By BULUS GAMBO
JUST last week, a community informant called the Chairman Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Plateau State chapter Mrs. Jennifer Yarima and notified her of a rape case in a street in Rikkos, Anguwan Yan Ganda to be precise, where an old man allegedly raped an eleven year old minor in the area. The informant disclosed that she decided to open up after she sensed a foul play in the way and manner the community leaders and other stakeholders of the area wanted to shield the suspect from eventual prosecution.
Before this particular incident, there have been several reports of such incidents which were never reported to the appropriate quarters due to fear of possible intimidation, molestation and or stigmatization .
Immediately after the NAWOJ chairman was told of the incident and the intended community cover-up, she persuasively conscripted me out of my comfort zone to accompany her to the place of the incident and we headed for the street to find out the true situation of the matter.
Not until recently, the entire Rikkos area had been a ‘no go area’ due to the complete polarization of the entire Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State necessitated by decades of conflicts and ethno-religious crises. The intense degree of mutual suspicion and vehement distrust had separated these communities from achieving the set goal of sustainable peace as was the case in the past.
Though credit must be given to the present administration in the state under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong for successfully navigating through these challenges to restore peace in some communities, getting into some of these communities without any molestation was still somehow problematic. Efforts geared towards peace consolidation by a network which promotes peace, Jos Stakeholders Center for Peace (JSCP) has also created an overwhelming enabling environment for us to get in.
Due to the NGO’s hard work in rebuilding trust and tolerance in these communities, one can freely move into these streets including those of Anguwan Damisa, A and B and Anguwan Bala Kaze all in Rikkos.
In fact, the Divisional Police Officer of Nasarawa Gwong, SP Musa Hassan, one who is intolerant of rape cases including his men in collaboration with NAWOJ had a couple of weeks back held a sensitization visit to the area to enlighten and educate the members of the community to voice out against any of such issues of rape if and when perpetrated. Even as more sensitization visits are being anticipated, the courage in reporting these particular cases sound very un-encouraging by residents of these areas.
On that fateful day of our intervention at Anguwan Yan Ganda in Rikkos, It was after the police got involved that some members of the community started confessing that though the rape incident against the minor indeed happened, a community leaders’ meeting was held where the suspect was pardoned and placed on notice to leave the community. Hard to believe, this same community it was reported gathered substantial amount of money to be given the suspect to facilitate his moving out of the area with little or no stress.
As funny as this incident sounds, this kind of an unpleasant narrative is what is ongoing in most communities at the moment. As devastating as this upsurge in rape cases are concerned, these unabated cases of rape in our society are becoming more worrisome than ever.
Today, most slums and ghettos in the state are prone to the acts of wicked people. In spite of the harsh degree of abject poverty, many jobless youths have engaged themselves in horrible social vices such as this. As a result, many more minors are being raped on daily bases with nothing done about it.
Due to certain influence or the other, many parents prefer staying mute when their children are constantly raped by these nefarious elements. Others for fear of stigmatization also prefer to carry their cross than report any of such cases to the appropriate quarters.
Beyond this however, there is upsurge in these cases because of the fact that perpetrators rarely get punished for these crimes. Sometimes such suspects are caught and the following day, they are seen walking on our streets as free as one can think of. The experiences have in the past discouraged many from reporting any of such cases to the authorities.
It is also a fact that we as a society lack tight legislation to tackle this menace for good. Thus in most cases, violated victims never get the desired justice. In any case, many of such victims end up regretting ever reporting their ordeal to the police and other security agencies.
One cannot also forget the snail pace and foot dragging of cases which makes victims grow tired and abandon such cases. If at all we must make any headway, the legal system must be modified to accommodate a more convincing contemporary process of speedy prosecution to comfort these victims at the end of the day.
More should also be done to sensitize the people on the need to shun acts of stigmatization of these victims. In most cases, societal stigmatization has negatively affected most of such victims and rendered them hopeless without any hope for a better tomorrow.
Added to this development is the fear by victims to report such cases to community leaders and the appropriate authorities particularly, rural communities. This brings to bear our experiences at Rikkos after we reported the matter to the Police. To my astonishment, on getting to the community with the Police to effect arrest, we were told that the community leaders had held a meeting where they gathered large sums of money which they gave the suspect and directed him to leave the community and never to come back.
Even though this may be a temporary solution, the question to ask is; would the suspect on getting to the next place not continue with his nefarious activities? Is getting rid of these kind of people from a community level the best option for us all? What about the future of the girl he violated? what will become of her?
Unfortunately, many of our rural areas are yet to understand the systemic implications of not allowing such suspects face the full wrath of the law. In any case, many people don’t even consider the trauma the victims of rape in our society go through after they have been violated.
Sad enough, the increasing cases of rape is becoming a source of worry for many in our society. Many have been overwhelmed by these increasing rate of crimes and are deep in thought as what should be done to save many innocent minors from falling victims of rape.
It is however hopeful that the government will be proactive so as to curb the menace of rape in our communities. However, the onus also lies on our respective communities to begin to intensify more efforts in sensitizing and educating our communities on the devastating consequences of staying mute in the face of this problematic dispositions in our state and the country at large.
The good news however is that the Divisional Police Officer of Nassarawa Gwong, SP Musa Hassan and his men have swung into action to investigate the conspiracy by the leaders and stakeholders of Anguwan Yan Ganda to shield from prosecuting the suspect who defiled the innocent minor.