By - Adedoyin Shittu
Rape, a social failure and a national horror is spiralling out of control in Nigeria, slowly but surely it has eaten deep into the social fabric of the Nigerian society. The Nigerian society which hinges itself on the tenets of morality and religion have been thrown under the weight of sexual perversion and there has been an increase in sexual assault against children in the country. Headlines such as; 59 years old man rapes a 12 years old, 28 years old rapes a 4 year old, 65 years old rapes a 4 years old, 30 years old rapes 10 years old, 42 years rapes 12 years old, and even 30 years raping a six month old has become the norm in the news. Day after day, reports of sexual assault of the Nigerian child, both male, and female, are awashed in both the traditional and new media.
Statistics released by Databod Nigeria on July 2018 showed that in 2017, a total of 2278 cases of rape were recorded in the country. This means an average of six persons was raped per day in 2017 even though many rape cases occurred in the rural area and were not even reported. It is even more alarming that most of these rape were carried out on minors. The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), in a statement on Tuesday, July 30, says that 69 per cent of rape and sexual violence survivors in Nigeria are under the age of 18.
Last year October, Nigerians were thrown into mourning when the story of Ochanya broke into the media, 13 years old Ochanya died from VVF complications from the sexual assault she suffered from the hands of her uncle and nephew. She had been turned to a sex slave by the duo who took turns to rape her both anally and from the vagina right from the tender age of 8 for a period of 5 years. The story of Elizabeth Ochanya is far from being over because justice is not yet served. Although her uncle, Mr Ogbuja, has been remanded at the Makurdi prison without a court sentence, Victor her nephew is reportedly still at large. It is disheartening that the police authorities have been lethargic in seeking to legally declare Victor Ogbuja wanted and put him on both national and international watch list of suspected criminals. This is because the society does not have the will to persecute sexual criminals. The family of late Ochanya Ogbanje have accused the suspects of threatening their lives.
This is common in our society, two or three years later, when the story is long forgotten, you will see the accused walking out freely looking for their next victim.
The growing incidence of paedophilia and sexual attraction to babies in the country is particularly worrisome as Nigerians are inundated with stories of such happenings on a daily occurence and there is now no age limits to sex perverts.
When the news of baby Khadijah broke out in 2017, it was a season of agony for Nigerians who could not believe that a sane person could stoop so low to rape a 6 month old child with the assistance of his wife, who held the lap of the baby in place for the sicko to penetrate. The story reverberated around the country and the disgust and pain felt by Nigerians was unanimous. Not long afterwards the story of Hauwa Ibrahim was also reported, she was raped by her 57-year-old step father, Magaji Dansale, who was on a “get rich quickly quest” and his only hope was to brutally rape his step daughter. Unfortunately, little Hauwa died two weeks later as a result of complications from the rape.
These and many more are the unpalatable stories of sexual perverts that we hear day by day, despite having laws that registers rape as a very serious offence under the Nigerian jurisdiction.
In Nigeria, there are four laws that deal with rape yet the nation is crawling with rapists and paedophiles. We have; the Criminal Code, the Penal code, the Criminal Laws of Lagos, and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Acts.
Rape under the section 35(7) of the Criminal Code of Nigeria states that “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman by impersonating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape. This law is applicable in States in southern part of the federation.
Under Section 35(8), rape is punishable by life imprisonment, with the possible addition of caning. Rape of a girl under 13 years is commonly referred to as ‘defilement’ and is categorized as an offence against morality in the Criminal Code. Section 21(8) provides that: “any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen years is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning.”
The Penal Code on rape which is applicable to Northern states in the federation provides that: A man is said to commit rape (aside his wife) when he has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstances: (a) against her will; (b) without her consent; (c) with her consent when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurts (d) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married; (e) with or without her consent, when she is under 14 years of age or of an unsound mind.
Under the Kano Sharia Penal Code Law the criminal offence of rape carries different penalties according to the marital status of the perpetrator. Rape is punishable by death by stoning if the perpetrator is married and caning (100 lashes) and up to life imprisonment if the perpetrator is unmarried.
The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA) signed into law in the FCT on 23rd May, 2015, defines rape as; when a person either male or female intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (male or femae) with any other part of his / her body or anything else without consent”. The offender under this law is liable to life imprisonment except where offender is less than 14 years then the offender is liable to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. In all other cases, the offender is liable to a minimum of 12 years imprisonment without an option of fine. And in the case of a rape by a group of persons, the offenders are liable to joint sentencing of a maximum of 20 years.
In Lagos State,Nigeria, the Criminal Code Law (2011) in Section 258 (1) provides that “any man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl, without her consent, is guilty of the offence of rape and liable to imprisonment for life”. The law further states in Subsection (2) that “a woman or girl does not consent to sexual intercourse if she submits to the act by reason of force, impersonation, threat or intimidation of any kind, fear of harm or false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act”.
