Mariam (surname withdrawn) is the first born of her parents’ six children, all living in a tiny bungalow in the Akodo community of Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos. At 23, she wants a better life, but her chances of getting a good job with her O’level certificate are slim, particularly in Nigeria, where over 13 million youths are unemployed.
So she does menial jobs to complement her parents’ efforts in sustaining the family. In her desperate quest for a better job, albeit within her qualification, she contacted her former primary school teacher, Sheriff (last name withdrawn), for assistance. “He taught me in Primary Six, and we stayed in the same area. I trusted him,” Mariam recounted, sobbing.
The former teacher, who now works as a security guard in a Chinese company in Lagos, promised to help her secure a job in the company. “I have direct contact with the Chinese Oga (boss). I will speak with him,” Mariam recalled his assuring words.
He asked her to come to the company with her CV, then lured her into his small waiting room at the company; and there he raped her.
The horrific day was a Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
“When I got there around 9 a.m., I told him I needed to charge my phone, and he volunteered to help me charge it.
“I wanted to leave, but he said he wanted to discuss something with me. I was reluctant to go into the room with him, but he assured me that he would not harm me. He said ‘Am I not your teacher?’
“As I went in, he plugged my phone and showed me a message he sent to the Chinese boss. He sent ‘Hi’ but the boss was yet to respond. He then asked what compensation I would give him for helping me. I said I don’t have any compensation other than appreciation. After all, he is my former teacher.
“He moved close to me and gripped my neck to the bed; I fought him but I was helpless and he had his way,” Mariam opened up to Olumide Fidelis, the Executive Director of Community Development Initiative, a Non-governmental Organisation.
In the video recording obtained by HumAngle, she expressed concern that her abuser may never get punished. However, her fight for justice has been taken over by the NGO, with legal support by Women Advocacy and Research Development Centre (WARDC).
Mariam confirmed the incident to HumAngle and provided a medical report in which the doctor confirmed sperm fluid in the vagina, as well as blood clots.
Police allegedly demand N10, 000 to charge suspect
Despite the medical report corroborating the rape allegation, Mariam still longs for justice weeks after her horrific experience, as the police fail to charge Sheriff to court.
The Nigerian constitution provides that a suspect may not be detained for more than 48 hours without being charged to court.
Section 35(4) of the 1999 constitution states that: “Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time,
Subsection 5 states that: “In subsection (4) of this section, the expression “a reasonable time” means – (a) in the case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of forty kilometres, a period of one day; and (b) in any other case, a period of two days or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable.
The suspect was arrested and detained by the police divisional headquarters in Akodo, but later transferred to the state Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department in Panti.
The Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in charge of the case at Panti, simply identified as Oluwatoyin, allegedly asked Mariam’s family to pay N10, 000 for the case to be charged to court.
This allegation was confirmed by Fola Olubummo, a lawyer with WARDC, who served as counsel to Mariam before she resigned from the organization.
“The case was moved to the gender desk at Panti. The IPO said it has to go through a process; that they would move it to the legal desk then it would be charged to court.
“The IPO asked the survivor to pay a sum of N10,000. I asked why and she said they needed to take pictures, blablabla. But I told her we are not paying one kobo. I told her to charge the case to court or I will write a petition to the Commissioner of Police. That was the last encounter I had with her on the case before I left the organization. She said she was going to get her ‘Oga’ involved. I waited for two hours to see the said ‘Oga’ but I did not see any Oga.”
“I left the organization, but I left a report on the case and I am sure it would be followed up,” she disclosed in a chat with HumAngle.
When contacted, the said IPO at Panti, refused to comment on the case. “Come to Panti yourself to find out,” she retorted before hanging up.
CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police command promised to Investigate the matter.
Meanwhile, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) told HumAngle that the organization is still pursuing justice for Mariam.
She said she was unaware of the N10, 000 request by the IPO but pledged to get the Commissioner of Police involved.
Rape cases are seldom prosecuted in Nigeria
While rape and other sexual offenses are a prevalent menace in Nigeria, many of the perpetuators often go unpunished.
This is due to many reasons, some of which include stigmatization of victims, defamation lawsuits when it involves a high profile defendant, and corruption among the police. The victim is left in the cold, while the perpetrator walks freely and hunts down another prey.
Very few victims like Mariam have been courageous enough to demand justice, but poor handling of prosecution by the police and the judicial system frustrates their hope of getting justice.
Even though the rate of sexual abuse is alarmingly high in Nigeria, prosecutions and convictions are low.
For instance, the country recorded only 32 rape convictions between 2019 and 2020, according to data from the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). This was a period when the social media was awashel with hashtags against rape and other sex related offenses.
Dr. Akiyode-Afolabi blamed the poor rate of conviction in rape cases on various factors.
“One of such factors is the bureaucracy and corruption in the police system. Also, community hindrance is a thing. This is where the criminal tries to negotiate with the victim. So, you see a complainant withdraw the case willingly after they had negotiated. We have seen a complainant who withdrew the case after they got her a car. It depends on who is negotiating because they know that a rape case attracts life imprisonment. So, if the victim willingly says the crime was not committed against her, it becomes difficult for the lawyer.”
“But this particular case is different. And we will see it to a conclusion.”
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