From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
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 defined 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.
Following the laws guiding principles, in Nigeria, Children’s Rights are protected and held sacred, 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, this is as stated under Section 358 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol. II, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.
Recent times, being ignorant of the punishment attached to rape, people go into such crime hoping to escape by intimidating the victim and parent of victim but the efforts of Federation of International Women Lawyers, FIDA, especially in Rivers State, Nigeria and other concerned citizens who have taken it upon their shoulder as being influenced by campaigns by FIDA has reduced the rate of rape cases in the society.
Before the awareness that have made people to realise the need to be open up and report rape incidents to right authorities, many victims and parents or guardians suffered the pains of silence in fear of stigma and which contributed to the high rate of crime in the society. But today, boldness and ability to speak out is presently tackling a long time menace which has affected so many children now adults negatively.
In other instances, parents and guardians have not really played their roles in the safety of their children and wards, especially the girl child. There has been record of low relationship between the mother and their girl children. If the parent have started the best step of giving their children sex education even before they gather such knowledge in school, it would have prevented such crime, as such child would always be open to changes in her life or report any threat to parents.
Cases of rape reported recently:
A Port Harcourt Magistrate Court remanded a 47 years old man, Wilson Edward Okere in the Federal Maximum Prison custody for alleged defiling a nine years old girl.
The accused person was arraigned in Magistrate court 22, by the State Commissioner of Police over alleged rape of the minor and FIDA (name withheld).
The matter was registered in charge number PMC/1538c/2018.
According to the charge, sometime in the month of June 2018, the accused who happens to be a neighbour to the minor, allegedly unlawfully fingered and penetrated his penis through the virginal of the girl.
Although counsel to the accused, Barr J.O Chikwu, orally pleaded for his bail, said the defendant has a reasonable surtees but the prosecution in the matter, Supol Godwin Nwinam objected to the bail application. He noted that the crime allegedly committed is serious and if found guilty is life imprisonment.
Ruling on the ball application, the trial Magistrate, C. Gomba-Osaro Esq, refused the bail by the accused counsel, saying that her court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter and directed that the case file be transmitted to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution, also ordered that the accused be remanded in the Port Harcourt Federal Maximum Prison custody.
Another situation was the gruesome murder of an eight year-old minor, little Chinonso Okudo in her home in Elekahia area of Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, after she was unlawfully defiled.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, who confirmed the incident, said the victim (Chinonso) was strangled and stabbed on her neck by unknown persons.
He added that information at his disposal shows that Chinonso was once allegedly defiled by a man whose matter was discharged from court based on advice by the Director of Public Prosecution in Rivers state.
“Chinonso was killed in her mother’s house here in Port Harcourt. We are working on different clues that can lead to her killers. And we vow that we will leave no stone unturned.
“We hear that she was defiled and the man who defiled her was discharged. 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.
The little girl may have been strangled to death in order to pervert justice, in the rape issue.
It would be recalled that similar incident involving the murder of eight years old, Victory Chikamso in Eliozu is still pending before Justice Adolphus Enebeli where three suspects including a dismissed police Sergeant are standing trial.
The worst of it all is the case of a 41-year- old man, Michael Akpan Isaiah, who was remanded in the prison custody by Chief Magistrate Zinnah O. Alikor, in Port Harcourt, for allegedly raping his four biological daughters, who are 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 three count charge of rape in Suit Number PMC/1977c/2018.
Parts of the count reads: “That you Michael Akpan Isaiah sometime in April, 2018 at Borokiri Sand Field, Port Harcourt within the Port Harcourt Magisterial District did have unlawful carnal knowledge of (Name withheld) without her consent and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 358 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol. II, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999..”
Inspector Onyishi Joshua is the prosecution in the matter, while Fortune Ada Ndah, an Executive of the Federation of International Women Lawyers, FIDA in the state, watched brief on behalf of the mother of the victims.
The accused who did not take plea in the charge against him because of the nature of the crime which if found guilty is punishable by life imprisonment, but admitted to the court that he committed the crime and claimed he committed act under spiritual manipulation.
