A special military court in Maiduguri, Borno State, on Tuesday dismissed a Flight Lieutenant, Martins Enwerem, for raping a 14-year-old internally displaced person.
The soldier raped the girl, Zara Ali, while she and her friends were out searching for firewood at the outskirts of Maiduguri.
Due to harsh conditions at the camps, most of the displaced persons fend for themselves especially in the area of cooking meals.
The victim was on an errand to help her family prepare the day’s meal when the soldier raped her.
The officer was also demoted to the rank of flight officer and will have to serve a jail term as soon as a superior military authority approves his sentence.
According to the ruling of the president of the court, Yakubu Auta, a major-general, Mr Enwerem, was found guilty in all the three count charges brought against him.
The counts are “defiling, assault and disobedience of standing order.”
“This special court marshal at this moment sentence(s) you, Flight Lieutenant M.I Enwerem NAF 5771 as follows; Count One; dismissed from the armed forces, reduction in rank from Flight Lieutenant to Flight Officer; three years loss of seniority on the new rank…”
This judgment came at a time concerns are being raised in Borno about the increasing cases of rape and sexual harassment of females in schools and IDP camps.
Just last week, a Maiduguri based NGO, Kalthum Foundation for Peace, raised concerns about increasing cases of sexual abuse of young girls.
Before now, there has been the rumour of how security personnel in IDP camps, as well as those in host communities, rape and abuse vulnerable women and girls.
According to the summary of the trial as delivered by the Court Martial Judge Advocate, Aminu Mairuwa, the accused “defiled a 14 year IDP on September 29, 2018,” and was brought before the tribunal on three-count charges of defiling, assault and disobedience of standing order.”
“The accused, (who) was on a special patrol in Dalwa unit was said to have seen the victim, Zara Ali and her friends, who went to fetch firewood.
“On sighting them, he ordered his soldiers to arrest them, accusing them of being suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers, and asked them to lie down, despite, not finding anything incriminating.
”During the body search of the teenage females, the accused officer chose one of the girls, whom he may have been sexually attracted to and dragged her into the bush.
“He dragged the victim into the bush and inserted his hands in her vagina where his eventuality defiled and assaulted the victim,” said the official.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered from persons familiar with the case that the soldier, after committing the crime asked the girls to leave at once with a stern warning never to mention (rape) it to anyone.
”But the victim, despite her age, was not only smart enough to report the case but also had a vivid facial knowledge of the rapist,” the advocate said.
It was gathered that Mr Enwerem’s action against the poor girl also irritated some of his soldier colleagues who openly testified against him during the trial.
Mr Enwerem, 39, is from Imo State and had served in various air force units before he was posted to Borno State.
The defence counsel, Abbas Alhaji, pleaded with the court “to temper justice with mercy, as going by the records of the accused he was a first offender.
He also wanted the Special Court Martial to consider his contributions to the armed forces.
The ruling has drawn applause from certain quarters.
Kalthum Foundation for Peace, one of the local NGOs championing the advocacy and campaign against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), said the trial and conviction “is a welcome development.”
“We must commend the courage of Zara Ali and her family for agreeing to go public with the matter so that perpetrator of the crime can be punished,” said Muhammed Bulama, a director at Kalthum Foundation for Peace.
The group also said they have mapped out strategies of taking the campaign against rape to schools.
“We are also going to launch an SGBV whistleblower website where victims and concerned members of the public can either report, drop a hint, make complaints or give proofs of rape cases or other related offences.
“The website is at an advanced stage of hosting, and we are officially launching it on the March 1st 2019,” Mr Bulama said.