For filthy lucre, police truncate defilement, rape cases, deny victims justice

By Juliana Francis

Nigerian laws stipulate that cases that have to do with Sex and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) should be charged to court, but the police, who are the first responders to such cases, through their actions and inactions, deprive survivors’ justice, JULIANA FRANCIS reports

Policewoman facilitates suspect’s escape

A widow, Mrs. Salisu, has been waiting for justice for three years. The wait appears to be going along the pattern of the classical absurd theatre play of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot.’ Salisu’s 16-year-old daughter was raped in 2019 by their married neighbour, Raymond Makinde, in his late 40s. Raymond is a father of four.

Salisu is yet to overcome the anger and shock of how the case was truncated by a policewoman called Tina. Salisu said she didn’t know Tina’s surname or rank, but the woman was serving at Elere Police Station, Agege, Lagos State, when the incident happened.

Salisu was overwhelmed with sadness as she narrated the incident. Because she needed to work extra hard to cater for her children, she took to trading. In November of 2019, she noticed all was not well with her youngest daughter. The girl was given to bouts of crying and refused to speak about her grief.

Salisu also noticed that whenever she left home for the market, Raymond was always lurking around the compound, as well as when she returned home. Salisu said: “I didn’t know he was monitoring my movement. One night, my daughter woke me up, saying she would kill herself if we didn’t move out of the compound.

I was disturbed.” One day, Salisu got home and saw Raymond at the front of the compound, when she got to her apartment, which was behind the building in the ‘face-me-I-face-you’ (a multi-room) compound, she found her daughter weeping. She said: “I immediately rushed to the front of the compound and rained curses. I noticed that Raymond swiftly moved away.”

Raymond eventually confessed, perhaps for fear of Salisu’s daily curses. When Salisu queried her daughter, the girl confirmed it. Salisu added: “He had raped her twice in the bathroom at knifepoint. He usually monitored her; whenever the compound was lonely, he would go after her.

On the first day he raped her; she defecated on her body and lost consciousness. After Raymond confessed in the presence of his wife, he pleaded with me not to tell anyone or else he would kill me.” She reported the matter at Elere Police Station, where the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) was Tina. Tina asked for N10,000 for the medical examination at Mirabel Centre; though the centre doesn’t charge fee from rape survivors. Salisu gave N7,000, promising to give a balance of N3,000 to Tina. Salisu began to suspect foul play when she noticed that Tina and Raymond were always whispering and laughing at the station.

Later, Tina allegedly told Salisu and her daughter to ‘settle’ with Raymond. Salisu recollected: “Tina told my daughter to see the case as a ‘business deal’ and that she would now be making money for her mother, that Raymond would ‘settle well.’ She told us she just concluded a case, where the rapist had to buy a sewing machine for the victim, and the case was settled. She reminded me that I was a widow, struggling with money, that now money had finally ‘located’ me. She said that my daughter was not too young to be having sex with men.” When Salisu insisted on justice, Tina insulted her.

“She advised me to go and buy antibiotics for my daughter. When I asked for the refund of my N7,000, she said she had used it,” recalled Salisu. The widow recollected that when her late husband’s brother came to the police station, Tina cornered and told him that, “Raymond and my daughter had been lovers for long, and that I had been collecting money from him. Tina told him that it was because Raymond refused to give me money for a new wrapper that I accused him of rape.

My brother- in-law didn’t ask for my side of the story; he just left the police station. I now went to a human rights activist, Esther Child Rights Foundation.” The Executive Director of the Foundation, Mrs. Esther Ogwu, said that she demanded a refund of the N7,000 from Tina. She also insisted that the necessary papers should be provided so that the survivor could go to Mirabel Centre for medical examination.

Salisu recollected: “I was walking past Raymond’s window when I heard his wife on the phone telling someone that Tina said she wouldn’t go ‘below N200,000.’ Earlier, Tina had told me that she would show me that she had been a policewoman for over 20 years.

She said that it was only when I saw the suspect in court, that I would demand justice.” The case was charged to Samuel Ilori Court, Ogba, Lagos State. Before they went to court, Tina collected N10,000 from Salisu to charge the case to court. “After that, she disappeared from the court premises. Hours later, the court asked us to go and return the following day, that Tina had not registered the case. Tina came later and promised that she and the suspect would be in court the following day. She asked us to get to the court by 7am. The following day, she didn’t come to court until 11am,” Salisu explained.

The widow said that while they were waiting and watching, Tina and Raymond arrived on a motorcycle. Salisu alleged that Tina slowed her movement, allowing Raymond to fall behind. Raymond suddenly bolted, jumped onto the same motorcycle that brought them, and the cyclist zoomed off. What happened to Salisu and her daughter’s experience exemplifies how defilement and rape survivors, and their relatives are denied justice. Several times, the police have been accused of deliberately bungling rape cases for pecuniary reasons. Years back, the police were accused of lacking professional training to handle sex and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases, especially rape and defilement cases.

This led to the creation of gender desks in different police stations and formations. Gender desk was created in 2012 and kicked off fully in 2013. It was the idea of former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, when he was the Assistant Inspector- General of Police (AIG) in charge of the Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB).

It was created to attend to gender-related issues, especially about women, children and vulnerable persons. It is also called the Family Unit because of its efforts to handle family-related issues with bias to gender-based violence. The officer in charge of these units is the Force Gender Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Margaret Ochalla. According to findings, police personnel, who were supposed to handle SGBV cases, were given special training and placed on gender desks. But the act of seeking gratification from survivors and perpetrators has made the desk ineffective.

