Though an attempted rape attracts 14 years imprisonment while a rapist gets a life sentence at conviction, record from the states nationwide show that shoddy investigations by the police and the failure of the judges, magistrates to apply the maximum sentence are responsible for the culture of impunity among rapists and other delinquents. TONY AMOKEODO Abuja, FEMI OGBONIKAN , Lagos; ABU NMODU, Minna, ISMAIL Adamawa, SEFIU AYANBIMPE, Osogbo, NGWUJA UGWOKE, Awka, ACHOR BIMAJE, Jos , ANAYO ONUKUGHA, Port Harcourt, KOLA NIYI-EKE, Asaba, AHURAKA ISAH, Abuja and CHIKA OTUCHIKERE, Abuja, x-ray the dangerous trend
Nigerians from different walks of life initially treat the scourge of rape as trivial matter. But the recent gang rape of a lady in Indian and the attendant response of the entire Indian nation against the criminal act have now brought an awareness among Nigerians that the time has come to address the menace.
Investigations by our correspondents nationwide further indicate the alarming rate in which the rapists and other paedophiles unleash terror on innocent young girls and even old widows without considering the traumatic effects.
The situation is further compounded by the Nigeria police’s negligence in a matter that requires diligent prosecution as most rape cases are often bungled by the investigating police officers, IPOs, just as the rapists are allowed to get away with light sentence.
Incidentally, judges and magistrates who are expected to dispense justice also shirks their responsibilities as they usually cite an unbelievable requirement before they can pronounce sentence on suspects –the need for a third party to corroborate the satanic act which is not only bizarre but usually occur in hidden places to give evidence .
The results of what transpired in the six-geo-political zones between January 1 and December 31, 2012 were simply mind boggling. The development shows that there is the need for stakeholders to chart concerted efforts to tackle the menace of rape cases in order to have a sane society
What the laws say on attempted rape and real rape
For the avoidance of doubt, here are the laws against attempted rape and real rape as enshrined in Criminal Code Act: Section 357. Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
Section 358. Any person who commits the offence of rape is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning.
Section 359. Any person who attempts to commit the offence of rape is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years , with or without caning.
Section 360. Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
Section 361. Any person who, with intent to marry or carnally know a female of any age, or to cause her to be married, or carnally known by any other person, takes her away, or detains her, against her will, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
Section 362. Any person who unlawfully takes an unmarried girl under the age of 16 years out of the custody or protection of her father or mother or other person having the lawful care or charge of her, and against the will of such father or mother or other person, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
Section 363. In the case of proceedings in respect of an offence under the preceding section- (a) it is immaterial that the offender believed the girl to be of or above the age of 16 years; (b) it is immaterial that the girl was taken with her own consent or at her own suggestion.
39 rape cases recorded in Anambra
No fewer than 39 cases of rape involving 68 suspects were reported in Anambra State last year. According to the state Police Command’s spokesman, Mr. Raphael Uzoigwe, 23 of the rape cases with 41 suspects are being prosecuted in court while 13 suspects are still under investigation. He added that three of the cases were yet to be proved.
42 Rape Cases Treated In Osun
No fewer than 42 rape cases of were brought before various courts in Osun State between January and December 2012. Investigation conducted by LEADERSHIP WEEKEND in the magistrate court divisions across the state revealed that the 42 rape cases are still pending in the state law courts.
It was learnt that in most of these cases, some of the accused persons were on bail including a prominent traditional ruler in the State, Oba Adebukola Alli while those found guilty in the decided few cases have been imprisoned.
Oba Alli is being prosecuted over his alleged involvement in raping a female youth corps member ,Miss Helen Okpara without her consent
Rape Victims Afraid Of Stigmatisation in Plateau
Rape victims are afraid of reporting at the police stations in Plateau State on the grounds of being stigmatised . According to a coordinator of a Jos- based non -governmental organisation, Stefanos Foundation, Mr. Mark Lipdo, in view of stigmatisation attach to rape victims do not usually report rape cases, adding that there are a lot of unreported cases of rape in the state.
Rape occurs daily in Lagos
The incident of rape cases is a daily affair in Lagos as the media are always awash with rampant cases of rape, culminating in the victims, especially young girls narrating their horrific ordeals. Speaking on the matter, the Executive Director, Project Alert On Violence Against Women, Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, noted that there have been quite a lot of cases of rape victims whose ages are as low as two and 16 years.
According to a crime statistics signed and issued by the Lagos State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Ms. Ngozi Braide, 129 rape cases were recorded in 2012. But Damastus Ozoani, Deputy Spokesman, Lagos State Police Command, noted that parents of most rape victims are always afraid to report the incident at the police station because they fear that the police may expose the identity of the victims.
20 rape cases reported in Niger
Twenty cases of rape have been reported to the police in Niger State. But due to stigma associated with rape, other victims in the state have refused to report the matter to the police.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND findings revealed that the cases of rape were more prevalent in Suleja part of the state with Minna the state capital rating second to Suleja in terms of prevalent rate.
At the state police Headquarters in Minna, the Police Public Relations Officer ,PPRO, Mr. Pius Edorbo, stated that the record showed that 20 cases of rape were officially reported to the police in 2012.
Impunity responsible for increasing rape in Adamawa
Reported cases of rape have been on the increase despite attempts by spirited individuals governmental and non governmental organizations to curb it. Adamawa State also has its fair share of this deleterious act where girls as young as six- years old were raped with impunity. The most pathetic aspect of this hideous act is that in some of the cases, parents who are supposed to be the custodians of their children are the very people who defiled them.
A case in point was the reported case of a father who transformed his nine –year- old daughter into a sex machine in Girei Local Government of the state. Another case was the reported rape of a six- year- old girl who was dumped by a roadside after the rapist had carried out his ungodly act. If not for the intervention of some good Samaritans who rushed her to a nearby hospital, the girl might have died due to severe injuries she sustained in the hand of the rapist.
