The high rate of rape cases in Ebonyi State has become a major source of concern for indigenes and non-governmental organisations, especially due to the fact that most of the perpetrators of such dastardly acts are allowed to go free without being prosecuted. OBINNA OGBONNAYA (ABAKALIKI) writes on the reactions of experts to this.
Despite concerted efforts by the Ebonyi State government, security agencies and non governmental organisations through public enlightenment campaign against rape, research recently carried out by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Participatory Development Alternatives, (PDA) has revealed that incidences of rape against minors, young girls and women is still very high in Ebonyi State especially in rural areas.
Apart from the research by the NGO, there has also been series of rape cases as reported by parents, communities, leaders and other individuals to the Ebonyi State police command and the state ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, which usually leads to the arrest of perpetrators of the act but after the arrest, nothing is heard of the case again, either from the police or the ministry of Women Affairs.
Regrettably in the state, many rape cases are swept under the carpet either by the parents of the victim who does not want the future of the child destroyed or who may not have enough finance to prosecute the matter. It has been observed that many rape cases in the state are still with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the moment the matter is transferred to the police for prosecution, nothing is heard of the case again while the perpetrator of the act is let go immediately after securing his bail.
The chief executive of PDA, Mrs Victoria Ebere Eze, during the official launch of the Advocacy on the plight of women in Ebonyi State at Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort, Abakaliki, called for urgent steps by the state government and security agencies to end the ugly trend that has presented the state in a very bad light.
Also worried by the development, a lecturer in the department of Psychology, Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Mr Sampson Nwonyi, also attributed the high rate of rape cases in the state to what he described as uncontrolled emotions and other history factors of both young boys and men who rape and defile minors.
Mr Nwonyi noted that most rape cases that have been handled by a psychologist reveal that the perpetrators of such acts usually experience the problem of self-control and that usually pushes them into committing such acts. He noted that many families that have experienced cases of rape usually experience a reoccurrence within the family.
He expressed regret that issues of family backgrounds and members of families most often lead to cases where younger males defile minors and opined that parents, especially those from poor backgrounds should not indulge in acts that would trigger off vices in the lives of their children.
According to him, it is very bad for parents who stay in a one-room apartment to engage in sexual activities while their children are in the same. Yes, they may choose to do so while the children are asleep but how sure are you that they are deeply asleep and not observing what is going on in the room. By the time they experience such act, they come out to practicalise it and you don’t expect them to approach older girls, so they take advantage of minors within the environment.
Mr Nwonyi also called for effective and concerted efforts towards the censorship of movies watched by children in different homes and in the social media, adding that such movies create huge psychological effects on the children and in most cases, when you trace the remote causes of defilement especially among children between the ages of eight and 15 years, it is likely that they are exhibiting what they may have watched in the movies coupled with the inability to control themselves.
Whenever the issue of rape is being discussed, the issue of boys being raped by women is not always discussed because of certain factors. The psychological trauma women go through whenever they are raped usually undermine that of boys that are raped by women. When a woman is raped, if not properly advised and counselled by a psychologist, it may result to suicide. That is why it is very important to always get them out of the trauma to avoid further reactions.
In July 2018 following several reported cases of rape in the state, the chairman, Ebonyi State House of Assembly Committee on Health, Maazi Oliver Osi, raised the alarm over the increasing rate of rape cases in most communities in the state.
He lamented that despite the campaigns staged against such ugly practices by the state government, non-governmental organisations, and concerned individuals, the scourge has continued to rise. Osi, who represents Ivo constituency in the state legislature, raised the alarm during a one-day training workshop for media practitioners on gender-based violence, sexual reproductive health right, and advocacy organised by Coalition of Eastern NGOs (CENGOS) in partnership with Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) with the support of Amplify Change in Abakaliki, the state capital.
Between July and now, the story has been the same, the latest being the defilement of a four-year-old girl by a middle-aged man whose name was simply given as Earnest in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital.
The father of the victim, Mr Sunday Iteze, a native of Ndioke Ishieke in Ebonyi Local Government area of the state, while narrating the ugly incident, said that the rape was accomplished by Earnest, a boy of about 15 years and a son to one of his co-tenants.
According to him, the boy undertook to look after the little girl and her two other siblings while he and their mother left for their different works on that very day but on return from work, they discovered that their daughter was having pains while urinating.
Upon inquiry, their daughter told them how Earnest came into their house while she was with her siblings and inserted his genitalia into her own. He further explained that the case was reported to the police who later referred the matter to the Family Law Centre, Abakaliki.
He, however, regretted that the culprit was eventually released at the Family Law Centre because his wife, who followed the matter to the place, was not able to pay the sum of N4, 000 which, according to them, was to be used for opening the case file.
Iteze, who is a staff of the National Obstetric Fistula Centre, Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, called on the appropriate authorities to assist his family in bringing the culprit to answer adequately for the crime so as to serve as deterrent to others. He also appealed for government’s assistance in treatment of the girl so that the abuse would not result to any future deformity in the little girl.
Meanwhile, the matter has been reported to the Ebonyi State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social development, which handles such cases in the state.
