A Yoruba adage says if the owner of a farm is not smart, fast and brave enough to catch a thief who is busy stealing yams from his farm, the thief will in turn catch the owner and raise the alarm that can cast him in the light of the real thief if due care is not taken.
That appears to be the principle at work in this pathetic story. Just think about it. Your little sister who is barely out of her teens was drugged and raped by a man, a neighbour. And, you duly reported the matter to law enforcement authorities. You thought you had finally had him nailed, that he was now going to face the full wrath of the law for raping a minor. But no sooner had you thought so and hoped for something comforting to come out of the case than a strange twist of fate set in. All of a sudden, the table turns against you and, overnight, you, the accuser becomes the accused while the original accused becomes the accuser.
Ever seen or heard such a story before? Well, that is the summary of the story of a young teenager who was allegedly raped by a neighbour and her elder sister who took up the case and reported it to the police. As things stand now, the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) had washed his hands off the case after alleging that it was the accused who brought a case of harassment and threat to life to their police station against the accuser. And, as far as he is concerned he has settled amicably the matter, which he dubbed “family issue.”
How the victim was defiled
Strange quirk of circumstances! That must be what is at work here, otherwise, going by the owner-of-the-farm-versus-thief analogy, Jennifer thinks she was fast and brave enough not only to call a rapist a rapist but to also report him to the law enforcement agents for judicious punishment. But later development like her failure to taker her sister for medical investigation on time, the failure of the police authorities where she initially reported the matter to pursue the case diligently by having the culprit arrested and duly prosecuted may have conspired to cast her, the complainant, in the mode of the defender. Although a human rights organization has decided to take up the case and has been promised by higher police authorities to revisit the case, it remains to be seen what will eventually come out of it by way of justice. The story is nonetheless a pathetic one.
It started on August 16, 2020, when Chinaza, 14, was sexually molested by the middle-aged man known simply as Okey Ten Kobo in Mafoluku area of Lagos State. The victim, a school pupil who is now at home because of the COVID-19 palaver told Saturday Sun that she had gone to her brother’s friend’s house to deliver a message on that very day. But on her way back, she was accosted by Okey. He asked her to buy a bottle of beer for him from a nearby beer shop. He had given her some money for that purpose. But upon returning with the item, she couldn’t find him at the spot where she initially met him. She went therefore to deliver it to him at his residence.
“I took the drink to his house because I didn’t see him outside again,” she said. “But when I got there, he gave me malt and Indomie. I never knew that he put something in it. I ate the food and took the malt and, thereafter slept off. I was very weak and tired that I slept there till the following day. I knew he had touched me and slept with me because when I woke up, I began to experience serious pains in my private parts and abdomen. In short, I had pains all over my body.”
When Saturday Sun probed into their relationship Chinaza said she knows Okey as a former neighbour to her sister before he moved to another street. But all the same he has continued to maintain a relationship with the compound (where her sister stays at present). She added that she sees him as an elder brother not boyfriend.
“I only know him as one of the street seniors,” she said. “He has never spoken to me about any relationship before. I am not his girlfriend. Even after I woke up and saw what he did and started crying, he never apologized. He didn’t utter a word to me.”
She added that she wants the police to arrest him for drugging her and taking undue advantage of her so he doesn’t go around doing it to other innocent girls. She noted that she hasn’t seen him around since after the incident and had never taken any gift from him.
Victim’s sister’s reaction and suspect’s attempt to thwart justice
The victim’s elder sister, Jennifer, who is also angry over the incident said that on the day of the incident she had gone out and returned late. She said she became worried when she searched for Chinaza in whose custody is the key to the house and couldn’t find her. She asked everyone around the vicinity about her whereabouts but nobody could give her any cogent answer.
“I later called a soldier who is like a brother to me and informed him of everything that happened,” she said. “He joined in the search but we still couldn’t find her. I don’t know how my younger brother got a whiff of the information and told me that my sister is with a former neighbour of ours, Okey. Immediately I picked up my phone and called him to ask whether my sister was with him. But he denied seeing her that day.”
Jennifer said she called Okey again to beg him to release her sister so that she could bring the key to the apartment to her as she was stranded outside. “The soldier who was with me collected the phone from me and ordered him to release my sister and he promised to do so. But we didn’t see her that night. The following morning, I went to his house to search for my sister. But he wasn’t in when I got there although his door was slightly open. I saw a friend of his in the compound and explained what happened. He was surprised that such a thing could happen. I told him to help me check Okey’s room to see if my sister was there. He came back to tell me that my sister was lying down in Okey’s room truly. He told me to go and look for him (Okey). As I was coming out of the compound, I saw him and he started apologising for offending me. I asked him why he was begging me after he locked up my sister in his house.”
But unknown to her,Okey had already instilled fear in Chinaza to run away because she might beat her. Jennifer said she went back to his house with her soldier-friend. Although their initial plan was to invite him for a discussion, the moment he sighted them, he pushed her out of the way and ran away. “People came out in their numbers because we created a scene,” she said. “Some of them even tried to apprehend him for us but he begged them and they left him off the hook.”
Jennifer said she eventually reported the matter at the Makinde Police Station. “I had to tell those at Makinde that the culprit is running around,” she recounted. “They promised to come later that day to arrest him. They truly came in the evening but they met Okey’s elder brother who started insulting the female police officer who came. The woman went back to the station to complain to her boss who then sent other police officers. But by the time they came, Okey was nowhere to be found, same with his brother.”