Due to the dearth of data in Nigeria, especially among human rights organisations, it’s tough to track the number of cases which have been truncated by the police. Since the police are the first responders, the way they handle the survivors and their cases is critical to the success of trials of rape cases.

Where is Tina?

Salisu explained that the last time she heard from Tina was when she promised to track Raymond. For two weeks, our reporter repeatedly called Tina’s MTN number but it was mostly switched off. The Truecaller showed ‘Tina Elere.’ In those two weeks, the phone number rang only twice and it was late at night, but she did not answer the calls. Our reporter also sent an SMS, but didn’t receive any reply. On January 18th, our reporter went to Elere Police Station. A policewoman there said there was no policewoman there named Tina. The Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) said there is a policewoman called Tina, but she was not on Gender Desk.

He said Salisu should come to the station to mention the unit that handled her case. Our reporter also tabled the matter before the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Mr. Adekunle Ajisebutu, but as at the time of filing this report, he was yet to respond. Our reporter also tried to locate Raymond, but learnt that since his escape from the court’s premises in 2019, nobody had seen him. His family had also moved out of the house at Agege. Attempts to get his phone number were abortive.

Police asked victims to change statement, complainant alleges

While Salisu is still waiting for justice, Philip’s experience is already unfolding. On May 7, 2021, Philip, a laundry operator, was in his shop when his 14-year-old niece, Ogechukwu, came to him, crying. He said: “When I asked her why she was crying, she said that Prophet Wisdom Okoronkwo, the prophet at the church where her mother worships, had been sexually violating her and her younger sister, Faith, who is 12 years old. I was shocked. She said she was tired of it.” Philip is the younger brother of the girls’ late father.

According to Philip, he and his elder brother pooled their resources together to build a house. They lived there together until the man died. Philip said his elder brother’s wife and children continued to live with him. He alleged that his brother’s widow was dating the prophet. He also alleged that the woman, without consulting her husband’s relatives, told Ogechukwu to go and live with Wisdom and his two wives. Perturbed by the accusation of the girl, Philip called his eldest brother and told him about the violations. Ogechukwu also insisted that she had already told her mother about the abuse.

The man advised Philip to take the girls to the Ikotun Police Station. Philip said: “Ogechukwu was brave in revealing the abuse because the prophet had told her that she would run mad if she told anyone. We took Faith, the victim’s sister, along to the station. The prophet told the police that I was the person that instigated the girls to lie against him. But after much denial, he accepted that he had sex with both girls, claiming that it was the handiwork of the devil. After his confession, the police said that I should settle with him.

The prophet asked me to tell him how much I needed to take care of the health of the girls. Faith said it happened when her mother sent her on an errand to the prophet’s house. She said that it happened twice. Ogechukwu, on the other hand, said that it happened four times.”

Philip said that the pressure from police and the prophet to ‘settle the matter’ was so much that he had to go to Esther Child Rights Foundation. The matter was then transferred to the Gender Unit, Police Headquarters, Ikeja, Lagos State. The case was assigned to Inspector Rebecca Jacob. Philip said that a week later, the Gender Unit at the command invited him. But before the invitation, the prophet and the girls’ mother, who insisted that Wisdom was innocent, had been visiting the Gender Unit, along with Faith. He recalled: “When I got there, I met my sister-in-law, the prophet and Faith.

The police asked Faith to go behind my seat and then they told me that the girl had a confession, that her conscience had been troubling her. Faith then said that she lied, and that I was the one that asked her to lie against the prophet.” When Philip asked what he stood to gain by causing his nieces to lie against Wisdom, the police told him that it was because he wanted to sleep with his brother’s widow and wanted to take over the building which he and his brother built. He said: “They collected my phone and attempted to detain me. They asked me if I knew that Faith was having sex with her younger brother, Chibuzor, who is just five years old.

They also asked if I knew Ogechukwu and Faith were lesbians. They were just saying all sorts of rubbish.” When he realised that they wanted to detain him, he called the human rights activist, Esther Ogwu. He was then allowed to leave. He was invited another time; this time alongside Ogechukwu, but when he wanted to enter the office with the girl, the police refused. He waited outside, then he suddenly heard someone shouting and Ogechukwu suddenly stormed out of the office, with tears in her eyes.

He said: “I asked her why she was crying, she said that the police asked her to say that I asked her to lie against the prophet. When she refused, they started shouting at her. I told her not to worry, that they had been bribed.” Philip said that they were waiting for the matter to be charged to court, instead he received an SMS from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) on November 24th, that the case file has been received. The activist, Ogwu, said: “I was shocked when he forwarded a message he received from the DPP. This was a matter that had not gone to court. The way it works is that the matter will have to be taken to court before being taken to the DPP.

I have been asking myself why the police took the matter to the DPP, instead of the court. The prophet has not been arraigned. Defilement is not even a bailable offence. True, he was detained, but rather than charge him to court, the police released him. I had to call the DPP and also to write a letter of complaint. The DPP has expressed shock over the matter getting to them without first going to court.”

I’m innocent of all allegations, says Wisdom

Wisdom, however, denied all the allegations levelled against him by Philip. He said that his only offence was assisting the widow after Philip accused her during a family meeting of being responsible for her husband’s death and demanded she should take an oath. The prophet stated that Ogechukwu decided to lie against him because he flogged her for being wayward and returning late from school.

Source New Telegraph

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