INVESTIGATION: Inside Nigeria’s growing rape epidemic

Joe Okei-Odumakin, President of Women Arise for Change Initiative, leading a protest against rape
File photo of Joe Okei-Odumakin, President of Women Arise for Change Initiative, leading a protest

When middle-aged Michael Aimufia was sentenced to a two-year prison term for rape, the magistrate, Hassana Garuba, ruled that the prosecutor had successfully proved that the accused committed the crime.

During trial, prosecutor Rosemary Igbinakenzua explained how Mr. Aimufia raped a housewife on a village path.

The convict waylaid his victim when she was returning home from taking her child to school; hit her on the head and dragged her to the bush path.

As he fled the scene after raping his victim, he was knocked down by a vehicle. Coincidentally, the driver was the victim’s husband. The unsuspecting husband had quickly parked to rescue the man he hit when he heard a voice wailing in the bush.

The voice turned out to be his wife’s and he later found out that the man he hit had raped her. He took both of them to hospital and called the police.

Mr. Aimufia’s case is one of an increasing incident of rape across Nigeria. But his conviction is one of the few successfully prosecuted rape cases in Nigeria.

Another pending case is that of 47-year old Rotimi Edwards, a teacher and administrator of King of Kings College, Benin City, who is being prosecuted by the Edo State Government.

The suspect is accused of sexually harassing and raping underage and teenage students of his college.

One of the students, a 12-year old female JSS II student, testified that Mr. Edwards, the son of the school proprietor, was her English and Literature teacher. She said that after school hours, the suspect would invite her to his office where he would hug, kiss, and insert his fingers into her genitals. She was afraid to report him because he threatened to fail her in class.

The prosecution closed its case before the Egor Magistrate on September 9 after all the victims had testified against Mr. Edwards, who like Mr. Aimufia, confessed to the crime. Judgment is yet to be handed down as at the time of this report.

The rape epidemic in Nigeria is becoming more and more endemic, even with some parents found to be raping their own wards.

Foluso Adebanjo, Edo State Commissioner of Police: "Rape has to do with money rituals, wealth, power, longevity voodoo, cultism and psycho-social problems"
Foluso Adebanjo, Edo State Commissioner of Police: “Rape has to do with money rituals, wealth, power, longevity voodoo, cultism and psycho-social problems”

Godwin Allu, a 47-year old father, is presently serving seven-year jail for having repeated sexual intercourse with his 12-year old daughter. The headmistress of the girl’s school reported the crime after observing blood stains on her school uniform. The student is currently undergoing rehabilitation at a health centre in Benin.

In a highly religious country like Nigeria, where over 90 per cent of the 160 million inhabitants are Christians or Muslims, even clerics have been found to be involved in rape.

In Edo State, not less than three clerics have been prosecuted for rape as at June 2014.

One of them, Uwem Friday, a pastor of the All Nations Assembly Church, was sentenced to five years in prison for raping and impregnating a 12-year-old. The crime was reported when the girl was five-month pregnant in November 2013 in Okokhuo village, Ovia North East Local Government Area of the state.

Another pastor, Samson Odeyemi, is being prosecuted for allegedly raping 25-year-old Theresa Odey, who came to him for spiritual healing.

Also, Phillips Ogbebor, the pastor-in-charge of Breakthrough Ministry in Benin City, was arrested for sodomizing a 15-year-old male member during ritual sessions.

Outside Nigeria, the Vatican Press Office announced on June 27 that Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish Roman Catholic Archbishop, has been expelled or laicized after a canonical trial convicted him for child sexual abuse. Mr. Wesolowski is a former nuncio to the Dominican Republic from January 2008 until his recall in August 2013.

While speaking on the rising incidence of rape in the state, the Edo State Police Commissioner,Foluso Adebanjo linked it to money rituals, wealth, power, longevity voodoo, cultism and psycho-social problems.

A National Epidemic

Despite the dearth of adequate data, information from states and relevant non-governmental organisations, show that rape is a nationwide epidemic across Nigeria.

The Ondo State Police Command, for example, said it recorded 45 rape cases in 2013, but did not state the number of prosecutions or convictions.

