Sexual abuse is on the rise in various parts of the country, but not much is reported especially about the cases of little boys who get sodomised by adults. Grace OBIKE reports that the sexual abuse of male children is frequent because the law enforcement agents often fail to prosecute the perpetrators.
A LITTLE over two years ago, at 7 years of age Adamu (not real name) from Kano state had to deal with the traumatic effect of being repeatedly sodomised by a man who always grabbed him, while he was on his way to school. Eventually, he became very sick and was hospitalised after his mother realised that maggots were coming out of his anus.
Also, 3-year-old Mohammed (not real name) does not understand why his mother is fussing over him many times. She is always taking him to see the doctor at the Waraka Sexual Assault Referral Centres unit of the Murtala Muhammad specialist hospital in Kano, where the boy is given an injection. His mother, Hindattu Adam, had just discovered that her brother-in-law has been abusing her young son for a while. According to the little boy, his uncle makes him fondle his penis, then he puts it into the little boy’s mouth to suck and push it into his anus whenever his mother is not around.
And for 4-year-old Ahmed (not real name), his parents thought allowing him go to the mosque with his older brother at 4 pm for prayers would be safe since the mosque was in the neighbourhood, but unknown to them, a paedophile who has been trailing the young boy took the opportunity to rape him.
“He grabbed me when I went to the mosque, pulled down my pants and put it into my anus then I saw mucus coming out,” Ahmed explained to the social worker at the Waraka centre.
All Sadiq (not real name) wanted a hot meal in his stomach before crawling up to sleep in the place he shares with his fellow Almajiri. But alas! A rapist is close by scheming how to violate the 14-year boy.
As he waited for his teacher to return from where he had gone to after their prayers at the mosque, a man he knew as a friend of Alhaji Ibrahim, whose house he sometimes goes to clean and fetches water for a token, walked up to him and asked if he was hungry to which he said ‘yes’.
He asked him to follow him to the house of his rich friend around the Murtala Muhammad hospital who would give him food, and Sadiq grudgingly agreed. Soon he began to worry when the man’s friend caught up with them as they went, and instead of going to the rich man’s house, they took him into a dark part of the hospital.
The man proceeded to hold him down, remove his trousers and started touching his penis but Sadiq protested. “I asked him, what is this mallam? You said that you were going to give me food, why are you touching me?”
Sadiq who hails from Asiri in Jigawa State and has been an Almajiri in Kano for the past six years explained that, as the man was raping him, another man appeared with a bright torchlight, catching him in the act and they were taken to the security. He said the man must have intentionally targeted him because he heard of what his friend, Alhaji Ibrahim does to him, according to the young boy whose face was badly bruised and swollen from severe beating as at the time of his interview with the Nation correspondent. Alhaji Ibrahim always takes him into his room anytime he goes to fetch water and clean his house, removes his trousers and rapes him at will. Anytime he tries to protest, “He says that if I shout, he will report me to the police and I am afraid of the police so I keep quiet and he puts his penis in my anus.” But on this occasion, after they were caught in the act, they were taken to the police station and just as he had always feared, the police turned on him. They asked him to tell them the truth which he did but they did not believe him. They said he was lying, that he enjoyed what was being done to him and he was beaten mercilessly until the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the station caught wind of their actions and ordered that he should be taken to the Waraka centre because he is a minor.
The crime of raping young boys in Kano did not just start.
Three years ago, Salim (not real name) was sodomised repeatedly by his teacher who was eventually caught and jailed. But the 9-year-old later became ill and it was discovered that he has been infected with HIV.
His mother had died a couple of years before and left the poor boy with his father and stepmother. When his unlettered parents heard of his affliction, they kicked the young boy out of the house. He was made to sleep outside with the goats and was not allowed to share the family utensils. He was rather served pap in a shovel until International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kano got wind of the poor boy’s condition. The NGO took him away from the home and according to FIDA, and he is presently being cared for by a good Samaritan and he is doing well in his new home in Kano.
Similarly, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) announced that it apprehended 30 years old Lawalli Bala in Sokoto for sodomising a 12-year old boy whose parents had sheltered him in their house.
