ON Tuesday, Civil Society Organisations, the Nigeria Police Force and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) held a roundtable discussion to strengthen partnership on curbing child sexual abuse in Nigeria.
The discussion hosted by Wanda Adu Foundation in partnership with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) aimed at identifying key challenges encountered by stakeholders in the fight against child sexual abuse.
Wanda Ebe, President of Wanda Adu Foundation, lamented that over the years there has been a major increase in sexual abuses targeted at children in the country.
During her opening remarks, Ebe said the goal of the roundtable is to make sure efforts geared at putting an end to such abuses yield gainful and meaningful results.
Speaking on some of the challenges faced by victims, the foundation’s president said when they approach the Nigeria Police, they are either verbally intimidated or poorly attended to.
Citing one case involving a 13-year-old abused by a 57-year-old pastor, she said when the foundation intervened, it was asked to pay for opening a case file, arresting the suspect, and other activities.
She also blamed the police of shaming victims of sexual abuse, specifically mentioning the Gwarinpa Police Station in Federal Capital Territory.
Other civil society groups present at the event, including the DEVATOP Centre for Africa Development and Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, also expressed their displeasure at the practice of granting bail to suspects of child abuse without notifying complainants. This, they noted, often leads to increased hostility against the victim.
Editor of The ICIR, Ajibola Amzat noted that children have become targets of sexual abuse due to their vulnerability. According to him, while parents have major roles to play in the fight against child sexual abuse, the bigger problem is the failure of the administration of justice system.
He noted that parents have forgotten their role of providing economic, spiritual and educational security to their children, thereby exposing them to perpetrators of the act.
Rosemary Olufemi, a senior programme officer at The ICIR, recalled that after an awareness campaign conducted in a community, the Centre discovered that children sharing a single room with their parents and witness them make love are often inclined to replicate the act with others.
She attributed this factor to the failure of government to provide affordable housing for citizens of the country.
The Police Director of Operations, FCT Command, Tunde Kabiru in response to some of the complaints against the Nigerian Police Force said, on the question of granting bail to suspects without notifying complainants, that it is not stipulated in the law that the complainants must be notified.
He said the Police grants bail to suspects because the Nigerian constitution prescribes that a suspect must be granted bail within 24 hours of arrest and, in the case where the nearest court is about 44 kilometres away, then the suspect can be held for 48 hours.
On the issue of demanding money from the victims, he highlighted paucity of funds as a challenge to carry out daily operations at police divisional units.
The Head, NAPTIP Reform Unit, Obi Agusiobo said even as a government agency they are sometimes faced with the challenge of victims not willing to come forward as principal witnesses.
Agusiobo said, although about 95 per cent of the cases with them have elements of truth, sometimes they find out nothing happened or the families of the victims come stop them from coming forward as witness in court.
He noted that parents should look beyond the aesthetic values of schools and pay due attention to their children as advised by a Judge in Lagos State.
However, after the discussion on challenges, the organisations and government agencies expressed commitment to a stronger partnership towards curbing the growing menace.