Let me begin with thanking the LIFIN executive body especially it’s president Mr. Njoku David Chibueze for giving us this chance (me and my learning brothers in ABU) to share our humble insights regarding this inhuman offence called rape.
Rape is indeed one of the evils that are graviously hunting the sustainabilities of Nigerian societies, the overwhelming reports of rape cases we are having these days and the fact that In spite of the prevalent cases of rape and other related sexual offences in our society, the prosecution and conviction of sexual offenders are still very low. This begs the question what is the problem? what the law and our society can do to help us out?
As we converge here tonight I believe we aren’t expecting to tell ourselves that rape Is a crime, and rapist has to be punished, at this mean time what we shall focus on is why despite being a crime the law still failed to battle out the atrocity? why rapists are rary convicted in court? And to look at the way out both from legal and social perspectives. This and other related issues are nexus of our discussion tonight.
Anchor: How do you feel about the current position of law as regards to rape?
The offence of rape has never been legal in any legal setting, it is a grave offence that law must attack and tackle with whatever means available, Rape is a devilish act, devastating, traumatic, and unnatural that must be condemned in whatever circumstance it occurred.
In order to faithfully do justice to our current status of law as regards to the offence of rape, we need at least in brief examine the statutory provisions of the offence, in order to see if there is anywhere they lapsed.
The current principal statutory provisions are 282 & 283 of the Penal Code(Northern Nigeria) and sections 357,358 &359 of the Criminal Code Act (Southern Nigeria) and Section 1 of the recent Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP)2015 (Applicable in the FCT) other relevant provisions are Section 32 of the Childs Right Act 2003 and sections 218 and 221 of the Criminal Code Act as regards to young girls. We must not reproduce the said sections as they can be located if required, we shall only make reference to them in order to avoid longueur.
The area of similarities in these sections ranging from lack of consent, consent obtain by either force, fraud, intimidation and fear, lack of the capacity to grant the consent because of age or state of mind i.e under aged or lunatic. and impersonating the victims’ spouse in the case of one who is married. Then penetration as prime ingredient of rape.
In alI those provisions only woman/girl can be raped except section 1 of the VAPP which is flexible and applicable to all genders. One more similarity is imprisonment for life with or without canning upon conviction as the highest form of punishment for rape in Nigeria. As provided by the above provisions.
After keen examination of those relevant provisions one can conclude that the punishment provided by the law is deterrent enough, adequate and sufficient to address the atrocity. Although none of our laws is perfect or free of all criticism. It’s also worthnoting that alot of clamours have claimed that the life imprisonment sentence is not enough and in addition proposed castration or death penalty as it’s replacement. But we will discuss this in the last limb of our discussion.
However it can’t be believed that law has done it enough because we are still witnessing those unnatural occurrences as it owes to the society unrepentantable responsibility to rectify the society to it’s best hub. This begs the question ‘where did the law fail?’ And What the law has to do for the best?
First of all I believe the problem with the increasing rape cases in Nigeria today is not solely from the provision of the law but rather it’s enforcement; ranging from the reporting the rape as due when occurred, police investigation, prosecution, judgement delivery etc.
Most of the rape cases we have today involve relatives, neighbors, siblings, cousins, nephews etc. And most Nigerian societies castigate and look down the innocent victims. These reasons and many more make many rape cases not reported or reported very lately. And you’ll agree with me that whatever punishment is imposed on rape, the rapist in question can only be punished when the matter referred to the proper authorities, and he was properly tried and convicted by a competent court.
Turning to the police investigation, If anything else, I believe we need more competency and expertise of how to deal with rape cases in our police and other law enforcement agencies, the law must provide room for a special training to certain police officers and or to mandate the police officers to work with a prosecution lawyer or a police lawyer, in order to utilise any corroborative exhibits.
The investigation delay is making many rape cases to die on their arrival in courts. Law should regulate a time frame within which a police officer must conduct investigations in rape cases. Also the prosecution i.e the office of the attorney general has vital role to play in ensuring that the the rapist is arraigned before a competent court in time because factors that could be required to use as evidence in court as corroboratives in order to secure conviction may be destroyed by the lapses of time.
Rape is hard to prove, the prosecution should be conscious while framing charges, may charge the offence of rape with other lighter offences like, Unlawful detention with intent to have unlawfulsexual intercourse, Sexual harassment, acts of gross indecency, attempt to rape etc, in order to get any available justice for the innocent victim.
