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Violence against women: The unusual suspects

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By Rotimi Ojomoyela, Josephine Agbonkhese, Chris Onuoha & Anino Aganbi

IT is no longer news that the spate of gender violence in Nigeria has risen to unprecedented levels across board. A non-governmental organization, NGO, in Lagos, the CLEEN Foundation reports one in every three respondents admitting to being a victim of domestic violence in a survey which also found a nationwide increase in domestic violence  in three years from 21% in 2011 to 30% in 2013. A CLEEN Foundation’s 2012 National Crime and Safety Survey demonstrated that 31% of the national sample confessed to being victims of domestic violence.

What has become even more worrisome is that  incidences of gender based and domestic violence – once thought to be prevalent in the lower classes in society- seems to have become mainstream, with showbiz A-listers and law enforcement recently identified as perpetrators.

Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, Mrs. Toyin Adeyeye and Barrister Rita Ilevbare

International Women’s Day

Barely a couple of weeks after Ekiti State celebrated this year’s International Women’s Day in grand style, with the state pledging its commitment to the protection of women and girls from all forms of violence, uncertainty has already begun to rule the air over the alleged brutalisation of a nursing mother and her two-month-old baby by policemen attached to New Iyin Police Station, in the state capital.

Uncountable thoughts would by now occupy the mind of Mrs. Toyin Adeyeye, an American returnee who was beaten up by a group of policemen at check point recently  in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital. On that fateful day, Friday, March 17, Mrs Adeyeye and her two month old baby, Heritage, were returning from the market where she had gone to purchase some housekeeping stuff, alongside  her brother, who drove the car, when they were stopped at a check point close to Ekiti Parapo Pavilion, mounted by some policemen from a nearby police station.

After the initial checking of vehicle particulars, Mrs Adeyeye and her brother were allegedly asked to “settle” before they could proceed on their journey, a demand they vehemently refused but landed them into trouble, the five policemen on duty at the check point allegedly descended on the nursing mother and her brother, not minding the fact that she was carrying a baby, they were thoroughly beaten and immediately marched to the New-Iyin Police Station, where they were detained.

All her personal belongings, including $750 were taken away from her. The unfortunate incident happened few meters away from the official residence of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abdullahi Chafe. Mrs. Adeyeye returned from the United States of America ten days earlier where she had gone to deliver the baby. Apart from detaining the trio, the police also impounded the black Kia Picanto car with registration number LAGOS FKJ 221 EE with which they were coming from the market.

Neither my wife nor her brother slapped any policeman—Husband

Though efforts to reach the victim  were unsuccessful, the report of the police however contradicts that of Akanni Adeyeye, her husband, who spoke on her behalf, in solidarity. Speaking with newsmen last Saturday, the victim’s husband, decried the alleged brutality meted out to his wife with lacerations on her body and bruises on the face. Adeyeye had explained that the policemen requested for vehicle particulars and driver’s license of his brother-in-law who drove the car which are still valid.

Adeyeye added: “My wife and her brother were returning from the market at about 3.00 pm on Friday and on arrival at the checkpoint in front of the Pavilion very close to their station, they asked for all vehicle papers and driver’s license which were produced and they are valid. After checking all the documents, the policemen were demanding for money to be given as ‘settlement’ which my wife and her brother refused. My wife drew their attention to the baby that was crying in the car.

“Five of them were beating her at the point of arrest and on getting to the station, the beating continued. After thoroughly beating her, they obtained her statement around 10.00 pm. There are wounds on the back of my wife and face to show for it. On getting to the station, they now cooked up a story that my wife slapped one of them and tore his uniform. The question to be asked is,  how would somebody who is not armed attack an armed policeman? They cooked it up with this falsehood to cover up their brutality.”

Who assaulted who?

While reports immediately emerged that the nursing mother  was beaten up and detained by the police officers, subsequent reports, basically emerging from the police, have since countered that.

She slapped my officer— Ekiti Police Commissioner

When contacted on phone, the state Commissioner of Police, Abdullahi Chafe, claimed that Mrs. Adeyeye was detained for allegedly slapping a policeman on duty and tearing his uniform adding that the matter was still under investigation.

Slapping a policeman

Chafe said: “Those people slapped my policeman on duty and tore their uniform. Uniform is an authority and what those people did was against the law and it is not good for a civilian to slap a policeman.

“It is not good for somebody to prevent a law enforcement officer from carrying out his lawful duty. Somebody wearing the uniform? It is not about his age but the authority he carries. I don’t allow my men to do something contrary to the law.  I don’t want a woman to be detained with baby or with pregnancy. I don’t want an old woman or a minor to be detained. I have taken note of this and we will take the right action on the matter.”

Our men were simply questioning them— Police PRO

When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti State, Alberto Adeyemi, re-echoed the commissioner’s view. “The story was that the woman in question and her brother were stopped by police officers on patrol check while driving. In the process, she and her brother flayed from simple questioning and attacked the police officer. That resulted in an arrest, and they were brought to the police station and detained. The family came and asked to make peace with the police regardless of who was at fault. We assured them that as long as they want to make peace, we will consent accordingly. So far, we have finished our investigations and have handed the report over to the state governor and Inspector General of Police,” Adeyemi told Woman’s Own.

