Nigeria Police’s Gender Unit lacks resources to investigate rape, says rights activist

THE Gender Unit, a department under the Nigeria Police, lacks financial resources to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and prosecute offenders, says Dorothy Njemanze, an Abuja-based rights activist.

The founder of the Dorothy Njemanze Foundation said this in an interview with The ICIR, noting that it is an important point that has to be made clear.

The Nigerian police does not have money for investigations,” she said. “So, whatever the case is, whether it is a child or an adult, the Nigerian police expect the people to bear the costs. We have a system that destroys cases and frustrates victims. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”

She said the police often push the burden of prosecution to the victims who are ordinarily “struggling with their lives”. Because of this, she explained, her organisation has had to plead online for financial support to foot the bills having to do with criminal litigation for abuse victims.

She also mentioned a case reported by this paper in June, where the alleged rapist of two underage rape victims is yet to be apprehended after nearly two years, as a typical example of the shortcomings of the police.

“There is no money for investigations. There is no funding whatsoever for medicals,” she said emphatically.

“In fact, they mess up cases. Once, the accused has started giving them money, they start puncturing your story. We have seen so many cases that have been minuted to legal that were never taken up. 

“There is a particular 14-year-old girl; her mother scolded her in my presence. At the end of the day, that matter was minuted to legal by Mrs Ehindero. Till today, it never made an appearance in court. Never. Never. Never. It is wrong. Totally wrong.”

Njemanze added that her organisation, set up to address abuse-related issues to aid the healing and reintegration of victims, has to pay for police investigations, medical tests and reports, and pays police prosecutors every time they make appearances in court.

“The only case where the person has not pushed us to make payments was after he found out I’m a mad person,” she said, “because I told him I’ll raise your money from the internet. It dawned on him I was going to go out and put the information out there. I pulled a few stunts and made the case viral.”

Particularly, the Gender Unit, which the non-governmental organisation has written to on several occasions, is also not self-sufficient as it has to rely on complainants to effectively investigate allegations brought before it.

“Put it out there that people who Gender Unit has investigated and did not need to pay should come out,” she challenged.

“Even for this Justice-for-Chloe case, we wrote to Gender Unit. They did not do anything. We usually do write to them. But when we found out that it’s ending up wasting our paper and ink, we just decided to deal with the frustration and then go head up… because what they claim Gender Unit does is not true.

“They tell a lot of lies. They’ll come and tell you the police has a gender unit and the gender unit … It’s a lie. They don’t do anything. They frustrate us. See, I battle depression, and part of it is because I sit down and wonder how irresponsible our government and people who occupy authoritative positions are.”

Njemanze complained that the Nigeria Police hardly takes action if an officer is accused of flouting the law. She further condemned victim-blaming among law enforcement agents and health professionals. She has seen, for example, women asked at police stations what they did to provoke their husbands into assaulting them.

“There is currently another case we are following up on,” she narrated. “The two children involved are both under ten years, and they were seen by different doctors. One of the doctors was saying, ‘Ah. This child has been raped but this time around it was not rape’. That the child went to have sex as usual.

“Children under 18 years cannot consent to sex. If the mindset of a doctor is that a child under 10 years old went to have sex as usual, then there’s a problem. That tells you the quality of the medical reports that’ll come out of that place, tenable in court.

“And that child had an infection. The person at the lab, to make the children open up for swabs, threatened the children and said, “If nah the people wey go give you N200 now you go open your leg, common open your leg before I beat you here!” and the children opened their legs. Is that not rape? Rape happened again.

“And then at the police station, the policewoman said to them, ‘They don come here before because of you. Nah only you get that area? If you bring this kind report here again, I go beat you’. Meaning if anybody rapes the child again, the child should keep quiet. That is the system we live in. We see a supposed support system further traumatising children.

“How many people have the police told as long as they’ve been disvirgined before, they cannot be disvirgined again? How many have been forced to settle out of court?”

The Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, she said, often advises complainants to ask policemen who extort them for their names “and tell them please I need to write your name because we’ll get a refund from the NGO and they need to know exactly who I gave the money to”. They’ve observed that this approach deters officers from making demands for money. But, oftentimes, it means they also stop taking the case seriously.

“And so we have so many cases that are hanging in limbo; the owners of these cases are very very frustrated,” she added.

In July, The ICIR reported how Okokon Udo, a prosecution lawyer at the FCT Criminal Investigation Department asked the father of a three-year-old rape victim to bring N20,000 to work on his case file.

The 2019 Global Corruption Barometer Africa report released also last month ranked the police as the most corrupt institution in Nigeria and stated the judiciary to be the third most corrupt.

'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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