When the Keffi Prison truck with Registration number PS 307 arrivedWhen the Keffi Prison truck with Registration number PS 307 arrived the premises of the High Court located at Maraba Gurku in Nassarawa State on 22nd June 2010, Iliya Paul, one of the suspects awaiting trial did not look unruffled neither was he looking remorseful about the crime he was alleged to have committed? He exchanged pleasantries with members of his family who had gathered legal representation for him for the case he was charged with. Before the honourable justice, Abungada Habila, the judge handling the case entered the court room; Iliya had been given fresh change of clothes and was offered a comb for his hair in order to appear a gentleman. But in the eyes of Mrs. Favour (surname withheld) his show off was torturous as the man who was supposed to be his brother-in-law and uncle to her four year old daughter, Princess (not real names) was alleged to have had carnal knowledge of her daughter and it did not happen just once but several times.
Bearing in mind the weight of the matter, Justice Habila denied the optimistic accused person bail and adjourned the matter to July 14th for further hearing on the case with charge number UAC/Cr110/2010 with motion number UACMG/38m/2010.
This is one among the several increasing cases of child defilement in the Maraba area of Nassarawa State, a suburb near the Federal Capital territory where incidents of men sleeping with children is on an all time high.
According to Favour, the story of how her daughter was defiled by her husband's brother, started on the 25th of May 2010 when she made her regular visit to family house of her estranged husband where her daughter was staying with her grandfather and other family members including the accused.
"I work in Abuja and have a regular schedule of visiting my daughter at the family house in Maraba where she was and when I was removing my clothes; my daughter asked me if I wanted someone to use me. At First, I did not understand what she was talking and asked her what she meant by somebody using me, she kept quiet. But when I took her to one of my relations that she was fond of, she opened up and told her that her uncle, Iliya Paul who owns a nursery and primary school, was doing press up with her," she narrated.
If the revelation from her daughter dazzled her, the response she got from her erstwhile father in-law and her daughter's grandfather shocked the living day lights out of her.
"Don't worry, things are under control and the issue has been taken care of," the grandfather said. The mother gave in to second thoughts and decided not to press the issue any further.
Alarmed and devastated and with little money in her pocket, she took her daughter to the General Hospital in Maraba for medical examination and got the shock of her life when the doctor after examining her daughter, came out and broke the news that her four year "little Angel" was no longer a virgin and she had been deflowered obviously.
"I took her to the hospital and explained what she told me to the doctor and after examining her, I remember the first thing the doctor told me, she told me Madam, your little baby of four is no longer a virgin. I lost it there and broke done because I never imagined that anybody could do that with a girl her age. The doctor asked me to hold myself as my daughter also having a discharge for which she suspected she must have been infected" she said sadly. Further test conducted on the girl at the F.C.T Health and Human Services clinic in Abuja, diagnosed that Princess had been infected with Staphylococcus, a veneral disease that was on its moderate growth region.
She was experiencing a situation that was even very hard to imagine; when she was shown the vagina of her little child, she needed no telling to understand what the doctor's report was showing;
"When the doctor showed her to me, she was open...she was open. My precious daughter has been used and who knows how long this has been going on," she said. It became clear to this mother of a sullied girl that she was alone in her battle to bring her child's molester to pay for what he did to her daughter. She went to the Maraba Police Station and made a report of the case and that singular act turned her into a public enemy as accused family members labeled her an enemy out to tarnish the image of the family.
"I was surprised that before we could get back from the police station, one of their relative that was in the station informed them that I had reported and that was the beginning of my trouble with the family. It was very sad and unimaginable for me because nobody was talking about my daughter and what she had been put thought. They were concerned about the school that the family has and what the damage the information would do to their reputation, none of them cared about my daughter health that has been destroyed at a very tender age," she cried.
