© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Mpape rape: Gender Unit officer denies attempting to extort, but lawyer insists she did
A top officer at the Gender Unit in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police command known as Yetunde has denied the allegation that she requested for money to enable the unit to arrest a culprit fingered in a pending rape case.
In a report published last month, The ICIR had quoted Usani Odum, a lawyer, who said the police “insisted we must mobilise them with N50,000” and named Yetunde as the officer who made the demand.
But Onyinye Ibe, the unit’s Investigating Police Officer (IPO) assigned to the case, had dismissed the allegation as false and said the victims’ father was not asked “to bring any dime”.
In December 2017, the complainant, Samuel Bako, discovered that his two daughters, who were nine and 12 years old at the time, had been defiled allegedly by their landlord, Anthony Ossai.
Ossai has since fled to Delta State, and the case has remained stagnant despite petitions sent to various law enforcement groups.
Yetunde, who described herself as “a very transparent person”, said she was not even in charge of investigating the petition and that she, in fact, gave cash gifts to the family on various occasions.
“The moment he told me that his two children were raped, I told him he should meet me in the office. I came to the office just because of him that day, and when he narrated everything to me, the first thing I asked was, ‘have you reported at a police station?” she narrated.
“He said yes. I said okay. Have you taken the children to a hospital? He said yes. Have you gotten the report, he said no. Why? He told me he does not have money for the report. I gave this man N4000 … I told him, write a petition.
“I take him as my own family. Each time I miss his call, I call him back. And it pains me that something like this is being written against me. It is not a hidden case in my office. I pick up a case at any time and I discuss it with people,” Yetunde added.
The officer said she also helped Bako track the location of the landlord using his phone number without collecting any money.
“I even told him if I actually had the money, I wouldn’t mind getting a vehicle to take them there so that they can arrest him,” she said.
On her encounter with Odum, Yetunde said she met him only once in December, “in front of everyone” at her office.
“And I told him, whatever we are going to do here, we can’t do more than what the division has done. The only problem we are having is going to Delta State,” the policewoman said.
“They are salary-earners like me, I can’t compel them… when it’s not as if I am going to provide the vehicle. I even told the man, if you people can get a vehicle that will take them to Delta State, you’ll be doing a great deal of help to this man,” she added.
“So I don’t know where they got the news of me asking somebody to bring N50,000. For what? When I’m not even the one handling this case? And someone feels because they want to gain popularity, they’ll blemish my name? This is someone I gave my own money to, why would I ask him to bring money?
“This is a case I’m trained to do. I’ve been doing these cases for over five years. I’ve never asked anyone to bring money. Why would it be then or such a person? It is outrageous.”
Bako has maintained too that no one at the Gender Unit asked him personally for money but said Odum made the allegation during a meeting they had with officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in February.
He also confirmed that he received N4000 from Yetunde to pay for the medical results.
Odum stands by his side of the story
Odum, when asked for details and clarification, has stuck to his allegation. According to him, he does not have anything against Yetunde to have alleged she asked for money when she did not.
“And by the way, it took her two occasions to gain my trust to demand for the money,” the lawyer added, contradicting Yetunde’s statement that she only met him once.
“I had a meeting with her department on the first day, [and there were] no results because she was away. Her colleagues said I must see her. The second day she invited me and glossed over the matter with nothing serious. I remember telling my colleagues at the office that my meeting with her that day had no special benefits than when she wasn’t there.
“Then, on the third day, she felt easy because of my demeanour and asked for the money. She invited me, kept me in a general waiting office and, when her office was clear a bit, she called me into their office. Yes everybody was there, and that is why you could say anything and not be overheard.”
He said he is not out to blackmail her and is only recounting what transpired because he does not see a need to cover up for her.
“Is her demand different from a police prosecutor who confided in me as a lawyer that he doesn’t want to continue with the prosecution of a rape case we were doing, asked me to apply to the Ministry of Justice for a transfer, and then held unto the case file for four months, demanding for money?” Odum asked.
Cynthia Ozioma, who volunteers for the Devatop Centre for Africa Development and was at the meeting with NAPTIP, told The ICIR she remembers Odum mentioned the request for money.
Dorothy Njemanze, the founder of Dorothy Njemanze Foundation with which Odum was providing legal aid, also corroborated the allegation and said Odum reported it to her organisation.
“Since it did not happen, what have they done?” she asked. “What has stalled the case up till now? That is our side of the story. Lack of money has stalled the case up till now and I don’t understand why lack of money should stall the case because this is a man who can barely pay his children’s school fees.
“If the Gender Unit claimed they did not do all those things, the question is what did the Gender Unit do? Let’s leave what they did not do. Let them tell us what they did, knowing that it is children we are dealing with in this case… so that we can tell ourselves some hardcore truths here.”
Njemanze said Odum, in fact, invested his own money to visit Gender Unit and did not get paid for his service.
“He came in as a volunteer lawyer and he’s one volunteer lawyer that did not collect a kobo from us,” she said. “Instead, he brought in his personal resources. So anything he says is valid. I know that for sure; that’s how dedicated he is.
“We have exhausted everything the government makes available to Nigerians and none of them worked. If any of them works, at least by now the culprit should have been apprehended.”