- It is shameful that NAF personnel raped in the barracks could not get justice within
For Beauty Igbobie Uzezi, justice seems to have located her through the ECOWAS Court of Justice that gave a ruling in her favour over the allegation of sexual assault and rape by a superior officer. The court recently fined the Federal Republic of Nigeria $200,000 as compensation to the complainant who alleged that beyond the rape, she contracted a sexually transmitted disease that had resulted in a pelvic inflammation that affected her uterus. She equally alleged that beyond her physical injuries and the infection, she has since then been experiencing intermittent fainting bouts, severe vaginal discharge, dizziness and swollen vulva.
This judgment came 10 years after the crime was committed allegedly by Flt. Lt. B.S Vibelko in 2011. The victim was 19 years old at the time and was rushed to the Aeromedical Hospital in Kaduna on the day of the incident.
We condemn in the strongest terms this sub-regional opprobrium to Nigeria through this ECOWAS court ruling, possibly a result of an unsatisfactory handling of the case in the Nigerian courts. The victim must have gone to the sub-regional court as a last resort, and with this comes very dire regional and continental implications for Nigeria. Nigeria is the poster child of Africa and must behave in ways that are worthy of its global reputation as the ‘giant of Africa’.
The fact that the victim did not get justice but was verbally dismissed from the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in October 2015 is an eloquent example of how such sexual and other domestic violence against women are handled in Nigeria. We often see a further victimisation of victims by the society in such cases. It is either the lady is shouted down, threatened to keep mute, blamed for her dress choice or accused of being in a place that she was violated for no reason.
The tacky handling of the victim’s dismissal caught the attention of the ECOWAS judges as they reminded the Air Force of the Armed Forces Act, stating that there are two ways that a dismissal can be handled in the force; either through a sentence of a court martial or order of the appropriate Service Chief. None of these methods was employed in sacking the victim. The court declared her dismissal unlawful and a violation of the African Charter and Article 23 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The court ordered the Air Force to convert her illegal dismissal to retirement and pay her all that is due to her.
We find it strange that an institution like the NAF that is bound by the military oath can so treat a citizen, more so one of its personnel. This action negates all the protection and service citizens are supposed to be availed of by the NAF. It is equally an indictment on the leadership and legal department of the force that lady Beauty could not get justice either within the Air Force or the Nigerian judicial system.
Again, we regret that the abuse of power by people in authority and the fact that very often, might is seen as right, as impunity is very often displayed by people with any form of power in the country. We feel that for the ECOWAS Court to descend so heavily on the Air Force and the Federal Government and slam such a huge fine on the latter says a lot about the ways those in authority handle issues of human rights and justice.
The ECOWAS Court has given a three-month timeline within which the Federal Government must submit to the court a report of the measures taken to implement its orders. This shows diligence and adherence to the rule of law, actions that are not often taken by the internal judicial system. It does seem that Nigeria still has not accepted the mantra that justice delayed is justice denied.
The plethora of rape and sexual assault cases in Nigeria, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, must be handled more seriously to save women and girls, and even some boys from the activities of sexual perverts. The effects are psychologically debilitating and there are cases of acute depression and even suicide. The system must be made to work.