By Josephine Igbinovia
“I need justice. My case was unjustly closed by the police!” That was the persistent cry of Mary Sunday, a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on whom a pot of stew and the kerosene stove, upon which it was boiling, were allegedly thrown at by her fiancé, a serving officer of the Nigeria Police, Corporal Isaac Gbanwuan.
The incident, which left Mary with grievous bodily harm including the loss of her two ears with her upper neck glued to her arms, led to two surgeries while she needs N5million to undergo another in India.
The victim told Sunday Vanguard she was on the verge of being recruited into the police before trouble began when her fiancé was allegedly diagnosed with low sperm count, lamenting that she has been unjustly treated by the police and denied access to justice.
As a result of the medical report, Gbanwuan allegedly became aggressive and suspicious. An argument which arose from his suspicion of a telephone call Mary received on August 24, 2012, became the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
“On our way home from hospital on that fateful day, an argument ensued over a telephone call I received. He didn’t want to believe the call was from my sister. The argument degenerated and Isaac started beating me by the time we got home. When I could no longer take the kicking and dragging, I tried to escape the scene and I ran to the second floor of the building where we resided at Pedro Barracks, Shomolu, Lagos. We had actually done our introduction and were preparing to get married. He pursued me and I ran to a kitchen on the second floor to escape. He however broke the kitchen door. In a fit of rage, he carried the cooking stove of the neighbor, with boiling stew on it, and poured all the content on my body. The stove exploded, setting me on fire”, Mary said.
The Lagos State Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Damascus Ozoani, in a newspaper report, dated February 18, 2013, however cleared Gbanwuan of the allegation on the grounds that the police had carried out and closed investigation on the matter.
In the report, the police described the condition of Mary as a self-inflicted one.
“The allegation that Gbanwuan assaulted Sunday is misleading. This case has been investigated by the Provost Office of the command. The police have taken statements from Mary, Gbanwuan and other eye witnesses at the Pedro Police Barracks. The Lagos State Police Command is not insensitive. I can tell you that, at this moment, the Commissioner of Police is interested in this case and has passed instructions to the Provost to conclude investigations”, Ozoani was quoted as saying.
However, Mary, who was until June 2013 on admission at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, said the police did not at any time visit her to get information from her after a complaint was lodged by one of her relatives. When contacted, Gbanwuan, who did not deny knowing Mary, refused discussing the subject but rather, referred Sunday Vanguard to the police headquarters for any details.
Foremost human rights activist, Dr.(Mrs.)Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre-WARDC, suspects a bias in the matter.
“One would wonder why a woman who was running for her dear life and seeking help and assistance from neighbours would suddenly become suicidal and inflict such wanton harm on herself. Beyond this investigation, Mary has no other option of redress since the police have closed investigation on her case”, Abiola, who decried the insensitivity of the police towards issues of domestic violence, said.
She continued: “We suspect there is an attempt to subdue the case because of the multiple conflicts of interest associated with the matter. We believe that the Lagos State Police Command has been hasty in coming to the conclusion and that the newspaper report affirms the bias of the police on this matter. We believe that the response was also to cover up the several violations that take place at various police barracks. Also, the fact that this abuse took place at the police barracks, to us, is enough reason for the Lagos police to cover up. We would have expected that the police would have, in accordance with the criminal law in the country, subjected Corporal Isaac to a court of law before an unbiased umpire of this case, so that justice can be seen as done.”
Abiola, who lamented the continued violence against women with perpetrators going unpunished, regretted that several other issues of domestic violence had got stuck at the police without victims getting justice.
“We’ve written twice to the Police Service Commission but got no response. We’ve also written to the Lagos State House of Assembly from whom we’re yet to get an acknowledgement. To us as human rights activists, we’re getting convinced that despite its domestic violence laws, the state is not interested in reducing violence against women. We’re therefore planning to do a petition to the African Commission and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Violence and Discrimination against Women – CEDAW, on this matter, to state that the Nigerian government has failed in the protection of women’s rights.”