A group of non-governmental organizations comprising of child’s rights organizations, and women and youth groups has condemned in strong terms the alarming and increasing rate of reported rape of children and general atmosphere of child abuse in the country.
In a press statement, the groups including the Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA-UK), Spaces for Change, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Media Concern Initiative for Women & Children (MediaCon), Healing Hearts Foundation, Project Alert on Violence Against Women and Children, the Charles and Doosurh Abaagu Foundation, and the Women Environmental Programme (WEP), the Triumphant Foundation for Widows and Orphans organization and the Next Generation Youth Initiative International (NEGYII) stressed that the trend had reached an unacceptable level and must be stopped by all legal means.
The recent reaction followed the report that a two-year old baby was raped in Nasarawa State by a police corporal, Anthony Onoja.
‘On a daily basis, we are bombarded by the abominable news of the rape of innocent children and hapless girls across the country. When it is not a porn-addicted 14 year-old boy A 14-year-old boy, raping to death a nine-year old in Ikorodu, Lagos, it is a 35-year-old pastor, Yakubu Izang in Jos, Plateau State defiling two underage girls entrusted into his care for prayers, or an 18 year –old girl on an evening errand gang-raped by eight artisans in the Odume Obosi area of Anambra State, a 47-year-old man, Orire Agidiogun, docked in Lagos for who allegedly raped a four-year-old child, and now a law-enforcement officer in the name of Police Corporal Anthony Onoja, committing the most beastly act and harming an innocent baby, a two-year-old toddler at Kabayi in Nasarawa State. What this shows is that our beloved country is tending towards anarchy, a lawless state where the most powerless and most defenseless are harmed without any repercussion. Clearly, this is unacceptable’, the statement added.
The group also noted that just like the rape cases, virtually nothing was being done by the government agencies vested with the responsibility of protecting children to halt the incessant attacks on children, particularly under-aged house helps, orphans and indigent children nation-wide. The statement cited instances including that of an 11-year old house help, Ita Bassey-Eno, who died after being set ablaze by her guardian, Mrs. Nkese Iroakazi, a nurse a few months ago in Lagos.
‘From my point of view as a UK based charity, there needs to be more intensive, strong, prolonged and continuous joint action to help protect Nigerian children. All it takes is for something terrible to happen to just one child here in the UK and all hell breaks loose. Heads will roll, people will lose their jobs, government will be sued, if possible, parliament will hold a major session, policy changes will happen etc. The situation needs to be similar in Nigeria… One child is one too many’, says Debbie Ariyo of AFRUKA-UK.
Sophie Mbanisi, Executive Director of the Healing Heart Foundation says only the strictest punishment for the culprits would do. ‘This madness against children— God’s gift to us– just must stop. The evil is increasing by the day because no “Pharoah” or “Herod” has been made a scapegoat yet, in the real sense of it, and we must all join hands to put an end to this wickedness,” she said.
‘Nigerian laws are too weak to protect women and girls against rape and defilement, says Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri of Spaces for Change. “The ratification and domestication of the Child Rights Convention has hardly helped to protect women and girls from recurrent sexual violence. We need strong laws that bark and bite, and not just lip-service legal standards that merely conform to the tenets of global formality. Protecting women and young daughters from sexual abuse and violence is a moral and legal obligation that the Nigerian government must take very seriously,” she added.
‘Though we are aware that Corporal Onoja, the pervert who raped the two-year old, is currently on trial, we want the trial and eventual conviction to be made public so as to serve as a deterrent to others. And as many Onojas as are prowling the country and defiling innocent and defenseless children should be shown the way to where they belong—the jail’, said Betty Abah of ERA.
Section 31 and 32 of the Child’s Right Act make child rape case a criminal offence which attracts life imprisonment or 14 years imprisonment.
‘It does not augur well for our image as a nation when all the international indices regarding the welfare of children portray us in alarming negatives’, the statement concluded.