Covid19 may be the global epidemic identified by the WHO, but in some countries, it could be facing worse epidemics than the disease. The past weeks have been extremely overwhelming especially for those from countries affected by the current waves of unrest and upheaval that is worse than Covid19. For the USA, it is racism and #blacklivesmatter, while in Nigeria, it is incessant rape and gender-based violence. The past 2 years ushered in a wave of unraveling and opening up from victims of rape all over the world, sweeping all over conservative Nigeria leading to the #arewametoo movement trending on all news outlets and social media platforms. This rising reveal of rape and gender violence that is endemic in a religious country like Nigeria, have been nothing short of appalling especially those coming from conservative northern Nigeria leading to the birth of a new wave of feminism and feminist advocacy.
Like the waves of the sea, the cycle of revelations rises and falls with each publicized story, falls to a crescendo only to rise again at the revelation of another, gradually eroding the stigma attached to rape, giving survivors a voice, hope, and healing. But even though the constant advocacy, awareness, and support provided by independent and civil society organizations encourage victims to speak up and seek help, the institutional tolerance to rape, systemic negligence by authorities and security operatives in handling rape cases, non-conviction of rapists is still a stumbling block in getting victims to speak up and seek for justice. #justiceforuwa has opened another floodgate of rape story, from stories of those that died to those who survived, at least, 5 high profile rape stories involving both children and adults have been reported after Uwaila’s murder in the past 72 hours. A dear friend reached out to me with her appalling neglect and complicity of the Nigerian police is deliberately looking the other way in the face of rape and other human rights abuses in our society. This is her story unedited….
‘On the 2nd of June I received news that my sister has been robbed and raped in her house in Kurmin Mashi Kaduna. I left Abuja and joined my sister in Kaduna so I can offer her some comfort. After trying hard from the time, I got there I finally succeeded in convincing her to make an official report to the police on Wednesday is the 3rd of June 2020. We got to the police station and narrated what happened and one of the policemen ask her why she did not scream for help. I calmly told him that what he was doing was blaming a rape victim, especially as she has told them he had a knife to her head; even a spoon could be used to harm a person. We finished writing the statement and they asked us to wait and see the DPO… we waited for approximately 2 hours and when we finically got to her office. Seeing a woman, I felt a certain relief that, but the relief turned just from the look and off-handed attitude she gave us upon entering the office. The first thing she asked my sister was why she didn’t scream for help since the rapist met her outside, and my sister calmly explained that she was afraid for her life because the man had a knife to her head. The next thing Madame DPO would say was, “Dan ya rike wuka kawai shi yasa baki yi ihu ba kuma kika bari ya biki cikin gida?” (is it because he had a knife you could not shout, and you let him take you inside your house?) It was at this point that I lost it and snapped, I told her she did not have the right to shame or blame the victim because that was exactly what she was doing. She asked her men to take us out, and that she was not going to do anything about the case. I tried to tell them how the country was mourning a 19-year-old girl for resisting rape and she asked me if they were the ones who killed the girl. I completely lost it and was just screaming my head off, then one of the policemen said he was going to detain me if I didn’t stop screaming, adding that I could be raped there and then and nothing will happen. My sister’s husband has already packed his things and left the house because his wife was raped. How is someone supposed to deal with this double tragedy? My sister feels more violated by the police than her abuser. This is one of the reasons women would rather not report their abusers’.
This all happened in Kurmin Mashi Police station very close to the Government House in Kaduna state. One would have thought that Malam Nasir Elrufai’s gallantry and dedication in, making Kaduna great and safe for everyone would have rubbed off on people’s behaviors and work ethics to make them also dedicated and committed to ensuring the Kaduna, and Nigeria of our dreams. When we talk about rape, it goes beyond just the rapist but boils down into the institutional tolerance and social constructs that enable, support, encourage, and excuse rapists. The Kurmin Mashi division of the Nigerian Police Force, under the leadership of a female DPO falls under this category of rape enablers. And it is the reason why rape continues unabated because even institutionally, rather than blaming the rapists, we are still blaming the victim. And instead of punishing them, we keep enabling and giving excuses for them. Rape continues because of failure in leadership and responsibility bestowed into the hands of people like DSP Ladi Musa Usman, people who would rather seek for blame than victim than the oppressor.
We are not safe, until all rapists are caught and convicted. If you know any rapist or their enablers, it is your responsibility to expose them, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that they also get convicted for enabling rape.
Malam Nasir Elrufai, the Nigerian Police Force, member of the House of Assembly representing Kurmin Mashi constituency and all concerned stakeholders and legislators should as a matter of urgency sit up and ensure that justice is accessible to everyone who seeks it. We must not be complicit; we must not sit back and watch while our society continues to go down the drain.
Hawwah A. Gambo is a journalist and and social entrepreneur