With the rate at which child sexual abuse grows daily in Nigeria, except and until government promulgates a law to check the excesses, the future of a girl child in this country may be facing a great threat.
According to experts, child sexual abuse is described as an assault on a girl or boy below the age of 18.
Acts considered abuse includes indecent exposure of private body parts to a child, indecent assault, rape, incest and defilement.
Years back, tales of child sexual abuse abound, but were far and in-between because it was frowned at and considered an anomaly.
Those who were unfortunate enough to be perpetrators served as deterrent. Some were castaway, while others were put through inhumane treatment.
But that was then. In recent years, cases of child sexual abuse ranging from physical, sexual and psychological status have been springing up like wildfire.
With the recent statistics of this social menace, it is almost safe to say that it is presently one of the leading crimes in Nigeria.
The situation is so dare to the extent that just while eye witnesses are still trying to understand the rationale behind one case, another springs up, almost immediately.
In recent times, some of the cases that have been recorded are indeed shocking and embarrassing.
To start with, there was a case of a three year-old pupil of Chrisland School, Ikeja, Lagos who narrated to an Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court, how she was allegedly defiled by her teacher, Adegboyeka Adenekan.
Describing how the incident which took place in November 2016 happened, the child told her mother, a social worker and the Police that Adenekan “used his wee-wee on her wee-wee and his mouth on her wee-wee.”
Indeed, the picture painted by the pupil is shocking, but can a three-year old child paint such an impression out of the blues?
Adenekan allegedly groomed his pupil with gifts and attention, before defiling her within the school’s premises more than once.
Another case which also attracted attention was that of an 11-year old girl at Iyana Ipaja, Lagos State, who was assaulted by a man named Adams Oliyide.
Narrating how the victim was abused, a neighbour who caught Oliyide in the act said that he would sneak back home in the afternoon when the victim’s parent had gone to work and have carnal knowledge of her. Then, he would give her money to buy food, sweets or biscuits and warned her not to tell anybody. This was the way he operated until luck ran out on him.
The cases of child sexual abuse that have been recorded in Nigeria, are indeed ample. 14-year-old Obiamaka Orakwue was raped to death in Abule Ado area of Lagos State by hoodlums. The unfortunate incident happened when the fence of her house was scaled by the hoodlums who raped her to death.
If you think that the above analogies are not worrying, perhaps this particular one would shock you.
In Ogun State, the need to ensure that their child get the best of education saw an aged parent of a 4-year-old child unknowingly pushing her into what became their nightmare.
Banke Olu (not real name), who was put in the care of her auntie because her parent were old and could not carter for her, soon became a sex object to her auntie’s husband.
Describing the bodily damage Banke Olu suffered after a medical examination, Isabella Osowobi the Executive Director of Stand To End Rape Initiative (STER), a group advocating for rape survivors who does not want to speak about their ordeal revealed in a phone interview that “Banke’s vagina was damaged from daily rape by her auntie’s husband.”
The recent case of 13 year-old Ochanya Ogbanje, who was allegedly raped to death by Andrew Ogboja, a lecturer and the Head of Department, Catering and Hotel Management, Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo and his son Victor Ogboja, a final year student of Animal Production at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi is what is currently trending, as bodies continue to ask for justice for the deceased.
Occasionally drug and molested, the deceased was threatened with death if she spoke about it to anyone.
In February, she collapsed and was bedridden for two months. In June, she was referred to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, Benue State, where she revealed that she had been a victim of molestation for several years.
Ogbanje suffered several health complications before dying of Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, causing serious outcry.
Confirming the rise in child sexual abuse, Osowobi said that the STER Initiative has over the years provided about 350 interventions to women, girls and children cutting across medical, legal, mental health and financial services in Nigeria.
Furthermore, she said “we have worked in over 40 communities and reached about 300,000 people with our programs on sexual violence, we’ve also seen that there’s a rise in child sexual abuse cases across the country.”
