A coalition of 67 women groups have added a fresh twist to the threat by Bello Nasir El-Rufai, son of governor Ahmad Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, saying he should be prosecuted for threatening violence and gang-rape of a woman on Twitter.
The demand by the women group of activists came barely 48 hours after a public apology tendered by Bello.
The women organisations bared their minds in a petition of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), dated April 16, 2020 and obtained by journalists in Abuja on Sunday.
The document entitled “Request to investigate and prosecute the threats of sexual violence and gang-rape by Mr. Bello El-Rufai”, was signed on behalf of the 67 groups by the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi and Convener of Women in Politics Forum, Ebere Ifendu.
Below is the text of the letter:
REQUEST TO INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE THE THREATS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND GANG-RAPE BY MR. BELLO EL RUFAI
We, the undersigned women-led and women-focused non-governmental organizations, activists and scholars write to request you to use your position as the Chief Law Officer of Nigeria to direct immediate action to investigate and prosecute one Mr. Bello El Rufai (who incidentally is the son of the incumbent Governor of Kaduna State), over threats of sexual violence and gang-rape he made against the mother of another Nigerian online via series of tweets last week.
According to the information we obtained from the internet and which we verily believe was posted by Mr. Bello El-Rufai and which he has not disavowed so far, he bullied and intimidated a man who reportedly called him “daddy’s boy” in the course of online interactions between them by offering a series of threats and making grossly offensive statements. The threats, intimidation, offensive statements are contained in his online chats and read in part as follows:
“Oh and tell your mother I’m passing her to my friends tonight. No Igbo sounds please! tueh” (12th April,2020).
(The online conversation is herewith attached as Annexure 1)
With due respect, we believe that Mr. Bello El-Rufai’s conduct by written speech posted online committed crimes prohibited under Cybercrimes (Prohibition) Act, 2015 and the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015. Permit us to refer you specifically to section 24 of the Cybercrime which criminalises cyberstalking in its different manifestations including the following:
knowingly or intentionally sending a message by means of computer systems or network grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or
knowingly or intentionally transmitting or causing to be transmitted any communication through a computer system or network to bully, threaten or harass another person where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm.
Permit us also to refer you to section 26 of the Cybercrimes Act which criminalizes racist and xenophobic offences, where the scope of such offences extends to ethnic origin as the basis of differentiation. And finally, we refer you to section 18 of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP Act) which criminalizes intimidation of another person; and intimidation is defined in section 46 as “the uttering or conveying of a threat or causing any person to receive a threat, which induces fear, anxiety and or discomfort.”
We must point out that this case is, indeed, very telling of how women’s rights are readily violated in Nigeria and why there is an urgent need for committed action by the State to deal with egregious crimes of gender-based violence as this case presents. For emphasis, we note that this was a case of a dispute between two men on perceptions of the adequacy of the quality of political leadership offered by men, how did it come to be that Mr. El Rufai considered that the best way to settle the score was to threaten such egregious acts of sexual violence against a woman (representing other women) who was not a part of the dispute.
From all the above, it is clear that the threats of violence, intimidation, grossly offensive and obscene statements made by Mr. Bello El Rufai via his tweets posted online fall squarely within the genre of reprehensible acts that the National Assembly as the custodians of Nigeria’s corporate morality has deemed right to prohibit as crimes.
Noting that the statements by Mr. Bello El Rufai threatening sexual violence and gang-rape as well as xenophobic attacks have been widely shared on social media platforms, with world-wide reach and noting also that the conduct violates the laws of Nigeria, it can be expected that it is not only Nigerians who are now looking to your office for justice but the whole world.
Furthermore, against the backdrop of incessant and brazen acts of gender-based violence perpetrated by highly placed public officials even in the public sphere, we dare say that there is no better time than now for the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take effective steps to affirm unequivocally before the whole world that Nigeria is a state governed by the Rule of Law and assure Nigerian citizens that they can expect that laws enacted by the legislature will be upheld through prosecution, where there is clear evidence of breach; that no-one is above the law; and that all Nigerians regardless of gender, ethnicity and age will be made secure in their person and property through effective enforcement of the law designed to protect them.
Indeed, we are hopeful that this request be given immediate attention as it will dawn a new day in the quest for gender justice in Nigeria. While we await your kind response, please accept the assurance of our highest regard.
Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi
(Credit: News Express)