their programmes and to help with the evaluation thereafter. She said: “As Nigerians, we can all testify to the fact that hardly a day goes by without one case of either child sexual abuse or domestic violence being reported in the traditional as well as the social media. For the child sexual abuse cases, the victims are usually under the ages of between three and 17. The perpetrators are often people known to the children – fathers, stepfathers, uncles, cousins, drivers, neighbours, teachers, pastors and imams. They are people the children know, love and trust, not strangers.
“Families of victims and survivors now seek help and justice for their victimisation, which unfortunately gets truncated in most cases because of systemic failure on the part of government and law enforcement agencies caused by poor funding, corruption, corrupt practices and impunity. “Most times the burden of first responding to these cases falls on NGOs, as they are often tagged and called upon via various social media platforms to take on these cases.
This, they do, with a lot of passion, only to be confronted by institutional challenges and dysfunctional systems that cost human and financial resources that are scare. “We as NGOs can no longer keep silent. We cannot keep doing the work of government. We, as Nigerians, need to hold our government accountable for the impunity with which domestic and sexual violence are being perpetrated against women and girls. As we are currently in elections season, this is the time to raise these and task all political office holders to make them policy issues. Women and girls’ lives matter.” Lagos State, many would agree, has every reason to confront these monsters frontally.
In February, two suspects, Don-Chima Enyinnaya George and Olusegun Rasak, were arrested in connection with the case of alleged rape at Lekki area of the state. The duo allegedly took a girl, 23, to a club on Saturday, February 2, unknown to her that they had ulterior motive.
While at the club, they mixed the young woman’s drink with a substance that made her weak and almost unconscious. Satisfied that the drug was beginning to affect the victim, they quietly left the club with her to Dallankester Hotels in Lekki Phase one, allegedly owned by George’s father. At the hotel, they purportedly took turns to rape her. As if that wasn’t enough, they filmed the abuse. When the victim woke up from the induced sleep, she confronted the suspects, who denied having carnal knowledge of her. Not satisfied, she placed a call to her elder brother complaining that she had been violated.
The brother immediately invited policemen from Maroko Division led by the Divisional Police Officer, CSP Isah Abdulmajid, to the scene. On searching the suspects, the DPO recovered their phones and went through their video recordings where he saw a video of the suspects sexually abusing the apparently unconscious victim. The then state Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, had to direct the Gender Section of the Command to investigate and diligently prosecute the suspects to serve as deterrent to others. Unfortunately, the police approach did not work as four suspects repeated the crime when they allegedly gangraped a 15-year-old girl in Ikorodu, also in February. This was a few days after the celebrated Lekki incident.
The suspects identified as Dokun Ojo, Olawale Ojo and two others, allegedly attacked, gagged and gang-raped the victim, who was said to be returning from an errand at Gberigbe area of Ikorodu.The victim reportedly said: “I was attacked by the suspects while running an errand for my father about 5p.m. on January 24. They gagged and raped me one after the other, and used their phone to video the act. “I didn’t tell my family because I was scared as they threatened to kill me.
They said they will upload the video on the internet if I open up to anyone. But when I could not keep it to myself any more, I had to open up to a friend in the church. It was my friend that talked to a family member, who informed my parents.” The victim was taken to Ijede General Hospital in Ikorodu and medical reports confirmed that she was, indeed, raped. According to the victim’s father, “My daughter was scared because they threatened her. She did not tell anybody what happened to her. I was at home when a relative and a few church members came with my daughter to see me.
“They told us what happened to my daughter. After questioning her, we went straight to the Police to report the case. However, when the Police went to the main suspect’s house, they arrested his elder brother but his father attacked the policemen and during the process, the suspect escaped.”
A teenager, according to LINDA IKEJIS BLOG, was continually raped also by her stepfather from the time she was 14 till she was 17 in January. When he finally died, she opened up to her mother and the reply she got was described as heartbreaking. In like manner, a 31-year-old commercial bus driver identified as Alaba Shodamola was equally arrested by the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly raping a 20-year-old girl under the pretence of being her God-sent Angel. The suspect amusingly was said to have convinced his victim that he was an angel sent by God.