When contacted though, the Chairperson, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Mrs Funke Anoma, told Woman’s Own she was unaware of any development concerning investigation and report being concluded and sent to the state governor and Inspector General of Police.

None of my officers beat her up— Police PRO

Adeyemi, still in a chat with Woman’s Own, however denied the allegation, insisting that none of the police officers beat up Mrs Adeyeye. “With regards to the alleged bruises she sustained, none of the officers beat her before she was brought to the station. But in the process though, she was aggressive and refused to comply with the police officer at the scene. Even at that, have you seen the picture of bruises on the policeman’s neck? That also shows you that she was aggressive during the process of arrest.

“I must say here that we should learn to appreciate what we have. I am not saying that we are the best. Go to anywhere in the world, the job of a policeman is the same. My father was the first set of policemen in Congo from Nigeria and their feat is on record. Even in America, Nigerian police is one of the best in foreign mission services. What we have to understand here is that the police officers were doing their job and were attacked in the process, which is wrong, coming from the citizens we are supposed to protect.”

Brandishing the pictures of the attacked officer, Mr Alberto Adeyemi said, “The driver also used a plank to attack the police officer. The DCO of New Iyin police station was also attacked when he came to rescue the officer. His uniform was torn. The two of them will be charged to court as soon as investigation is completed”.

Mrs Adeyeye did not inflict injuries on herself — FIDA

Debunking claims by Adeyemi that Adeyeye was not beaten up by the police but was actually the one who beat up a police officer and then inflicted injuries on her own self, the Immediate Past President, FIDA, Ekiti State, Barr Rita Ilevbare, said such were totally impossible.

Ilevbare said: “That’s what the police is claiming but you can see the bruises. It is not possible for her to inflict those wounds on herself. If they were on her face, we would have said that is possible. But they are behind her back. How could she have injured herself that way?”

Police not pressing charges yet

Ilevbare who lamented that FIDA was ready to press charges but was being hindered by the police whose jurisdiction it is to charge matters to court, said, “Right now, the police has not done any investigation that would warrant charges to be drawn. It is only when one is not satisfied with the judgement of the court that one can ask the Ministry of Justice to take over the matter. But for now, we need the police to move the matter to court.

“We are just waiting for them for a while and if nothing is done, we will do a formal petition to the Inspector General of Police to compel the police to do their work..  Outside that, if we are still not satisfied with their actions, we will file for fundamental human rights (civil claim) to enable the woman claim damages for what she and her child suffered in the hands of the police.”

‘Police should be retrained’

On her part, Anoma said it was extremely illogical to claim that Mrs Adeyeye slapped a police officer for no tangible reason. Even if that actually happened, nothing stopped the police, as law abiding people, from suing her instead of brutalising her. “Commonsense tells me that no reasonable man or woman gets stopped on the road by a security officer, comes down from the car, and starts slapping the officer. But for whatever provocation, if that arose, torturing, brutalising and molesting should not be the answer.

“The courts of law are there where such individuals can be taken to. The courts are not for fun or play but for serious business such as when someone is assaulted. The fact that you’re a police officer does not mean you cannot be slapped because you are also a citizen of Nigeria. I am not saying it is right to go slapping security officers. As a law abiding officer, if I was slapped for example, I would rather not slap back. I would rather sue for assault and I do not see any reason a policeman cannot do the same instead of beating up the person. The fact that one is a police officer does not mean he or she should not be law abiding.”

Anoma therefore called for training and re-training of officers of Ekiti Police Command on the Ekiti State Gender Based Law 2011 and on the need to treat all citizens of Ekiti, particularly Ekiti women, with all the respect and dignity deserved.

Protests by women organisations

The International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, in Ekiti State described the beating and detention of the woman and her baby as “wicked, inhuman, barbaric and uncivilized,” vowed to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion, added that it would not allow the matter to be swept under the carpet

The association called on the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, to order a high-powered probe into brutalization of a woman, Mrs. Adeyeye whom it said was dehumanized and degraded by the treatment. FIDA also called for the the prosecution of the policemen who participated in the beating of the woman, her brother, Adeniyi Dada. Mrs. Adeyeye, her baby, Heritage and her brother were detained at New Iyin Road Police Station till Saturday.

Leaders of other women groups including National Council of Women Societies, NCWS, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC Women’s Wing, Trade Union Congress, TUC, Women’s Wing, Market Women Association, National Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Nigerian Bar Association and Women in Colleges of Education, WICE, joined in condemning the attack on Mrs. Adeyeye and her detention with her two-month old baby.

