For benefit of doubt as regards the above title, I will begin by stating that the law aforementioned in the title is not the law as a codification but the enforcers and executors of the law, legally known as “state actors” such as the police and other security men seen as representing the law. Directly, will I delve into the discuss proper as every element of what rape is and constitutes has been dissected in my previous article “Rape Raped by Law: Positions and Divergence.”
Rape of women and girls by both the police and security personnel within their domains (homes/community) as well as in the police cell, is acknowledged to be endemic in Nigeria. Sadly, the government is failing in its obligation to exercise due diligence and the perpetrators invariably escape punishment, and women and girls who have been raped are denied any form of redress for the serious crimes against them and the state as reported by Amnesty international.
Although rarely reported, it is a believed fact that the Nigerian police force and security personnel (the Military not excluded), commit rape in many different circumstances on and off duty, and victims fear reporting rape where the police themselves are the perpetrators. Some women are unable to obtain a medical examination to substantiate their case because the crime was committed in the cell and it is slim to get any assistance from the cell. This, in my opinion is gruesomely dehumanising.
Rape is at times used strategically to coerce and intimidate entire communities, frighten inmates, or deceive them with a falsified promise of releasing them or being their saviour as long as they keep cooperating whilst and on the contary, it is a bait to get “consent” which I’ll rather call unreserved consent and consent from freedom-based pressure – this is rape under the last phase of section 357 of Criminal Code premised on false misrepresentation and deceit, which I applaud.
Report also has it that Amnesty International during its visit to Nigeria in January and February 2006, met with some of the women and girls who had been raped (some of who were abducted by the security forces in areas of the country where violence is rife), and has documented their harrowing experiences.
Testimonies of women who had been raped and reports by Nigerian Human Rights Organizations, identify the Nigerian Police Force and other members of the security forces, in particular the military, as the principal state actors who perpetrate the crime of rape; stating that women have been raped by the police in the streets, while being transferred to police stations, while in police custody, or when visiting male detainees.
Many reports from the victims abound:
The case of two young students who were abducted and repeatedly raped by three police officers and a Deputy Superintendent of Police in Enugu State in 2004, elicited national and international condemnation.
The two students, aged 17 and 18 years at the time, told Amnesty International in January 2006 how, on the 27th of September 2004, they were abducted by two men with Nigerian Police Force badges while returning home from the market: “We begged him to let us go, but the policeman said he would arrest us. When we refused to get into the car, the other man pushed us inside”. They were threatened with arrest on trumped-up charges if they had protested, and were forced to go with the police officers to the police detective college. They were subsequently taken to the home of one of the men, having being told that they would be safer there than in custody. They were however, repeatedly raped:
“A detective colleague came into the house, he smelled of alcohol… I don’t know what happened; he said he doesn’t have money. He asked me for money for drink, but I said i have no money. He reassured me he won’t harm me. Then the man’s face changed. He said he won’t do any harm. I was crying but he told me to be quiet. He said it’s final. He can shoot us. I was crying and before I knew it I was pushed inside the room. He shouted ‘shut up’ and said we should take off our clothes. He took out a gun and showed us the bullets, and pulled off his clothes. He raped me three times. Afterwards I was crying and he looked for fuel to take us back. It was around midnight we were brought to other men who raped us too as payment for the petrol.”
Both women have been assisted by Women Aid Collective WACOL in Enugu and the Centre for the Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings and Torture.
In another case, Grace, an Ogoni Human Rights defender, in her 40s, described how soldiers had gang-raped her, and also provided Amnesty International with photographs of injuries sustained by her child as a result of torture. “I was raped by three army men. They carried guns and they had uniforms. They kicked in the door and one man shouted to me ‘if you move, I’ll move you’, as he hit me in the face. He threw me on the bed and raped me using his gun. Other persons came and also raped me. Another woman had miscarriage because of being raped too. My son was trying to run away from the soldiers but he was beaten up by them. There were no witnesses to the rape. No doctor was available, I treated myself with boiling water and salt and opened my private parts to burn germs in the uterus, I also got herbal drugs to treat the injuries. I didn’t report the rape to the police, there is no police in Ogoniland, but I testified for the Oputa Panel, had my face covered by a black cloth. I have no money so I can’t go to court.”
