RECENTLY, an Igarra Chief Magistrate Court sentenced to 14 years jail term, without option of fine, a 40 years old man, Mr. Vincent Akande for raping a teenage girl, and person With Disability (PWD) in Ososo Community, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State.
Delivery the judgement, Chief Magistrate Nosa Musoe frowned at what he considered as Akande’s deceptive nature, while berating the increasing incidences of sexual abuse in the entire local government area.
Executive Director/Founder, BraveHeart Initiative for Youths and Women (BHI), Ms Priscilla Usiobaifo, in her reaction over the judgement, lauded the verdict, which she added, “offers a glint of hope for Justice to sexually assaulted survivors in a country where security agencies, health workers, traditional stakeholders and many first responders show low interest and willingness to sanction sex offenders.”
BHI is a youth-led, youth focused Non-government Organisation (NGO) based in Akoko-Edo local government area, advancing young people’s health and development, as well as promoting women’s rights.
It is one of the foremost feminist organizations leading sexual abuse advocacy and response in Nigeria and is said to have successfully facilitated conviction of 12 sexual offenders in Edo state.
In 2011, in recognition of BHI’s multi-prolonged approach to sexual violence in rural communities, it was awarded Anti-Rape NGO by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports in Nigeria. BHI was also in the final selection for the National Human Rights Award.
One of BHI’s Seven objectives is to facilitate the recovery of abused children and women from gender-based violence. Forty years old Vincent Akande did not only sexually assault the 14 years old victim, but also threatened her with death.
He was said to have pointed his hunting gun at her and threatened to kill her in a similar manner as was a three year old that was earlier said to have been sexually assaulted and murdered in the same environment.
He took advantage of the victim’s vulnerability due to her disability. BHI was particularly worried about the case considering the fact that the convict was previously a local vigilante who was expected to promote security and safety of citizens.
The case of Vincent Akande was first reported to BHI on May 22, 2019. The case was thereafter transferred to SCIHD, Benin City on May 29 before the matter went to court June 3, 2019.
Vincent Akande’s case brings to fore the Sexual and Reproductive Health challenges of girls with disabilities in Nigeria. The 14 years old girl was with a medical history of epilepsy. The girl lacked basic education due to her medical condition and lived most of her childhood as an Out-Of-School girl.
Being Out-of-School and from a poor home, she has a significant vulnerability index. She was by the riverside at Ososo Community fetching stones for sale when Akande accosted and forcefully violated her sexually.
When BHI initiated intervention in the case, its team noticed apathy in some community members as many of them felt that Persons With Disabilities do not deserve certain rights, especially with regards to sexual rights. One of the community members stated, “People wey normal dey look for justice, this one with epilepsy no happy say man dey sleep with am; her family too go dey disturb BHI for justice. Another indigene said, “BHI, abeg make una save una money and energy for normal people; no be everybody case una go dey carry for head.”
Generally, the society’s ambivalence to sexual and reproductive health rights issues of PWD is biased, uninformed and based on ignorance of the rights of this vulnerable group.
Many of the community members do not see reason why a PWD should report sexual assault, let alone seek redress.
According to Usiobaifo, “the Nigerian Government ratified the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on September 24, 2010, hence stakeholders are duty- bound to ensure that all laws, policies, and programs in the country comply with this convention and its provisions.
“Aside being a signatory to the Convention, Chapter 4 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) mandates the government to protect the rights of all Nigerian citizens.
“Nigeria developed a National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2018, BraveHeart Initiative therefore called for the full implementation of this policy,” Usiobaifor stated.
The team launched a media advocacy campaign for the case and enjoyed support and solidarity of likeminded CSOs.
The absence of a coordinated response from relevant agencies in addressing sexual assault and other forms of violence against girls and women, she said appears to embolden sexual offenders and have spurred rape incidents in Akoko-Edo, as well as other LGAs in the state.
Sexual violation of children is one of the commonest forms of violence against girls in Akoko-Edo.
“He conk gun for my daughter head and I happy with this judgement because na God punish am. I greet everybody because una do well, If not by God’s grace and BHI help things like this for continue to dey happen without help. Na Vigilante and youth for Ososo direct me to BHI and I really thank them for all the help. Government don punish am for the punishment wey him give my daughter,” said Omolegu Osheku, Survivor’s Father.
“Thank you. God go bless and promote you. God will guide and protect you and your group everywhere you go. BHI make us not to fear say dem go still hurt our pikin. I thank una well well,” Survivor’s Mother said.
I thank God as una do am say the man get punishment. Make God help una. God go dey bless una work and una go dey go front front,” Aisha Amodu, Survivor’s Aunt.
“I thank God for everything. God will reward the organisation for their efforts,” Felix, Ososo Youth Chairman.
“Congratulations to BHI and Akoko-Edo people for yet another victory. I am happy that justice has finally taking its place, especially for the disabled,” Jessica Olori
“The conviction of Vincent Akande signifies victory for BHI and all sexual abuse survivors who did not get justice because of their disabilities,” Anita Graham, BHI’s Knowledge Management Officer.
“May the grace of God upon your team never run dry? Well done,” Omowunmi Ogunrotimi, Gender Mobile
“His details should go straight to the Sexual Offenders Register. I just hope the register deter sexual offenders and intending offenders from assault. Well Done BHI,” Lauretta Enofe-Osakue, Girls Power Initiative, Abuja.
“Well done Ma’am. God bless you,” Esiri Ukueku-Uduaghan