Recently news of a gang rape captured on video which
had been circulating for about a month in Abia State University(ABSU) emerged
online resulting in a drama filled chain reaction.
The story quickly garnered swift condemnation, disbelief, jokes from some and a response from the Minister for
Youth and the House of Representatives member Abike Dabiri who raised the issue
on the floor of the house. Most striking were instant denials from the
University authorities and the Governor of Abia State who initially blamed the
video on mischief makers determined to embarrass his
administration. After an online news platform suggested the victim was dead word finally emerged that
the victim has been located by a coalition of organizations and individuals
focused for now on her safety and rehabilitation.
The content of the 1 hour long rape
video is explicit and brutal. The young lady is told in clear terms she is
being raped as punishment for insulting one of the rapists. As the 5 rapists
brutalize her in turn she heartbreakingly begs to be killed instead. Her face is clearly seen in parts of the video but her rapists remain
shadowy and silhouetted against the light although their voices are discernable
as they laugh, threaten and call each other by name.
Whether her rapists recorded the attack
for amusement or as material to edit later to blackmail the victim for her
silence is impossible to ascertain. What is clear is that they were unconcerned
about repercussions and perhaps naïve as to the impact of the video outside an
environment they seem to operate in with impunity.
The same new technology that enabled the easy recording and subsequent sharing of the
video in the ABSU campus and in turn the internet has made it possible to
conduct a campaign to amplify the issue and seek justice especially when the
relevant authorities treated the case as a potential embarrassment to be set
aside. Online vigilante actions where citizens in this case take on the job of
a reluctant State have succeeded at best in creating awareness, forcing
reactions from security agencies, galvanizing protest walks tagged rape walks
in Lagos, Abuja and Lagos and at worst DIY identification of suspects and
possibly more threats to the victim. An online petition on Change.org
has generated 85,000 signatures demanding action from the authorities.
After the rape walks on the 5th of October reports show that on the 6th of October over 300 women
from the South East States representing civil society organizations and Igbo
women’s groups converged in Umahia the Capital of Abia State to protest and
where denied the right to do so.
As calls were made from different quarters for information on the case, reports show that the Abia State Govt.
used the State media to repeatedly warn against linking the attack with ABSU or
Abia State. This blatant intimidation is an underhand action from the same Government
which in another statement assured the public it was extending its
investigation and had asked the victim to come forward. It is no wonder all leads
have dried up. The State Government then broadcast warnings to stop citizens
from joining the rape walk as the SSS and Police denied the protesters
permission (none is needed) and tried to physically prevent them from walking,
seizing phones and cameras of protesters. This is in sharp contrast to Lagos
State which sent security to protect the protesters who ended their walk at the
Abia State liaison office. The Abuja rape walk was cancelled due to security
concerns and instead a list of demands was presented at the Ministry of Women
Preceding the rape walk was a protest by ABSU Student Union Government against linking the school with the rape. This protest was not stopped.
The Abia State Police after first refusing to investigate without a complaint from the victim then admitted
defeat. A recent report alleges the Abia State Assistant Commissioner of Police
suggested Miss X had consented to the gang rape because he did not see the girl
resist the rape in the DVD “tape” he watched. Paradoxically he then offers a
N500, 000.00 reward for information on the “consensual” crime.
From the discussions around this rape case some points stand out:
Some of the demands from the protesters read thus:
1. The report of the rape investigation should be made public.
2. We call on the parents of students of ABSU to demand a safe environment for their children and an investigation into this rape case and indeed the general issue of insecurity which has been an issue on the campus.
3. Security guarantees for the rape victim whether she chooses to testify or not.
4. Setting up channels for reporting and dealing with victims of rape and sexual harassment in all higher institutions in Nigeria bearing in mind challenges such as cultism to such initiatives.
Whether or not the rape victim goes public this opportunity to address the issue can yield long term results that will make campuses safer for all students and make rape unacceptable everywhere. The road ahead will be long and though public interest will wane I encourage those who have taken on this battle to persevere, strategize, recruit more supporters either by appealing to their consciences, demanding their service owed through the offices they hold or shaming them into action.
regular updates on the ABSU rape follow @eienigeria on twitter and search the hashtag #ABSUrape You may also contact email@example.com to offer your time and expertise to the campaign.
online petition at Change.org
Pamel Braide writes for free2run