Thirty-six-year-old Sola Adebisi was sobbing when she spoke with our correspondent on Thursday. She wasn’t sobbing because of the sexual attack on her eight-year-old daughter, Lola (not real name), who was defiled by a security guard but becauseshe and her daughter are now being victimized by the police for reporting the case.
“One of the policemen even said to my face ‘Like daughter like mother.’ Are they implying my daughter deserved to be sexually assaulted?” she said.
According to the single mother of two, who sells food at Benson Junction, Ikorodu, Lagos, it all began on Monday, January 26, 2015 when she sent her daughter on an errand around the area where she vends food.
She told Saturday PUNCH, “Usually, at the close of work, I keep the containers I use to sell food behind a house at the bus stop where I sell food. Sometimes I send my daughter or her younger brother to take the containers there.
“But on that Monday, I was busy with something and sent my daughter around 7.30pm to keep the containers there. But I realised she took longer than usual.
“I went to look for her at the house later and Mr. Benjamin (the security guard, popularly called Baba Ijebu in the area) told me that she had left a while ago. I saw the containers there.”
Adebisi said it was when she turned to leave that she noticed her daughter coming out of a corner of the house. The mother demanded to know where her daughter had been but the girl could not give a satisfactory answer.
“I kept asking her and all she could tell me was that she did not get back on time becauseBaba Ijebu refused to open the gate on time. I knew she was lying and even threatened to beat her up,” she said.
The girl later told her mother about two instances of sexual assaults by the same man, who had warned her against telling her mother what he did.
“She told me that Baba Ijebu dragged her into a corner of the house and dipped his fingers in her private part. She said that day was the second time such thing would happen.”
But when Adebisi confronted the man, he apologised saying he only had a sexual encounter with the girl once.
The mother later reported the case at the Ikorodu Police Division, where policemen were drafted to arrest Benjamin.
The police gave Adebisi a note to the hospital to carry out a test on her daughter, which she took to the Mirable Centre at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.
Adebisi said the case has been drawn out under different excuses by the police till they finally released Benjamin.
“Now, when Benjamin sees my daughter, he winks and laughs at her. She always tells me when that happens. The police have told me to forget about the issue and settle with the man. When I remained adamant, they started abusing me, blaming me for what happened. One of the policemen in charge of the case even blamed me for letting him waste money he should have paid me as settlement on getting a lawyer.”
Adebisi accused the police of treating her daughter’s case light because she is poor.
Adebisi explained that even though the report of the test carried out on her daughter was sent directly by LASUTH staff to protect the integrity of the report, the police had been blaming her for disobedience.
“They said I might have forged the test report because I went to LASUTH even though I was directed to the Ikorodu General Hospital. But I told them that I went to the teaching hospital because sexual assault test is free there,” she said.
Child Rights Activist, Mrs. Esther Ogwu, who now handles the case, lamented the recurrent cases of sexual assaults in which families of victims complain about being treated unfairly by the police.
She said, “The attitude of our policemen to cases of sexual assault is worrisome. This is a case police authorities need to act fast on because it does not speak well of their integrity.
“We have reported the matter at the Human Rights Commission Office in Lagos and just want to get justice for this family. The woman is just a roadside food vendor, she went took her daughter to a hospital where tests will be carried out on her free of charge. Are we to blame her because of that?
“But families should also understand that sexual predators are always around the corner and should do everything to protect their children.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Kenneth Nwosu, told our correspondent that after the case was brought to his attention, Benjamin had been rearrested.
He said, “We condemn such acts and cannot condone it in any way. You have to understand that the case was reported three days after it happened. There are certain procedures the police have to follow.
“The mother of the victim was directed to take the girl for a test at the Ikorodu General Hospital, but she was said to have gone to a private hospital instead.
“But even at that, our concern is to ensure that the victim is protected and the suspect punished if found guilty by the court.
“As I speak, the case file and the suspect are being taken to the Department of Criminal Investigation, Yaba for further investigation. The mother of the victim should not entertain any fear.”