By IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu
BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Despite the fact that sexual violence or assault, especially rape had been a serious crime punishable by law in Nigeria, the unholy act had continued to assumed an alarming dimension in parts of south- East Nigeria, almost on daily basis.
It is no news that rape affects the victims social and psychological well being.
Apart from the emotional and mental imbalance the victim suffers, it often result to death, sexually transmitted infections,HIV/ AIDs and unwarranted pregnancy, amongst other negative effects.
In spite of concerted efforts by numerous groups, especially non governmental organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society bodies,(CSOs) to fight the menace, the crime has continued to occur nearly on daily basis in various parts of south east states of, Anambra, Abia, Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi in particular.
Even though, all the above mentioned states in the region are vulnerable to the crime, Ebonyi state, which pride its self as “Salt of the Nation” is more prone, and had over the years, turned into a safe haven and comfort zone for perpetrators of the barbaric act.
The state, presently governed by an Engineer turned politician, Chief David Umahi, is now synonymous with rape news, and ranks highest among states in south- east with alarming number of sexual assault cases in police stations.
In fact, new cases of rape are reported to the police almost on daily basis in different parts of the state, including Abakaliki, the state capital.
Without sounding immodest, if nothing is urgently done in Ebonyi by relevant bodies, especially government and the security agencies to check the worrisome rate of rape in their backward and timid state, the crime would soon become a norm or culture in the area.
For instance, just last week alone, the state police Command, arrested some rape gangs, just as it launched manhunt on another three men who recently gang- raped a 15-year-old girl on her way from a wake-keep in a community in the state.
The latest suspects currently at large, are two sons of an Assemblies of God church Pastor, identified as Nnaemeka Nnamani and Chiemerie Nnamani who allegedly raped two sisters, aged 7 and 9 inside the church at a community in Ivo council area of the state.
The state police public Relations officer PPRO, George Okafor, who revealed this to journalists in Abakaliki, said that the suspects were still at large, adding that the police has intensified search for the rapists.
“The victim is already receiving treatment in a hospital in the state, and I call on relevant authorities to regulate social activities held at nights.
“It is good for instance, to pay respect to the dead, but it will be wise to do it so early, between 6p.m. to 8p.m. when visibility can be guaranteed.
“This will drastically reduce related-risks such as rape, armed robbery among others, to complement the command’s effort to curb crime in the state,” he said.
Okafor, also advised youths in particular to desist from crimes such as rape, armed robbery among others, as the command would descend heavily on culprits.
He, however, commended the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Ezza North Local Government Area, Mrs Mora Aloh for banning all night activities in the area, in a bid to checkmate crime.
A member of the victim’s family, who do not want to be quoted in print for fear of uncertainty, said the suspects were well known in the community, as they have been terrorising the area and its environs for quite a long time.
According to the victim, the rapists stopped and forcefully took her to a gang-member’s house where they had marathon sex with her.
Her words:“They unleashed a ‘dagger’ (knife) and threatened to kill me if I refuse their advances or attract attention with shouts.
“They later pushed me out into the night after having their fill with my body in pains,” she stated in tears.
Recalled that the Ebonyi police, had some time ago, arrested a 20-year-old suspect identified as Chukwuma, who allegedly specialises in killing of women as well as having intercourse with them.
It was gathered that the suspect recently allegedly killed three women along farm pathways in the state and had sex with them.
Said: The PPRO: “the suspect always pounced on passers by women, after which he strangled them to death and later slept with their dead body.
“One of these women’s name is Anyigor from the same village, she went to farm at a place called Okwulike but never returned.
“Then, when the suspect was later arrested, he confessed that he was hanging around that farm area when he saw the woman who is late now and pounced on her, strangled her to death by grabbing her neck region until she gave up before he had sex with the dead woman, and after, robbed her of N8,500 which he found on her.
“The suspect said he used the money to buy Nokia handset phone and used the remaining money to drink local gin called ‘kaikai’.
“The second incident happened a week after, the victim is Mrs. Helen, a 54-year-old woman, who went to Egiagu village to farm and never returned.
“So, alarmed by her non-return, her son alerted the villagers and a search party later found her dead body along the lonely farm path.
“When Chukwuma was arrested, he confessed that he strangled the woman the same way he strangled the other two women”.
The Ebonyi state rape and sexual assault cases are indeed endless.
Apparently worried by the ugly trend in south east zone, including Enugu state, an Enugu based non governmental organization (NGO), Women’s Aid Collective WACOL, decided to initiate the establishment of the popular Tamar Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Tamar SARC Enugu, with a view to fighting the crime headlong.
