Seeking justice for Kogi rape victim – Punch

Stunning allegation of the rape of a beauty queen in Kogi State exemplifies the reckless abuse of position and privilege by senior public officials. In another nasty case that has sent shock waves around the country, Elizabeth Oyeniyi accused a commissioner, Abdumumini Danga, of abduction, assault and rape. The 23-year-old lady shared the graphic details of her ordeal in the hands of Kogi’s Commissioner for Water Resources and his supporters in a Facebook post that has gone viral. Since the law is not a respecter of persons, the police top hierarchy should launch a thorough investigation into these allegations.

The accusations against Danga are benumbing. According to Oyeniyi, her initial post in the social media called on the commissioner, who is a brother to her friend, to treat his sister well. This post, Oyeniyi explained, arose when she learnt that Danga was distributing COVID-19 relief items to people. Presumably, this did not go down well with the politician when he saw it. The next thing she knew, Oyeniyi claimed, was that the commissioner and his henchmen stormed their residence in Okene, abducted them and drove them (Oyeniyi and her friend) to Lokoja, the state capital. Ordinarily, this is against the law.

At Lokoja, things degenerated swiftly. Oyeniyi and her friend alleged that they were flogged by Danga and his cohorts. Bizarrely, her tormentors reportedly stripped her naked. Some of the graphic photographs seen in her Facebook post, which some television channels have also aired, showed wounds on her shoulders, back and laps apparently from the brutal beating she was subjected to.

Not done, Oyeniyi further alleged that Danga bundled her to a hotel and raped her. “I have been living in fear of what they might do to me, because they threatened to pour acid on me and take my life,” she said. “The commissioner is threatening me to come out and drop the case. I want justice to be served because he treated me like an animal and said nobody would fight for me.”

Professing to be shocked by the allegations, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, swiftly directed an investigation into the case, assuring the public that punishment would be meted out to those found culpable. This is playing to the gallery. The governor is overstepping his bounds. His unilateral action is likely to complicate the case and end up beclouding the proper investigations into the matter because it is not within the remit of the executive arm of government but that of the police. This is a crime investigation, not politics.

Bello’s intervention would have carried more weight if he had first, promptly suspended Danga from his duty post. His suspension would have enabled the police to subject him to the due process, with him not having the aura or buffers of public office to fall back on. It is only after he has been thoroughly investigated by the police, and if cleared, that the governor would recall him.

The criminal justice system has been failing victims of rape for a long time. No citizen, no matter how highly placed, has the right to take the law into his own hands. Unfailingly, the duty of the police is to unearth those responsible for this distasteful act and bring them to book quickly. Since she has named some suspects, the police have their work made easier.

The raging epidemic of atrocities against women and girls should be curbed. One in four boys and one in 10 girls under age 18 are victims of sexual violence, the United Nations Children’s Fund says. It is commendable that the Nigeria Medical Association and the Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (an NGO) have taken up the dastardly case. “Violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights,” said the NMA. “Its impact ranges from immediate to long-term multiple physical, sexual and mental consequences for women and girls, including death. It negatively affects the victim’s general well-being and prevents such women from fully participating in society.” The world was outraged in 2014 when two female cousins, aged 14 and 15, were hanged on a mango tree in northern India after being gang-raped by some depraved men.

The NMA and the Njemanze Foundation have made a good head start; other civil society organisations, human rights lawyers and women’s rights groups should join them and mount pressure on the police to put the case on the front burner until it is quickly resolved and justice is done.

Along this line, the Nigerian Army authorities demonstrated the right course of action last week by arresting two soldiers who had threatened to rape women and inflict them with HIV while on COVID-19 lockdown enforcement duty in Delta State. In a welcome departure from the reflexive denials of Nigerian officialdom when such reports are made, the Army moved against the suspects on the evidence gleaned from a viral video in which they (the soldiers) made their brutish, foul-mouthed threats. They are already being investigated with a promise that they would be subjected to internal military disciplinary processes.

Now that the dam has broken in this sordid case, the police should step in immediately. No efforts should be spared to get to the root of the matter. The police should offer Oyeniyi protection over the alleged threats from the commissioner and hold him responsible if anything untoward happens to her.

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