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VII. Rape by the Police

Rape and other forms of sexual violence are cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that in particular cases rise to the level of torture. In Enugu, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed two young women who had been gang-raped by three police officers, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP). They were both secondary school students, aged seventeen and eighteen at the time of the incident. At around 6.00p.m on September 27, 2004, the girls were walking home when two men in a car stopped and ordered them to enter the vehicle. When they refused, the men showed them their police identity cards and threatened to flog them with a horsewhip:  

We were afraid and pleading with them. DSP Uttang James said it was too late and that we were stubborn, didn’t we know that he is a police man. He said we look like the cultist110 girls that work for criminals. He ordered Constable Emmanuel Effiong to open the car and push us inside. He said if we run away they will shoot us in the leg. We started screaming. Uttang said he will teach us a lesson we will never forget.111

The girls were taken to the police detective college on Agbani Road:

Uttang pushed us inside the house and said, “Do you know what I want? I want co-operation.” I asked what type of co-operation. He told me to shut-up and that all he wanted was “bang, bang, bang.” We were so afraid. We thought we were going to be ritually killed. Uttang brought out a gun, showed us a bullet and said if we make a noise he will kill us. In the first room he asked Effoing to pull off my clothes and told him to sleep with me. Then Effiong raped me. Then Uttang took my friend into the second room at the back of the house.

Uttang [… ] said he was going to drop us at home. He told Effiong to look after us. A few minutes later he came back with another man, Constable Usip Asukwo. I thought he was our helper. Uttang said that Effiong and Asukwo should put a mattress out and each take one of us. That he wanted to watch. Asukwo took out a condom but Uttang took it away. Uttang told him to switch the light on so he could watch it well. They jumped on to us. Uttang flogged our legs, and said we should spread our legs. He then said he was going to do it again, but we cried and Asukwo took pity on us.

At 12.00 midnight Uttang told Asukwo to help him drop us at home. We started on our way but came back to the college because there were armed robbers around. Uttang said he was going to sleep with us again. We cried and said that we would not allow it - only over our dead bodies. Uttang said he would get a gun and kill us. I was raped twice in total, my friend five times. 112

Eventually the girls were taken to Constable Asukwo’s house, where the junior officer tried to apologize for what had happened, claiming DSP Uttang, his superior officer, forced him to have sexual relations with them. He also told them that Uttang had raped other women before. At 6.00a.m, twelve hours after their ordeal had begun, they left Asukwo’s house and walked home.

This case has received significant attention within Nigeria thanks to the efforts of a local human rights organization and the wilingness of the women who were prepared to speak publicly about their ordeal.113 The Enugu based Centre for Victims of Torture and Extra-Judicial Killing (CVEKT) has conducted a tireless campaign to bring the perpetrators to justice, petitioning the police authorities, the federal government, national assembly and the National Human Rights Commission. As a result the police authorities conducted an internal investigation which indicted the officers for rape and abduction. The two police constables have been dismissed from the force while the senior officer was suspended. At the time of writing, all three are in Enugu prison awaiting trial.

In another recent case from Enugu, a fourteen year-old-girl was raped at a police station in November 2004. According to information from a local women’s rights organization, the girl had a dispute with her neighbor, a policewoman, and was accused of stealing an item of clothing worth less than US$2. The dispute lingered and several months later, the fourteen-year-old was arrested and detained at a local police station. During the night a junior police officer restrained the child, tied her hands behind her back and, despite protests from other detainees, allegedly raped her. According to the women’s rights organization, the following morning the matter was brought to the attention of the officer in charge of the station and the girl was released. Perhaps in an effort to show action was being taken, the officer was detained for less than forty-eight hours and then released. However, the policeman alleged to have committed the rape and the policewoman later threatened to charge the girl with stealing so as to intimidate her and her family into silence.

About three weeks after the rape, on the request of the girl and her family, a local women’s rights organization wrote to the head of the police station to complain about the rape. At once the two officers dropped the threat of charging her to court for stealing. Shortly after this, two armed men entered the girl’s house while she was alone at home. Holding a gun to her head, she was forced to swallow four white tablets before they left without saying anything. The girl did not know what the tablets were but did not experience any immediate side effects. Both the family and the women’s organization believe this event was connected to their efforts to publicize the rape and believe the intruders were people working on behalf of the two police officers. After this the family immediately asked the NGO to drop the case and have since moved house out of fear. At this writing, the NGO have not been able re-establish contact with the girl or her family and the police officer who allegedly committed the rape is still at his post. 114

Local women’s rights organizations and the media frequently report cases of sexual violations against girls and women, including molestation, rape and gang rape, by members of the police force across the country.115 It is believed however, that the vast majority of cases go unreported because of the stigma associated with rape and the fear of intimidation and reprisals by the police.116 In 2004, a women’s rights organization in Enugu received six official and thirteen unofficial reports of police rape in the Enugu area. The staff of the organization explained how the victim or one of her relatives reported the sexual violation but insisted that no legal action was taken. According to the organization, “they just want someone to talk to. No-one wants to publicly talk about it or face intimidation.”117 The reluctance to report cases of rape or sexual violence by police means it is extremely rare for action to be taken against the perpetrators.

[110] “Cult” is a term used in Nigeria to refer to student gangs, similar to university fraternities, who have over the last ten years becoming increasingly involved in violent criminal activity.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, March 3, 2005.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, March 3, 2005. See also documentation from Centre for Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings and Torture, Enugu, including statement, “How we were abducted, tortured and raped by three policemen in Enugu on Monday 27th September 2004.”

[113] For example, Mike Ubani, “Gang rape in Enugu”, Insider Weekly, November 15, 2004 and, “DSP, two corporals implicated in rape case,” Daily Independent, October 20, 2004, and “Police probe officers over alleged abduction, rape,” The Guardian, October 22, 2004. 

[114] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu March 4, 2005, email correspondence March 16 and May 4, 2005 and telephone conversation May 5, 2005.

[115]See for example, Beyond Boundaries: Violence Against Women in Nigeria, Project Alert on Violence Against Women, (Lagos, 2001), No Safe Haven, An Annual Report of Attacks on Women in Nigeria December 1999- November 2000, Project Alert on Violence Against Women (Lagos 2000), “Cop Rapes Girl, 18,” PM News, May 17, 2002, and “Judge Condemns Police Behaviour in Rape Case,” Vanguard, July 16, 2002.   

[116] Human Rights Watch interviews, Enugu, March 2 and 4, 2005.

[117] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, March 4, 2005.

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