…family caught in sexual misconduct allegations
BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
One of the common crimes in Edo State these days is the defilement of minors by men who many believe are seeking cure of one spiritual problem or the other. It was another disgusting story last week in Benin-City when officials from Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) apprehended a 70-year-old man, Francis Ezomo, and his two children, Nosa (26) and Festus (29), for allegedly defiling a nine year-old girl. Acting Chairman of SUBEB and Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki, Dr Joan Osa Oviawe, handed the suspects to the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Johnson Kokumo.
The victim was said to have informed her teacher in school of the activities of the suspects, forcing the school to swing into action to ensure their arrest. Oviawe, who disclosed that the case was reported to her by the headmistress of the minor, disclosed that “the issue came to the limelight when the headmistress noticed a change of behaviour in the girl and decided to ask her what the problem was.
The girl narrated her ordeal to the headmistress who then informed the Education Secretary of the local government council where the alleged crime took place. “We then swung into action and got the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development involved. When we could not get the necessary action required from the police, the state government swung into action and these three men were apprehended almost immediately”, the SUBEB boss said.
She explained that the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development had taken custody of the child and assured that SUBEB would ensure that her education is not truncated. “What the men have done is bad and their actions have attempted to destroy the life and future of the minor. The three men took advantage of the child and exposed her to trauma. We have waded into the case to ensure justice prevails¨, Oviawe said.
Speaking on efforts being made by the state government to check child abuse in homes and schools, the Special Adviser disclosed that ¨ Governor Godwin Obaseki has set up a committee at the level of SUBEB and that committee’s mandate is going to be expanded and the governor has directed that the committee chaired by me puts together a structure that will ensure that victims are discovered”.
She added, “Part of the mandate will be to look at amending the child rights law to protect children. We are very serious about not just arresting these people but also ensuring they are prosecuted. This matter is being handled by relevant ministries such as Women Affairs, Justice, Education and they have been mandated to work together through this committee that has been set up. The goal is that within 24 hours government should be aware of cases of child abuse or actions injurious to a child. Society wise, we have been hearing this kind of case on regular basis. There was even a case involving a police officer who raped a teenage girl.
The girl was in custody of the police and the policeman raped her and impregnated her. The policeman in question was dismissed and he is now facing prosecution. So it is an epidemic that we have not really addressed. It is not just for us to catch these people after defiling the young children; it is also rolling out a robust awareness and embarking on a campaign against child abuse. We are going to work very vigorously with teachers in our schools to be very careful and watchful and ensure we prevent people from being abused¨
The state Commissioner of Police, Kokumo, who received the suspects, assured that his men would investigate the allegation and charge the case to court. “Scientific investigation for the minor was sent to the hospital and a doctor report has shown that her hymen has been broken. The scientific report has established that the minor was sexually abused. We will investigate the case and charge them to court,” Kokumo said, and urged parents not to leave the duty of nurturing their children to teachers in schools.
“Nurturing a child is not just the responsibility of the school, both parents and guardians also have roles to play in the proper training up of our children,” the CP said.
The three suspects were arraigned by the police at Evbuoriaria Magistrate Court last Wednesday. The trio are facing a two-count-charge of conspiracy and defilement. Upon arrival in court, the minor broke into tears on sighting her guardian and others docked. The Permanent Secretary at the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Julie Olatunji, told the court that the minor had informed her headmistress how the accused persons defiled her severally after she was quizzed about her unusual gait.
Olatunji said the case was thereafter reported by the Acting Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Oviawe, at the State Executive Council meeting, where Obaseki ordered full-scale investigation into the matter. The Permanent Secretary told the court that upon medical examination, the girl’s hymen was discovered to have been broken and infected and that she was currently undergoing treatment.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. Counsel to the first defendant, Francis Ozomo, Simeon Atalor, applied for bail for his client, whom he said was ill and visually-impaired. The court granted Ozomo bail in the sum of N100, 000 and a surety in like sum. But his two sons, Nosa and Festus, were denied bail. The case was adjourned till April 19.