Ibrahim Dantsoho, Katsina’s commissioner of Justice raised the alarm recently while decrying the high level of rape in the state, stating that was what informed the state government’s decision to amend the law which provides for stiffer penalty to persons found guilty of committing rape and insisted that some concrete measures needed to be taken against the menace.
He said the amended law provides for stiffer penalties to a convict and insisted that the measure was aimed at discouraging people from committing the offence.
He said the amendment provides for minimum of fourteen years or life imprisonment with fine of fifty thousand naira (N50, 000) and compensation to the victim by anyone found guilty of committing the offence.
He however, said it was sad that parents, guardians or husbands of rape victims often prevent them from approaching the court to seek legal redress insisting that such action fuels the impunity.
“Some of these criminals after committing the crime, go to the extent of killing the victims. Government cannot allow this to continue,” Dantsoho said even as he appealed for collective efforts to “at least reduce incidence of rape to the barest minimum”.
An understandably worried Dantsoho had told a gathering at a one-day workshop on “Prison Decongestion: A Panacea For A Smooth Justice Delivery System” organised by Katsina State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association that most of the criminal cases in Katsina State border on rape.
Dantsoho said over 80 per cent of awaiting trial inmates being held in prisons across the state are held for rape, homicide and armed robbery and faulted parents in the state for abdicating their responsibilities.
He said “Parents and guardians have left their children at the mercy of the evil of society that is why we have Kauraye here and there,” insisting that parental negligence is the root cause of crimes in the state.
He said “The society has abandoned its critical role that is why there is high crime rate so we must begin by looking at the root cause of prison congestion,” adding that “the society has to wake up and discharge its responsibilities.”
Dantsoho who lamented that often times, parents of rape victims approach the state to say the rape case should be withdrawn, noted that there was the need “for enlightenment to support in minimising the rampant cases of rape.”
It is widely believed that the number of reported cases is only the tip of the iceberg as many of such incidences are never reported because parents will want to save the honour of their daughters and protect their families from embarrassment.
In little Aisha’s case (not real name), she was defiled by her parents’ neighbour in their rented apartment at Rahamawa quarters of Katsina municipal.
Sources said the rapist, who is old enough to be his victim’s grandfather, sent the little girl on an errand only to take advantage of her innocence and defile her. Quite worrisome however, was the fact that her parents reportedly buried the matter and did not report to the police for reasons best known to them.
Indeed, both the Police and government officials in the state have reported an upsurge in incidents of child rape insisting that concrete measures had to be taken to nip the menace in the bud or better still, reduce it to the barest minimum.
In one incident at Sabuwar Unguwa area of Katsina municipal, a 20-year-old man allegedly raped a four year old girl after luring the little girl to his room where he defiled her.
Child rape is becoming rampant in the state and people are worried that if nothing is done to stop the problem it will go out of hand.
In the last couple of months, police in Katsina recorded 15 cases of child rape and made 16 related arrests. The suspects are usually males between the ages of 20 and 70 while their victims are mostly girls of between three and 11 years.
Experts comment on reasons for the phenomenon:
Sheikh Yakubu Musa, Katsina state chairman of JIBWIS attributes the menace to poor parental training, insisting that some parents have abdicated their responsibilities. “Government at all levels and religious leaders must sustain preaching on the need for parents to ensure proper upbringing of their children.” He said.
“Another contributing factor to this act is the mode of dressing of some girls” the cleric enthused, insisting that “unless stringent measures are taken to guard against indecent dressing, the phenomenon will increase, not decrease.”
The cleric stressed that addressing the menace in Katsina state will require strict adherence to Islamic law (Sharia) and noted that the Shariah court judges should be effectively screened and be well-trained too.
Aaron Jacob, a Development worker, said, “The most vulnerable victims of this inhuman act are girls that hawk items on the streets and sometimes, little girls in the neighbourhood” adding, “These girls are lured by rapists who give them money or pretend they want to send them on an errand.”
Parents who spoke to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY said they have resolved to ensure that their daughters are closely monitored and not allowed to go out alone. “The situation has become so bad that you have to monitor every movement of your daughters,” a housewife, Safiya Muhammad said.
“As a policy, I warn my children not to get close to a stranger and to run home if someone they don’t know calls them,” she said.
Obviously disturbed by the incidence, the Katsina State amended section 283 of penal code that provides penalty for persons guilty of committing rape. Indeed, the amendment provides for stiffer penalty including a minimum jail term of 14 years and payment of compensation to the victim, for anyone convicted of the crime.
Regrettably, as the state commissioner of Justice, Dantosho lamented, some parents, guardians or husbands of rape victims often prevent them from approaching the court to seek legal redress due to stigma.
Experts believe that the seeming unwillingness by parents or guardians of rape victims to press charges because of perceived social stigma, fuels the impunity.
But there are widespread views that with the recent amendment, and the planned mass awareness on the need for parents to press for charges, securing prosecution may well not be difficult and should that happen, the phenomenon would be drastically reduced.