Armed with placards of various inscriptions, the women organisation threatened to march to the state police command headquarters if the erring officers are not brought to justice to serve as deterrent to others. Some of their placards read: “CP Ekiti, Investigate This Crime,” “We Say No To Detention of Innocent Baby,” “We Demand Justice for Mrs Adeyeye,” “We Say No To Police Brutality,” “Violence   Against Women is Violence Against All,” “Women Deserve Respect,” among others. They also said that the sum of $750 allegedly seized from Mrs. Adeyeye by the policemen who arrested her was still with the officers demanding that the money be returned immediately.

Caesarian section

The groups claimed the brutal attack on Mrs. Adeyeye who just had a baby through a Caesarian Section (CS) has affected the healing process of the stitched section of her abdomen and she had to be readmitted at a hospital. They urged the state police command to hand over a policeman, Waheed Adedokun, who led other policemen attached to New Iyin Police Station in assaulting Mrs. Adeyeye both at the checkpoint and inside the station.

Anoma who spoke through FIDA Vice Chairman, Mrs. Seyi Ojo, revealed that Mrs. Adeyeye delivered her baby through Cesarian Section and the brutality affected her stitched abdomen. According to her, FIDA has commenced the process of filing a fundamental human rights enforcement suit on behalf of Mrs Adeyeye and her baby in the law court.

Fayose, the women’s governor

She said the women lawyers’ body commended the swift intervention of Governor Ayo Fayose who ordered a thorough investigation but expressed regrets that the state police command was yet to take any action on the culprits. Adding that it was unlawful for a policeman to raise his hand against a woman, the governor said no responsible man would beat a woman, manhandle or brutalise her for whatever reason.

He said,“The law that forbids violence against women is still operative in this state. And I can never allow any form of brutality of women under my watch as governor in Ekiti State. Women are even described as the weaker vessel.” The panel’s report is, however, still being patiently awaited by concerned citizens and the entire civil society.

The FIDA boss said: “We observe with disdain the efforts police are making in covering up this lawlessness of its officers and the injustice to a law-abiding Ekiti woman and her child. Ekiti women are saying no to all forms of violence on women and children. Governor Fayose has ordered for a thorough investigation; however, the Ekiti State Command has flagrantly disobeyed and disregarded this order.

“The CP has refused to investigate this matter and that is why we are holding this press briefing to draw the attention of the whole world to this case. We demand that the $750 in the custody of a police officer, Waheed Adedokun, an officer  at New Iyin Road station be returned and all the erring officers be brought to justice.”

NBA human right’s reaction

Chairman, Human Rights Committee, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Ado Ekiti Branch, Vincent Adedara, also called on the Force Headquarters to launch an investigation into the incident because Ekiti command was allegedly shielding the culprits.

Adedara who is also the state NBA vice chairman further called on the Police Service Commission, PSC, to discipline Waheed and other policemen who participated in the alleged brutality while the New Iyin Road Police Station Divisional Crime Officer, DCO, should be queried and disciplined.

He said: “What justification did the police have to brutalize a woman and how would a harmless woman assault a fully armed policeman? We believe that the CP has not handled the matter professionally. Their action negate international standard of policing because they have gone ahead to plaster the head of a policeman to portray Mrs. Adeyeye as an aggressor and that is why we want the IGP to constitute a high-powered panel to investigate the matter.”

It is sure that  the controversy over the alleged brutality won’t go away soon as it is generating questions among residents of Ekiti State and other Nigerians.

Medical examination

“Can an unharmed woman with baby in her hand slap and attack a policeman among five of his other colleagues at a scene just near their station? Can the slapping cause deep injuries on the face and the neck of the policeman? Will the woman and the “injured” officer be subjected to medical examination to ascertain who was injured among them?

“If it was true that the woman slapped or tore the uniform as alleged, does that warrant the beating she was subjected to? Was the baby with her at the time of the incident or was he brought to the station as alleged by the police? Where are the dollars allegedly seized from Mrs. Adeyeye? Definitely, the case is heading to the court of law and the judiciary will do well to find answers to these posers to stem the tide of brutality at checkpoints, police stations and other public places in Nigeria.”

Former Attorney General: Immediate past Attorney General of Ogun State, Abimbola Ibironke Akeredolu, in a phone conversation with WO said the police have no legal right to brutalize anybody. “I sincerely doubt if the account given is accurate. But if indeed the victim slapped an officer, there is provision under the law for handling such issues.

“We must not be bound by the strictures of the rule of law. The victim slapping an officer was not right. The law has made provision for such and it has to be followed. The wearing of the uniform puts a greater onus on the police officer to comport himself in accordance to the rule of law. What did they charge her with before they detained her?

“Before you detain somebody you must have charged them with something. If that is indeed what happened because what you are saying now is hearsay, but if that is what happened then it is not right. It is not right even if it is a man not to talk about a woman with a child. I was not there at the scene when this happened and this is the first I am hearing about it. Which is why I said all the reports have been based on hear- say but if it really happened as they said, then it is not right. The only person who would have the correct report of it would be an eye witness who was there when it all happened. So we are all speculating. “

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