By CHARLES KUMOLU
PERHAPS when the Light of Hope Orphanage was being established in 1996, what preoccupied the mind of its founder was how to provide a home for orphans, abused and abandoned children.
Sixteen years after, developments within the facility which is located at 2, Tunde Senbanjo Crescent, Ojodu, Akute Ogun State, appear to have made the orphanage a threat to orphans who live there.
How the Home descended from being a centre for rehabilitation, reformation and reintegration to a source of worry, is better understood by reading the story of its founder Mr. Olatayo Atunde, who is currently being remanded in prison.
It began with allegations by two minors in the orphanage that Atunde had raped them and other girls at various times.
One of the minors (name withheld) had allegedly showed up at school in March with blood dripping down her legs. When questioned by school officials, the minor claimed that Atunde had sex with her.
“Daddy has been having sex with at least 10 of us. We are mostly between the ages of eight and 14. I reported to Aunty Hannah and when she challenged daddy, he laid a curse on me,” she said. Following the allegations, policemen from Zone 2 Command, Onikan, Lagos State arrested Atinude.
The attempted rape of a 65-year-old woman, by 18-year old Nnanna Osondu in Opi Town, Nsukka Local Council of Enugu State, is one case that has left many asking what could have informed the dimension the anomaly had assumed.
Osondu, who had set out in search of an old woman to rape, but had his mission thwarted, narrated how he, in company of other young boys, usually rape old women and widows in Opi community. The tales are endless. Against the backdrop of these incidents across the country, VanguardFeatures, VF, can authoritatively state that rape has become a national concern.
Although, various societies have had to live with it, all through the ages, its sudden increase in Nigeria, spreads fear across the land. There is hardly any week lately without rape cases making the headlines. For instance, the 2012 statistics presented by the Lagos State Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye in January 2013, confirmed the rising rate of rape.
Alarming statistics: Ipaye disclosed that 427 rape cases were recorded in the state last year, through the Office of Public Defence. Similarly, President, Zonta Club II, Ibadan, Dr. (Mrs) Omolara Smith had at a forum, convened to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence in 2012, said, that cases of rape have gone up from 12.5 per cent to 84 per cent in Nigeria.
In January, a report by the Child Protection Network, a child rights advocacy group, listed 95 child rape cases in five Northern states. The report, which did not indicate a time frame over which the incidents occurred, had Gombe State at the top of the chart with 50 cases.
Kano was next with 22, while Bauchi, Plateau and Nasarawa had 11, eight and four cases, respectively. But some rights groups like CLEEN foundation, indicated that 2,241 cases of rape and indecent assault were reported in 1999; 1,529 in 2000; 2,284 in 2001; 2,084 in 2002; 2,253 in 2003; 1,626 in 2004 and 1,835 in 2005.
Following this frightening statistics, a worried Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, had in April 2012, decried the alarming rate of rape cases across the country. She said her Ministry was overwhelmed with series of such cases requiring urgent legal attention.
The Minister said: “An overview data of Gender Based Violence generated for 18 states of the federation and covering the six geo-political zones in 2010 revealed that out of 479 reported cases, the result is as follows: 21.08 percent of sexual violation, 44.25 percent of physical violations, 18.37 percent of domestic violence, 11.48 percent of harmful traditional practices, HTP and 2.92 percent of economic violations.”
Why the rising incidence of rape?
The question everywhere is: Why the rising incidence of rape? ‘’As long as rape victims and their parents refuse to show interest in prosecuting the case, the offenders will go free and more of such crime will happen. The victims of rape or defilement are the main witnesses, the police need to send the offenders to prison,’’ Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer Ngozi Braide noted.
Stating her reasons, she said: ‘’The case is a serious offense under the Nigerian law. An offender could be sentenced to life imprisonment if found guilty. We have many people who should be behind bars for violent crimes against women. But because the people concerned are not willing to come forward to assist the police in prosecution, they are walking freely and even committing more of such crime. If offenders are not punished, many others will be bold to commit such a crime.’’
Although the President of Gender Equality and Protection, GEAP, Dr. Christie Idonojie, agreed that inability of victims is partly responsible, she told VF that the laws against rape in Nigeria, are not punitive enough, adding that with such laws still in place, people would still rape with impunity.