January must have been terrible as another 14-year-old girl, was raped to death in her parents’ apartment in Abule-Ado area of Lagos State by miscreants. Vanguard newspaper reported that the act was carried out by a group of criminals, who usually hang out in a smoking joint in the area. A man living in Iyana Ejigbo part of the state reportedly sent his wife packing for refusing to scream while being raped by robbers. The incident, which happened around Bello Street, left many people in confusion. And a Customs officer, identified simply as Samuel, was also arrested by the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly raping and videotaping the nudity of his female friend.
It was gathered that the 29-year-old Samuel always threatened to post the clip on the social media whenever he demanded to forcefully sleep with the poor girl. For allegedly raping and impregnating a teenager, Joe Pelle, 37, was equally brought before an Ikeja Chief Magistrates’ Court. Pelle, who resides at 11, Prince Bayo St., Igbogbo, Ikorodu, Lagos State, was charged for allegedly raping a 16-year-old girl. Nonetheless, child sexual abuse in Nigeria is an offence under several sections of chapter 21 of the country’s criminal code.
The age of consent is 18. But UNICEF report in 2015 indicated that one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. According to another survey by Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), over 31.4 per cent of girls who responded, said that their first sexual encounter had been rape or forced sex of some kind.
“Six out of 10 children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with half experiencing physical violence,” UNICEF added. Another survey credited to the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development also reported that 1,200 girls had been raped in 2012 in southern Nigeria alone.
However, conditions that increase the risk of girl-child sexual assault in Nigeria can be found in schools, baby factories and the practice of child labour. Studies conducted in Nigeria disclose that young girls are victims in the majority of reported assault cases in hospitals. A four-year review of sexual assault cases at LASUTH that began in 2008 and ended in December 2012, showed that out of a total 287 reported cases of sexual assault, 83 per cent of the victims were below the age of 19. Another one-year survey conducted at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital between 2012 and 2013 revealed that 70 per cent of sexual assault victims were under the age of 18. In the Enugu survey, the majority of the victims knew their perpetrators and the assault occurred inside uncompleted buildings and the victims or perpetrators residence.
One of the traditional means of socialisation of children is through trading. But, the introduction of young girls into street trading has, somewhat,increased their vulnerabilities to sexual harassment. This may be the reason why the act is linked to child labour in the country. Nigeria, according to those who should know, has an awfully low conviction rate for rape and sexual abuse.
This is in spite of the alarming increase in violence against women in recent years. A human rights lawyer, Evans Ufeli, who is said to have been handling sexual assault cases for over a decade, voiced his frustration in proving rape cases. He was quoted to have said: “Certain cases are not effective enough because some (instances of) rapes are not recognised in the eyes of law. Sometimes, after medical examination (when) we find no signs of force or bruising, the law does not recognise that as rape.”
For domestic violence, also known as home and spousal abuse, battering, family and intimate partner violence, it is a pattern of abusive behaviour by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation. It is not limited to obvious physical violence but can also mean criminal coercion, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment to gain control over another intimate partner. From the lady whose husband regularly threatens to that who has turned his wife into a punching bag, cases of domestic violence are increasing by the day in the Nigerian society, especially in the city of Lagos.
The United Nations agreed that domestic violence takes many forms ranging from physical to sexual, emotional and mental. Even though traditionally, domestic violence is committed against females, there have been reports where the man in the relationship is the one being violated. In Nigeria though, domestic violence, where the woman is the victim, is a common problem in many homes mainly because of the deep cultural belief that it is socially acceptable to hit a woman in the guise of discipline.
This social context of violence, according to other opinions, is based largely on the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society where violence against a wife is seen as a tool that a husband uses to chastise her so that she improves her ways. To this line of thought, it is not uncommon for a woman to lose her rights upon marriage even as the implied submissiveness for men is socially encouraged within the society. One of the celebrated cases of domestic violence in recent times is that of the tragic story of a female lawyer who gruesomely killed her husband in Lagos. A prosecution witness who gave graphic detail of the gruesome killing of Lagos lawyer, Symphorosa Otike- Odibi, by her lawyer wife, Udeme, before an Igbosere High Court, said that Udeme stabbed Symphorosa to death and mutilated his corpse by cutting off his genitals at their Diamond Estate, Sangotedo, Lekki, Lagos home.
In her alleged confessional statement according to the police, Udeme allegedly stated that “She was married to the late Symphorosa and that they were having marital issues. The deceased was having extra-marital affairs and whenever I raised the issue with him, his responses were not satisfactory; he appeared nonchalant.”
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