Nigerians recently woke up to the shocking news of the rape, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, starvation and deprivation of Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs), especially females, in practically all the thirteen IDP Camps in Northern Nigeria.
Historically, rape and sexual violence, were used as tools of war, to terrorise and destroy communities, and in more recent times, to deliberately spread HIV to the enemy through the rape of their women, in the hope of ruining and annihilating as many families as possible.
But what do you call it, when the perpetrators of rape and sexual violence are not the enemy but police, soldiers, law enforcement agents and staff of humanitarian agencies (Predators), the very people whose role it is to protect those who have escaped from war, and in this case, females that have been brutalised and traumatised by violent Boko Haram attacks, and are now taking refuge in camps? In 1994, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda declared rape to be a ‘crime against humanity’. In 2002, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defined rape and any other form of sexual violence as ‘a crime against humanity when it is committed in a widespread or systematic way’.
Apart from obviously seeing these vulnerable unprotected females as ‘fair game’, ‘easy prey’, these predators have taken advantage of the shortage of food and essential commodities in the camps, and turned the IDP camps to a place where a thriving ‘sex for food and essenco’ racket obtains, whereby ladies are forced to have sex with them, just to be able to survive, just to be able to move in and out of the camps, just to be able to get food to eat and even clothes to wear, and for those who have children, to be able to feed and get medicines for their children.
There are now so many reported cases of rape in the camps, not to talk of those that are not reported, due to shame, stigmatisation and so on. A seventeen year old girl narrated her ordeal. She was approached by a police officer who said he wanted to befriend her. He raped her and impregnated her. When she informed the police officer of the pregnancy, he threatened to shoot and kill her, if she mentioned it to anybody, so she was too scared to make a report and it seems that, he has got away with rape, at least for now.
This is just one example of reckless behaviour by so-called law enforcement agents.
It was reported by a Human Rights group that the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV has increased dramatically in the IDP camps. In the case of HIV, it has increased by about 150% between 2014 and 2016, from 200 to 500 cases, maybe even more, as some are too ashamed or scared to report their ordeals to the camp authorities and there are no adequate medical facilities in the camps.
By virtue of the International Criminal Court definitions, can we not safely say that the predators are committing a crime against humanity by sexually abusing female IDPs?
President Buhari has ordered the IG of Police to commence investigation into this scandalous matter. By virtue of the Criminal Code and the Penal Code, in Nigeria, rape is a very serious offence, punishable with a maximum of life imprisonment.
But foreign human rights groups have complained that Nigeria seems to have a lukewarm attitude towards rape and violent crimes against women. Apparently, a written report on this matter was submitted to the Ministry of Women Affairs in July. Till date, nothing has been heard from the Ministry. Even the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had formed a panel since early 2015, to investigate a report published by International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), alleging that young girls were being trafficked from IDP camps. The perpetration of such atrocities would certainly not be able to be achieved without the connivance of those in positions of authority in the camps and law enforcement. What has been the outcome of all these investigations?
The issue of extra-judicial killings by police and soldiers is another example of law enforcement’s lawlessness and recklessness.
Joseph Izu, a young promising professional footballer of Shooting Stars Football Club, Ibadan (3SC), was killed on Sunday October 16th, 2016, by members of the Army Joint Task Force, at the jetty area of Okaki Community, Ahoada West Local Government Area, Rivers State, where his father said he went to have a bath, a practice apparently not uncommon for people in that area.
His murder in cold blood does not seem to be unusual, as extra-judicial killings in Nigeria have been on a steady rise, especially in the Rivers and Bayelsa neck of the woods. The sad aspect of it is that, there are always teams and committees set up by government to investigate these occurrences, but they never yield any results. Mostly, the police/army culprits are never brought to book for their murderous and heinous crimes. There is therefore, no deterrent for them to be careful and responsible, as they are literally able to get away with murder. The law enforcement agencies sometimes lie and tamper with evidence to protect their own, and frustrate the cases against their colleagues.
Let’s rewind to 2005, the celebrated case of the extra-judicial killing of the ‘Apo Six’. Five men and a woman, Tina Arebu attended a nightclub in Area 11, Abuja. It was alleged that a senior police officer, DCP Danjuma Ibrahim, who was also at the nightclub, propositioned Tina. Apparently, she flatly refused his advances and his ego was badly bruised. To exert revenge, Danjuma Ibrahim allegedly told the officers at the checkpoint that there was a gang of armed robbers in the area.
On leaving the nightclub, Tina and her friends were followed and their vehicle blocked at the checkpoint at the end of the street. The police allegedly, on the instructions of Danjuma Ibrahim, opened fire on them. Four of the men died on the spot, while Ifeanyi Ozor and Tina survived the attack. Ifeanyi was even able to place a call to friends from the scene. They were both taken to the police station. It is even more shocking that, the police demanded the sum of N5,000 from Tina’s family to secure her release, which they were unable to come up with. Tina and Ifeanyi were allegedly later taken to an isolated area outside town, where they were said to have been murdered. Tina was strangled.
