Discussants: Pastor Fidelis Uwagboe, Mrs. Josephine Ifa Chukwuma;Project Alert, a non-governmental organization that provides shelter for abused women and children; Donald Iyasere, a legal practitioner With Vanguard; Bishop â€¦â€¦â€¦.. Oladapo, Bishop of Lagos Mainland Dioceses of Methodist Church. Mr. Frank Mba, Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State, Suleiman â€¦â€¦â€¦…
Recently, serious international attention has been given to cases of paedofiles. In fact, in many countries the offence carries a life sentence. If you have been following international news, you would have heard of the case of Polasky, the American producer who had sex with a 13-year old girl. He is now said to be on the run. So, internationally, it’s a serious crime to have sexual relationship with a minor, whether its rape or by consent because, it is considered that adults ought to have better sense of judgment.
In Nigeria, there seems to be an increase in the cases of young girls being exposed to sexual relationships and even bearing babies as nine- year olds. We have amongst our guests here, somebody whose daughter (a six-year old) is facing one of such situations. And of course, the issue of marriage of girls young enough to be daughters of the men who marry them.
We have invited you here to look at these issues. You are welcome.
Donald: Looking at the Law, I believe we have to look at the criminal laws that define a child; criminal laws define a child and place them different categories.
The first category is a child from the day of birth to 7 years. The Law says that child cannot commit an offence. From 8 to 12, the Law says that a child could be said to have committed an offence only when you can prove that what he did is an offence. The other category is young persons from age 12 to 16 and people are seen as adults from age 18.
Let’s look at what the Law says about sexual abuse and marriage of a minor in Nigeria. Nigerian laws operate side by side customary laws and Islamic laws, which is also part of customary laws.
Customary laws put age of marriage as fourteen (the age of puberty). When a child attains the age of puberty, they say the child can get married.
Another area is Islamic laws. They say (marriage can hold at) maturity and when the parties can consent to it. In Law, consent must be voluntary.
I wouldn’t know whether a child at twelve can voluntarily give consent to marriage, taking into consideration the nature and implication of marriage. As for a particular Law, we didn’t have any provision until 2003, when the Child’s Right Act came into being.
Before then, we had the Marriage Act. Section one of the Act puts (age of marriage) at 21. But, it went further to say that if the child is not 21, at the time of marriage, proper consent is required from either the parents or a guardian.
So, the Marriage Act puts it at 21 years but the Matrimonial Causes Act is silent on it because it only provides for marriageable age. It says marriage can be contracted when the parties are of marriageable age. But marriageable age is no where to be found in the Act. That was until 2003, when the Child’s Right Bill became a law.
There was a long global clamour for there to be a minimum age for marriage before the International Convention on Child Right put it at 18. Nigeria is a signatory to that Convention and has domesticated that Convention. It is now part of our laws. So, we have marriageable age at eighteen.
Remi: The lawyer has told us the position of the Law as it pertains to a child, a minor, a young person and an adult. It says from the age of eighteen, you are an adult. So, we are looking at zero to 17 years as the ones we are discussing here.
Knowing who a minor is, there is unprecedented increase in exposure of minors to sex, including marriage. What is the cause? Why is there increase in sexual molestation of young children and young girls?
Bishop Oladapo: Let me begin by saying that the world we are (living in) now is a different world entirely, even though we have occasionally heard similar stories for long.
When you look at the society today, from what I have seen personally as a trained teacher and lecturer, the first issue is exposure. As Nigerians got exposed, got modernized, we find that parents were not looking at that aspect (of sexual exposure).
Modernization has exposed many people to sexual exposure. For instance, while an adult is browsing on the Internet, a young child might be there. You will find that on the issue of Internet, the only area that has been touched is the ‘419’ bit. Other areas have not been attended to in Nigeria.
Otherwise, in some countries, if you have this type of activity on your Internet, you would be traced and arrested. We don’t have that law in Nigeria. At least, I have not heard.
