Nigeria is gradually turning into a marketplace for rapists and all manner of criminals. The past one week has seen an unprecedented upsurge in crimes that affect the mental, psychological, emotional, and physical health of the victims. Some people were not so lucky. In one police station in Kogi State alone, no fewer than eight police officers had their lives violently cut short by a deranged gang of armed robbers who had raided a bank before moving to a police station where they murdered the officers.
On Thursday, June 4, 2020, the Punch published crime stories that showed how morally unstable our society has become. Consider the following headlines: “Kaduna gunmen kill nine in fresh Kajuru attack”, “Another student raped, killed in Ibadan, Ekiti hawker defiled”, “Family demands justice over radio presenter’s death in church during childbirth”, “Suspected ritualists kill Ekiti 78-year-old widow”, “Kogi commissioner under probe for assault, rape – Police”.
The next day, June 5, 2020, the Punch reported more crime-related news, including the following: “Niger man who slept with daughters for six years arrested”, “Rape: Reps propose death sentence, castration, amputation”.
These are grisly stories that will make anyone’s stomach to churn. The horrific nature of the crimes gives the impression that Nigeria is a lawless society in which violent crime has become a source of livelihood for many people.
Taking another person’s life is never an act of heroism but it is becoming so common. Similarly, rising cases of rape suggest something deeply troubling in the society. Difficult times and despondency can turn previously reasonable men and women into nasty, irrational, irresponsible, heartless, and grumpy people. But these attributes cannot justify rape or murder.
No one should ever experience rape or have a relative who is a victim. Rape is a terrible crime. It criminalises the victims. It is a taboo topic in our culture. Victims don’t want to talk about it. Perpetrators don’t ever admit to their crime. Unfortunately, the negative label that society attaches to rape victims defines the way they are perceived and demonised. That is wrong. Rape victims should never feel guilty, as if they committed a crime. They deserve society’s support. They deserve to be protected through legislation intended to stamp out the crime. They should be rehabilitated to enable them to overcome the trauma of their experiences, the sleepless nights, the nightmares, and they should be able to develop the strength to continue with their lives.
Rapists are inhuman and sadistic. They don’t belong to our human society. I don’t think there is a word strong enough to describe the criminally disgusting act called rape. It dehumanises the casualties. It deprives the victims of their liberty, their sanity, and their rights to say NO. The human body is sacred. It must not be violated or desecrated by another person.
I am not aware of any civilised society that tolerates rape or rewards people who commit the crime. For some reason, our society has a constricted understanding of what constitutes rape. It is not limited to forced sexual act. There are other forms of abuses that are easily overlooked. There is emotional rape. There is psychological rape. There is mental rape and there is also physical rape.
When people understand that there are non-sexual forms of rape, their scope of understanding of the crime will be enlarged. It is by doing so that the perpetrators might realise the damage they are causing to other people. Perhaps, just perhaps, that realisation would get them to step away from their criminal behaviour.
Regardless of whatever form rape takes, the key point to note is the destructive emotional, psychological, physical, and mental impacts on the victims. Non-sexual forms of rape are crimes that are so often disregarded in our society. And the abuse is growing in Nigeria.
Growing cases of violent rape call for national soul-searching and tougher punishment for the offenders. Regrettably, in the current environment of economic hardships, moral self-examination is likely to be the least concern of many people. But we must never give criminals the free space to persist with their criminal behaviour. Questions must be asked about the level of insecurity across the country, and the anti-crime commitment of the government, political leaders, and security agencies.
We live in a free society but we are not really free. Our activities are restrained by criminal groups and their sponsors. People worry when they go out in the day and when they come back to their homes. Nowhere is safe. What is happening in our society? Where are our values? Who can we look up to as role models? Which agencies should people run to for protection in moments like this?
Churches no longer serve as a place of refuge. Bandits are known to have invaded churches, disrupted religious services, and robbed people. Some religious leaders have turned into serial rapists who can no longer be trusted to look after female members of their congregation or children.
School teachers and administrators are no better. They have intimidated, bullied, physically assaulted, and raped their female students. Some husbands have clobbered their wives to death and conspired to have their bodies dumped in shallow graves or in bushlands. There are revolting narratives of personal security guards who connived with other criminals to murder their employers and seized the property of their victims.
The police public relations unit narrated last week a chilling account of how three brothers were apprehended after they had lured a mother of five children to a hotel where they murdered her and took ownership of her vehicle. The police report said the victim met one of the brothers through Facebook from where the friendship resulted in a deadly outcome. That was one death that should have been avoided. You have to wonder why and how anyone would trust a friendship that was fostered through Facebook, a social media platform.
All these are indelible signs of a society in rapid decline. Nigeria is trapped and wrapped in a caravan of violent crimes. What these crimes have exposed are the moral and ethical gaps in our society, the failure of intelligence, and the lack of preparedness on the part of the police. Someone once said that a society deserves the kind of police force that it gets. That is true. A police force is as effective as the community it serves. A community that provides timely and accurate information to the police makes the task of crime detection and prevention much easier for the police. That is not always the case.
Before we rush to blame the police, we must ask questions about the conditions of service of the police, their welfare benefits, their annual salaries, availability of regular training opportunities, morale-boosting incentives, and their ability or inability to access state-of-the-art crime fighting tools. All these have remained well below the level required for the police to operate effectively and to have a positive impact on society. Nothing else to say.