A recent report by a human rights group, H u m a n Rights Watch, alleging that the rights of some Internally Displaced Persons in camps in the northern part of Nigeria have been violated in the most dehumanising manner, has strengthened insinuations that vulnerable citizens are on their own.
The group said a total of 43 women and girls were raped, abused and sexually exploited by security operatives in seven IDP camps in Maiduguri in July 2016.
According to the report, some of the culprits of the abuse in the camps included camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen and soldiers.
This alleged involvement of security personnel in the ignominious act is, to say the least, disturbing. The ugly situation, as painted, has also simply brought to fore the knotty issue of safety and rights of vulnerable persons and the less privileged across the country.
Now a recurring decimal, the development also calls to question how seriously such incidences are handled or were handled in the past.
Though, the Police, through its spokesman, Don Awunah, denied the allegations in the latest HRW report, describing it as baseless, to the discerning, the matter deserves painstaking investigation, considering the damage it could have done or is capable of doing to the image of a country smarting from a chain of internal crises.
No known civilised country in the world would allow its citizens to be so violated under such degrading conditions as exposed at the IDP camps. Rapes by soldiers and policemen, of women and girls fleeing the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, could be interpreted to mean that protectors have suddenly turned predators in a democratic country, where the rights of citizens are expected to be protected at all times.
It is no news that the murderous activities of the Islamist group have driven more than two million people from their homes and killed some 15,000 in Nigeria’s North East. But it is important for the Federal Government to put strategies in place to prevent double tragedy for survivors.
It is no news that the murderous activities of the Islamist group has driven more than two million people from their homes and killed some 15,000 in Nigeria’s North East. But it is important for the Federal Government to put strategies in place to prevent double tragedy for survivors
The rights group, for instance, said its researchers were told of abuse carried out by camp leaders employed by authorities and members of local militia set up to help the military fight the insurgents. Four people had told HRW that they were drugged and raped. Thirtyseven said they had been coerced into sex through false promises of marriage, material and financial assistance.
A 17-year-old girl, according to the report, alleged that she was raped by a policeman. “One day, he demanded to have sex with me. I refused but he forced me,” she was quoted to have said. She added that he threatened to shoot and kill her when she discovered she was pregnant.
A 16-year-old, who fled an attack on Baga, near Lake Chad, also said she was drugged and raped in May 2015 by a local militia member in charge of distributing aid in a camp.
But in response to the allegations, Awunah said, “There are no reported cases of infractions of law by policemen on or off duty.”
An army spokesman reportedly declined to comment on allegations related to soldiers and referred the matter to the defence ministry. A spokesman for the department could also not be reached by phone and did not respond to a text message.
That President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered investigation into the allegations made by the rights group probably shows the government understands the weight of the crime allegedly perpetrated by persons who should have been custodians and protectors of lives. It may also mean that the Buhari administration appreciates the fact that this could be a big minus to the wins in the area of security if the allegations are not baseless and are handled with levity.
However, as against what was experienced in the past, when cases were treated with levity and swept under the carpet, the President has a duty to ensure that the alleged perpetrators, if found guilty, are brought to book. This is the only way justice could be served in the interest of the victims and Nigerians at large.
More stories surrounding the abuse and violation of the Internally Displaced people should also be unearthed, while more victims should be encouraged to come up openly to relate their experience so that justice could be served.
While the investigations must be fair and just, the suspects, if found guilty, should be jailed for their wrong doings to serve as deterrent to others.