Justice Olise, a suspected serial rapist the police paraded recently in Benin
Justice Olise, a suspected serial rapist the police paraded recently in Benin

In Edo, 96 rape cases were recorded between January 2012 and August 2014. Ninety-two of those cases were prosecuted and 9 convictions secured, with some cases are still dragging at snail speeds in court.

Hospital reports in Edo, however, show that majority of the cases are not being reported at the police station. While the police reported 96 cases in 32 months, the state-owned Central Hospital in Benin City disclosed during a recent workshop that not less than 80 cases of rape were treated in eight months between March and October 2013.

In Jigawa State, an average of 10 cases is reported monthly, according to the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Yakubu Ruba. Mr. Ruba spoke at a meeting held in August to address the problem.

“The high case of rape in our state is disturbing; it is unfortunate; and we are committed to tackling it as a government. The parents are not always willing to testify in court when their children are raped,” he lamented.

In Enugu State, not less than 51 minors and 45 adults were raped between April and August 2014, according to the Women Aid Collective, a non-governmental organization.

In Lagos State, the office of Youth and Social Development of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Development said it recorded 244 child rape cases between January and October, 2011. It listed the most prevalent areas as Yaba, Agege, Ikeja and Surulere.

In 2012, the figure increased. The state government listed 427 child rape incidents and admitted that perhaps more were not reported to authorities.

The Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, while speaking of the challenges in successfully prosecuting rape cases said of the 427 cases reported in 2012, only six have ended in convictions. Mr. Ipaye identified  lack of reliable evidence as a major cog in the wheel of securing convictions.

In Edo, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Henry Idahagbon, cited the current laws in the state as insufficient in tackling the epidemic.

“As the law stands now, there are lots of loopholes for offenders to escape convictions,” Mr. Idahagbon said, adding that the state has “set up machinery to amend the Criminal Code.”

The attorney-general explained that “because of the astronomical rise in the offences, late last year this Ministry set up a special task force to prosecute sexual offenders. I am happy to tell you that under 14 months, we have recorded 16 judgments.”

Like Edo, the Ekiti State government in 2013 opened a black book for convicted sex offenders, and called it the Sex Offenders Register.

According to the former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda, the list was compiled to ostracize convicted rapists and sex offenders.

Explaining rape

Explaining the connection between rape and its perpetrators, Olaniyi Ayilara, a consultant psychiatrist at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Uselu, Edo State, said there was a link between mental illness and sexual assault.

He listed pornography, alcohol, drugs, and impunity as risk factors and listed statutory, diminished capacity, acquaintance and marital rape as some of the most common cases in Nigeria.

Ejigbo market rape & sodomy suspects at a Lagos police parade
Ejigbo market rape & sodomy suspects at a Lagos police parade

“In all kinds of sexual offending, there is an increase among those who are mentally ill,” Mr. Ayilara said. “When you say mental illness, there are so many of them. Any illness that significantly impairs your judgment will likely make you offend, sexually.

“Some people have tried to classify the rapist into three: the anger rapist, the power rapist and the sadistic rapist… Raping is about anger, about power and about sadism.

“Which class is most common in Nigeria is a difficult question to answer. But if I have to go by personal observation, it is the power rapist. Always remember, it depends on type of rape.”

In her analysis, Gbonjubola Abiri, a Senior Registrar at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, explained that although not all rapists are mentally ill, several incidents are caused by mental illnesses like psychotic state, sexual jealousy, unfulfilled desire, low self-esteem as well as drug and alcohol intoxication.

While health experts analyse the reasons people commit rape, and identify weaknesses in Nigerian laws as allowing offenders to walk free, some convicts like Mr. Aimufia of Edo, simply blamed “the devil” for their actions.

Stiffer Punishment

Worried by the rising incidents of rape and other violent crimes, the Nigerian Senate in October passed a stiffer law that will allow a minimum of 14-year imprisonment punishment for convicted rapists.

“Where the act (rape) described under this section is committed by a group of persons, the offence shall be known as gang rape.

Nigerian Senate: Strengthening the law against rape
Nigerian Senate: Strengthening the law against rape

“And on conviction the persons shall be liable jointly and severally to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment without an option of fine.

“The court shall also award appropriate compensation to the victim as it may deem fit in the circumstance,” the bill states.

The bill will require a similar passage by the House of Representatives and President Goodluck Jonathan’s assent to become effective.


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