The case of Earnest is one of numerous rape cases witnessed in the state this year. In July, this year, a 33-year-old teacher, One Mr Elom Levi, a teacher in Agueke Isu community secondary school in Onicha LGA of Ebonyi State, was arraigned in a Magistrate District court for allegedly raping a 21-year-old girl, Okorie Onyinyechi.
It was gathered that Mr Elom allegedly invited Onyinyechi, who is in SS1, to his house, to copy some notes, which she would in turn, copy on the board for
the rest of the class, on the claim that he was traveling and wouldn’t be around to do so by himself.
Onyinyechi, as was gathered, honoured the invitation, but instead, Mr Elom took her to an uncompleted building after copying the note and forced himself on her.
Also this year, another 28-year-old man, one Odii Chukwuma, was also docked for allegedly defiling a four-year-old minor, one Chiamaka Godwin at Ukawu Primary School, Onicha LGA. It was revealed that Chukwuma came to Chiamaka’s mother’s shop, requesting for a stick of cigarette but Chiamaka, who was alone in the shop, told him they didn’t have cigarettes.
However, instead of leaving, Chukwuma allegedly called Chiamaka and told her to follow him that someone said he should give her money to give to the mother. That was how he allegedly took her to Ukawu Primary School where he allegedly defiled her.
In May this year, Ebonyi State government stopped the popular musician, Flavour, from performing at a show in Abakaliki on a Sunday. Flavour was slated to perform at a show organised by a major beverage production company in the state on a Sunday at the Ochudo Park, Water Walks Road. He was said to have entered the state on Saturday, preceding the date of the event and prepared to thrill his teeming fans in the state capital.
But at about 9pm on the faithful day, the special adviser to the governor on Internal Security, Mr Kenneth Ugballa, led a team of police officers to the venue and asked the organisers to shut the show down. The police also drove everybody out of the venue of the event obviously on the orders of the state government. The situation incensed the youths and fans of the musician who took to social media to lambast the state government over the action.
But in a swift reaction, Mr Ugbala defended the actions of the government arguing that the shut down was to prevent the kind of nasty incidents that allegedly happened during a similar show that was held in Enugu, recently.
The social media was agog after with the allegations that over 20 ladies were raped in Mr Flavour’s show in Enugu while some left the show naked with their dresses torn by some criminals.
There are also many unresolved rape cases in the state, which many believe that until serious actions are taken against the perpetrators, the ugly trend may still continue in the state. A sociologist in the state, Mrs Charity Egwu, noted that nothing meaningful would be achieved in the fight against rape until the VAPP law is enforced adequately.
Mrs Egwu stated that the state government is currently handling many cases of rape and other harmful acts against women and expressed government’s commitment in ensuring that perpetrators of such dastardly act are adequately punished in accordance to the law as VAPP law in the state does not respect age in its prescription of punishment for such offenders.
She stated that there are some social factors that result to the increasing rate of rape cases in the state. According to her, “It is disheartening when I see young girls especially those of them who left the villages for greener pastures in Abakaliki. Their mode of dressing is so disgusting that any man who lacks self-control would be tempted to have canal knowledge of them. Regrettably, parents no longer care about what their children wear, the kind of social life they live and the social activities they indulge in.
“The number of club houses in Ebonyi State today is so alarming, between the hours of 11pm and 2am, you see young girls of 16 to 35 years, jumping from one club house to another, drinking all sorts of things, though it may be difficult to restrict or outrightly stop such activities, there is the need to checkmate such because of its negative effect on the people”.
She further urged the state government to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators of rape to serve as deterrent to others. In 2018, the state police command arrested one David Ibe, a 29-year-old pastor of Christ Command Mission in Igboeze Onicha, Onicha local government area of the state, for allegedly raping a 23-year-old girl. According to the records with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the pastor lured the victim into an uncompleted building at about 9:30pm in Oruagha Umuobunna Uburu in Ohaozara local government area of the state and raped her. The question is, was anything heard about that case again? She lamented.
Apart from the arrest of the pastor, also in May this year, a herdsman was also reported to have raped a 14-year-old girl of Umuifi Community of Anioma-Isu, in Onicha Local Government Area of the state. The victim, who is a student of Union Secondary School, Agueke-Isu in the area, was taken to an undisclosed medical facility for treatment.
The community chairman, Mr Festus Nwachukwu said, “Though, the suspect has been arrested by the police, the act that was committed by the herdsman is an abomination to the land”, insisting a cleansing ceremony must be carried on the land so that it would remain fertile.
The community later carried out the cleansing while the perpetrator of the act went home without prosecution.
There are many unprosecuted cases of rape in the state. In 2015, One Samuel Okere, a police corporal serving at Ugbodo Division in Ebonyi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, was dragged to the State Juvenile Welfare Centre, Abakaliki for defiling a three-year-old girl. The police officer was said to have committed the act at the toddler’s father’s house where he is a co-tenant after her parents, who are both teachers, had gone to work.
There is need for the victims, parents and the state government to put in more effort in the prosecution of the suspects rather than covering the incident.