How did it get so bad, what could be responsible for the rise in child sexual abuse? Osowobi explains it further: “Poverty, social inequality, failed educational system and family problems account for the reasons most children become vulnerable to various forms of sexual abuse across Nigeria.”
Her position about the rise in sexual abuse is supported by Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, a women’s rights activist, founder and Executive Director of Project Alert on Violence Against Women.
Effah-Chukwuma, answered thus when asked if child sexual abuse was on the rise: “Yes there seems to be an increase in child sexual abuse/molestation in Nigeria. Almost as if we have an epidemic on our hands, as hardly a day goes by, that there wouldn’t be one reported case of rape or the other in either the print or electronic media. The seeming increase could also very well be due to increased reporting, as a result of public awareness of the issue, and the need to take action to end it. Silence aids its continued perpetration.”
Asked why an adult would sexually abuse a child and Effah-Chukwuma says that there is no explanation, saying paedophiles are just psychopaths and social deviants.
This seems to make a lot of sense, as there is no moral justification for the next set of child sexual abuse cases.
These cases bring tears to the eyes, as one is forced to wonder the thoughts of the perpetrators.
While this case might be unbelievable, it is indeed true. A businessman was arrested for allegedly raping a six month-old baby with the support of his wife. The bizarre incident took place in Kano State.
As if that was not bad enough, a landlord in Akowonjo area of Lagos, Ishola Idris and his tenant, Linus Okonkwo allegedly took turns to rape a 13-year-old girl. Idris was alleged to have deflowered the girl in January, while his tenant, Okonkwo raped her in March.
Another case is that of a 53-year-old man, David Ajayi, who allegedly defiled his neighbour’s eight-year-old daughter. In yet another case, 65 year-old Ganiyu Sani allegedly raped his tenant’s seven years old daughter named Blessing.
This dastardly act has continued unabated despite efforts by non-governmental organisation(NGO) to curb it. Several enlightenment campaigns have been held with town hall meetings but all to no avail.
Effah-Chukwuma explains why this is so. According to her, “sexual offenses especially rape, incest and defilement of children, seem to be continuing unabated because of poor response to reported cases by our law enforcement officials, lack of diligence in investigation and prosecution and delays in the judiciary.
If investigations by the police are to be diligently carried out, prosecuted, and suspects given maximum sentencing, it would serve as a deterrent to others. There is need for aggressive mass sensitisation programmes on how sexual abuse of children especially can be prevented. The key things to ensure in preventing sexual abuse of children are access and opportunity. Sexual abuse of a child can only occur, if a predator has both access and opportunity to a child. So the question is, who has access to our children?”
Media Entrepreneur, Bisuga Oluwaseun blames the rise of child sexual abuse cases on familiarity and trust of persons who have tendencies in sexual abuse.
According to him, “leaving your kids in custody of persons like this has been traced as the number one cause of child sexual abuse. Secondly, the fact that most parents and guardian shy away from sex education is another problem. Parents should educate their children on sex and warn against sitting on the laps of anyone. They must also encourage their children to report any inappropriate touch or advances from potential pedophiles. This will make them take measures that will limit such relationships. It can be stopped if the National Assembly pass a bill that make child sexual abuse a capital punishment. Secondly, if those who have been arrested and arraigned are swiftly sentenced. This will put fear in others.”
On his part, Adegboyega Kehinde blamed child sexual abuse on the lack of knowledge of human behaviour. “There is a need to do a study on this abusers. We need to understand this antisocial behaviour,” he said.
“Parents have neglected their responsibilities. Most times, they tend to be too serious with things that are not important. For instance, we have mothers who consider their jobs more important than their children. We read about stories of abused children and it is surprising that parents of these children never even knew that they were abused. These things happen to kids who stay with their uncles, stepfathers or stepmothers and in some cases where they live in open compounds, neighbours. Public prosecution of molesters will go a long way. I feel that when a rapist is publicly killed, it will serve as a warning to others that anyone caught will be dealt with massively,” Favour Madu said.
