Despite the decision of the family of 16-year-old Barakat Melojuekun to drop charges against the suspended Ogun State Commissioner for Environment, Abiodun Abdul-Balogun, who allegedly attempted to rape her, some groups have insisted that Governor Dapo Abiodun and the state police command must ensure that the matter is not covered up.
The two groups – the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN) and the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) – made their position known in separate statements seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
This newspaper reported how the commissioner was accused of attempting to rape a secondary school student in his apartment on December 31, 2020.
She escaped after screaming and later narrated her encounter with Mr Abdul-Balogun to the press.
The state police command later invited the commissioner for interrogation and investigation is still ongoing into the case.
In reaction to the allegations against its official, the Ogun State Government suspended Mr Abdul-Balogun.
After alleged pressure on her family not to push the matter further, Miss Melojuekun in a short video last week said Nigerians should allow the matter to be laid to rest. She, however, did not retract the allegations.
“You can recall that I was the young lady in the viral video about sexual harassment by the Commissioner for the Environment in Ogun State. I am using this opportunity to thank all meaningful Nigerians that showed their support and love towards this matter.”
“I want you to know that there are a few misconceptions and misunderstandings between I and the commissioner. I now want to use this opportunity to appeal to meaningful Nigerians to please allow this matter to rest. Thanks”, she said then.
Victim has no power to withdraw case – Police
Following the victim’s video, the police spokesperson in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the victim and her family cannot withdraw the case against Mr Abdul-Balogun because it is an offence committed against the state.
He said that the commissioner of police had directed that the case be taken to the state CID for proper investigation.
“The victim cannot withdraw the case because she is underage. More so, the family are not directly involved, so cannot withdraw the matter as well. If our investigation proved that the commissioner is guilty, we will charge him to court”.
Groups want transparent investigation
The Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation centre (WARDC), Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi in a statement said the government must provide psychological support for the victim to overcome the trauma.
“It is bewildering, to say the least, that a Commissioner in the same government that had taken novel and unprecedented steps in 2020 against Gender-Based Violence by inaugurating a Gender Based Violence Prohibition Committee to respond appropriately to any infraction of the law, as statutorily required by the Violence Against Women Prohibition Law of Ogun State, 2018.”
“The state must give credence to its zero-tolerance commitment to sexual violence by handling these allegations against its Commissioner appropriately as this will send a clear message that no one is above the law and serve as a deterrent to potential defaulters no matter how highly placed, while at the same time, encouraging other victims to report incidents of sexual abuse.”
In the same vein, the President of Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN), Rolane Ogbonnaya, urged the police not to cover-up while investigating the case.
“We stand for the protection and promotion of the sexual wellbeing of women, girls and the vulnerable of which Barakat Melojuekun is one.”
The group said that “as a media advocacy group on sexual and reproductive health and rights, the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN) is following this alleged case of sexual harassment against a minor.”
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