The centre, which is managed by WACOL, also enjoys partnership with the Enugu state government, via the ministries of Health, Justice, Gender Affairs and Social Development, and funded by the United Kingdom (UK) Department For International Development, DFID, under its justice For All fondly known (J4A) programme.
Set up in March, 2014, TARMA SARC,, had since inception continued to sensitize the people on the need to always break the culture of silence and report rape and other forms of sexual assault cases to it, irrespective of who is involved.
The organization, had over the past two years it came on board be providing high quality and confidential, medical counselling,and other support services to victims/ survivors of sexual violence in Enugu state and elsewhere.
Some of its services includes, free medical treatment, counselling, forensic medical examination/ reports as well as referral to other relevant agencies, amongst others.
The Centre, had during a recent round table it organized for the media in Enugu on her activities in the last two years, expressed worry over the alarming rate of rape and other forms of sexual assault in the Enugu, and south- East Nigeria.
Executive Director of WACOL, Dr. Mrs. Joy Ezeilo, who reeled out some shocking statistics on rape and other sexual assault in the region during the media round table, said the organization had identified 472 cases within the last two years.
Among other cases, she identified was that of a man who had severally defiled his three daughters aged 5,7 and 9.
￼The WACOL boss also, gave a breakdown of the cases as follows: rape and defilement- 421, attempted rape – 14, sexual assault – 22, others 15.
Out of the victims, she further stated that 42 persons under the age of 0-5 years were involved; 86 persons under 6-10 years were also victims, while 73 minors under the age of 11-13 years and 81 others under 14-17 years also fell victims.
According to Dr. Ezeilo, out of the number, 52 of the victims were raped by their family members, while 89 of them were gang-raped.
From the statistic reeled out by the organization,Enugu-East Local council Area of the state topped the chat with 157 cases, followed by Enugu-South, which recorded 114 cases.
On efforts being made by the centre in handling the cases, Ezeilo stated that 37 cases had been charged to court, out of which 5 had been discharged, one sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, 7 at prosecution stage, while 24 were awaiting trial.
She however, blamed the poor number of the cases in court on societal influence, stressing that “in most cases, the family members of the victims will always withdraw at the last minute.
Her words: “In some of the cases, there will be pressure on the mother of the victims to withdraw the case, especially when their father is the perpetrator”.
Providing further detail on one of the cases, she hinted that “On the 11th of April 2016, three sisters ranging from the ages of 5, 7, and 9 years were brought to Tamar SARC by their mother along with a WACOL legal advisor to report recurring cases of sexual molestation by their father, Mr. O. a care taker in the compound.
“It all began last year when the attention of Mr. O was called to the fact that his daughters were being sexually abused by the caretaker.
“After denying that the old man was capable of such an act, the girl’s’ father began engaging in the same act.
“Mrs. O. reported that Friday, April 8, after having sexual intercourse with her husband, she stepped out to buy things to cook only to return and be told that her husband had molested one of their daughters; she thus decided to report the abuse before it became too late.
“The girls all recounted how their own father on various occasions digitally penetrated their vaginas, while engaging in penile penetration with them, when their mother was not at home.
“The children further testified that their dad penetrates the eldest child with his penis while insisting that the other children face the wall and he penetrates the other two with his fingers.
“The girls’ mother also added that her husband has a record of years of abuse, though she was only recently made aware of the sexual nature of the mistreatment.
“She explained that Mr. O’s drug and alcohol use may contribute to his abnormal behavior and attraction to his own daughters. All three girls received extensive psychosocial and medical treatment by Tamar SARC highly trained psychologists and medical professionals.
“Mr. O. was apprehended and is currently at the Uwani police station” Ezeilo hinted
However, as the unholy act continues unabated both in south east and Nigeria in general, many citizens, including victims have advocated more severe capital punishment for perpetrators, saying it is the only way to check or rid the society of the animalistic behaviour or conduct.
In the light of the above disturbing development, there is the urgent need for various state Houses of Assemblies in the South east geopolitical zone of Nigeria, to rise up to the occasion by revisiting or amending their existing legislation on such criminal offence as rape, with a view to giving it sharper teeth to bite perpetrators.
This became necessary because any one that engages in such criminal act deserved to face severe punishment, and treated like a common criminal, so as to serve as a deterrent to others.
Copyright Women Aid Collective (W A C O L ) 2015 by Softchips