Secondly, you find out that this is happening in schools. There should be no school where you will find a male teacher from kindergarten to Primary Three. Why do you have male teachers in such places? It is due to the greed of proprietors. Then, some of these boys and girls that are employed are not trained.
When one trains as a teacher, there is a course called Child Psychology that teaches how a child is formed from pregnancy and how to deal with him or her as a pupil in class.
And, our economy adds to the problem because these things don’t always happen in schools. We have heard stories of placing your child in the care of someone to go to work, and when you come back she has been abused.
Both parents are working in Nigeria today; parents do not even think of the welfare of their children as much as they consider how to make more money. They don’t have time for their children. They go to work early and come back late. The driver goes to the school brings the children back from school. Before you know it, the father comes back late in the night and nothing is done.
It’s a pity this (the case at hand) happened to a pastor and that is why I became very jittery. We, religious pastors and ministers, have not done much because we were not sensitised about what is happening in our society.
Remi: The sexual exposure of a girl; how does it take place?
Josephine: Well, just like the reverend said, a lot of things have gone wrong; beginning from the home and the society itself. We lost it, somehow, along the line and we are all going in different directions looking for naira and dollar and everything. I was in a school, recently, and I told them that I would have failed, personally, if I accumulate all the money in the world and my children turn out bad.
The family where I grew up is a traditional one, where we had everyone eating from the same pot and there was nothing like that (sexual exposure). But now, things have gone horrid to the extent that your brother, cousins, that father in the house you are not even sure of him not committing incest.
So, it’s terrible when it starts at that level, if a little girl, for instance, has been abused at homeâ€¦
The first male figure she knows is her father and for a boy, it is his mother. Children spend more time in school now, than we spent. You can imagine a child who closes from school at 4p.m. I used to close from school at 1p.m. From school, they go into lesson. This was how a pastor’s daughter got defiled because, we are keeping them in school long enough to coincide with the time we get home. Even then, some even get home before us.
And the school themselves don’t keep record of sexual offenders. When they need teachers, they just advertise: teachers needed.
This young man who just defiled the young girl moved from a school in Akute and applied to a school in Maryland. His CV only showed his last place of employment. Most employers don’t even verify anything. They just have put it in their file.
Also, what is the school policy on —–. The Education Ministry has to investigate the case in question. Why did they have a male teacher in Primary One? What business does a male teacher have in cleaning up a Primary One girl? Remember that at that age, they are still learning personal hygiene. A lot of them still pee on themselves because they are still learning. So what business does a male teacher have in primary one, two or three?
In the schools that my children attend, I don’t see male teachers in primary four or five and I think that is a good. So, there should be a policy on that; even for after care too. They should keep duty teachers for instance. When the school closes, the teacher makes sure all the children have been picked. This is vacation time now. When you ask most parents who they leave their children with, they say, â€œI have a brother at home. My cousin is there.â€ And, we have had cases where a friend’s son defiling a daughter or relation in such places. So, what are we talking about?
Frank: First of all, I want to talk about the seeming view that there is this massive upsurge in cases of child and sexual abuse. For us, statistics seem to show that, and we agree even within the Police Force that sexually related offences are the least reported. There is massive under-reporting of cases of abuses of children. Even cases of rape when adults are involved are hardly reported.
It is not just an issue that has to do with Nigeria. It is a global phenomenon. Of course, there is fear of stigmatization. There is the problem of shame, fear of real victimization and so many other reasons why sexual abuses to a minor are not reported.
In 2007, we had 207 cases of rape, and here we lumped up every single case; there was no distinction between rape and defilement of a minor. These are some of the issues that we are also trying to tackle.
We’ve been using a template that was developed many years ago. We have been tinkering with it recently and the use of computers has made things easy for us to store some of the files and try to modify how reports are kept now. We’re still lumping them together; it’s one of the issues we intend to fully separate by next year.
1n 2007 we had 207; in 2008 we had 220; in 2009, it reduced to 124. Now, we’re reviewing issues of rape and sexual abuse and shall be pushing them to the public domain ourselves. We will be doing a lot of press activities. We have begun what we call ‘naming and shaming’.
