The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers and Advocates has asked the Nigeria Police Force to arrest musician, Oladapo Oyebanjo better known as D'Banj, for allegedly intimidating Seyitan Babatayo after she accused him of rape.
Patrick Odey, Director, Human Rights and Gender for COPA, in a statement said it was unfortunate the police which should be responsible for objectively investigating the matter had availed themselves a willing tool for intimidation without allowing the law take its course.
He said, "We do hereby express our disappointment with the conduct of the relevant agencies tasked with investigating such matters, particularly the Nigeria Police whose complicity in an ensuing chain of event from the date of the allegations made by Ms. Seyitan Babatayo have muddled up and complicated the process for truth and justice in this matter.
"While the substantive matter has continued to generate divergent opinion on social media with regards to its veracity, there are genuine concerns that Mr D'Banj whose primary concern should be the establishment of his innocence through legal steps has been misled or blinded by his affluence to employ the use of some charlatans in the Nigeria Police Force to arrest, oppress and put pressure on the victim, Ms Seyitan Babatayo, clearly to pervert the cause of justice in this matter.
"In a keenly worded press release, Ms Seyitan reveals that initial efforts to make an official report was thwarted by unscrupulous members of the Nigeria Police Force at the Bar Beach Police Station, Victoria Island, Lagos. She further alleges that she was criminally abducted by officers of the police who gained entry into her residence under disguise, arrested her forcibly and detained her in a decrepit cell for two days without a formal charge.
"We also have it on good authority that while being unlawfully detained, Ms Seyitan was coerced into making and issuing statements through her social media pages incredibly drumming support for Mr D'Banj's music tour, and running contrary to her impeachment of his character on the same social media handles, thus raising questions which were only answered after a mob-media reaction prompted her unlawful detention by the police and the management team of Mr D'Banj.
"We find it odd that the first line of action of the Nigeria Police Force in a matter such as the present case is to arrest and detain the victim in an allegation, while failing to invite the accused before it for interrogation. This imbalance in strategy, rationale and common sense leaves us, and indeed the general public, with unanswered questions touching on the transparency of the process deployed in the conduct of investigations in the present case, if there was any."
COPA wondered why some police officers would arrest a victim, who voluntarily came forward to file a complaint, adding that victim intimidation can cause an increase in rape and stigmatisation.
"While, we understand that preliminary investigatory requirements may include the invitation of persons involved in, and/or connected to the allegations, we find it particularly unsettling that it was during the period of the victim's faceoff with the police that the statements credited to her through her social media handle were issued thereby giving us reason to believe that same may not have been made voluntarily.
"We are, however, not unminded of, and indeed welcome the forthright and timely intervention of the Inspector General of Police, who has since ordered a comprehensive investigation into this matter. This directive was timely, necessary and expedient given the individuals involved and the peculiarity of the issues therein, as well as the ugly times we live in as a nation where incidences of rape and other gender based crimes are rampant.
"The intervention of the IGP is satisfying and assuages risen public fear before now that the instrumentality of the Nigeria Police Force had been hijacked by the bourgeoisie class of the Nigerian polity to protect the musician. The media had also been awash with speculations of manipulation and partiality in the investigative process especially given the status of the alleged offender in comparison to the victim, thus the directive of the IGP was, to say the least, reassuring and highly welcomed.
"Nevertheless, the recent directive of the Inspector General of Police ordering a comprehensive investigation into the allegations has gained very little traction in comparison to the speed and alacrity with which the victim was arrested and detained. In fact, there has been no record of a similar invitation being extended to the alleged offender, Mr D'Banj. We fail to see why there has been no arrest or an invitation, at the very least, being extended to the alleged offender by the police as was so conveniently and expeditiously deployed in the intimidation of the victim.
"While we are in no way attempting to interfere with the conduct of the investigation, we make bold to say that the continued delay in inviting the alleged offender for the purpose of interrogation in pursuance of the investigation ordered by the Inspector General leaves much to be desired as regards public perception of the process.
"We refuse to concede that any person, regardless of social status, influence and standing in life, is empowered to enjoy preferential treatment over any other especially within the sector of crime detection and justice delivery in our dear nation. Justice, it is often said, ‘'must not only be done but must also be manifestly seen to be done'’, and for us at COPA, the manifest path of justice extends to the conduct of investigations and the treatment of the parties thereto in a manner that is evidently transparent and visibly impartial.
"We also consider it apposite to state that a proper and comprehensive investigation of the allegations must not exclude an inquiry into the role and actions of the officers of the Nigeria Police who were involved in the arrest and detention of the victim and her subsequent possibly coercion into issuing self-contradictory statements.
"This is particularly so because a resolution of the issues arising from the conduct of the investigation of the allegations and indeed the allegations per se cannot be properly settled without ascertaining what transpired during the period of the victim's arrest and detention as same can, and will, indeed provide illumination into what truly transpired and if indeed there was an attempt by any one to arm twist the process of law and why.
"We are not also prepared to deny the fact that the incidences of rape and related sexual offences against women in recent times has continued to maintain an upward turn without a corresponding level of response in terms of justice delivery to culprits and victims alike, which is part of the reasons why the present allegations have garnered the much attention it has.
"Thus, our impassioned clamour for probity and accountability in the conduct of these investigations is reflective of the societal pulse and disposition regarding the rising incidences of rape – a moral and psychosocial depravity which has eroded the very fabric of our society.
"Consequently, the present circumstance provides the Nigeria Police with a two-pronged opportunity to send a clear and decisive statement to the general public of its readiness and proactiveness in dealing with the mounting cases of rape in recent times on the one hand, and of its impartiality and non-bias on the other hand, regardless of the social class and status of any person(s) involved," COPA added.
The group therefore called on the Nigeria Police Force to arrest D'Banj for wasting state resources and taking advantage of his social status to intimidate his alleged victim.