GODWIN Jeremiah, an otherwise unknown bricklayer who plies his trade in Akwa Ibom State, attracted publicity recently, albeit for the wrong reasons. The police arrested him for allegedly raping his 13-year-old daughter for months. Policemen from the divisional headquarters in the Eket Local Government Area of the state effected the arrest, accompanied by the wife of the local government chairman, Mrs Bright Archibong, and the president of the women lawyers’ association, Mrs Emmem Ette. The girl’s experience would have been unimaginable if those women hadn’t come to her rescue because, according to her, her father and tormentor had previously been released on bail but had continued the debauchery.
Speaking with journalists after Jeremiah’s arrest, the victim accused him of molesting her almost every night, adding that his friend, one Mr Michael from Ikot Udoma village, who has now been declared wanted by the state police command, also attempted to rape her, but ran away when she raised the alarm. Her words: “This (ordeal) occurred almost on a daily basis in spite of my resistance and the pains and injuries I sustained from the ungodly act. Initially, I reported the case to my stepmother who confronted my father, but she was beaten and this made her flee from my father’s house. When the whole thing became unbearable for me, I ran and reported to the police, which led to his first arrest, but my aunt, who did not believe my story, intervened and he was released on bail. The matter grew from bad to worse. It was the darkest moment in my life. This time my father did not allow me to sleep; he forcefully abused me throughout the night. It was coming on a daily basis. Since nobody was there to help, I decided to run away from my father’s house. But fate led to my meeting a compassionate mother, Mrs Bright Archibong, and the President of FIDA who rose up to fight on my behalf.” In his response, though, Jeremiah claimed that his daughter, who used to sleep on the same bed with him, just decided to abscond from home without reason.
To say the least, this is a horrendous story. It is certainly disconcerting to note that perverts who delight in sexually preying on minors abound in the Nigerian society. Often, these felons exploit the biological relationship between them and the victims to criminal advantage, causing them untold agony. For instance, one Joseph Sunday of Obot Ideng village in Ibesikpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, arrested by the police in October last year for allegedly raping his two daughters aged nine and 13, provided this gruesome alibi: “My wife left me some years ago because of some family issues and relocated to Rivers State. I have been the only one taking care of my daughters. I just wanted to test if my manhood was still functional using my daughters.”
Individuals of this ilk cannot thrive in a clime where retribution is swift and always assured. For far too long, sexual perverts have got away with the most horrendous crimes, aided by despicably complicit family members and a corrupt policing system. For instance, the accused in this case was previously taken in by the police for questioning, but was let off the hook through the intervention of a family member. How can victims get justice when their own family members not only deny the obvious but use their “connections” to get the accused persons off the hook? It is only when the likes of Godwin Jeremiah and Joseph Sunday are regularly apprehended and treated with all the severity that the country’s laws allow that the much needed change can come.
It is saddening that family values have been eroded to the point where it has become presumptuous and naive to regard the family, quite uncritically, as a safe haven for children. If a father could sexually assault his own daughter, how can he, in good conscience, complain about such aggression from other felons on the prowl? There is certainly a desperate need to save many children from abusive homes in which their protection cannot be guaranteed. Sadly, though, this function falls on social welfare departments that are no longer functional in virtually all the states of the country. The country is ill-fated if it makes light of the fundamental concerns about the family as the basic unit of society. If the family as the basic unit of society suffers dysfunction, the multiplier effects on the society will be devastating.
The rash of ugly news in the media about defilement, rapes and domestic violence proceeds from the defective family values in the society. In the particular case of Godwin Jeremiah, he was allegedly even on the verge of using his own daughter as an object of entertainment for a friend of his: the victim only escaped by screaming in order to call public attention to her predicament. Rapists do not deserve a place among decent human beings because their socialisation process has been fractured along the way at some point in time. This particular felon must be made to face the full wrath of the law to serve as a deterrent to his ilk wherever they may be.
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