We have been talking about them, releasing pictures of the offenders, while tactically protecting the victims. You may have come across them often in the news and it is deliberate; to send a very strong message to would-be abusers out there that they won’t have a hiding place.
That is the situation for now. We have not compiled the statistics and I don’t want to hazard a guess but I must tell you that we have seen all manners of abuses on minors. I have handled a case where a teacher somewhere in Alimosho area, defiled a girl aged 11, who was under his care. I can confidently say the man is cooling off in Kirikiri Prison because I followed that case to its logical conclusion.
In that particular case, what happened? The girl finished her normal school work and decided to stay back at home. Most of her school mates had gone home to come back later for evening lessons but she decided to stay all through. So, she went into the small school library to probably just play around with books and while away time. It was while she was there that the teacher met her. One thing led to another and she was messed up.
There is also a case of a man who defiled his daughter. Recently, we had a case of an 81-year old man who defiled a 15-year old girl and, unfortunately, she is pregnant. I have another case of a father who abused his daughter who is a minor she too is pregnant.
I see a lot of these things, so I can’t say these things are not happening. They are, indeed, happening. I have tried to look at it and I have come out with stages of how these things normally happen. The first stage is what I call engagement stage. This stage, to me, is that early stage where the would-be abuser.
Frank: If you want to investigate any case involving sexual abuse of a minor, you look for any loophole and check whether they had any opportunity for access and for privacy. That was what she was trying to explain when she talked of things like walking away from the house saying. â€œI have a cousin who is going to take careâ€. That was what happened in the case of the 81-year old man.
When the mother is leaving the house, she sends the girl to the old man, who was a former Biafran soldier. His first son is a pastor and the wife a petty trader. The woman feels ‘I have many young men in my compound; let her stay with the old man’. That way, she created that perfect scenario of access and privacy.
That was the same thing that happened at Okokomaiko, where a 7-year old girl was defiled. The mother goes to Kogi State to buy food stuffs like yam and all that. Everybody leaves the house and this man, a mechanic, who incidentally is a widower, had all the access and privacy. So at every stage, if you really want to handle this, you must eliminate this in the engagement stage.
Don’t create an enabling environment for access and privacy between the would-be victim and a would-be abuser.
Now, if engagement stage is successful, then you go on to the sexual interaction stage. Back to the engagement stage, the strategy employed depends on the type of abuser whether it’s a typical chid molester or a child rapist.
A classical child molester is going to employ what we call enticement or entrapment. In enticement, of course, he uses things like gifts, biscuit and bribery to win over the girl.
Fidelis: In fact, when my daughter’s own happened, the first person I called was the 6-year old friend of my daughter who lives with us. I called the mother because she prompted my daughter to talk. I wanted to speak with her but I couldn’t speak with her alone about this kind of thing. So, I brought the mom. The first thing the mother said was that the previous day, her daughter came home from school crying and she asked her what happened and she said my daughter beat her up. And then she said to her why did you not tell your uncle (teacher)?
And the daughter said my daughter is the teacher’s wife that there is nothing my daughter would do in class that will make the teacher beat her. It was when we got to Zone 2 (Police), during interrogation; the police asked her, â€œSo, by this time, you have become husband and wife?â€
Frank: Now, that is why we have to do psychological training for the Police. Of course, entrapment is more of manipulation; subtle threat. (The abuser) sets up a conducive atmosphere, she comes in; he shows her some pornographic film, takes her picture when she is naked and says to her: â€œIf you tell anybody, I’m going to show everybodyâ€.
That is entrapment. Those are the two main strategies used by child molesters but of course, (for the) child rapist, it is typically threat of force or outright force. But I can tell you that over 80% – 90% of all cases of child sexual abuse are usually done by child molesters and not really child rapists because, they take advantage of the immaturity of the children. They don’t need to really use the kind of coercion that will arise if it was a typical case of rape.