Time For A New Definition Of Rape
Rape in Nigeria is gender bias and males are usually the offender (though this is a topic for another day) and the females are always the victims. It is only the VAPPA that addresses that rape can be done on the male gender.
Also the essential ingredients of the offence of rape are penetration and lack of consent in Nigeria. Sexual intercourse is deemed complete upon proof of penetration of the penis into the vagina. Emission is not a necessary requirement. Any or even the slightest penetration will be sufficient to constitute the act of sexual intercourse. Thus, where penetration is proved but not of such a depth as to injure the hymen, it will be sufficient to constitute the crime of rape.
Simply put, rape is committed when a man has sexual intercourse with a woman without consent and can only be committed against a woman or a girl and not against the male gender. It also defines that rape happens when sexual intercourse is involved. This is why the nation is crawling with paedophiles and rapists because the nation law accommodates them. A rapist can either be a man or a woman and vaginal penetration does not have to happen for rape to be defined. What happens in cases of defilement or when a man rapes another man anally or a male/female rapes a female without penetration in the vagina. There need to be a review of the rape laws to cover all these instances.
How Rape Cases Are Treated In Nigeria
Despite rape been condemnable in Nigeria, victims of rape hardly get justice in Nigeria and for an iota of justice to be served to offenders; victims, their parent or guardian have to move the mountain and pay through their nose. Common court sentences that we hear is; An upper Area Court sentenced a 25-year-old farmer to three years in prison for raping an eight-year-old girl, 35 years old man jailed four years for raping 9-year-old, 35 years old man gets two years in jail for drugging, raping 8 years old girl, 61 years old jailed three years for raping 8-year old girl.
This lopsided justice in rape cases was in the forefront of the media earlier last month in the case of baby Khloe versus Idris Ebiloma.
Idris Ebiloma – 28, raped Miss KHLOE who was 4 years and 3 months, at that time in 2016 he was a cook in their home in Asokoro, Abuja. There was vaginal and anal penetration of that little girl. It was said that he had lured the young girl into the guest toilet where he carried out his dastardly act, and he left the little girl in pains. The victims mother reported to the police but she was compelled to drop charges against the man but she refused. Idris was jailed for over 2 years and was supposed to be released on Friday, July 5, 2019 if not for the timely intervention of some Nigerian celebrities who rallied round Khloe’s mother prevented the release. The case was adjourned till October 3, 2019. Despite that damning evidence were presented to the court, Idris’s legal team put up a defence that the mother of the victim framed him up because he was informing the father of the victim of her flings with other men.
There are many Khloe, Ochanya and baby Khadijah out there who have lost hope for any form of justice because of the corrupt system in place in the country. In Nigeria, justice is usually for the highest bidder and the victim become more victimised, this is why many have chosen to remain silent in a case of rape. Whenever a rape is reported, the questions the victims are asked are; is she even a virgin, how many boyfriends does she have, what was she wearing before she was raped, why did she visit him alone, and all sorts. Does this question also apply to hapless babies too? This problem of secondary victimisation has also been identified as one of the major factors that account for the underreporting of rape cases in the country.
In 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in a study found the criminal justice system to be the most corrupt sector in Nigeria. Police officers, with a prevalence rate of 46.4 per cent, are most commonly paid bribes, followed by prosecutors, and then the judges and magistrates.
The 2019 Global Corruption Barometer Africa report released by Transparency International also confirmed that the Nigeria Police is the most corrupt institution while the judiciary is ranked third.
In June this year, it was widely reported how father of two underage rape victims (13 years and 9 years) was asked to pay N 50,000 to mobilise policemen and track down the suspect which happened to be his landlord on the run. Another victim of rape who was directed to a police station at Obalende, Lagos in January 2018, said she had to pay N 8,500 to fuel a vehicle in order to arrest the suspect. Having to pay to get through the process of criminal litigation, which is the sole responsibility of the state, means poor Nigerians who are victims of sexual violence may never get justice. Ironically victims of rape are not usually the rich but most cases of rape and child defilement happen to vulnerable people in rural communities.
Push For Death Penalty
Nigerian lawmakers are pushing for the death penalty for rape. While this is a welcome development, it is not the right thing now. Rape is already a serious offence in Nigeria that carries the life sentence but how many have been convicted with the life sentence. They either bribe their way out of the police custody or are sentenced lightly after the victims of rape are made to suffer unquantifiable anguish. Some become diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation from reality, depersonalization, endure physical violence, avoid social life, get infected with sexually transmitted infections, encounter serious difficulty in remembering events, relives moments of sexual assault and unwanted pregnancy amongst other ills.
Nigerians have had enough of the laws that does not have the political will to pull its weight but we call on the Nigerian Police to treat rape and defilement cases with the speed and the seriousness it deserves. The senate should also review the rape laws to make it cover the male gender and agree on an age for rape. Corruption in the police force and judiciary should be adequately combated so that raped victims are given the justice they seek. This will encourage other victims of rape to boldly come out to seek justice and when justice is served to offenders, there will definitely be a drop of the vice because of the fear of the consequence.
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