Last year in Jos, Plateau state, a call was placed to the Child Helpline of the Cece Yara (save the children in Hausa language) Foundation, the caller reported that a 3-year-old boy was being sodomised by a 15 years old boy, who was a distant relative of the young boy’s maternal grandmother.
The foundation said it investigated and realised that the teenager had not just been sodomising the child but had begun doing the same to the boy’s 9months old baby brother. The case was transferred to the child welfare unit of the Ministry of Women Affairs in Jos.
May last year in Lagos, the centre received a report of a father, sodomising his two sons who were both less than 10 years old along with his friend. The centre took up the case, investigated and realised that the report had some truth to it. The NGO could only counsel the boys because their mother decided to drop the case and refused taking it further or testifying. Eventually, the case was dropped and the paedophiles walked free.
A similar case was reported in Benin city last year. The centre’s attention was drawn to the incident of a 30 years old man who sodomized a 10 years old boy. As Cece Yara began investigations, it realised that the man had done the same to four other boys in Benin and when the police tried arresting the perpetrator, he absconded.
How prevalent are such cases?
With the help of social media, the news of rape and sexual offences is now being escalated especially by rights groups. Yet not much is being discussed about cases of men raped by their fellow men. The victims tend to keep the secret more to themselves than speak up, says the Director-General NAPTIP Dame Julie Okah-Donli in an interview with The Nation.
“I will tell you that cases of sodomy are very high but people don’t report, we cannot shy away from the fact that it happens every day, it is probably even higher than that of girls now but people don’t report and that is the predicament and one of the challenges that we have.”
She added that so far, NAPTIP in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has only handled two cases of Sodomy, and both of them are still in court. Though most non-governmental organisations in the FCT could not provide reliable data about sodomy in Abuja, random interviews with residents show that Abuja is not left out in the hideous act.
A visit to Life Camp, the seat of government of the Minster of the FCT confirms the cases of sodomy that leave many young boys as victims.
Behind Efab estate, close to the Kado fish market in Life camp are arrays of shanties. A carpenter who gave his name as Gayah said, “Four boys all below 12 recently reported that they were raped by one man that always comes around in the afternoon to hang around the area when most people have gone to work. We believe that he might have done it to more boys in the area, but these are the ones we know of.”
Gayah said they reported the case to the police, but they could not prosecute him because the perpetrator absconded.
Another man, suspected of sodomising young boys was also identified by a security man in the area. According to him, the suspect used to tell young boys in the area that he is big in the Abuja movie and music scene. But when questioned by our correspondent, he denied the accusations. He insisted that he is a musician with a music video on YouTube. When asked to prove his status, the accused brought up a Hausa/English Christian music by another artist titled, “Yesu na gode” in which he can be seen jumping around in the background.
“I don’t do anything with children or anyone else. I only spread the love around because I like to see people happy but if you see anyone looking for people to act in porn between men, then I will be interested because I am an actor,” he said.
Statistics on sexual abuse of male children
According to UNICEF Nigeria, 10 per cent of boys in Nigeria have been victims of sexual violence, and of the children who reported violence, fewer than five out of 100 received support.
In Kano, the Waraka centre reports that 573 sexually abused boys were brought to their centre between January 2017 and March 2020. The office of the Attorney General/Commissioner of the ministry of justice in the state reports handling 95 cases in 2018, 94 in 2019 and 20 earlier in 2020.
The Nana Khadija Sexual Assault Referrals Centre (SARCs) in Sokoto reported that since the Centre started in March 2020, it has provided medical care and psychosocial support to 29 male victims of sexual abuse. NSCDC reports that it handled 18 cases of sodomy while NAPTIP reports 25 all in Sokoto. Enugu State Tamar SARCs said it has so far handled eight cases. The Mirabel Centre on its part reports 102 cases of male sexual abuse between January 2017 and July 2020 in Lagos state.
Cece Yara Foundation said that it has received quite a number of cases. Data analyst and centre manager Abuja, Oludayo Ogunbiyi in a chat with The Nation revealed that although it does not have a comprehensive data on the subject, it has recorded 21 cases from Lagos, Ogun, Plateau, Benin and Abuja.