It became a tug of war for her but respite came her way when a group of women under the aegis of Women Against Child Defilement came to her aid and took the matter up. They stormed the court on the day the accused was supposed to be granted bail holding placards that had messages like; "Save the Future of Our Daughters; It Could Be Your Daughter Next; Join the Fight Against Child Defilement; Stop Child Defilement Now and so on.
Accoding to Mrs. Amaka Awogu, one of the leaders, they had to get up and stand up for the girl child that was been defiled almost on a daily basis in that area of Nassarawa State.
"We got information concerning this clear case of Child defilement and decided it is high tome we stop sitting on the fence in issues like this. It is increasing everyday and it seems nobody is doing anything to get justice for the victims and their families. It definitely has to stop and we are prepared to go all the way," she said.
Another member of the movement, Mrs. Alu Ikpah Azege said they were not satisfied with the punishment meted out to the perpetrators of child defilement as it really does not serve the objective of justice as deterrent from occurrence.
"We are here for the sake of a child that has been continuously defiled by a supposed uncle who has also infected her with several veneral diseases. We are here because we heard a complaint from a woman whose daughter was abused and we want to say No to this ugly crime that has been happening in this area for quite a long time now. Our daughters are the future of Nigeria .We are not satisfied with the number of convictions in matters like this and that is why we are holding placards in this court today, you see a lot of these pedophiles walking the street as free men. Is it because the victims are women, children and maybe daughters of people without means in this country? We say no to this because it is a crime against womanhood, against our children, against our daughters and we will not let this continue. We want the FG needs to ensure justice is done," she said.
While the case of Iliya was going on in court, another witnessed another case of child defilement and rape alleged to have been committed by one Ifeanyi Asugulam who is accused of raping three young girls aged 12, nine and seven respectively all in the same compound.
According to one of the aggrieved mothers who gave her name as Hanimatu, Ifeanyi was a neighbor in the public compound they resided and always wanted to send her daughter on errands.
"Every time this Ifeanyi will come and send my daughter to buy something for her and when she brings the items, he will pin her down and rape her. He always threatened them that if they say anything to anybody they will die. It was on one occasion my daughter was plaiting her hair and when she wanted to go and ease herself, this Ifeanyi followed her and locked hr inside the toilet, it was after the women that were plaiting the hair waiting and started calling my daughter that he released her and they saw them coming out from the toilet so they suspected foul play. When I asked my daughter what happened, she told me and when I removed her wrapper, I saw semen on my daughter's vagina," she narrated.
After residents in the compound discovered what was happening, every mother called their daughters for a heart to heart talk and discovered that the randy neighbor had been sexually exploiting the minors for a long time and gagged them by threatening them death should his illicit secret be let out. It was gathered that the accused was married and has a 10 months old son who was brought to the court by the wife of the accused.
When a visit was made to the General Hospital at Maraba, a staff who pleaded not to be mentioned confirmed that the cases of Child defilement was always been reported in the hospital. In fact, when queried about the case of Princess, the source asked which of the cases the reporter was referring to.
"These cases are reported here every day and it is very sad. At times many of the family out of fear of stigma decide not to report the case to the police and allow the victims to suffer in silence," she said.
Family interference is among the factors hindering many of the victims from coming out to report incidences of child defilement and on most occasions, the police allow that hold above the stipulated law applicable to such crime which was not denied by the Nigeria Police.
According to the Mr. Emma Ojukwu, The Nigeria Police Public Relations Officer, at times pressure from the family puts the force in a fix.
"In cases of arson, rape, child defilement, we follow the crime as the law goes but sometime you find that when a member of the family gets into this kind of this problem because they don't want the scars, the stigma and the shame associated with this kind of crime. And when this development comes up, because we don't want families to break up, at times we try as much as possible to help the families not to break up but we follow the law and that is why you will see them being taken to court. We will continue to prosecute these criminals and we try and get the evidence and take the accused to court. The police will always be on the side of the law," he said.
But Mr. Sani Momodu of the National Human Rights Commission, who is also monitoring the case involving Iliya paul, disagreed that the family should not be a barrier to justice.
