The actions and inactions of police officers in Nigeria, allegedly fueled by corrupt acts, have been identified as a major challenge in the fight against the growing rate of rape cases in the country.
The situation has been compounded by the slow implementation of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, known as the VAPP law.
This assertion is coming on the heels of a series of undercover investigations by the New Telegraph exposing how police personnel truncate defilement and rape cases for bribes and deny victims justice.
Reacting to the investigations during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja, the Executive Director, Men Against Rape Foundation, Lemmy Ughegbe, frowned at the high rate of unprofessionalism exhibited by some police personnel handling cases of rape, defilement and criticized Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Pauline Tallen for her lack of interest and lopsidedness in reacting and responding to cases of gender-based sexual violence.
While decrying the steady rise in rape cases, Ughegbe alluded that police personnel in gender units contribute to the problem by body-shaming rape survivors, tampering with evidence, or slowing down investigation. He blamed the police hierarchy for doing too little to punish corrupt officers on the gender desk, stressing that gender-based crimes are encouraged in the long run.
Ughegbe also reminded the Federal Government of Nigeria that it has been failing to restore citizens who have been violated according to the provisions of the law.
His words: “I’m reminding the government that under the VAPP Act, the government has a responsibility to restore citizens who have been violated. Victims have entitlement to psychosocial support, and the government has been negligent on this responsibility so far, and they must be reminded.
“Rape is a systemic problem, and it also demonstrates the little or no premium placed by government or security agencies to tackle this issue. The situation is rampant, and the investigation typifies what survivors of rape or defilement go through. Again it is because the hierarchy of the police does no supervision.”
He called for institutional checks and balances to stem the tide of rape going forward, adding that the compromise on rape cases across the country happened because of connivance between police officers, judicial officers, and citizens.
“The police officers are not just the problem. All of us must re-orientate ourselves, renew our values and begin to place values more on humanity than on money. So, except our national efforts and values are renewed in each of us, not just the police because the lawyers also conspire with the police to compromise cases, the police cannot fully on its mess up a case,” Ughegbe stressed.
Similarly, a Developmental Programming Strategist and Promoter of inclusion and diversity, Ene Ede, called on the government and police to be committed to nipping rising rape cases in the bud while joining the call for the full implementation of the VAPP Act in all the states of the federation.
She maintained that having structures that would support the implementation of the VAPP act would reduce gender-based violence. He called on stakeholders and citizens to demand accountability for what is due to victims of gender-based violence from public officeholders.
“It is for us to raise the bar of accountability. The victims have rights that must be fully accounted for, so drag all the institutions available to the table so that they can tell us what must happen.”
Earlier, an investigative journalist with New Telegraph, Juliana Francis, while giving highlights of the investigation stated that she uncovered how police personnel truncates rape and defilement cases, change case files, stigmatize victims, and other act that trivializes the sexual crimes.
Francis noted that poor funding and lack of training of officers in the gender units was a significant challenge and suggested that fixing gender units of the Nigeria Police Force requires more training and re-training of personnel and allowing them to stay in the unit for an extended period.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.