According to her, Okey surfaced after two days with his brother to beg her for forgiveness. But she was surprised when after that, he went behind her to Shogunle Police Station to report that she was harassing him. Not only that, he falsified claims that the victim was a minor. “He and his brother lied that my sister is 19-years and old enough to make a decision for herself,” Jennifer reported. “I was called upon at Shogunle. They told me it’s an invite not an arrest. They asked me some questions. They also asked about the young girl who was at home as at then. The matter of bringing her to the station even became a big issue. By the time she arrived, the police officer was surprised that the girl Okey sexually molested is so young. He asked her some questions to ascertain her age and she said she was born on March 9, 2006. Seeing that Chinaza is a minor, the officer told Okey that he would detain him.”
Based on that, the case was given to an IPO, one Mr. Festus Ngwu, to handle. But at a point, the IPO, according to her, went out with Okey to hold some discussion which she was not privy to. Afterward, she was given a paper to make statements while Okey, the culprit, was allowed to go home the same day although the police had initially talked of detaining him. But for reason best known to them, they never did.
Jennifer revealed that later Okey and his family came to her residence to beg her and to persuade her to withdraw the case, promising to pay for damages. “I told him that the case was no longer with me but now with the police and human rights advocates. His brother told me they’d be coming back the following day at night but they hadn’t come. They said that they will give me N50, 000 to close the case but I refused. I called Mr. Ebenezer, the Human rights advocate, who told me not to collect a dime from them because I no longer have control over the case.”
But she added that things took a turn for the worst when one day the IPO called her. “He asked me to take Chinaza to hospital because they wanted to know if she is pregnant already. He said that if she is, if we terminate it, he would arrest all of us. He said that if my sister is pregnant, ‘marriage don set.’ He said that Okey could start paying the bride price by installments. I recorded everything he said.”
Child’s rights protection advocates step in
The Advocates for Children and Vulnerable Person’s Network (ACVPN), the human rights organization which Jennifer reported to, was also treated with odium for choosing to pursue the case on behalf of the family, Jennifer claimed. She alleged that when the head of the team visited the Shogunle Police Station to help get justice for them he was disgraced by the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO), based on the reports of the IPO handling the case.
Not only that, Jennifer told Saturday Sun that on one of the days she was detained at the police counter, alongside her sister and a neighbour who had been helping her with the case, after which the police officers asked them to get someone to bail them. “I told them that I don’t have anyone that can come and bail me that they should allow me to go home. That same night, we were released.”
Following advice from the human rights organisation, she took Chinaza to Mirabel Hospital but was told by the doctor that the delay in seeking for medical attention when the incident took place has destroyed the evidence of rape as the spot that would have been used to prove forceful penetration has healed. “But Okey truly slept with her,” she said. “I asked my sister to tell me the truth and she told me that she woke up naked, felt used and had pains all over her body. I told her she shouldn’t have accepted what he offered her. I personally don’t go too close to Okey because I know the kind of person he is. I know he adds weed to his food but I can’t say he has raped someone since I have known him. She told me that after she ate the food, she didn’t know where she was, nor what she was doing any more. But I became worried when I saw the IPO visit Okey in his house some days later to discuss what I don’t know till this day.”
Based on this complaint comprised of suspicion and lack of trust,the human rights network took further steps by reporting the acts of the IPO to the Area F commander. In their report, they stated that the Area F Commander ACP Zongo John, despite his busy schedule, listened to the complaints and had immediately called on the OC Human Rights Area F Command asking that the case be immediately transferred to the Area Command latest by Monday, August 31, 2020. It read: “The Area Command frowned at the conduct of the officers involved in the reckless abuse of office. He also promised that justice would take its course. The OC Human Rights Area F Command in person of ASP Esther was equally receptive as she assured ACVPN team that justice must take its course in as much the Area Commander has instructed that Okey Ten Kobo must be transferred to the Area F along with the defaulting officers.”
At the time of going to press, Saturday Sun was not able to confirm whether that was done or not. But all efforts to reach Okey to hear his own side of the story proved abortive as he was nowhere to be found. The victim’s sister said she once saw him with what looked like a traveling bag. She suspects that he might have left the area but she believes that if his brother, who is still around is arrested, he will show up.
IPO’s side of the story
Contacted, Festus Ngwu the IPO handling the case told Saturday Sun that the reason that Jennifer and her sister are running around is because they have no case file at Shogunle Police Station. “They have no case here,” he told our correspondent over the phone. “You people are receiving wrong impression. Jennifer didn’t report a case at this station. She was invited because someone reported her here. She was not the complainant. Someone was. So there is no case file over her issue here. She said she reported at Makinde Police Station. Let her go and meet them there. Which case will I open?”
He noted further that the young man who brought the case to their station, reported threat to his life and assault. But being a peacemaker, he did not want the case to go beyond the point where it was, hence he settled the matter amicably between them as if it was a family issue. “We went into a family discussion.”
Asked if he is aware that the girl the young man sexually molested is a minor and by law ought to be protected, he said he doesn’t want to have anything with the case as that is not within the brief he was given by his superior officers. He suggested that rather it should be taken back to Makinde Police Station. Told that Okey who was supposed to report at the station he mentioned had evaded arrest from the same station, he replied: “I don’t know but when he reported, am I to do another thing I don’t know about?”
When Saturday Sun asked if he truly investigated the allegations to know who might actually be a threat to each other’s life, he responded: “investigating what?” Asked whether it was true that he went to Okey ‘s house to discuss matters of common interest unknown to Jennifer and her family, he said “I don’t know” and cut off the conversation thereafter.