If they successfully go through this stage of engagement, then they now go to the actual sexual interaction stage. Now, at this stage, it all depends on the fancy of the abuser. He may begin to think of either the actual sex, or oral penetration, or vaginal penetration, anal penetration. Is it a case of fondling, masturbation or forcing the little girl to caress or play around them?
When he gets through this stage successfully, the next concern of the abuser is how to keep this thing secret. Again this is another tricky area because it also involves a lot of manipulation of the girl ‘don’t tell any other person’. It involves so many other things sometimes; fetish works, particularly in our part of the world.
The abuser can actually tie one rope and hang it on her and say, this thing is for you. You must not tell anybody. Sometimes, he could tell her things like if you tell anybody, they will say you are a bad girl that you an ‘ashewo’.
The reason for the secrecy is so that the abuser will continue the abuse. He wants to avoid detection and then have continued and uninterrupted access to the girl so that the abuse will continue ad infinitum.
To God be the glory, there is nothing under the face of the earth that ever remains secret; at a certain stage, it becomes known. That is the disclosure stage.
Now, at the disclosure stage, what happens? We get to know either intentionally or accidentally. But I tell you that the bulk of the cases I have seen, we got to know accidentally; to tell you that the secrecy stage is usually very successful.
Fedelis: I just want to add to what Frank has said. About a few days after school resumed, my daughter came home with injury in her hand and the mum and everybody asked her and she said it was ‘Uncle’ who flogged her. The next morning, we were going out and we met the young man coming. So I said to him that my daughter came home with an injury and we asked my daughter to come and we showed him the injury. Immediately, my daughter said she fell from her scooter. Then I said but you told me your teacher beat you. She denied and for the first time, when we got home, I had to give her five strokes of the cane; not that I did not believe her but because—
Frank: It is because you have not understood the psychological conditioning that she has undergone. It is conscious and well conditioning and it involves so many things. That is why at the disclosure stage, most times, you get to know accidentally when the consequences of the abuse begin to manifest themselves. For example, pregnancy. Like the case of the father abusing that girl, nobody would have known and abuse would have continued if not that the girl got pregnant.
The case of the 81-year man with that girl would have probably continued if not that the girl took in. The case of the 7-year old girl would have continued if not that she started having some whitish discharges and a kind of offensive odour oozing out of her private part.
Sometimes, you notice abnormal sexual patterns begin to play out or even withdrawal. You find out that, often times, these things are not even spotted on time.
Intentional disclosure happens once in a while; when the girl musters the courage to tell somebody very close to her like her mom; somebody that will not harm her.
We have also seen that we don’t seem to have created the enabling environment for them to do that. Often times, we don’t even believe them and when we don’t believe them, we doubly victimize them. Now, if we go through the disclosure stage, something happens immediately.
Another stage will just spring up and this is the suppression stage and only very few homes don’t do suppression. He (Pastor) didn’t do suppression because of his background; he was in the forefront of getting the teacher arrested but I can tell you that most people will do suppression. Sometimes, the victim herself will participate in the suppression which is a fall out of the indoctrinization she got from the secrecy stage.
The abuser might even be part of the whole plot to suppress. Sometimes, it’s the family; sometimes it’s the institution, the office or church or whatever.
Fidelis: Let me also corroborate this. When it happened, we went to the proprietress’ house and she said I should go on 7 days dry fasting for myself, 7 days dry fasting for herself, 7 days dry fasting for my neighbour who is a pastor and 7 days dry fasting for my wife for us to know the truth of the matter and for God to show us who is lying here.
I said why not let us do a secret investigation while we are doing this fast? She said no, no other charge should be incurred in this. The next day, when she now saw that I’ve gone to do a preliminary test and confirmed and I had gone to the school to arrest the teacher while he was still teaching in the school, they came to my house and told me that we support what you are doing but help us keep the name of the school (out of it all). They offered N25,000 immediately to keep quiet.
Frank: That is one of the biggest problems the Police have during the suppression stage. That is why we have hostile witnesses and prosecution fails automatically.