Wanda Adu, the Director Wanda Adu Foundation confirmed that sodomy is prevalent in the country but most times such cases are covered up. She said her Foundation had handled a case of a father in Benue who defiled three of his sons but when it was reported to the police, they said it was a family issue since he was the father and all they did was to caution him not to repeat the crime.
As someone that works with men that have sex with men, cases of sodomy is common in every part of the country with a high number in Cross River and Benue, she said.
“In June this year, my Foundation received a case of a teenage boy in Abuja who reported being defiled by a priest but his parents decided not to talk about it in fear of offending God even though the boy wants justice,” she said.
Chairperson Kano state FIDA, Huwaila Ibrahim explained that FIDA has handled quite a number of cases. “The number of cases we had last year scared me, it was more than 50, and all little boys.”
She said one of the cases that stuck with her was the case of Almajiri that her office handled 3 years ago. It was of a Mallam with a school in the outskirt of Hadeja road who selected seven of his students as young as five to be his wives. The seven boys will be his wives for three to four months then he changes them. “We don’t know how long it has been going on, but he had the school for a long time and he also had two female wives and children.”
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) Kano State Hisbah Board, Lawal Ibrahim, said that last year about 14 cases were reported to their office.
He added, “We noticed that there are some areas that have become notorious for molesting underage children, most of them are street children. They pretend to give them shelter but take advantage of them at night in areas like Gata, Gadan kaya, Rigiyan lemu etc.”
On his part, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Kano State Police Command DSP Abdullahi Kiyawa insists that “cases of sodomy is not as rampant as that of rape in Kano State when you take statistics of them and compare it to sodomy which we call the unnatural offence. You will realise that we record more rape cases than unnatural offences.”
How society reacts
Stakeholders like Huwaila Ibrahim and Wanda Adu agree that perpetrators of sodomy feed off on the culture of silence around rape, and especially sodomy. Most families worry about the stigma that accompanies the revelation that their sons are sodomized, so they try not to pursue the case, hence the perpetrators often walk free.
Islamic cleric, Ibrahim Kura notes that: “Because the society stigmatizes people involved in rape even if such person is a victim, most people or families prefer to forget about it rather than report. Another problem people see is that it is just litigation and maybe jail term for the perpetrators, but no compensation. If there was a level of compensation, people might be more willing to come forward.”
For instance, Hindattu Adam after realising what her brother-in-law did to her 3-year-old, refused to confront him, or tell anyone about the incident or report to the police. She told our reporter that she would only take it up if the doctors tell her that her son was sick or infected with something, otherwise, she would make her children avoid the in-law and leave him to God.
Counselling psychologist with the Cece Yara Foundation, Sarima Worgu, explains that the effects of sodomy on a boy can be physical and psychological.
“Apart from the physical, the psychological effects range from hyperarousal to experiencing avoidance behaviour, depression, poor school performances, anxiety and sexual behavioural problems. There are so many effects that this could have on children but these are the long term impact on the kids including substance abuse especially for children who did not get help and support from their loved ones, the older they grow, the more they begin to engage in unhealthy lifestyles, risky behaviours and some of them even consider suicide,” she said.
In some other cases, the society tries to deal with perpetrators on their own rather than hand them over to the police, said Ibrahim of Hisbah. He added that they always send their men out to patrol trouble spots because they realise that most communities would rather kill the perpetrators when they find them rather than hand them over to the authorities.
At the Waraka centre, Fauziyya Ishaq from Gaida in Kano who brought her 13 years old brother Mohammed Ishaq to be checked by a doctor after he escaped being raped by one Mallam Ali told the story of how the perpetrator was almost lynched by an angry mob of men and women who came out with sticks, stones and pestles.
Mallam Ali whom she said hails from Kaduna state had invited Mohammed to his shop to assist him in cleaning but when the young boy walked in, he shut the door, overpowered the boy, pulled down his trousers, laid him down and tried to rape him. The boy pushed him away and while running out of the shop, he was injured by nail he stepped on and had to be stitched up at the hospital.
The young boy reported the incident to his friend who naively thought he could confront Mallam Ali on his own but narrowly escaped the same fate. He went back home and reported to his elder brothers, who in turn gathered the community members and attacked their brother’s predator. Mallam Ali was fortunately rescued by a local vigilante and taken to the police.
