“This defendant is conscienceless, wicked, an animal, and not fit to walk on the streets.”
These were the words of Justice Sybil Nwaka of the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court on Thursday, October 24, 2019, as she handed a 60-year jail term to Adegboyeka Adenekan for child defilement.
The 47-year-old ex-supervisor of Chrisland School, Victoria Garden City, Lagos, was first arraigned on January 29, 2018, on a one-count charge of defiling a pupil when she was two years and 11 months old.
The judge said the paedophile abused the trust of children left in his care as well as that of their parents. She said many other children might be suffering in silence.
The judgment was applauded by millions of Nigerians. They averred that it might rekindle faith in several Nigerians who have given up on the country’s judicial system as capable of giving them justice. Many said the judgment would send shivers down the spine of perverts that might still want to toe such an inglorious path by prowling the streets, markets, schools and worship places to unleash their unbridled libido on naïve minors.
On February 15, 2019, a similar judgment was delivered by the same judge on Obinna Iziejen, a 58-year-old teacher who had defiled a 12-year-old pupil.
Frowning at the high prevalence of rape and child defilement, Justice Nwaka said: “I cannot agree more with the prosecuting counsel that the incidences of rape have taken a new astronomical dimension in our society. The rate at which men in our society are prowling around, looking for young, underage children to defile, is alarming.
“Children, especially the girl-child, are no longer safe in the custody of uncles, brothers and even fathers. This is sad. Our children, especially the girl-child, should be encouraged to cry out and report any assault against them, as this is the only way to correct this dire situation.”
Indeed, child defilement poses a great threat to the future of Nigerian children. Day by day, there are sordid reports of sexual assaults carried out on male and female children by adults old enough to be their parents and grandparents. Many fear that, if the scourge is not properly curtailed, the consequences on future generations might be grave.
Based on reports, many have concluded that the lax nature of the law on sexual defilement of children encourages the crime to thrive.
Many cases of child defilement are said to go unreported. Most victims and their family members have been known to live with the pain and trauma of such sad experiences due to the negative attitude and perception of the society towards the heinous crime itself. There is also the fear of stigmatisation now or in the future, which discourages many victims from seeking justice.
In October last year, Nigerians were thrown into mourning and anger when the story of 13-year-old Elizabeth Ogbanje Ochanya broke. She died from vesico-vaginal fistula complications due to the serial sexual assault she suffered in the hands of her uncle and nephew who had turned her into a sex slave from the tender age of eight.
It is a year since her demise, but justice is yet to be served.
In February last year, a Kano-based businessman, aided by his wife, allegedly raped a six-month-old baby, Khadija until she lost consciousness. Following his arrest, the businessman hired 10 lawyers to defend him in court.
At about the same time, a 27-year-old man was caught red handed in Ogun State raping his 11-month-old niece after using his fingers to open her up. In Masaka, a community on the outskirts of Abuja, a three-year-old girl was raped by her unmarried 46-year-old relative known as Uncle Austin. The baby was found crying and in a pool of blood in a bush in the neighbourhood late at night. Also, 50-year-old Hussaini, raped his neighbour’s five-year-old daughter in Kano three days after he was released on bail for raping a minor.
Not even security operatives saddled with the responsibility of protecting citizens are left out. Sometime last year, a two-year-old girl was reported to have been sexually molested by a policeman in the Federal Capital Territory. When the mother of the girl saw her bleeding and crying at the policeman’s house, the policeman’s wife made the ridiculous suggestion that the baby might have started menstruating! The suspect was transferred out of the FCT, and, since then, the case seems to have suffered a natural death.
Another police corporal, Anthony Onoja, allegedly raped a two-year-old in the Kabayi area of Nasarawa State.
There are several other mind-boggling incidents. In July 2017, 28-year-old Suleiman Sabiu of Daddara Village, Kastina State, allegedly raped the 11-year-old daughter of his neighbour.
On September 8, 2013, two men were arrested in Katsina for allegedly raping a four-year-old girl to death in Sandamu town. The police in Oyo State arrested a 34-year-old driver, Oyewale Ojo, for raping his neighbour’s two-year-old daughter. In Enugu State, 33-year-old Nkemakonam Nwoke was apprehended for defiling eight girls aged between three and six years. Also in Enugu, a man was reported to have raped three of his own children, aged five, seven and nine. In Lagos, a 10-year-old girl cried out after frequent incidents of defilement by her own father for 18 months.
Police operatives in Ogun State arrested a 62-year-old Alabi Ibraheem for the alleged serial defilement of his 10-year-old stepdaughter. Sylvester Ehijere, 47, was arrested for the serial rape of his seven-year-old daughter and one-month-old granddaughter.
Human rights activists and advocates against rape insist that steps should be taken to really ensure that perpetrators of these heinous crimes are severely punished, to discourage those nursing such evil thoughts. They observed that, due to poor investigation and bottlenecks in the criminal justice system, most reported cases usually end up being knocked off on technical grounds.
“With enabling environments on virtually all fronts providing shield for perpetrators, they often go scot free to prey on another victim. Punishment for rape or child defilement is not deterrent enough. This is why perpetrators, despite having a brush with the law, remain unrelenting in their evil quest,” Bukola Lameed, a child safety advocate and behavioural therapist, said.
She regretted that it was only in Lagos that stiff penalties await paedophiles: “Section 137 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011, proscribes a mandatory life sentence for anyone found guilty of defiling a child.”
Sonia Obi-Okodo, an activist against child rape, decried what she termed the society’s complacency towards sexual violence.
“There is a culture of silence on rape. Most victims and their parents would prefer to keep quiet over the incident and take care of their battered child. Also, lack of evidence and witnesses might kill the case even before it goes to trial.
“The financial burden is also another perspective to this whole thing. You realise that most families that are faced with this type of challenge can barely survive on what they earn. So, when the police tell them to go and settle with the perpetrator, they feel boxed into a corner,” she said.
Police spokesman, Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, reiterated their commitment to the fight against sexual violence.
He explained that the essence of having a Gender Unit in all police stations was to make prosecution of cases related to child defilement, rape and other sex-related crimes easy. He urged victims or their family members to always make it a priority to preserve crime scenes and evidence.