The law appears to be silent on the degree of punishment that should be imposed on anyone found wanting of child sexual violence.
In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Although this law was passed at the Federal level, its effectiveness has been minimal with a couple of states in Nigeria not enacting it.
Fifteen years after its enactment, sexual abuse is still prevalent like a wild bush fire in the country. In fact, it seems more now than before the Act was domesticated. What really is the Nigeria Police doing about this situation?
Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Chike Otti, told Saturday INDEPENDENT that the Police is making efforts to understand the motivation behind the crime and curbing it.
In a phone interview, he said that “The force is not insensitive to child sexual abuse. We have established a family section in some of our divisions and in the command so that people can have specialised assistance when cases like this arises. They take care of cases involving minors and women. The Lagos State Commissioner of Police (CP) Edgal Imohimi, also organises town hall meetings where he talks to people about the need to take care of their girl children by making sure that they trust and have confidence in the person or relative that they keep them with when going out.
“Asides from this, we are fully aware of the existence of child sexual abusers because we show them to the public when we do our parade.
“The CP has also asked the inspectors in the family section to investigate and know the motivation and the reason behind this particular crime, are the perpetrators doing it for just sexual pleasure or because they believe they can get something from doing it. Is it just for the sexual pleasure or is there other pleasures, what is the motivation? These are some of the things that the force is doing to understand the situation better and put an end to it,” Otti said.
Child sexual abuse is not peculiar to girls alone, but boys too. Trust Ezekiel, a 34 year-old man was arrested and paraded by the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly defiling five of his tenant’s sons.
Ezekiel, the landlord of a property at Ijanikin, Lagos was said to have been molesting the children in his compound for years until one of them, a 10-year-old, who couldn’t endured the molestation opened up to his elder brother.
An eyewitness who spoke about the development said Ezekiel was arrested when in the process of recounting his ordeal, one of the boys’ mothers heard it and questioned them and they confessed.
“That was how the woman became enraged and involved people and the police into the matter.”
Recounting his ordeal in the hand of Ezekiel, one of the boys said “he always used olive oil to rub my anus then put his manhood inside. I always cry because it is painful.”
Statistically, at least one in six men have been sexually abused or assaulted leading to serious negative reactions including depression.
Effah-Chukwuma spoke on a solution to the national problem. According to her, “child sexual molestation can be significantly reduced through aggressive mass sensitisation programmes at all levels, targeting various stakeholders. While this is being done as a preventive measure, perpetrators should be punished to the limits of the law, to serve as a deterrent to others. Parents/guardians (especially mothers) should be careful about who they leave their children with. As I said earlier, access and opportunity are the two factors that make sexual abuse of children possible.”
Adding his voice to the discussion, Security Expert, Mike Otti, said the role of the police, as law enforcers must be upheld, as they have to ensure that more offenders are prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others. On the part of non-governmental organisations (NGO), their role as counsellors to victim must be maintained, as there is always the need for victims to be rehabilitated.
Asides the Police and NGO, other organisations such as the church have major roles to play in correcting this anomaly.
Pastor Samuel Oladele, of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Testimony Arena reacted to the role of the church in eradicating this major problem.
He said: “Basically, we should start looking at it from its entirety and not from the aspect of religion. Every security measure must be taken to avoid child molestation. Training must start from the home and from day one. Parents should teach their children sex education and should not shy from it. They should know what sex is all about, the implication of getting into it before the right time and so on and so forth. My children understand what it means when I tell them not to do this and not to touch that. Regarding the church, it is time for churches to start selecting ideal teachers who understand the psyche of the children because if the teachers teach them well they will know the implication and the negativity of being a child molester and if they are not taught well, the implication.”
Already showing signs of a full blown epidemic, the need to stop this scourge now can’t be overemphasised, as it will certainly ruin the future of tomorrow if not dealt with.