By Olasunkanmi Akoni
WOMEN Arise for Change Initiative, a human rights group, led by its President, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, on December 23, 2013, led a peaceful protest to the Lagos State House of Assembly and submitted a petition on the alleged inhuman assault on two women in a market in Ejigbo, a Lagos surburb, and demanded for an immediate investigation by the lawmakers inorder to ensure justice was done by punishing the perpetrators.
Earlier, there was a video clip of the incident played on a mobile phone before the lawmakers which ran for about eight minutes, where the horrific scene of the incident copied from one of the social media, showing how the women were being tortured and pepper applied into their genitals over alleged stealing of pepper.
“A woman, her daughter and her step daughter were alleged to have gone to a pepper stall at Ejigbo Central Market in the night and allegedly stole certain amount of pepper before they were caught by a group of young vigilante who descended on them. It was later gathered that one of the women died from injuries sustained from the torture.
The group, based its claim on the 1999 Constitution as amended; in chapter 4 section 34, which states clearly that ‘every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly, no person should be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”.
To underscore the seriousness of the perceived inhuman treatment melted out to the women, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, has indicated interest in taking over the investigation of the matter. However, in a brief interview with Odumakin, she spoke on the incident and other related human rights issues. Excerpts:
THE suspects in the Ejigbo assault have been arrested and handed over to the police for prosecution, just as the Lagos State Office of Public Defenders has stepped into the matter. Do you think justice will be done at the end of the day?
Well, it is too early to doubt the Police ability to prosecute the case well. For now I want to give the Police the benefit of doubt on this matter and believe that they will prosecute the case well.
However, the case is already popular among Nigerians even Nigerians in Diaspora, so we are all going to monitor the proceedings and update ourselves.
We must all monitor the case, the media; the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and all stakeholders must follow the case and blow the whistle if we notice any ‘smart’ practice. We must all ensure that justice is done.
As for Office of Public Defender (OPD) I have no doubt that the victims are in safe hands and I am also sure that by the time the trial of the culprits starts fully – OPD will be a reliable institution that can follow-up on the matter and ensure justice is done.
Update on the matter
Women Arise will also not rest on its oars, the matter has just started and we are going to follow it through to the very end. We would keep a time to time update on the matter. We would also ensure that the court proceeding is not hidden from Nigerians.
What actually motivated you and your organisation on this particular case, considering the fact that there were other similar cases in the past hat were left unattended to and probably been swept under the carpets?
It is the way and manner the women were dehumanized, brutalized and assaulted that motivated me, more so my organization because one of the mandates of Women Arise is zero tolerance for any form of violence against women and girls in Nigeria. I decided to pursue this case because injustice to one is injustice to all and we must not keep quiet in the face of tyranny and oppression.
The need to build a plural society where the rights of every human person are respected irrespective of sex, age, status is what motivates me to whatever I am doing.
What is your advice to residents and women in particular on assault and other inhuman acts in the society and what is also your advice to the government?
My advice to residents and women in particular is that they should always be observant, they should be conscious of their surroundings and be quick to report any act of violence against anyone. Residents must be ready to work together to restrict any form of violence.
Government on their part need to double efforts on securing our communities, there must be proper community policing and the activities of local securities and ethnic militias need to be regulated by government.
Government must also initiate policies that eradicate jungle justice and curb all forms of violation against women and girls.
There are insinuations that your organisation is only interested in the fame and monetary gains in pursuing cases of this nature, how do you react ?
That is not correct. Women Arise had handled so many cases without getting a dime from anyone. We have organized several rallies and protests on women issues in Nigeria. We have demanded justice for various victims of human rights violations such as the protest in Sagamu over the killing of a poultry attendant, Funmilayo Abudu, who was murdered by the Police and labelled as a leader of an armed robbery gang. The case is still in court.
Women Arise was also part of the women group that call for justice for Titilayo Arowolo, the lady who was allegedly murdered by her husband.
So it will be wrong for anyone to insinuate or think that we are doing what we are doing for fame and monetary gains.