Amid the growing cases of rape in Nigeria, a group of concerned citizens in Anambra took to the streets of Awka, the Anambra State capital, Saturday, June 12, to demand an end to rape in the country.
Story by Mercy Hill, Alexander Johnson Adejoh and Precious Ukeje. Additional reports from Jude Atupulazi.
The march came at a time the nation’s Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, disclosed a staggering record of 717 rape cases over the last five months across the country.
Adamu, according to News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, disclosed that the Police had recorded about 717 rape incidents across the country between January and May 2020.
He revealed that 799 suspects had so far been arrested; 631 cases conclusively investigated and charged to court, while 52 cases were still under investigation.
The IGP also stated that law enforcement agents had been dealing with all reported rape incidents and gender-based violence in the country.
Back home in Anambra State, at least 80 cases of rape were recorded during the coronavirus lockdown which lasted for five weeks. This grim disclosure was made by the Director of Child Welfare Services in the State Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Children and Social Welfare, Mrs. Nkechi Anazodo.
Anazodo who spoke at Isuanocha, in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State, during the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, supported flag off of Integrated Child Protection Community Sensitization Campaign, said there were only 32 cases of rape in her ministry before the lockdown.
She said the upsurge in cases of rape had necessitated the need for a 10-day state-wide campaign in the 21 local government areas against rape.
She said: ‘Sexual violence has become the order of the day, especially during the period of lockdown. Even old men now rape children of 12 years and below. The problem we have is that people don’t report.
‘Last week, a case was brought to us of a 70 year-old man that raped a four-year old child. The case has gone to the police.
‘Before the lockdown, we had only 32 cases of rape in the ministry, but the figure recorded within the last few months is over 80. It is unfortunate that some men have left their wives to be having sexual relationship with children less than five years.
‘The problem, therefore, is that many people don’t report these cases because they feel that the victim might be stigmatized.
‘That is why we are going round the 21 local government areas of the state to create awareness on this problem,’ Mrs Anazodo explained.
Now, lending their voices to calls for an end to rape, some concerned groups, comprising media organizations, civil society organizations, as well as public spirited citizens, came out en masse to campaign against rape by holding a walk that took them through many parts of the Awka capital, June 12.
Led by the Special Assistant to the Anambra State Governor on Broadcast Media, Ifeyinwa Aronu- Okafor, the walk was tagged, ”Anambra Walk against Rape”.
Okafor, who hosts a TV programme known as the ”Light TV Show” on Anambra Broadcasting Service, ABS, pointed out that victims of rape were usually left traumatized for a long time and sometimes, for life.
She said her aim was to send out messages to deter people, both men and women, from engaging in rape. She added that it was better to prevent rape than to nurse its wounds after it had happened already.
Fides observed that individuals, including persons living with disabilities, joined in the walk.
Gloriamary Nwogbo, one of the participants who moved in a wheelchair, noted that she had not been a victim of rape, but decided to join the walk because a friend of hers who used a wheelchair too had been a victim, an experience she described as horrible.
She told Fides that rape, which she said had become rampant, was an evil against humanity, which, if not talked about, would further endanger women and persons living with disability.
She believed the upsurge in rape cases could be as a result of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus, as well as engagement in drugs by many men.
Nwogbo called for more stringent punishments against culprits to serve as a deterrent to potential rapists.
The Acting Director, Programmes, Anambra Broadcasting Service, Nneka Ekwunife, who represented the MD/CEO, Chief Uche Nworah, said that rape had been a source of worry to many people and called for a state of emergency against rape. This was even as she said that a more worrisome trend was being raped and killed
While she called on men to be more humane and stop raping women, she said while the lock down might have been a causal factor for the surge in rape cases, it still had to do with one’s character mostly.
The ABS Acting Director suggested that government should have a stiffer penalty for perpetrators to serve as a deterrent to others.
The representative of Nnewi North State Constituency at the Anambra State House of Assembly, Honourable Nonso Okafor, who joined in the walk, said he joined to show solidarity to the organizer of the walk and women across the globe, as well as to say no to rape.
He described rape as one of the greatest inhumane things to do to any female anywhere.
Quizzed on what legislators had done to curb rape, he said while there was no lack in legislation, the government should muster the political will to punish perpetrators according to the provisions of the law.
Suggesting more punitive measures against culprits, the lawmaker said when laws were made, they were followed up with motions to make sure they were implemented. He noted that it was the duty of the executive arm of government to implement the laws.
In a case of misinformation and false alarm of rape, Okafor said an accused person could file for defamation.
Also, the Legal Adviser, National Council of Women’s Societies, Nigeria, Barrister Lady Ifeoma Chijioke, who led members of the council in the walk, said the act of rape was condemnable and should not be tolerated at all.
She added that the council stood against rape in any form and urged the government and other civil society organizations to be steadfast in the delivery of justice against convicted rapists.
The walk began at the premises of the Anambra Broadcasting Service and terminated at Amawbia Roundabout after brief stopovers and sensitization at Nkwo Amenyi and Eke Awka Markets. It also featured co-opting of road users and individuals found within the vicinity of the walk, including children.