Mallama Hafsatu Dahiru of the Child Protection and Peer Learning Initiative confided to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND that cases of rape are tricky and difficult to establish due to the unwillingness of the victims and their families to open up due to fear of stigmatization.
20 cases reported in Rivers
In Rivers State, it has been observed that the issue of rape and its victims are always kept secret as most the victims and their relatives find it difficult to report such cases to the police. In a situation where they ‘mistakenly’ reported such matter to the police, the victims are always persuaded by relatives and friends to withdraw the matter from police immediately they realize that the police would take the suspected rapist to court.
But according to information obtained by LEADERSHIP WEEKEND from the Public Relations Department of the Police Headquarters in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, a total of 20 rape cases were reported to various police stations across the state between January and December 2012.
Judges must apply the laws on rape - NBA, Falana
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association ( NBA), Chief Okey Wali (SAN), Mr Femi Falana (SAN) and an Abuja –based lawyer, Mr. Alasa Ismaila have called on judges to apply the laws on rape on the grounds that the criminal matter is now a social problem that must be given utmost attention.
Wali said, “Rape is more of a question of social problem, social malice because it is the past a lot of people hardly wanted to be heard of been afflicted or been raped. Hence the offenders got away with it so easily. With the current situation now where attention or focus is put on such offences, I am sure the judges will be left with no option than to give adequate punishment. This is because a concise action has to be taken to show to the public of the seriousness of the offence.
“With the kind of amendment to the laws going on, now can also talk about witness protection because sometimes the witness does not feel safe to come out to give evidence also. Some of those involved in this malice can be very dangerous. We expect adequate punishment to be meted on those found to commit the criminal act.
Falana said, “To obtain conviction for rape offence has been difficult because of the judges rule that demand for corroboration before a conviction is secured.
This is highly detrimental in the application of the rape law because no rape ever takes place in the market or conducted in the open.
“This is the very reason why the Kenya Court of Appeal declared the judges practice of demanding for corroboration as illegal, unconstitutional and discriminatory. It is discriminatory because such procedure was never required in similar cases involving men. The court further held that the demand for corroboration originated from men judges that felt women were in the habit of telling lies.
“This aspect of the judges rule must be reviewed because the rape law is adequate to deter people from committing rape.”
Ismaila said, “The life punishment for rape is deterrent enough because life imprisonment is next to death penalty. But the judges enjoys high latitude to determine punishment for conviction. At times, instead of awarding life imprisonment, they may commute it to three months imprisonment
“The demand for corroboration may not necessarily be a person, it can just be evidence such as torn pants, semen in the victims private part or blood stains”.
Rape is grossly under reported - Police
But police spokesman, CSP Frank Mba, has reacted to the issue of rape and the problem and getting conviction for rape victims. According to him, most rape cases go unreported due to the controversy that usually trails such case when they are reported. He noted that cases of rape that go unreported far outnumber the ones that are reported. This he said is caused by the perception of people about rape and the rape victim.
Noting that getting an actual statistics of reported rape cases is possible, he lamented that convicting persons accused of rape is usually a herculean challenge due to the poor handling of the evidence. In his view, most families are ignorant about how to preserve evidence of rape crime and so suspects easily get away with their offences.
He said, “One of the crimes that is grossly under reported is rape. And of course, you will understand why. Most rape cases are compounded by family members and the reasons are obvious. The first one is the fear of stigmatization. Most rape victims and their relatives, particularly, if the person raped is a young woman, unmarried, they probably fear that when the case is made public it may impact negatively on her chances of getting married.
“ Secondly, is the very nature of our culture. Everything that has to do with sex is painted with some form of taboo. We grew up to see sex as something that must not be talked about. There is so much secrecy about sex in Africa and that is why even sex education is hardly thought in schools. Investigations into rape cases are made extremely difficult and that is why not taught in schools. The next reason is the desire to preserve family honour. This is from two perspectives; one is stigmatization when talking about the family of the victim, the second one is when you look at it from a very general perspective.
“In most cases of rape or defilement the suspects are persons who are one way or the other connected to the victim. Rape committed by total strangers is usually few. Most rape cases are acquaintance rape, rape by persons who have filial relationship with the victim, particularly, when the victims are under aged.
They are either uncle, cousin nephews, people that have some form of blood relationship or the other. In that context we find out that there is a conspiracy that is involved from both the family of the victim and the family of the suspect to compound the felony in order to protect what they call family honour. These are some of the reasons why rape cases are under reported.
“ In the cases where they are reported we also have some challenges that has to do with establishing prima-facie case against the accused persons. The simple reason is that a lot of Nigerian families don’t know how to handle victim of rape cases. It is a whole general challenge that we have when we talk about preservation of crime scene.
“Most of the crime scenes are often unpreserved, then the most challenging is the fact that a lot of people report rape cases to us after they have practically destroyed all the evidence, the victim had taken her bath, cleaned her cloths and even washed her undies and effectively by the time you subject the victim to forensic test you can’t find semen of the suspect, you can’t find blood stain, even pubic hair that you could have picked up have all been cleaned up.
So in that wise, our investigations are made extremely difficult. And that is why you notice that we also have challenges getting some of the rape suspects convicted. If you look at conviction rate we tend to get more people convicted for indecent assault than for rape.
“ The reason is because in some cases where it is clear that some rape has already taken place, we try to prosecute for rape we fail, and then we drop and get conviction for indecent assault. The reason is because in indecent assault, you don’t need to establish penetration. In rape you need to establish penetration as one of the ingredients or the cardinal point to establish prima-facie case. But in indecent assault, you don’t need to establish penetration.