When I started my policing career, the first police station I worked at was Trinity Police Station. As a young officer, one day, I was in front of the police station and a young girl came to hawk oranges. We finished buying oranges from her and she left. About half an hour later, we saw this girl crying with her tray, this time around practically an empty tray. She was walking past the police station with blood dripping down her thighs. Then, I said: â€œIs this not the young girl that just sold oranges to us?â€ I sent a young officer to bring and she came. I asked a female officer to look into the matter immediately and it was a clear case of defiling. We asked her to describe the person and she told us that immediately she left us, a guy called her and told her to go and give oranges to people working in a building close by. She climbed the first and second floors. Now, before she went there, the guy had paid for all the oranges and given her extra money and with excitement, she ran upstairs. Of course, she got wondering where the so-called workers were. The same guy came there, held her down and defiled her.
Now, she tried to describe the guy and she said; the guy is tall, the guy is huge and the guy is hairy. I looked around and the only guy I could see who fitted the description was one big guy who had one of the biggest shops there. My mind kept working and wondering. After a while, I sent somebody to call him and he walked into the police station and the girl said this is the guy. He is one of those people who would walk into a police station and say: â€œOfficer, how una dey now?â€ Then, they drop say N10,000 and say, â€œMake una drinkâ€.
So, I took him to a room and stripped him. This was when guys wore Hings and BYC underwear. He was wearing a white BYC and there was blood! He had not cleaned up. But do you know that at the end of the day, his family and everybody was involved and participated in the suppression?
The final stage is the intervention stage where groups like ‘Project Alert’ start to intervene.
Jemi: We’ve been talking about abuse and molestation of the girl child. Is it not possible that there are male children being abused by female adults?
Josephine: Yes, yes. In fact, I was just about to talk about that. When we are talking about child sexual abuse, on an average, there are more little girls as victims but we also have boys. If you talk to a lot of men, they’d tell you that their first sexual experience was with a house girl or an older aunty in the house.
There was a case of a 16-year old boy who, over a period of about 4 months, was very sick on and off. His parents were wondering what was going on with him. They had to carry out HIV test on him and found that he was positive. His parents are negative, his two sisters are negative. By the time they started talking, they found out that the 22-year old maid had been sleeping with him and the parents didn’t know.
So, adding to what Frank said, the message we give our children is very important. We should change our message. The issue is not about getting pregnant anymore, it’s about HIV /AIDS. While you expect the boy to go out and sow his wild oats, you tell the girl to sit down. When he goes out, he’s going to experiment with somebody else’s child. Studies have shown that in over 95% cases of rape or sexual abuse, be it of adult or young children, the abuser is known to the victim.
Often times, it’s a neighbour, classmate, colleagues in the office, father, cousin etc. and, that is why the issue of privacy must be looked at. When I spoke with Pastor Fidelis, the first thing I said was that this man knows that he has access to this child.
Jemi: Since your daughter was abused, what has changed in your relationship?
Bishop Oladapo: Everything has changed. I used to be sexually active with my wife but not anymore. There are some things that children normally do as part of their lives. But now, my daughter has become a suspect. Everything she does, I monitor. I try not to be deliberate but I can’t help it. We now have to guard her, especially, when we see her with a boy; a natural restriction has been placed on her. These days, I notice she repeats everything twice just trying to convince you. She keeps saying: â€œDaddy, I’m not lying.â€ And, this started with the abuse issue. I think she says that because she wants to be believed.
Josephine: To rule out access, the rules of engagement must change. We take a lot of things for granted. We should help our children to also protect themselves.
When we talk of people giving children sexuality education, they don’t understand. They think you want to start teaching a child sex. No! You can’t live with your child 24 hours, 365 days; but you can give your child such messages like: â€œYour body is your private property. Nobody should touch it. If anybody touches you here or there shout. Never sit on a man’s laps.â€ It is as easy as that.