The FIDA representative in the matter, Fortune Ada Ndah, told the court that the accused has been forcefully sleeping with his daughters for the past three years.
She disclosed that at anytime the accused want to have sex with the daughters, he will first put them in pains by beating the victim very hard. She said it was after his son caught him in the act that the crime was made open and reported to the State Criminal Investigation Department.
Meanwhile, the presiding Chief Magistrate, Zinnah O. Alikor, described the act by the accused as an abomination, wickedness and devilish act.
She blamed the mother whom she also described as a victim, of not having close relationship with her children, adding that she (victim’s mother) would have dictated the evil act by her husband on her daughters a long time ago.
Alikor who declined jurisdiction to entertain the matter, ordered that the original case file be remitted to the Director of Public Prosecution for legal advice.
She ordered for the remand of the accused person in the prison custody and adjourned the matter till sine die.
Experts reaction on rape:
A psychologist and a lecturer in the Psychology department, University of Port Harcourt, Prof Osita Nwankwo, described the act of having unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl minor as insane, adding that the perpetrator may have had brain problem and should not allowed continuing living among sane people.
Prof Nwankwo said: “Environment plays a very important factor in the life and behaviour of people. The nature of environment we are now, so much adverse, social, invents that brings women, men, boys and girls together instead of doing the right thing they preferred doing the wrong thing especially the sex issue. Another very important factor is brain factor. Such people who indulge in rape have something bad in their brain, we call them sycophants.
“They have holes in their superegos. This is part of the human beings that controls the entire being, so their own is faulty as a result of environment, as a result of nature of development of the brain. So the elderly man, who goes to a very young girl, is as a result of the factor of a brain damage, brain problem. So that person will begin to behave abnormally.
“Such old man involved in rape should be investigated psychologically, then if they have such brain damage they should be put where they should stay but for young people there should be law and the law must be maintained. If you do that, not minding the causative agent, nature of society, put them in prison, give him the punishment”, Prof Nwankwo advised.
On the part of Federation of International Women Lawyers, FIDA,, Rivers State chapter, they have created much awareness both is schools, at religious gathering, through the media and open seminars and programme.
According to the chairperson of FIDA in Rivers, Mrs Anthonia Osademe, the incident of rape efforts of parents and concerned citizens who benefitted from their awareness and campaign has drastically reduced the cases of rape they arraign to court monthly.
According to Mrs Osademe, “With the effort of FIDA, child’s rape has reduced and is not like before that the offence was at increase, we have tried to ensure that justice is done. We have ensured that the suspects have been arraigned in court and follow up with their prosecution to ensure that justice is done.
“We have ensured that prosecution is being followed to the conclusion. You know before now, people are begging to die off the matter, but now they know we follow up the matter to conclusive justice, and that nothing can make us to compromise, so with the effort to follow up to every angle, from the police to hospital, hospital to court and to judgement, the crime has really reduced.”
Mrs Osademe continued that “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. They are women who are willingly out there but now they choose to forcefully defile a minor. Before now, in a month we records over 25 cases of rape.
“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 eye on the girls children, have close relationship with the female child as a way of protecting her. We should mind how we send these girl children for an errand.
“The important thing is to counsel our children, from time to time we should give them sex education. We should not shy away from this, it is better to educate the children on sex education so in the case they find themselves in such attack they will know what to do. They should be taught about their private parts and when is necessary to make use of them so that they are not misled by miscreant who may want to take advantage of them.
“Before the vacation, we went to over 30 schools in Port Harcourt, especially during graduation ceremony, educating the children and their parents on possible way to avoid risk and danger of rape.
“These few periods, the effort we have put in by creating awareness and following up such matters in court, the crime has reduced. We advised that once there is incident report on rape, the child should be immediately taken to the police to report and then go to the hospital for medical report. For us is a pro bono service, is free of charge to try rape matter. We will follow from the police to judgement in the court, we partner with Doctors without Border, and they do not charge money for medical service at that early treatment
“Therefore, parents and victims should 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, for the public and victim to speak out and there must be somebody there to help”, Osademe added.