“When he realized that he was safe with the police, he arrogantly told us that we were making a fuss over children that he was yet to defile, he said that if we counted our fingers and toes, it will still not add to the number of young boys that he has defiled in this Kano and that there is nothing that we can do because he has friends in high places.”
Accused perpetrator, 28 years old Sadiq Mohammed who spoke to the Nation while being paraded at the Police command in Bumpai explained that he started having sex with men in primary school.
“I did not mean to defile 17 years old Salim (not real name), I just did it because I enjoy it but he is the only child that I have ever touched, I only did it because my lover was not around,” he added.
What the law says
The Senate recently passed a bill removing the statute of limitation on rape and including boys in the definition of rape. It amended Section 357 of the principal Act, specifically substituting the words “woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent”, with the words, “any person, without consent, or with consent.”
But these new bill is yet to be implemented in the states. Huwaila Ibrahim said, “Kano state lawmakers are presently trying to amend some laws concerning rape but unfortunately right now, sodomy according to the law is still under unnatural offences, and not rape.”
She added, “Why the case of sodomy breaks my heart is because the offence in Kano state comes with a maximum sentence of 7 years imprisonment and N50,000 fine.”
The FIDA chair said: “There is no case I know where one is given more than five years and all the perpetrators I know are perpetual offenders, there is a person that I am hoping will be nailed again and we will make sure he is returned to the particular judge that convicted him twice so that he can be convicted for life.”
But the Director Public Prosecutions Ministry of Justice, Kano State, Sanusi Adomaji said it sometimes goes beyond that. According to him, the ministry in the last eight months has gotten about 18 convictions for sodomy.
“The duration of the convictions ranges from seven to maybe ten years and the court could direct the accused to compensate the victim in monetary forms apart from a jail term, which could be N100,000 to N200,000 maximum for the pains and trauma caused on such a victim.”
He also said: “People need sensitisation, whenever we have cases of parents not trying to press charges especially rape cases that involve female victims. We sensitise them on the importance of allowing us to prosecute the cases because it will stem the occurrence but when we cannot get the victims to come publicly to court we have provisions under the evidence act that we apply for the witness to be compelled to appear before the courts and testify.”
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In Kano, the police, FIDA and the Waraka Centre says that it tries to sensitise Kano residents on the need to protect their wards and report rape as soon as it occurs. Huwaila and her colleagues at a town hall meeting in Kumbotso Local Government Area informed residents that the area is becoming notorious for paedophilia and unfortunately, the parents of most of the victims refuse the report and some that do wait for days, contaminate evidence before reporting.
So far, twenty-two SARCs centres supported by the European Union, British Council etc are spread across the country with some states like Lagos and Kaduna having three centres each, some like Kano have just one and some states are yet to set up theirs.
One of the coordinators of the Waraka SARCs Abba Ahmed explained that the Centre supports and assists survivors of rape and other sexual assaults. He added that they are proposing to have more centres in the state because of people in remote communities, instead of having only one in the whole of Kano State.
Ahmed added, “One of the constraints of the centre is funding. The centre received some grants through USAID in 2018 through Pathfinder which ran for a year and a half and ended in September 2019 and this is 2020 July. So the centre has been running on almost zero budget with little support from supporting ministries, 80 percent of the staff here are civil servants helping out which includes two doctors, two nurses, a lab technician, three social counsellors, monitoring and evaluation (M and E) and other support staffs so we need to have permanent staff which is why we only operate five days a week for a few hours.”
Abu said that if the country wants to contain cases of sodomy, more campaigns and sensitisations should be carried out by the government, civil society, media and religious leaders. She added that “If you know that same-sex exists then you should know that sodomy would, so there should be laid down laws with strict penalties.”
Kura said that “if people are more educated in the Islamic ways, they will know that life is not all about enjoyment, even those doing it for lust will know it has its limits. People need a kind of psychological debriefing, generally within the society but with more economic empowerment parents will be more empowered to protect their children. Most of the parents of these victims are poor so you tend to find that their children are not always protected.”
This report was supported by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, IWPR, and the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR.