Emmanuel Addeh writes on the rising cases of child rape in Bayelsa State and its attendant consequences
She throws up her hands, almost in resignation over the fate that had just befallen her three-year-old daughter. “I have left them for God,” she mutters.
Head slightly lowered; as if ashamed she was failing in her responsibility of ensuring that the burden of continuing the rape case, now with the police, solely rests on her somewhat thin shoulders.
“The police have asked that I should fund the expenses for going to the scene of crime to take pictures and handle other things that need to be done.
“They are asking for N10, 000, which I do not have now”, she says, cleaning off the dregs of tears that had flowed just below her eyelashes.
Her three-year-old daughter, Janet, (not real name) a victim of her so-called ‘uncle’s animal instincts, scared of every sound around her, wound her arms around the trunk of Iniye Ebipade, her mother, innately revelling in the temporary protection the woman offered.
“She came home from school a few days ago and was looking really uncomfortable. She was walking unsteadily. When I asked her what was wrong with her, she started crying”, Janet’s mother, said, intermittently interspersing her English with pidgin, a lingo mostly popular in the Niger Delta.
It was a chance meeting in a local bar in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, where she was overheard discussing the defilement of her toddler with one of the attendants in hushed tones.
With unease written all over her face, it took her time to feel comfortable enough to discuss what had just befallen her little angel when she was approached for an interview.
Gently turning down all entreaties to have her picture taken, perhaps because of the stigma associated with victims’ families rather than that of the suspects, Ebipade, a single mother, says when she first noticed the change in the way the child walked, she thought the little girl probably fell while playing with her friends in school.
She continued, “my daughter started crying. The more I tried to ask what had happened, the more her crying increased.”
According to the woman, when the baby eventually calmed down, she started narrating how her ‘uncle’, her class teacher, whose name she gave as Friday John, had violated her.
“She started pointing to her private area. I immediately pulled the cloth and the pants she was wearing. All I saw was what looked like some dry whitish substance all over her private part.
“I didn’t even realise she had been defiled until I tried washing off the substance did I know that what I was cleaning off was semen. It took a while before the entire thing came out, then I went to report to the police who later arrested the teacher”, she said.
“He (John, the teacher) has been arrested, but meeting the condition the police gave me for continuing the case has become a big problem.” Her father left me after I delivered her. I know they might soon release the boy. But I don’t have the money”, she repeated.
“We took her to the hospital and they did a scan of her abdomen and said there was water in her abdomen. I don’t know what the doctors mean, but I am very afraid. She was supposed to be admitted, but there’s no money for admission in the hospital”, she noted, looking dejected.
This is not the first, not even the 10th case of child rape that has been reported in the state in the last few months, but as to be expected, many of the cases remain unreported for several reasons, mainly cultural.
Just recently, the people of Immringi, in Ogbia local council of the state were shocked to hear of an incestuous relationship between a man, Bamekpa, and his 12-year-old daughter.
For a period spanning a year, Bamekpa repeatedly defiled the young girl, who was 11 at the time. To make matters worse, the girl got pregnant and to cap it all, the father aborted the four-month-old pregnancy.
As expected for a girl that young, who was operated on by a quack, her health deteriorated. Relatives accused Bamekpa of having earlier slept with his biological sisters and his cousin’s daughter who he allegedly forced to commit abortion five times.
Distressed, the young girl sought help from her uncle, one David Apigi, following her deteriorating health condition as a result of complications from the abortion.
She had started bleeding seriously while the father took her to the same doctor who then took her to other places for help.
“There was nobody to help me. He kept doing it despite my efforts to stop him. It was a painful and violent experience. I ran away from home because there was a time I bled so much from my private part.
“When I became pregnant and he heard about it, he handed me over to a lady doctor who took me through an unsuccessful process of abortion. I have been suffering series of health issues since after the abortion”, the young lady told newsmen.
In another horrific incident, two teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 16 years of age were violently raped to death by a gang of young men in separate areas of the Bayelsa State capital.
The 15-year-old girl was reportedly defiled by a gang of boys at an uncompleted building along the D.S.P Alamieyeseigha expressway.
In a ridiculous settlement move, one of the suspect’s parents was said to have offered the victim N1,000 and a rubber of rice to close the case.
In a separate case just before that, an 18-year-old girl who couldn’t take the shame of being stigmatised for life, committed suicide after being raped by a gang of three at Amarata in Yenagoa Local Government Area.
She reportedly swallowed a poisonous substance known as Sniper and was later found groaning in pains and rushed to GloryL and Hospital, where she died.
Chinedu Eze, alias Chiboy, a 40-year-old suspected paedophile was also recently accused of the serial rape of a nine-year-old girl around Akenfa part of the state.
The victim, a Primary four pupil was said to have complained of severe abdominal pains and later admitted to have been raped many times by the man who always lured her with N100 each time.