We normally teach our children not to talk to strangers but it is not strangers that we are talking about here. The enemy is right there with you in the form of a brother, aunty, a pastor, an imam, a teacher anybody. So, your brother is coming to do youth service in Lagos, then you say I have a big house come and live with us. But then, if you have three daughters, you have to ask yourself some questions. You can’t have banana at home and bring a monkey into the house. The monkey will eat the banana. It is as simple as that.
Fidelis: Let me just add to what Frank said. You see, in access and privacy, one issue that played out very well that gave that teacher room to do what he did in the school is that sometimes, he comes to school and there is only one child waiting for him. Instead of the person in charge of the school saying: â€œSince you are just few one, two or three students, come this way and have your lesson,â€; they will leave him with such child.
Remi: What you are saying is that the girl-child should be taught how to protect herself.
Josephine: Yes, but it should be age-appropriate messages
Remi: But some parents are shy to give these lessons
Josephine: The message should be age-appropriate. Information that guides them at every stage of their development.
Suleiman: My contribution will be a little different from what others have said. Many parents play the â€œI don’t careâ€ attitude. Teachers in cannot adequately take of your child through academically and morally. The pastor or imam cannot do anything unless you are involved. In the North, you can see men, criminals going down with girls of 3-4 years. It happens here too. The economic imbalances have brought a lot of pressure on many homes where the father can no longer cater for his wife and kids alone.
The second thing is that you don’t have money, yet you want cable TV and all those things. I tell you, you are selling out your child. I can afford all those things but I don’t want to buy. I’ll tell you this, before Buba Marwa in Lagos State, there was no 24-hour TV. When he came, LTV began to run 24 hours.
My kid was doing very well before that time. When 24 hour-TV came, his units began to drop.
I studied him for some time and found out that after school, in the evenings, he would watch TV from 12a.m. to 3a.m. As a parent, how many times would I come back from work tired and just jump into bed.
I live in a duplex. The girls live with me upstairs while the boys stay downstairs. A few weeks ago, I slept but woke up 1.15a.m. I went down to get a charger for one of my phones, only to find them boys and girls watching 24-hour TV. I had warned them. I had scolded them. I had beaten them. I had locked them in a room for six hours. Yet they are doing that. They are between 13-17 years.
The ones that are older, I rented an apartment for them but what they have started in the house will be easily done where I will not be. So, it is our lackadaisical approach that is the problem. Mind you, it is not for the girls alone. We are much concerned about the unwanted pregnancies, the untimely death and VVF is an issue and they will lose focus.
The funny thing is that if you want to monitor their phones, after the calls, you won’t see the number. They delete it. You cannot monitor access or privacy. As parents, we should change our attitude to the way we were brought up. It is not barbaric. I always say to people that westernization is bastardization. Let’s use our own culture to address the issues we have.
Remi: When a child is molested, there doesn’t seem to be adequate punishment for the offenders. Why is that so?
Fidelis: My daughter’s abuser is walking free. The guy was granted bail. My daughter had candiditis which I had to take care of and we just passed through a long holiday. So, I said to the Police, just give me till Monday so that I can do something. They saw me as someone trying to bastardize the police. They said when they told me to go to court, why didn’t I agree? I told them I didn’t go to court because it was just after a public holiday on Monday, and on Tuesday, I had to take care of my daughter. Then the police officer said: Why did I mention the fact that police said I should bring N5,000 to take the suspect to court?
In fact, they told me that I have to be responsible for taking the suspect to court. They said I have to be responsible for the suspect going to court and he has to share the same vehicle with my daughter and I told them ‘No’. Even if I have to pay for his going to court, I will not put him in the same vehicle with my daughter again. I said: â€œLet me go to the bank to get some money for you; at worst, we’ll take another vehicle and another for the police and suspect.â€ Because, I couldn’t get that money, they took the case to court without me. They didn’t tell me that they were going but they called the boys’ parents and family. They got a lawyer who represented me in court and they granted the boy bail!
