August 15th, 2018

FEATURES

Women lawyers take fight against rape of female-child to higher level

The Rivers state chapter of the Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), steps up fight against rape, especially those involving elderly people in the society and female minors, writes BLESSING IBUNGE, in Port Harcourt.

One night in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, when good men and women were fast asleep on their beds, Wilson Edward Okere, 47, allegedly crept out of bed, and made his way into the house of a neighbor through an open window. And once inside the neighbour’s room, he reportedly grabbed an innocent female minor, fingered her private part, and finally had carnal knowledge of the nine-year-old girl (names withheld)

Okere was caught in the act, and later handed over to the Rivers state Police Command. That was in June 2018.

The State Commissioner of Police thereafter arraigned Okere before the Port Harcourt magistrate court 22 in charge number PMC/1538c/2018 for allegedly raping the female minor. The magistrate later remanded him in prison custody,

Although J. O. Chukwu, counsel to the accused, orally pleaded for his bail on the basis that his client has a reasonable surety, the prosecution led by, Supol Godwin Nwinam, objected to the bail application.

He noted that the alleged crime is serious, saying that if found guilty; the accused will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The trial Magistrate, C. Gomba-Osaro Esq, turned down the bail application, saying that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter, and subsequently directed that the case file be transmitted to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). She also ordered that the accused be remanded in prison custody.

This is not an isolated case. It will be recalled that eight-year-old Chinonso Okudo, was sometime ago, gruesomely murdered in her home in Elekahia area of Port Harcourt, after she was unlawfully defiled by unknown persons.

The Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO), Rivers State Police Command, Nnamdi Omoni, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), who confirmed the incident, said the victim (Chinonso) was strangled and stabbed on her neck by unknown persons.

He added that the information at his disposal shows that Chinonso was previously defiled by a man who was discharged by the court based on the advice from the office of the DPP.

He said: “Chinonso was killed in her mother’s house here in Port Harcourt. We are working on different clues that can lead to the arrest of her killers. And we vow that we will leave no stone unturned to fish out the perpetrators of this heinous act.

“We hear that she was previously defiled, and the man who defiled her was discharged by the court. But that incident is still shrouded in controversy, and I would not want to go into that because I don’t have full information,” Omoni said.

It is believed that the little girl may have been strangled to death in order to pervert justice in the rape issue.

Similar incidents involving the murder of eight-year-old, Victory Chikamso, in Eliozu, is still pending before the court of Justice Adolphus Enebeli, where three suspects including a dismissed police Sergeant are standing trial.

More worrisome is the case of a 41-year- old man, Michael Akpan Isaiah, who was remanded in prison custody by Chief Magistrate Zinnah O. Alikor, in Port Harcourt, for allegedly raping his four biological daughters – between the ages of two, seven, 11 and 17.

The accused who allegedly committed the crime around Borokiri Sand Field axis of Port Harcourt, where he was given a free accommodation by a philanthropist, is facing a three-count charge of rape in Suit Number PMC/1977c/2018. The offence attracts life imprisonment if found guilty. The accused claimed he committed the act under spiritual manipulation.

The representative of the Federation of International Women Lawyers, (FIDA) Rivers State chapter, Mrs. Anthonia Osademe, said the organization has created much awareness in schools, and at religious gatherings, on the social and legal implications of rape.

She said that the number of people standing trial for allegedly committing the act of rape has reduced due to the intervention of her organization. She said the state used to record 25 rape cases of child rape every month.

She said: “With the efforts of FIDA, the incidence of child rape has reduced and is not like before when the offence was on the increase. Before now, we record over 25 cases of rape incidents in a month. We have ensured that the suspects have been arraigned in court and follow up with their prosecution to ensure that justice is done.

“It is alarming, and we did not find it funny for an elderly person to have unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor, because there are many women out there. There are women out there who are willing to do it, but some men choose to forcefully defile a minor.

“Parents, guardians and litigants who take care of female children have been taught to be very careful and watchful. We all have to work because the work is for every one of us. We should really put our eyes on the girl-child; have a close relationship with the female-child as a way of protecting her. We should mind how we send a girl-child on an errand.

“We advice parents and victims to speak out because at the moment you may not know what to do, but if you speak out and with the awareness that has been created so far in Rivers State, there will be justice for such crime committed. The issue of money should not be an excuse, the important thing is for them to speak out, and there must be somebody there to help.”

According to Wikipedia, rape is defined in most jurisdictions as sexual intercourse, or other forms of sexual penetration, committed by a perpetrator against a victim without their consent.

Also, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines rape as unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will or with a person.

In Nigeria, children’s’ rights are protected by law, and held sacred. And not only does the law protect the child; it also stipulates punishment for adults who take advantage of children or seek to negatively influence them.

The law provides in cases of child’s rape that any person who commits such offence is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning, as provided for in Section 358 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol. II, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.

As FIDA and other organizations increase efforts to reduce the incidence of rape in the society, parents and guardians are encouraged to ensure the safety of their children and wards, especially the girl child, and to have robust relationship with them.

“There has been a record of low relationship between some mothers and their girl children. If parents had taken the right step of giving their children sex education even before they gather such knowledge in school, it would have prevented such crime, as such a child would always be open to changes in her life or report any threat to parents,” concludes Osademe.

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