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Inside Niger’s many, many cases of child rape

The sexual abuse of 12-year-old Aminu Abdullahi and his eventual death as a result of complications arising from the act is one incident residents and…

The sexual abuse of 12-year-old Aminu Abdullahi and his eventual death as a result of complications arising from the act is one incident residents and natives of the ancient city of Kontagora in Niger State would not forget in a hurry. The city and its people were first jostled by the sudden disappearance of the teenager early in March. There was public outcry when news got out that Aminu was allegedly abducted and sexually abused by one Abubakar, a tea seller in Ngwayanma area of the town for two weeks. The boy took ill as a result of complications and was hospitalised. The offender narrowly escaped mob action, courtesy of the timely intervention of security operatives, who promptly arrested and charged him to court for sexual abuse and exploitation, an act contrary to section 19 (1) and (2) of the Child Rights laws. However, like that act itself, his conviction of just a month imprisonment for the offence, which many believed should attract a life sentence, generated a lot of controversy and outrage across the state. 

But there was a twist to the saga following the demise of the victim for the injuries sustained from the act before the offender could serve his term. The director of public prosecution had to appeal the judgement of the magistrate court that adjudicated in the matter. Abubakar Maishai was rearrested for culpable homicide and is presently awaiting prosecution at the high court.  

Like the Kontagora incident, sodomy and rape, especially underage children, have become a recurring decimal across the state. The state police command put the number of such incidents from January 2016 and May at 170. This number only represents those reported to the authorities. 

Statistics put cases arising from the offences pending in magistrate courts in the state capital alone at 32. These are just a summary of child abuse related cases charged to court between October 2016 and April 2017.  This does not include the eight convictions. 

Sadiq Yususf, 36, of Limawa area of Minna town and 60-year-old Idris Usman are presently serving a six-year-jail term with hard labour for sodomy after they were summarily tried by Chief Magistrate Courts 4 in Minna. 

The offence was committed on October 17 and December 12, 2016 respectively. Saidq, according the First Information Report obtained by our correspondent, lured a 14-year-old to his room, tied both hands behind and sexually abused him. 

Police prosecutor, Sergeant Lawrence Mowette, informed the court that Sadiq confessed to the crime, which is punishable under Section 19 (1) and (2) of the Child Rights law. The suspect also admitted to have sexually abused the boy when the charge was read him by Magistrate Hassan Mohammed, who hold brief for Chief Magistrate Hajiya Hawa Bawa Yusuf. Sadiq was then sentenced to six years in prison with hard labour in January 22. 

However unlike Sadiq, Idris, a blind beggar from Zamfara State was to get double sentence of six years each, which he has to serve concurrently with hard labour for having canal knowledge of 14 and 13-year-old boys. Like Sadiq, he confessed to have committed the crime and was summarily tried. So far, those are the two sodomy cases that got conviction within the period. 

Cases involving Mamuda Abdullahi, 45, who sexually abused one Hassan Ibrahim, Kabir Yahuza, Abdullahi Ibrahim and Ibrahim Nura, among others, are still pending in their respective magistrate courts.  There is also the case of a shop owner who repeatedly abused a mentally retarded teenager in Sabon Gari area of Minna town.

Like the sodomy, there is growing anxiety over rising cases of rape of teenagers across the state. Available statistics indicate that out of 36 reported rape cases from October 2016 to April 2017, more than 20 victims are below 15 years. In some of the cases, the victims were gang-raped.  

The state Child Rights Agency, which is collaborating with security agencies and other stakeholders to fight the menace, described the situation as an epidemic that requires a state of emergency. The chairperson of the agency, Mariam Kolo, a lawyer, told a story of a three-year-old nursery pupil of NECO Staff School in Minna, who just got admitted two weeks earlier and was raped by an unknown person. The victim, according to her, is still recuperating in a hospital while the police are searching for the assailant.  

Midway into an interview with our correspondent penultimate Thursday, a guidance and counseling teacher of Koyan Bana Primary School, Ketaran Gwari area of Minna town, led a seven-year-old ward to the office of the director-general and narrated  how a shop owner near the school had sexually abused her. She was allegedly abused five times on different occasions by the shop owner, who enticed her with biscuits and sweets. 

“We noticed that she would leave school and stay away for about an hour, so we followed her and discovered where she was going,” she explained.

Upon interrogation, the rape victim confessed that the shop owner always lured her to his place, where he would remove her pants and abuse her. The shop owner confessed to the crime but said he only did once.  

There is also the case of an 11-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by 14 men at different times in Nasko, Magama Local Government Area of the state. She was said to have been locked up by a middle-aged woman, who would invite men to abuse her after collecting money from them. She took ill as a result of the complications she suffered and was hospitalised. She was moved to a hospital in Minna by the agency, which has since taken custody of her and now counseling her before she would be reintegrated into the society. The agency promised to send her to school at the beginning of the next session.  

In March this year, Mohammed Sani, 63, of Maitunbi area of Minna town, raped a three-year-old girl. Audu Jonathan, 35, equally raped an 11-year-old girl on March 17, while Yau Mohammed and Ahmadu Umar gang-raped an eight-year-old girl.  Also, a stepfather raped his three-year-old stepdaughter. 

Clerics have warned against the spiritual implications of these social vices. A Minna-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Isah Kutigi, attributed the situation to the sharp drop in the quest for Islamic knowledge, as well as lack of proper upbringing. He called for the introduction of religious knowledge in schools to check the menace.    

Also, Reverend Mathias Echioda, chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said the growing trend of sodomy and rape was one of the signs of the end time.  He described the acts as demonic and inhuman. He blamed peer pressure, lack of fear of God, importation of foreign cultures and lack of proper home training for the menace. He called on religious leaders, parents and governments at all tiers to embark on intensive public enlightenment on the dangers of the vices. He also called for the strengthening of the enabling law to prosecute offenders  

However, the state police command was able to get some of the culprits convicted to some terms of imprisonment while some of the cases, including that of a vice principal in one of the schools in Minna, who allegedly raped and impregnated his student, are pending. Also, the case involving Godwin Aigbirah, 48, who is standing trial for sexually abusing his daughter, is still undecided. 

Many had questioned the disparity in prison terms handed out to offenders who committed the same crime. The chairperson of Child Rights Agency, Kolo, said that ordinarily, both rape and sodomy would attract life imprisonment, but in most instances, evidences are lost before the cases are investigated. 

“What is being done is that immediately there is a rape case, the victim is thoroughly washed up and sometimes put on hot water by parents who feel that the area needs to be protected, unknown to them that they are destroying the evidence. In that case, the accused could get less sentence or completely left off the hook,” she explained.

Also, the police public relations officer, Niger State command, DSP Bala Elkana, said culprits got accelerated conviction in magistrate courts if they were charged under the Child Rights law, which has since been domesticated in the state. “Under the Penal Code, the cases drag, evidences are lost, witnesses disappear and offenders are set free,” he noted. 

The police and the Child Rights Agency, however, said the level of conviction had increased and punishment now severe under the law, with judges handing summary trials if the offenders admitted the crime. 

Kolo further said that successes were recorded in cases of sodomy and rape because victims were becoming bold to report the crime.  “The crime rate is reducing because people are now getting aware. The stigma is also reducing. People are also seeing that there are punishments for offenders, so they are reporting such cases,” she noted.

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