Frank: I think we have enough laws that deal and punish all kinds of sex related offences, whether it’s for children or adults. As a matter of fact, the Law is not indifferent as far as I am concerned. There could be some aspects of the Law that needs to be fine tuned.
In the criminal code, for example, we have a section for rape and if one is convicted, it’s life imprisonment. We have a section that deals with indecent assault; we have a section that deals with defilement of girls under the age of 13, 15. We also have a section that deals with abduction of a girl to have carnal knowledge with her. So, I think we have enough laws to deal with these.
The problem we have is actually some of the technicalities of the law. For example, you have to prove penetration and for you to prove penetration, you certainly need a medical report. Sometimes, parents are not aware of this. And, because of the secrecy stage that I discussed earlier, it takes a long period for it to be disclosed and you probably get to know because, maybe, she developed an infection.
If you go to the police and the police initiate investigation, you (need to) send the girl for medical test. Now, a doctor is supposed to establish penetration. It becomes a case of the man’s word against the girl’s. But in few cases, like the one I mentioned, the man was arrested few minutes after the incident and because, intercourse took place without a condom, the man’s semen was still there; they were extracted.
I was fresh from police academy then and I was ready to put to practice everything that I was taught. I was so pissed off and so angry. His pant was picked and the blood was sampled and it was the blood of the girl. The forensic test was okay, the evidence was so clear; everything was perfect yet, we failed in that particular case because we couldn’t even get the girl to testify because the parents refused to allow the girl come to court.
At the end of the day, it (the case) was thrown out for lack of evidence. But we have seen cases like yours, where you are pushing. Again, I don’t know the time lapse between when this happened and when you began to follow up. When you establish penetration, you have to carefully establish the fact that the penetration was done by him. If you don’t have a good lawyer, he can knock it off.
I can tell you that 70% of the problem we have is not a police problem. It is a family problem or a community problem. There was a case at Festac; the woman was pushing for the prosecution, everybody on her street came to her and said if you push this case, you have to leave the street.
Fidelis: It was done to me.
Frank: Really? Well, the woman came back and said: â€œI don’t want to pursue this case again because the community will go after me.â€ She was scared of reprisals though her child was the victim and the boy involved was also from the same community. In your own case, I may not be able to make all the responses because I don’t have all the facts from the police.
Josephine: It is unfortunate that the criminal justice system makes the victim to bear the brunt of everything. That is why NGOs like ours exist. Pastor here has been coming to us for some weeks now. No kobo has been taken from him but the question is as an NGO, how do pay these bills? Then, for the police, they have to improve the way they work. If you go to the hospital, you pay for tests.
Yemisi: Is there a way the Police can make the villains pay for their crimes?
Frank: The biggest problem we have is that suspects do everything to go (scot) free and it is usually the victims that are desperate for justice; they are the ones crying. And sometimes, it is the desperation of the victim for justice that makes (it possible for) the criminal to take advantage of the justice system. A test that should not cost N5,000, you ask a victim to pay N10,000 because you feel it is an opportunity for you to enrich yourself.
But I can tell you that there are police officers who cannot sleep well when crimes are reported. Even when they are sleeping, unconsciously they are trying to think out a solution. I remember, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with an idea and I quickly go and jot it down because I’m trying to solve a crime. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, an idea comes into my mind and I put it down. So, there are many convictions we’ve had that were investigated and executed by the police and not necessarily the family of the victims. Unfortunately, your daughter’s case doesn’t fall within my command.
Jemi: I understand that during questioning in a rape or abuse case, the female victim is often subjected to humiliation by the kind of questions they are asked; all in an attempt to establish penetration by the abuser. My question is how equipped or trained is the police to handle delicate and emotional cases like interrogating a minor in a case of sexual abuse?
Frank: That is why we have specialised police officers to handle not just child molestation but even rape. It is because, here in Nigeria, we do not really see it as a huge challenge; until lately. While I was in Liberia with the UN, rape was a huge challenge and, of course, you’d understand that because of where they are coming from. So, we had children and women criminal section that deals with such problems and for you to work in that department, you have to be trained.