In the same manner, a 40-year-old man, the State Coordinator of Child Protection Network, CPN, Mrs. Mariam Kombo-Ezeh, recently revealed, raped a four-year-old girl to death in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Two other cases of child abuse, which occurred in the state, including the death of a seven-year-old girl of complications from HIV/AIDS after being raped and infected by a man, and another 13-year-old girl gang-raped in Yenagoa, the state capital, were listed by the NGO during the event.
The revelation came just as residents of Akenfa, area of Yenagoa apprehended a 35-year-old man for allegedly defiling a 13-year-old girl in the neighbourhood.
The angry residents who reportedly caught the man in the act, descended on the suspect, beat him up and called the Police. The victim’s shout for help attracted sympathisers who came to her rescue.
In Otuoke, a university community, in Ogbia Local Government, members of the community woke up to hear reports that a 36-year-old man raped an 18-year-old teenage girl to death.
He was later arrested by operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who saw him attempting to throw the remains of the girl into a nearby bush.
Several other cases, too many to mention, abound, even as four persons suspected to be cultists not long ago, raped an 18-year-old girl along the Gwegwe area of Yenagoa.
The victim was attacked while returning from a visit to a friend in the area, gagged and dragged into a lonely building in the area. One Godfrey Igbare, who was identified as being one of the rapists, was later apprehended.
Not surprisingly, the growing trend has attracted the attention of academics in the area who have taken time to research the growing phenomenon.
Quite disturbing were findings in a long report on child molestation in the state, carried out by Chika Duru, Ovuirororie Ederian and Felix Akinbami of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, Bayelsa State, published in the Global Advanced Research Journal of Medicine and Medical Science.
In the research paper titled, ‘Child sexual abuse: a review of cases presenting at the out-patient clinic of a tertiary health centre in Bayelsa State’, the trio noted that sexual abuse remains a silent crime which occurs in different settings and cuts across varying social classes in the state.
Due to the stigma associated with it, the academics noted, the victims rarely disclosed the act thus leading to underreporting of cases, with even fewer victims eventually presenting for medical care.
Working with a sample of 33 (32 females, 1 male), abused children, presenting in the hospital, the lecturers reported that the perpetrators were mostly males, 96.7 per cent, with those known to the abused children constituting 66.7 per cent.
According to them, the mode of sexual abuse in the majority peaking at 87.9 per cent of cases was genital-genital contact, with victims presenting with vaginal bleeding, vaginal/perineal pain, vaginal discharge and changes in behaviour.
The scholars advocated increased public awareness, accessibility to child social services and training of healthcare workers on appropriate management of such cases.
They listed the short and long term adverse health effects of the abuse as transmission of HIV and other STDs, somatic and visceral injury, unwanted pregnancy, obstructed labour, vesico-vaginal and rectovaginal fistulas.
According to them, consequences associated with the growing trend could be high risk behaviours such as prostitution, multiple sexual partners, substance abuse, delinquency in later life, feelings of vulnerability, shame, guilt, fear, poor self-esteem and depression.
With the ages of the children in question ranging from 1 year 10 months to 15 years, those of the perpetrators, were from 13 to 70 years.
“The sexual abuse was discovered after parents/care givers noted the presence of the symptoms in 9 (27.3%) children, 6 (18.1%) children disclosed the abuse to their parents, 2(6.1%) were caught in the act while 1 (3.0%) was discovered to be pregnant.
“In 7(21.2%) children, the sexual abuse was an incidental finding during investigations for other symptoms such as constipation and changes in behaviour”, the report noted.
“One of the children, a 15-year-old female, presented with features of post-abortal sepsis”, while many perpetrators were neighbours, uncles, family friends, classmates, step brothers, cousins, teachers and strangers in some cases”, said the research paper.
The defilements, the teachers noted, usually took place in the children’s houses, perpetrators’ houses, in the bushes, uncompleted building and behind houses in a shared compound and classrooms.
The act was reported to be forceful in 21.2 per cent of the cases where it was associated with strangling, gagging or use of herbal concoctions to sedate the child while in the rest it was associated with various forms of coercion such as bribery with gifts and money, the report said.
However, the police in the state noted that they were winning the war against child molestation which has become rampant in area.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Asinim Butswat told THISDAY that special departments have been set up at all levels of the force to specifically handle cases affecting women and children.
“We have the juvenile women centre which is attending to such issues, especially sex-related offences. We have also charged many cases to court while several others are under investigation”, Butswat said.
He added, “there’s a juvenile unit under the CID, even at the Divisional level, they handle such cases. So, we have recorded various successes and working even harder to minimise the cases of child molestation”, he assured.
Governor Seriake Dickson had a couple of weeks ago, also expressed delight that the new Child Rights Bill he signed into law would offer protection for children in the state.
He stated that anyone caught violating the rights of children would be prosecuted according to the provisions of the law and expressed the hope that with the law, the rate of child abuse would be minimised.
But as concerned citizens wait for a more concerted effort at curbing the ugly trend, many are also looking forward to the day the new law would catch its first culprit.