Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria, 4-year-old Banke Olu (real name withheld) was raped by her auntie’s husband. The last child of her parents - both in their 60s - Banke, a minor had been ferried off to the relatives not long after she was born.
Her parents, broke, weak and left with no option in order to give their baby a better life, wanted not just a better living standard but a much younger caregiver to take care of their minor.
Mrs. Temitayo Isiaka, is the younger sibling to Banke’s mum, along with her husband, the couple willingly agreed to care for Banke and they took her in but the stay wasn’t so pleasant.
“Banke’s vagina was damaged from daily rape by her uncle”, Isabella Osowobi, the Executive Director with the organization, Stand To End Rape Initiative (STER), a group advocating for rape survivors who can’t speak about their ordeal, said in a phone interview with this reporter.
Although, the STER Initiative has over the years provided about 350 interventions to women, girls and children cutting across medical, legal, mental health and financial services in Nigeria “but Banke’s case was very disturbing, for this one, we wanted justice served, so we followed the process to the end”, the director said..
“We have worked in over 40 communities and reached about 300,000 people with our programs on sexual violence, we've also seen that there’s a rise in child sexual abuse cases across the country”, Ms. Osowobi reiterates.
The NGO uses various social media platforms to educate and engage Nigerians on sexual abuses and other crimes against women, and the platform has become an important channel in reporting and tracking cases of sexual abuses nationwide. “It was a Twitter user who saw the man raping her (Banke) that got us informed,” says Ms Osowobi remarked. “He got images and sent to us and we followed up and the man was arrested”.
Poverty, social inequality, failed educational system, family problems, account for the number of reasons most children become vulnerable to various forms of sexual abuse across Nigeria.
In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the Federal level, it is only effective if State Houses of Assembly also enact it. To date, only 24 of the 36 States have passed the Act.
Banke's abuser and his wife physically, psychologically and sexually harmed Banke. To protect Banke’s real identity, the name of her abuser is also withheld but “Stand to End Rape” got a 14 years in prison conviction and he is serving his time at the Ogun State Prison – it took a year for Stand To End Rape to get the conviction but this was expedient especially as it takes longer period to get cases in Nigeria handled within same time.
The youngster was moved to a shelter for psychotherapy but she is not the only child abused across the country; Nigeria has been unable to deal with the protection of rights of children. In Kano State Nigeria, a businessman was arrested for allegedly raping a six months old baby with the support of his wife.
Osowobi’s organization is also trying to get justice for 14-year-old Obiamaka Orakwue raped to death in Abule Ado area of Lagos state by hoodlums.
The victim was left lifeless after hoodlums scaled her fence and gained access to her bedroom and raped her to death, justice is yet to be served, no arrests have been made.
A petition was written to the Lagos state Commissioner of Police following Obiamaka’s demise but nothing has been done and the perpetrators still walk free.
Between January and September 2017, a total of 852 cases of domestic violence and related sexual assault cases were recorded in Lagos State alone, the State’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) disclosed.
Lagos State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, said out of the total number, there were 564 domestic violence cases, 60 ‘defilement’ cases, 30 rape cases, 11 attempted rape, 123 child neglect and abuse cases, and 84 cases designated as "others".
Experts say most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles, or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances, such as "friends" of the family, babysitters, or neighbours; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.
Jose Foundation, also a governmental organisation, its founding President, Mr Martins Abhulimhen state that one in four girls and one in ten boys experience sexual violence – less than 5 percent of children who experience sexual violence receive support.
While Banke’s family along with the organisation, Stand To End Rape tries to heal her and ensure the psychological trauma of what she has gone through is erased completely from her memory – but for the Orakwue’s, the struggle to find closure over what had happened lingers, with the perpetrators still on the run, much is left to be desired for the grieving family.
Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing her work on development Journalism, under-reported or never reported stories mostly ignored by mainstream media organisations – She doubles as an International media fixer– She tweets at @abangmercy. Mercy is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017. This article was written as part of the 2017 BudgIT Media Fellowship - BudgIT had no editorial influence or control over the story.