Here, what we do, in most cases, is to detail female officers to be part of the investigation. We’ve done that in many cases and discovered that it is worth it and when you take female officers that are passionate about this, you get fine results because they go beyond the call of duty.
Again, it is a function of who the victim is; what kind of experiences had she had? So, in talking to children, we must tell them don’t allow anybody to touch your bum-bum. You can indoctrinate a child that way and as she grows up, you upgrade the message. So, don’t protect your child to the point that you become paranoid.
Remi: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I’d like us to look at what the Law says concerning child marriage in the light of a serving senator who got married to a 13-year old girl. What does the Law say?
Josephine: The Child Rights Act is the most recent and updated law concerning children in Nigeria. It is the law we have domesticated. As I’m talking to you, about 25 states including Lagos has domesticated that law.
Remi: What do the religious bodies say?
Suleiman: Thank you. This is more Islamic than anything else. The Quran is divided into two. When Yerima was asked why he did what he did, he said he is doing it because of Islam. And Islam will tell you that you have to obey God, obey what the prophet says to you and obey those who are in government. So, government has a Law. What is the law of the government? You have to follow that and that law says a 13-year old is a minor.
Josephine: That was why he brought the child here to marry.
Suleiman: I studied in Egypt and what happens in Nigeria happens everywhere. What is happening with Child Right Law not being adopted in Zamfara is also happening in Egypt. In Egypt, they have a section where things like that happen and the father of Yerima’s wife comes from that part of Egypt.
That is why, at the end of the day, we sent them to go and find out why the senator had to bring the girl to Nigeria to marry her. So, he says is to obey Allah, to obey the prophet. What he has brought, which is the Quran, those before the Quran and at the same time to obey the government.
Then, what is the law of the government about a minor? If Yerima has done it and he is not brought to book under Islam, is it Islamic law we are using here or governmental law? What is happening here is just politics. We are sitting here and saying all these, will our law makers follow this up?
Josephine: I think I agree with my brother that this is just politics they are playing with Yerima’s case. There is a case against Yerima; applying the Child Rights Act. Even if they have to follow up from the trafficking angle, it is a clear case of child trafficking.
Suleiman: What is happening is that nobody is following up. Power play is going against all we are saying here today.
Jemi: Some time ago, a group of Moslems had a press conference mobilizing support for Senator Yerima. This Islamic view that you have shared with us, do majority of Moslems share this view? Won’t they see you as a westernized Moslem?
Suleiman: No, no. The problem we are having now has to do with us, religious leaders.
Jemi: Will the police do anything about this?
Frank: It is difficult for me to say. I speak for Lagos State Police Command. Any answer will be hypothetical. But if such thing happens in Lagos State, then I will be able to react.
Yemisi: Are we saying then that if you can pay $100,000, you can bring a girl in and the police will condone it?
Frank: If it had been condoned, we won’t be here talking about it. The different NGOs won’t be talking about it. The point I’m just trying to make is that, I will be acting outside my boundary if I begin to talk on this. I wish it was an issue that happened in Lagos State.
Suleiman: The Quran does not say you should marry an under-aged, from its beginning to end. But, it says you must not allow puberty to meet her in her fathers house.. The culture of every society comes to play. The Yorubas have their culture, the Igbos have theirs and the Hausas have their culture. It is a big crime in Islam to commit adultery.
That is why you must marry somebody you can ask for her hand in marriage but how can you guaranty that the man will be able to wait for the young girl to mature before the man starts sleeping with his wife?
In order to avoid young girls from being molested, they allow them to marry. In the Hausa culture, they don’t see education as anything. Unless their eyes are opened (to see) that education is important, they will keep doing this kind of thing.
What happened in the case of Yerima is that if the parents of the girl agreed that they should go into marriage, what do you want to say? If the child also consented, what do you want to say? In Yerima’s case, his driver is the father of the girl. Who are those that witnessed the wedding?
to be continued….