Also, Girls under 18 years were among those raped by the security forces in Ogoniland. Fatima, 10 years old at the time, described how she had been repeatedly raped and held in sexual slavery for five days in April 1994. She had testified at the Oputa Panel hearings, but expressed disappointment that the Panel’s investigations had led neither to prosecution of the alleged perpetrators nor reparations for the victims: “The army came in at night and asked for my brother and father. I didn’t know where they were. They took me to their station. I stayed there five days. Four men raped and beat me. They all used me. When they saw I was almost dead they dropped me along the road. I couldn’t find anybody. I ran to the clinic inside the bush. My tummy was rising. I saw an old man and he took me to the place. The man operated me in the bush. He was then shot by the army. I remembered wounds all over my body. Now I am called “Army property” by the youth in the community where I live. My father has disowned me. I did not report to anybody. It is a shameful thing.”
Peace, now aged 23 but only 11 years old at the time, suffered a similar experience: “I was in the house at night. Army people pushed into the house and carried us to their camp. They beat and raped me. They kept me there for one week, they maltreated me, forced us to cook for them after the raping. I wanted to escape, I managed. When I escaped the army people shot me. Since then I suffer from the rape. I don’t know the cause for the rape and the beating. Since then I have pain in my leg. During that time, there was no open clinic. I couldn’t run with the bullet, so I enter the bush. They did not check for rape because I did not have money. My uncle brought me to the hospital. The doctor said I was pregnant, I told him about the rape. He operated me. He put a little thing in my private parts. I have not had a period since then. I am still suffering. I did not have any medical report to prove that I was raped. When something like this happens, you are segregated from the rest of the community.
The above are just but reported accounts made by victims.
Women Aid Collective reported the alleged rape of a 13-year-old orphan by an assistant Superintendent of Police in Lagos during investigation of a theft in June 2005. He is reported to have taken her from police custody, claiming that he was transferring her case to the Police Divisional Headquarters at Karu, Abuja. He is alleged to have taken her to his residence and raped her. The case was first referred to a magistrate’s court and subsequently transferred to the Abuja High Court. (Sourced from The Guardian (Lagos), 10 January 2006; Sunday Sun, 12 June 2005). Amnesty International has not been able to obtain any update on this case.
Project Alert in Lagos reported allegations of the rape of refugees in 2005 by members of the Nigerian Police Force stationed in a camp administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Osun State. Despite repeated requests, Amnesty International has received no further details from UNHCR about these allegations.
In November 2005, following an investigation by the UN into allegations of rape by Nigerian police serving with Mission de l’Organisation des Nations unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO), the UN peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the entire Nigerian contingent was withdrawn from MONUSCO and at least 10 police officers were also dismissed from service in Nigeria, having been found guilty for rape. A representative of the Nigerian Police Force, however, stated that they would not face any criminal charges in Nigeria. The police Public Relations Officer, Haz Iwendi, was reported as saying: “These are typical Nigerian police. They went there and instead of doing the job they were sent to do, they started abusing little girls and raping women.” (Daily Champion, ‘How Police Raped Congolese Women’, 17 September 2005; Reuters, Nigerian sacks 11 policemen over Congo sexual abuse, 26 November 2005).
The Commissioner of Police in Lagos alongside the Director of Women’s Affairs from the Ministry of Women Affairs had their own share of opinion. In the words of the Director, “Around 60 percent of violence against women is committed in army barracks or police stations”. This statement has further been made weighty, drawing inference from reported series of research by non-governmental organizations”.
While Amnesty International cannot confirm this figure though, it is clear that the crime of rape committed by state officials is a human rights violation that needs urgent attention.
“The police use their authoritative position over detainees and people visiting… Everybody knows that rape and other sexual violence perpetrated by the police happens on a daily basis, but there are no reports,” the then Executive Director of the National Human Rights Commission told Amnesty International in February 2006. (Sourced from Government interference with the
independence of the National Human Rights Commission (AI Index: AFR 44/012/2006), 27 June 2006.