Fast forward to eleven years later, the matter is still before an Abuja High Court. Adjournment upon Adjournment. Danjuma Ibrahim, who engaged the services of an SAN, has been on medical bail since the incident, and has carried on with his life. The families of the deceased persons have practically given up hope of justice for their loved ones.
One of the police officers involved in this case, a DPO, Othman Abdulsalami, apparently ‘escaped’ from the fifth floor of the Force Headquarters Building, and is still at large. How does one escape from the fifth floor of a building without being recognised and apprehended, all the way down to the ground floor to exit the building? I smell a rat. The DPO was most likely aided and abetted by his colleagues in his escape.
In the case of Izu, there are several different accounts of what led to his death. While the Army claims that Izu was killed by a stray bullet when soldiers raided the jetty area known as ‘Ghetto’, a cultist shrine in Okaki, an eye-witness account given during a news report on television, says that Izu was shot in the leg first. He was then taken into a room where he kept shouting “I’m innocent, I’m a Footballer”. Writhing in pain from the gunshot to his leg, he is alleged to have shown the soldiers his identity card, which was checked and then he was simply shot again (at close range) and killed.
None of the other accounts of the incident say that Izu was armed with a weapon. Does the police have the right to kill a person who is unarmed? Even if it was a suspect trying to escape, a gunshot to the leg would suffice to stop anybody in their tracks.
Or the 2015 incident of Godwin and Comfort Ekpo and their four children, who were returning from Church in their tricycle (Kekenapep/Tuktuk). The eldest of their children was 12 while the youngest was just 11 months old at the time. In trying to avoid giving the officers a N2000 ‘kola’/bribe, Mrs Ekpo was shot by Corporal Aremu Musiliu. The bullet shattered her skull killing her on the spot. It also went through Mr Ekpo’s jaw and arm. Luckily, he survived.
The question is, how do you explain a police officer opening fire on a keke with more children than adults in it? A keke is open. You can see the passengers inside it from outside. The police officers, unless they were blind, would have seen the little children and the baby inside Ekpo’s keke. Were they high on drugs?
Even the EFCC has not been left out of the extra-judicial killing spree. Recently, in June 2016, there was the case of late Desmond Nunugwo, who was said to have fraudulently duped a lady of N91 million. The Complainant reported the case to the EFCC and Nunugwo was arrested by EFCC operatives at the office of his lawyer on June 9th. Six hours later, he apparently complained of stomach discomfort. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Nunugwo was allegedly hale
and hearty at the time of his arrest. The question is, what happened to him during his detention at EFCC? As usual the police is ‘looking into’ his death.
Interestingly, Nunugwo’s lawyer was allegedly warned by the EFCC operatives while effecting the arrest, not to accompany him to EFCC.
Section 35(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides that “Any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his choice.” It therefore stands to reason, that, the legal representative of the person that is being interrogated, must be present during questioning, to enable consultation during same. Ironically, the opposite obtains in Nigeria, as law enforcement agencies usually demand that the lawyer steps out of the room and not be present during the interrogation of their client!
It is time for government to step-up its game and do the needful in its investigations, even if it involves it own, with regard to the rape in the IDP camps and the extra-judicial killings. It is my hope that this will not be another show of incompetence and cover-up with the usual dead-end investigations by the Police, and nothing to show for it, as in the case of Dele Giwa, Bola Ige and Funso Williams, where those that murdered them seem to have escaped punishment. Or the discharge of the five men by a Kano State Magistrate Court, accused of killing a 74 year old woman, Bridget Agbahime for alleged blasphemy. The Kano State AG apparently decided that they had no case to answer.
The issue of extra-judicial killings is not exclusive to Nigeria alone. We have seen that it has also been on an unhealthy increase in USA, especially with respect to the police’s indiscriminate killing of black people. What, in my opinion, is comymon to USA and Nigeria, is the reluctance of the authorities to prosecute these criminals. Instead of bringing these law enforcement culprits to book, they are more or less given a pat on the hand, and so they get away with it. Where in the case of USA, one can easily finger ‘racism’ as the reason for them being let off so easily, one can only speculate that in Nigeria, it just has to do with our lawlessness, and culture of non-accountability. Government must therefore play its part, if it wants to eradicate extra-judicial killings, instead of just paying lip service to Nigerians, instituting investigations that yield no results on every issue.
When government decides to make examples of law enforcement agents who rape the innocent and helpless, and kill, and punish them to the fullest extent of the law, it will serve as a deterrent to the trigger happy ones and those with ‘ants in their pants’. When they are hung or face the firing squad at Bar Beach for murder, others will learn the art of self-control.
It would be a disgrace, if as usual, nothing happens to the IDP camp rapists and sexual abusers. The world is watching. We know that the handling of sexual violence against women and children in refugee camps by ‘Predators’ has been inadequate, especially in Africa.
However, apart from maximum punishment for these sexual predators, Human Rights Advocates have proffered several useful solutions to try to stamp out this evil. Some of them include employment of many more women . in camp governance and aid distribution, employment of more female medical personnel in the camps and maintenance of strict confidentiality which will encourage report of abuse, proper training of refugee camp staff, provision of access to court system and legal aid for refugees, training of police, soldiers and other law enforcement agents on the ills of sexual abuse and exploitation.