"In the first place, this is no longer a family issue; it is a criminal issue and is a matter of the state versus the accused person; it is no longer a family issue because a crime has been committed. It is left for us to determine the case and makes sure the victim gets justice. I don't believe the matter should be left to the family to settle because it may encourage others because somebody else will go and commit the crime believing that it would be settled out of court.
Not only is child defilement rampant in the Maraba area of Nassarawa State and its environs which included the FCT, several cases has been reported in Lagos.
In Benson Otile Street in Ajamgbadi, suburb of Lagos State, a 45-yeaor old man identified as Sunday Jacob, defiled a 7-year old girl on several occasions who he lured into his one-room apartment with N20. He was always doing the act when nobody was present but luck ran out of him when the child started having stomach upset and when queried by his mother opened up on the ugly affair.
Similarly, a 29- year old man, identified as Ademola Arogboto has been held under police custody for allegedly defiling his landlady's 11 years old daughter. The victim, a primary six pupil, lives in the same compound with the suspect at a suburb at Iju road. Mr. Arogboto, who had just moved into his one room apartment on Monday, allegedly asked his landlady's daughter to help him run errands. The suspect allegedly took advantage of the victim, by allegedly dragging her girl on his bed to rape her after locking his door. He was however arrested when the victim's elder brother suspected foul play and swooped on him while he was having sex with the girl.
A more abominable case of incest occurred between a father and her daughter also in Lagos State.
The accused a Phillip Benson aged was alleged to have defiled his 12 year old daughter (names withheld) and put her in the family way. The incident which happened at Ipakodo area of Ikorodu in Lagos saw Mr. Benson, a father of three, allegedly having sex with his daughter in their two-room apartment. Benson in his attempt to abort the baby, gave his daughter concoctions made from gin and herbs. The victim's female teacher noticed signs of pregnancy and queried her on how she got pregnant; she then revealed how her father had defiled her on different occasions. The case was described as the Lagos State Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, as the most horrible case he had handled as the police spokesperson.
"This is a most horrible and reprehensible case I have ever handled as the police spokesperson. On the 8th of June, 2010, a Good Samaritan, who had been watching the girl, noticed signs of pregnancy and her teacher in her school also noticed the changes in her. "The two adults worked together and talked to the girl and she confided in them that her father has been having sex with her. The case was reported at the Ipakodo Police Station and when police officers interacted with her, they discovered that the crime has been going on for the past two years. This man has slept with his daughter repeatedly and continuously, and to get her to submit to his amorous assault," he informed.
When Mr. Sani Momodu was asked what might be the likely cause of the increase in child defilement, he pointed to the psychological of the individuals who perpetrate the crimes.
"I can't really say but I think it might be psychological. I don't think a person in his right mind will rape somebody come to being a child. I think any reasonable human being will not do that. It seems to do with the mental state of people," he said.
To Mrs. Awogu, the punishment for the crime needs to be applied in full force.
"We have heard about punishment of 2 years and that is not enough; they will come out with a lot of vengeance and a lot of girl children are in danger. This is totally unacceptable. The man here is a proprietor of a nursery and primary school; you can imagine what the children people keep under his custody goes through. We have every reason to be here, every mother needs to join this campaign. Nobody knows who daughter will be next? It might happen to your daughter and that is why we are saying that the judiciary and the legislator should make punishment for this crime very stiff."
According to the Nigeria Constitution, the crime of child defilement is punishable under section 218 of the Criminal code which states that; "any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 years is guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for life. Also, section 218 states that any person who attempts to have carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 is guilty of a felony and liable to 14 years imprisonment. It is a serious offence and the police will investigate and prosecute the suspect accordingly.
Though the number of cases reported might be a far cry from the actual incidents of reported ones, members of the Women Against Child Defilement would want to see perpetrators of child defilement handled down the stipulated convictions.