According to Uju Eneh, Women Aid Collective’s Acting Director in Enugu State, inadequate reporting and investigation of rape by police officers was partly because “only really few of the police officers are willing to do something. A lot of them cover up for others”. The Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions also admitted to Amnesty International in January 2006 that she has heard of cases where the police commit rape, but that no such cases were officially before her.
From my previous article mentioned above, it was clearly explained there, borrowing from US definition of rape, that insertion of any object into a woman’s vagina without consent amounts to rape.
Now, I ask, are these acts not seen in our cells where the police use it as a form of torture in a bid to elicit truth, information or confession from the inmate? Based on the report of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), rape and other forms of sexual violence or the threat of such violence, is among various methods of torture used by the police to extract confessions or other information. Such methods include insertion of foreign objects, such as broomsticks or broken bottles, into the woman’s vagina. Both detainees and members of their families have been subjected to rape or the threat of rape. In one case, the three-year-old daughter of a detainee was reported to have been raped. Now what do we call that? What inhumanity! (sourced from “Civil Liberties Organisation, Climate of impunity – a report on the use of torture by the Nigerian Police, October 2005, p. 58-59, 67).
It is most disheartening as it stands, that the state actors enjoy impunity. Women and girls who are raped by state actors in Nigeria have little hope of obtaining justice and reparation. The Federal Government has demonstrated no serious commitment to address violence against women in general, and rape in particular. Despite this lack of will, the Nigerian government’s obligations under international law are clear. It is obliged to exercise due diligence to ensure that the rights recognized under international human rights law are made a reality in practice: if a right is violated, the state must restore the right violated as far as possible and provide appropriate compensation.
Prosecutions for rape are brought in only a small number of cases. Victims are sometimes pressured into withdrawing the case or the parents of victims would prefer financial settlement out of court to a criminal prosecution. Where cases are brought to court, prosecution sometimes fails because police refer cases to a court lacking appropriate jurisdiction and progress is then obstructed by the slow administration of the judicial system. In some cases, the alleged perpetrator is charged with a different and less serious criminal offence.
In the few cases where a conviction is secured, judges seldom impose the maximum sentence. This indicates an apparent failure by the judiciary to acknowledge the gravity of the crime. In addition, compensation is rarely awarded. According to a retired High Court Judge, Ezebuilo Ozobu, in Enugu State, who Amnesty International met in January 2006, failure to award compensation results from the absence of appropriate legislation.
With the exception of a few high-profile cases, state actors alleged to have committed rape enjoy complete impunity. Amnesty International is aware of only a few cases in which police officers have been prosecuted and convicted of the criminal offence of rape and knows of no case where members of other security forces have been prosecuted for gender-based violence, including rape. Human rights activists, serving and retired High Court judges and some prosecutors shared their concerns about the low rate of prosecution and even lower rate of convictions with Amnesty International in early 2006.
Recommendation No. 19 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which explained rape as a gender-based violence in it’s convention, was ratified by Nigeria on 13 June 1985, yet the government’s response to state actors-based rape has been, and continues to be woefully inadequate as there is little or no required and measurable action taken against agents of the state who have committed rape and sexual abuse neither is there any provisions of any reparation to the victims.
Having seen the moral decadence from the law maintainers and executors, I ask, do we take law into our hands on them or still stick to the law?
A wise man might opt to stick to the law more so to save his life. Based on these, do I speak to the Federal Government, State Authorities, Inspector General of Police, the Field Marshals and Army Generals, the head of security forces, the Judiciary and Legislatures, to go back to the drawing board to separate the chaff from the wheat before the law turns from a rapist that it seems to be based on the above analysis to become rape personified.
Only when we go back to the drawing board, shall we know from where the rain started beating us on this moral quagmire and when it will dry off.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mbah Chidiebere Simeon is a 500l student of law, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State. A humanitarian activist, poet and analytical writer and a business idea creator and a motivational speaker.
For knowledge and Justice