A Liberian diplomat, Nat Bayjay, has lamented the treatment meted to his seven-year-old daughter who was ‘sexually abused’ by two underaged Liberian brothers at the country’s embassy in Abuja.
Mr Bayjay is the minister counsellor for press and public affairs at the Liberian embassy in Abuja.
“My biggest disappointment on this issue is that the Liberian government has refused to take responsibility for the girl’s ailing health despite informing them several times. It is unfair that the family of the victim is left to bear the financial burden especially in an expensive city like Abuja.
“She is still disturbed; on and off, healthwise and this is as a result of what happened,” Mr Bayjay told PREMIUM TIMES.
The Liberian diplomat who was posted to Nigeria in 2015, narrated how his seven-year-old daughter was sexually abused by two under-aged boys (13 and 14) at the embassy premises in Abuja.
According to Mr Bayjay, the boys molested his daughter for eight months, unknown to them, until the seven-year-old spoke up.
“My daughter said it started in September 2020 till April 2021.”
Documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES show that an investigation panel set up at the embassy and another sent to Nigeria by the Liberian ministry of foreign affairs found the boys culpable.
According to the documents, the first incident happened after a certain birthday party in the embassy’s premises.
“After the party, it began to rain and the 13-year-old was returning the chairs in the Banquet Hall among other children from the staff quarters. She decided to come home, and when she got near the hall, he (13 year old) called her. When she got to him, he told her to take off her clothes. She asked him why, but he said, just take off your clothes. According to her, he succeeded in taking off her clothes and abusing her,” she narrated to the investigation panel.
The seven-year-old was asked to describe what was done to her but she said she didn’t know how he did it but something was done behind her, and the result is painful.
On another occasion, he ran behind her for a similar act but she escaped. The seven-year-old told the investigation panel that she confided in two of her sisters when the incidents occurred.
When the panel questioned the 13-year-old, he corroborated the girl’s story until the point where she claimed he had molested her. He insisted he did not touch her until the panel told him the ‘sassy woodman’ would be in the embassy the next day to help find the truth.
On hearing the sassy woodman was coming, “he finally broke down and narrated that he only remembered one-day last year in his parent’s apartment, he was resting on the sofa, when she (seven year old) came into the apartment without a top on, only her skirt. He touched her closely and got turned on, but something said to him, “This is a child, so he changed his mind, but he had never done anything.”
Both sisters confirmed that the younger one confided in them but they did not think to tell their parents about it.
One told the panel that she confronted the 13-year-old who begged her and said he was very sorry, and would not repeat it asking her not to let their parents know.
When asked why she did not inform her parents, she said, “the two families are very close, she said she did not want confusion to come between them, so she kept it a secret.”
The other said one-day last year while coming downstairs, she met her sister (the seven-year-old) running up the stairs out of breath and asked her what was the problem. She said the 13-year-old was running behind her to “rape” her (the exact words she used). She went running down the stairs to look for him but did not find him.
According to her, she kept to herself because her mother is very ‘temperamental’ and she did not want any problem between the two families.
Although the investigation team set up by the ambassador, from the document seen by PREMIUM TIMES, did not feature the testimony of the main culprit (14-year-old), it noted that he was also found guilty.
This panel recommended that both boys be sent back to Monrovia to reduce the psychological effect their presence may cause the little girl or her family as the relationship between both families who live adjacent to each other was already strained. This, Mr Bayjay corroborated.
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“The only thing the Liberian government has done is to send the boys to court in Monrovia after I insisted. They can only be prosecuted by a Liberian court according to international law.”
In the report produced by the delegation sent by the Liberian minister of foreign affairs, the guardians of the accused boys acknowledged their wards had committed the hideous act and apologised to Mr Bayjay whose acceptance the report noted was ‘mere cosmetic’.
It recommended that “since the interviewed parties all confirmed that the incident took place, it is recommended that the alleged perpetrator. who is a juvenile, be brought before the justice system of the Republic of Liberia.”
It also recommended that the two diplomatic staff and their families be re-deployed for other assignments, noting that “this will calm the acrimonious atmosphere of distrust, fear, and divisiveness observed at the embassy.”
“I asked the Liberian ministry of the information who is responsible for me to have my family and I reassigned due to the uncomfortable situation and also in line with the recommendation of the investigation report but they have yet to do that,” Mr Bayjay told PREMIUM TIMES, corroborating the claims of the report.
