By Francis Ewherido
For some time now, rape has become a multiple daily occurrence in Nigeria. In spite of intense media focus, the number and frequency of rape cases, especially the sexual abuse of under-aged children, have increased. Even more disturbing is the fact that some of these abuses are carried out by the biological fathers of these young girls.
Tomorrow is International Day of the Girl Child. At a time like this, you cannot help but remember the plight of these innocent and vulnerable children.
But what really necessitated today’s column was a report in the Vanguard of September 7, 2015, about an investigation police officer who refrained from prosecuting a father who sexually abused his seven-year-old daughter because it is a “family issue.”
What is “family issue” about rape? I am not a lawyer, but from the little law I studied in liability insurance, I know there is a difference between civil and criminal matters. The state prosecutes alleged criminal offenders while civil matters are between individuals or groups.
Rape is listed as a criminal offence, therefore, the state is supposed to prosecute the alleged offender and if found guilty, sentenced. So what is the IPO talking about? To get more insight into the crime of rape, I contacted a lawyer friend, Barrister Peter Jude Osuji.
Under the Criminal Code of Nigeria, Rape is defined, as “having unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false act…
This offence is punishable by imprisonment for life, with or without caning” (Section 357 and 358 of the Criminal Code Cap “C38”, Laws of the Federation, 2004). The other offence the father committed is pedophilia. Pedophilia is “a psychiatric disorder, in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger…”(Wikipedia).
I always suspected pedophiles to be people of unsound minds, if not, what is sexually attractive about a seven-year-old girl (and your own daughter for that matter)? No boobs, no curves, no “finishing” and all the other things that make even the greatest of men become foolish when they behold the daughters of Eve.
Guilty pedophiles should either be in prison or psychiatric confinements until they are cured of the disorder. A Pedophile, who abuses his own daughter, is simply a father from hell. He should consider cutting off his member. Or is it not better to be without a sexually-functional penis than to go into your own daughter? Just wondering aloud.
The seventh senate passed a bill into law prescribing life imprisonment for pedophiles. Despite the controversy surrounding the maximum age of a minor in the bill, it fills a lacuna in the laws of the federation and hopefully President Muhammadu Buhari will sign it into law some day.
The third offence committed by the abusive father is incest. The Nigerian constitution does not provide any clear definition for incest, but under Criminal Code Act Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, Section 214 clarifies it as an offence against morality; a grave offence, if I might just add.
Sexually-abused minors can get justice through the current provisions of the law against rape, but in many cases, family members of the abusers put the much-trumpeted “family name” above the future of the victims; the physical, emotional and psychological damage done to the victims becomes inconsequential. So these parents go scot free only to strike again, as was the case of the seven-year-old girl.
Tragically, the police, the agent of the state, saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting these fathers abusing their under-aged daughters, now see this offence as a “family issue.” It is this kind of inertia and handing of light sentences to offenders by some judges that have emboldened these offenders and made this heinous crime to fester.
Having studied how advanced societies operate, I firmly believe that Nigeria needs to reform its police/policing system and the judiciary / judicial system to bring about the real change many of us clamour for. These two institutions are that critical.
Currently, they leave the average Nigerian frustrated, vulnerable, helpless and hopeless. Unfortunately, these defenceless minors have become major casualties of the defective system. I suggest the Buhari government declares a state of emergency on these two sectors. Let experts tell us what we need to do to significantly improve their performances.
For sure, I know we need to look at their welfare system, retirement packages, working conditions, etc. If they need a separate salary structure, let us give it to them; just anything they need to do their jobs optimally. Thereafter, we should put stringent measures in place to weed out the bad eggs. You cannot ape Bill Gate or Aliko Dangote if you are a judge or policeman. Resign and go into business. We should also explore the possibility of state police.
While that is on, we should not sit helplessly and allow some fathers to destroy the lives of their children; neighbours, school teachers, family members, child rights protection organizations, civil rights groups, the media and everybody who has a voice should continue to speak out. We should mount pressure on the relevant government agencies to do their work.
Parents are like God in the minds of little children. They trust their parents totally. Do not breach that trust. Be good role models to your children. Protection of children is a sacred duty; it is sacrosanct (Matthew 18: 2-6 and 10, Matthew 19: 13-14).
No parent has any right to abuse his/her child or any child for that matter. Custodians, that is all you are as parents and you had better be a good custodian or the law should be allowed to take its course. Protection of family name cannot take precedence over the future of children.