The Vanguard Newspaper on Friday, October 2, 2020 reported this very sad story, ‘an 11-year old girl, Favour Okechukwu, was gang-raped to death in Ejigbo area of Lagos with the perpetrators on the run.’
The Vanguard further revealed, ‘the deceased, a Junior Secondary School 3 student was sent on an errand by her mother, by 3 p.m.’
My attention was first drawn to the foregoing by a post on a group of practitioners I belong, where among other things, a member reported the very sad story as follows:
‘The writer of the editorial in the Guardian today castigating castration for rapists may do well to read this story and tell us if this is his daughter, if he could condemn castration of rapists…Our daughters must feel safe to walk in the streets…’
The following was my intervention in the group:
This is very sad…Very very sad and condemnable indeed.
The culprits and their accomplices must be found, tried and brought to book and every well-meaning and good spirited Nigerian on this platform and beyond must see to that.
Justice must not only be done in this matter, justice must be seen to be done in the best interest of the child, deterrence and curbing the rampant culture of sexual violence against our precious children and the accompanying evil of impunity.
No young person deserves to lose his/her life under any circumstance like this promising young girl has done.
I also agree that we must make our environment safe for our precious children (boys and girls alike) and also for everyone ( male and female).
We must never for a tiny little second give in to the pessimism that evil has what it takes to triumph over good.
The reality on ground today in Nigeria like it has been found in India is that the environment is not safe.
We live in a volatile and wicked world. The issue of the welfare and the security of the people, which must be the primary aim of government have become a major issue. In view of the foregoing, the the most effective strategy is still PREVENTION.
While we are agitating for a safe environment for our precious children, we must be interested in helping primary and secondary caregivers to understand the internal mechanism they must put in place to the best of their ability to Secure A Friendly and PROTECTIVE Environment® for their precious children. UNICEF in making a case for prevention has made it abundantly clear that response is 4 times more expensive than prevention. Thus in our organisations, we keep saying the Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement®
Sure the culprits in the case must be brought to book speedily but that does not restore the life of the precious girl or assuage irreparable loss to her immediate and extended family.
Therefore her dastardly murder must inspire us to want to want ensure that we teach parents that no child can be abused under their watch to the best of their ability. I think one of the ways we can achieve justice for these young life cut down at dawn is to ensure by preventive measures. We must also be ready to invest in the teaching our precious children to understand that they have an inevitable roles to play in their personal safety and self protection.
It is time for primary and secondary caregivers to understand that anybody below 18 years is a child and must never or to the best of their ability left unaccompanied, particularly in the kind of environment we have found ourselves today in Nigeria, where there is a raging onslaught against our precious children (boys and girls) to sexaully take advantage of them by the act of rape and commitment of many to build an over-sexualised world for their own profit.
Child Protection intelligence, which I call iProtect® must be in the front burner of our commitment also.
I believe most of us today will hardly leave our precious children unaccompanied to the best of our ability.
I insist that we must understand and accept as the reality that when a child experience any form of abuse, there are 3 potential culprits: the duty bearer, the actual offender and those who aid the offenders to escape justice, directly or indirectly, particularly by embracing the evil doctrine of silence. I believe that is why since 2014, the Lagos State Government promulgated the Mandatory Reporters Executive Order, providing that anyone who is aware of an abuse(particularly sexual) against a child is mandated to report and failure to do so upon conviction will attract 2 years imprisonment.
While poverty must be admitted as a major hindrance to the commitment of parents, we must do our best to encourage parents and also put pressure on government to alleviate poverty.
Now, as to the issue of castration and whether if it was the daughter of the person (s) who advocated against castration that this happened if he would still condemn castration for a convicted rapist.
While I may understand the pain of the person sending this post, I think we have to elevate our advocacy above and beyond the temptation of addressing people instead of focusing on the issues. I think we have to learn to disagree without becoming disagreeable.
I do not think it is everyone, who is opposed to castration as punishment for rape can in all honesty and soundness of mind be referred as rape apologist or people, who condone rape.
They must be entitled to their opinion, if we must build a just society, where justice and equity will reign supreme and the dignity of human person will be respected not on the basis of who such persons are but despite, who they are.
People must never be labelled for maintaining contrary opinions, no matter how unpopular such views are.
Are we saying that a man or woman, who is opposed to castration of a convicted rapist deserves that his/her daughter to be raped as the punishment for holding such views for which he is entitled right or wrong?
Are we even saying the child of a convicted rapist deserves to be raped also as payment for her father or mother’s sin?
Do we not have a commitment to protect every child including the children of sex offenders, if our interest is the rights of our precious children?
Lastly, the only state which I know has amended their Penal Code to accommodate castration for men and removal of fallopian tubes women, who are convicted rapists is Kaduna State and it is important to note that under the Child’s Rights Law of Kaduna State and the Penal Code that has just been amended, a child is anybody below 14 years old.
I therefore think that even if we accept castration is the way forward that will put our precious children in the paradise of safety, what what the age of consent, which has been defined to be from 14 in Kaduna State, contrary to the provisions of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003. The CRA defines a child as anybody below 18 as a child and that is what states are supposed to domesticate. That is what Lagos State has domesticated.
So what are we celebrating in Kano State, that in one hand, some set of convicted rapists can be castrated and another set of serial rapists can be permitted to have their way in the name of child marriage, hypocritically hiding under religion. It is important to note that the political elites who make such laws do not give out their own children in marriage.
Permit me to also conclude by saying, that I am not a supporter of castration, removal of fallopian tubes women and capital punishment for any offence.
The justice system and the concept of justice and the conversation surrounding the same globally today are far far beyond punishment and the gravity of the same.
I plan to do a separate piece on the Justice System in Nigeria and the Rights of our precious children.
That is the CONVERSATION I think as African we must be interested in…Why are the countries who have abolished the death penalty experiencing the lowest rate of crimes? Consider the Scandinavian countries. Why are countries with prisons without fences do not experience jail break? There are bigger conversations going on within the justice sector globally and I sincerely think that we must by all means necessary elevate our advocacy to accommodate the inescapable realities of civilization.
Anger and passion are tool of agitation but they must always submit to the ever-present and superiority of knowledge, skills, attitude and professionalism.
Thank you for your time if you have chosen to read this long intervention to the end.
I am Taiwo AKINLAMI and I AM SOBER ON MY KNEES ON THIS LORD’S DAY.