Mr Bayjay also accused the Liberian ambassador of taking sides with the family of the boys who abused his daughter. He said he moved out of the embassy’s premises with his family on account of the ambassador’s ‘bias’ and how traumatic the environment had become for his daughter.
He said at the time, the ambassador refused to send the boys away because, according to him (the ambassador), he needed a detailed investigation.
However, Mr Bayjay said he informed the ambassador about his intention to leave if the boys were not taken off the premises.
According to Mr Bayjay, when he invited the Nigerian police to question the boys, the ambassador intimidated the police by involving the Inspector General of Police who in turn intervened. The ambassador initially told Mr Bayjay he had no police contacts in Nigeria, the latter said.
The police, however, forwarded a medical report confirming the assault of the seven-year-old.
Mr Bayjay added that the ambassador continued to insist that the second boy was not culpable even when the boy admitted he attempted to have the seven-year-old.
“The ambassador never bothered to check on my child who was abused to see how she was faring,” he said.
Recounting how deeply hurt he was, he said, “I was so hurt, I wanted to beat up the boys and the security held me back. I did not want to speak to anyone because I was in a state of temporal insanity.
“The ambassador was blaming my wife for pampering those boys and allowing them access.
“The ambassador did not send the boys back to Liberia until I filed a petition to the Liberian government.
“The Liberian government needs to take full responsibility for this child whose health is declining in the aftermath of the event. She has had to miss out on school since the incident,” he said.
Liberian Embassy Abuja responds
The Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, Al-Hassan Conteh, told PREMIUM TIMES, he could not comment on the case because the case was already in court (sub judice) and he would not want to prejudice the case.
However, he said Mr Bayjay’s allegations were untrue.
“It is untrue that the embassy and government of Liberia did nothing about the welfare of the child. That will be inhumane; my only regret is that he has taken this matter to the media because we are diplomats and the whole aspect of diplomacy is conflict prevention.”
Although “I can understand as a father, I have three daughters and you know what that entails,” adding that “to make those allegations, I will say it is unfortunate but I would out of deference to the court at this particular time, not like to address the details.”
“We recommended in our report to the ministry, psychological support for the child, for her to be taken to a safe home,” the ambassador said.
Mr Conteh added that he had sent an officer to the new residence of the Bayjays to find out where they live and follow up with certain things but “Mr Bayjay engaged in very acrimonious language, saying I was biased and did not want anything from me.”
“The incident did not come to our attention until May this year. As soon as it came to our attention, we immediately held an administrative hearing on the matter involving all sides for three days and the report of that hearing was transmitted to the ministry of foreign affairs, Liberia,”
According to Mr Conteh, after transmitting the outcome of their investigation to the ministry of foreign affairs in Liberia, the ministry conducted a separate investigation into the matter itself.
“The ministry forwarded the matter to the ministry of justice, Liberia who then forwarded the case to the women and child support unit of the Liberian National Police who in turn dispatched the case to the juvenile court of Liberia where the case is currently.”
He also said that he did not prevent the Nigerian police from speaking with the boys.
He said two police officers were at the embassy one evening to serve a letter of invitation to the guardian of the boys when he (ambassador) invited them (police officers) to his office, reminding them that diplomats in their residence under international laws are inviolable.
After conversing with the officers and letting them know that the letter would have come through the office of the ambassador, they agreed on a time for the diplomat to come to the station the next day.
“I have never met the Inspector General of Police, I have never met him,” Mr Conteh said.
Seeking justice for his seven-year-old
Mr Bayjay in the last two months left his posting to return to Liberia to see that his child gets justice.
“The case is now in court after my insistence but I’m restricted financially to follow the case up.”
He said the case is before a juvenile court in Monrovia, and he wants to hire a lawyer “that will be able to convince the court that this is a real adult trial because, in my mind, these boys showed proof of emancipated minors (behaving like adults and should be tried as such)”.
He was displeased that the boys were still allowed to roam freely instead of being remanded in a juvenile home, but the court in Monrovia says it has no juvenile homes to keep the boys.
“If I had money, those boys will be behind bars while the case is going on.”
“My major concern is that the government takes responsibility for my daughter’s health. You and I know that litigation takes two to three years, so my daughter’s health has to remain the same until two to three years?”
He lamented how he is unable to pay for her routine medical check-up amongst other things.
Mr Bayjay likened his family’s ordeal to that of a soldier fighting for their country.
“It’s like a soldier got wounded fighting for his country on the battlefield and is abandoned,” he said.
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