Increased Wave of Sexual Assaults and Rape in Nigeria: Call for Collective ACTION!

Given the escalating wave of sexual assaults across Nigeria, NAS is alarmed and calls for ACTION. In recent times, the Nigerian media has been plagued with reported cases of rape country wide. This evil development needs drastic and conscientiously sustainable approach to achieve better society!

Numerous reported cases have shown that children and minors are also victims of rape. Instances abound even of assaults against the aged women. Incidences of 'internet' posting of gang- rape, paedophilia, and all forms of sexual assault are on the rise. Could this be attributable to lack of existing laws to serve as deterrents? Or poor law enforcement? Or decline in our moral standards and poor state of the education?

It cannot be said that there are insufficient laws in place in Nigeria to prevent and penalise all manifestations of this ill. On the contrary, the penal or criminal code laws of all the states of Nigeria provide for criminal sanctions against rape, sexual assault, statutory rape and suchlike. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in turn provides for a right to freedom from "inhuman or degrading treatment,." While the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Africa Charter on Human and People's Right both of which Nigeria is a signatory to, provide for the protection and preservation of the dignity of the human person.

In spite of the above desirable and justiciable laws and conventions however, our Country still witness a menacing trend of numerous cases of unpunished or unresolved sexual offences. Not only have the Police been unimpressive in their handling of sexual offences, there are inherent factors of cultural and societal attitudes towards these offences. Indeed, it has only been a few decades since a High Court judge in Nigeria handed down a suspended sentence of three years' imprisonment to a 39-year old man who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a nine-year old girl! According to the trial judge in that infamous case, "on the evidence, I am more inclined to believe that the sexual intercourse in question came about more from the deep love which the accused has for[the victim] ...."! And what did an otherwise distinguished panel of the Supreme Court have to say in their consideration of the appeal against that awful trial court decision? That no, the law did not permit the trial judge to hand out a suspended sentence, and therefore the sentence of imprisonment should be imposed without any after qualification but, and this is the most despicable part, "We would, however, add a recommendation to mercy for consideration by the appropriate authorities provided, as he asserted before us, the [accused] takes immediate steps towards marrying [the victim]."!!! (Emphasis added. See the case of The State v Hassan Audu [1972] All Nigeria Law Reports 636).

With police and courts like the ones just described, it is perhaps little wonder that we have had a poor record in this department! Add to this the fact that the attitudes displayed by the judges in the Audu Hassan case were probably not isolated cases; combined with the prevalence of forced or arranged marriages of underage girls to much older men some parts of our society – and the emergent picture becomes even more gruesome.

After effects of these dastardly acts leave victims traumatised with broken spirits and their dignity compromised. The victims of rape also run the high risk of being infected with various sexually transmitted diseases including the deadly Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Though rape is traditionally committed against women, numerous cases of rape or sexual assault of men has been found in criminal cases.

NAS strongly deems rapists and those involved in sexual assaults as social misfits. They deserve nothing but utmost punishment of life imprisonment which the law prescribes. These scoundrels involved in the sexual assaults and related crimes give negative impression about our esteemed traditional heritage and societal values system.
Most worrisome are many unreported sexual assault incidences in Nigeria. Available statistical evidences show over two thousand cases were reported between 2009/2010 and 2011.

NAS wish to commend individuals, NGOs, federal and state governmental who have anchored schemes and legislations in ridding our society of sexual crimes.

NAS dares to raise the CLARION call for collaborative action to curb this worrisome menace to society. Hence, the following are imperative (but not limited) for a sexual assault free society:

  1. The Nigerian Police Force should put strategy in place to champion this clarion call, as law enforcement agents.
  2. The Nigerian judiciary must rise above board and be seen to apply lasting justice to victims, while punishing convicted sex offenders.
  3. Strengthening of existing laws to adequately empower law enforcement organs in.
  4. Need for a "National sex offenders' register and what form of registration of perpetrators of these crimes.
  5. Need for victims (or witnesses/parents/relations) to report such offences to the appropriate authorities (the Nigerian Police Force) closest to the 'assault' environment
  6. Community support for NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations; e .g. Nurses' Guild, National Association of Nigerian Students, Catholic Women Organisation, Community Unions, Market Women Associations, National Union of Road Transport Workers, NBA, e .t. c.) and enlist their collaboration in 'FIGHTING THIS MENACE'.
  7. Established channels and agencies of legal assistance and counselling to victims of sexual assaults.
  8. Need for witness protection scheme for victims.
  9. Need for intensive media collaboration in social enlightenment, to promote sexual crime prevention.

Signed,
Ide Owodiong-Idemeko
NAS Cap'n