Our Judiciary is the final bus stop, it holds the knife and yam to decide the last. Our Judiciary has to give special importance to rape cases, accelerate their proceedings, ensuring that justice is done to both the defendant and the victim. Do away with all unnecessary technical delays that defendant may tend to implore, Enforcing the extreme sentence of the definition of the law upon conviction. So we will not rewitness cases like POSU v THE STATE (2011) 3 NWLR (Pt. 393), and ONOYIWA v. STATE (2018) LPELR-44255(CA) where upon conviction of rape lighter sentences imposed.
Anchor: Do you think law the law hasn’t covered the complexity of the rape offence?
As just observed the law we have as punishment for rape could be counted not defect but our law has to be proactive and not marely reactive, saying this with the believe of our law is also not reactive enough, we must review how we enforce the laws we have.
Our judicial system have to revisited and the ingredients for rape conviction. Do we still need corroboration when the victim is a child before court believes that the prosecution has proved it’s case beyond reasonable doubt? So we will continue have cases like BABATUNDE v. STATE (2018) LPELR-44583(CA) Where the trial court convicted a rapist that defiled 11years innocent but unfortunately court of appeal reversed the conviction for lack of corroboration despite valid medical reports. For this issue I believe Kaduna State Penal Law 2017 has made a good move.
Section 258(2) of the Kaduna Penal Law provides that; “When a Court is trying the offence of rape, corroboration shall be immaterial where the victim is a child”. I believe section 209 of the Evidence Act, 2011 has to be reviewed and be an exception when it comes to rape or defilement. Section 218 of Criminal Code is still in this graft.
Shall we still believe that consent can be granted at any stage of committing rape before penetration as was it In Ofordike v State (2019) LPELR-46411(SC), after the perpetrators robbed and dragged the victim to bush, tore her skirt, her knicker and pant, just because he asked her to caress his penis before he penetrate her and she did out of fear? Will our courts still continue to believe that incidents such as this as an attempts to rape not a rape itself? Our judiciary should stop giving unnecessary lenient and loose sentences in all rape cases.
Sometimes when one is observing Nigerian laws it appears that we likely have all the necessary laws we need except one law, the law that force us to enforce and appreciate the other laws. And throughout the time we have millions of good laws which the laws themselves are not good enough to tell us how we can benefit from their goodness.
I opine we may need something like ‘Special provisions of rape’ which will make it mandatory for parent, or any guardian to report any sexual abused occurred to his/her household to the relevant authorities within 24 hours it came to his or her knowledge. I believe if our NASS has the proactive sense of enacting provisions like section 21(3) of cybercrimes Act 2015 which criminalised failure to report any attempts to attack a Computer or network if that could be the case for cybercrimes why not rape.
In the said provision or amendment we need and article that will provide for awareness scheme of how the innocent girls will conduct themselves if such bad things happen to them in order to keep foots of the culprit and not make it hard for investigation and prosecution.
Anchor: What do you think would be the best thing to do to shape the current status of the law and our socio cultural inclination considering the rapid number of rape cases today?
To shape the current status we are today, I believe our law has to be proactive and preventive. Our law should not only focus on punishing the rapist, the law also has to tackle the other social vices that can be said to have facilitated the evil act. Recommendable provisions in this angel are;
Section 285 of the Penal Code Act, sections 231 & 360 of Criminal Code Act and section 26.(1) of VAPP Act sections 23 & 24 of the Cybercrimes Act as regards to gross indecency, phonography and other related vices. Such act must be controlled. Drugs, cultism, money ritual etc are the other social vices that law has to regulate moving forward to sanitise our society from the evil and inhuman act ‘rape’.
All those acts where never been legal in Nigeria, it is in the enforcement of the laws we have issues.
As I said earlier, Penal legislation on rape and sexual offences is enough and sufficient to address the atrocity, but only if the law is equally Response as it should. Death penalty and castration is not the penacea, we have different offences in Nigeria that attract death penalty but that didn’t prevent their commission. Also how many people are executed after convicted and sentenced to death? It’s high time to tell ourselves the truth.
The punishment must serve as deterrent to others and reformable. I must not forget to say that adequite compensation should be given to the victim to mitigate the traumatic condition they went through. I believe when we witnessed the day that no one can escape the wrat of law, not only rape many other crimes will drastically reduced.
About the author
ALKASIM ABUBAKAR Is a law student of AHMADU BELLO UNIVERSITY Zaria. He is a paralegal, political analyst and critic, an educationist, a season and inspirational poet, an avid reader and a prolific writer, he has written numerous articles on various areas of law and contemporary issues and he is widely published.
For knowledge and Justice
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