Borno State’s first dady, Nana Shettima, on Monday commissioned a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) set up by the state government in collaboration with the European Union to provide care for rape victims in the state.
The centre, put in place under the EU-funded British Council programme, Managing Conflict in Northeast (MCN), is said to be a first of its kind in the war-wrecked region.
With the Boko Haram displacing well over 2 million people, mostly women and children, several cases of sexual abuses – especially raping of young girls – have become frequent in and outside the Internally Displaced Persons, IDP camps in Borno state.
Stationed within Umaru Shehu General Hospital, Maiduguri, the SARC centre is expected to provide medical and psychosocial care for all persons that are sexually abused from all parts of the state.
Speaking before commissioning the SARC facility, Mrs Shettima expressed delight on the initiative which she said had come at the right time when cases of sexual abuse has become a disturbing trend in the state.
“All hands must be on deck to curb this vices rearing its ugly head in the society,” she said
“Reports indicates that this societal ills have been on the increase generally and particularly in Borno State complicated by the effect of the insurgency that has resulted in the displacement and attendant deprivation of the livelihood of the people.”
The Borno state commissioner for health, Haruna Mshellia, said the SARC facility would also function as a hub for collation of forensic evidence that will aid the possible prosecution of rapists and related sexual abusers.
He added that the services of the centre would not only be restricted to females but also to males who may have suffered one form of sexual abuse or the other.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered from health personnel that cases of male minors being sexually abused by adult males is also on the rise in Maiduguri.
The Managing Director Borno state hospital management board, Ibrahim Kwayabura, said the establishment of the SARC by the state government in collaboration with the British Council came at a time when a 2014 WHO statistics indicate that, ”one in every five women has either been raped or sexually abused in one form or the other.”
He said, “records has shown that the culprits are usually very close associates or relatives”.
Meanwhile, the Borno state commissioner of police, Damian Chukwu, had last week rated Borno state as one of the states in the country with a high rate of sexual assault.
“We are recording rape cases on a daily basis,” Mr. Chukwu said.
“You find a 60-year-old man defiling a four year-old girl. I call on people to change their attitude toward rape suspects and stop making unnecessary pleas to save them.
“It is disheartening to see victims’ families asking the police to drop charges against rape suspects. Unless we change this attitude, we will continue to witness rape in the society,” he said.
The CP, who was represented at the event by an assistant commissioner, said the biggest challenge for the war against the worsening cases of rape is the unwillingness of victims to seek prosecution of perpetrators.
The CP advocated for a possible enactment of the sexual abuse law, and setting up of special tribunal for the trial of all offenders.
Project manager of MCN, Tabiu Mohammed, had earlier said that the SARC centre is part of the core programmes of the organisation aimed at promoting the involvement of women in peace-building and addressing the impact of violence on women and girls.
He said the British Council, through its MCN project takes into account the large scale of violence directed at women, girls and boys in the course of the counterinsurgency and the likely escalation of such violence in the affected communities in the course of resettlement after after the insurgency.
The SARC facility is expected to run an integrated service with various organs of government present like the police, the military, the ministries of justice, ministry of women affairs as well as the ministry of health.
Team Lead of the MCN in Borno state, Zara Goni, said it is in the best interest of relatives to encourage victims to visit the facility as soon as cases of rape is confirmed.