Wednesday 4 April 2012

Nigeria: Do Everything to Restore the Dignity of these Girls

It’s becoming the norm
The story of the robbery and rape of young secondary school girls on a journey from Enugu to Lagos in Nigeria had me seriously upset that when I was asked to comment on the need for justice I could only lament the circumstances that allowed for such heinous crimes to take place without prospect of punishment or justice.
I am almost becoming inured to tales of apparently marauding; sex-starved savages whose sighting of damsels automatically sets in motion the impunity and ferocity of rape without consequence, in our universities or now on our roads and any other place when women might find themselves vulnerable to the uncontrolled lusts of evil men.
There are too many issues related to this matter that needs addressing but I will concentrate on more general points with the view to preventing the recurrence of such tragedies.
Excuses and many
Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport Company Limited, has been in this business for the better part of four decades or more, I cannot understand how having been chartered by a school to convey vulnerable girls they allowed for this journey to commence without adequate support that the poor girls were left exposed and open to prey in the middle of nowhere at almost midnight.
Whilst, I read that the transport company suggests that they were under duress [Vanguard Nigeria] to deliver the kids that night, there are many other aspects to the tale that show that the company, its staff and arrangements are lackadaisical, irresponsible and without due preparation and concern.
They had completed more than 80% of the journey before the bus broke down in another version of the saga [Punch Nigeria] which has one question the road-worthiness of a bus that could not complete a journey of less than 600 kilometres and I hope that features in charges of neglect, recklessness and lack of care and attention to minors that should be preferred against the company, first exacted in the arrest of the driver of the bus.
Convoys are a solution
Considering the security situation of Nigeria and the notoriety of highwaymen on those roads, I am surprised that a company with that length of experience had not adopted the use of mass convoys in travelling between the East and West of Nigeria.
It would have been an easy arrangement to have a convoy of probably 10 buses leave at set times of the day, all in radio contact with each other with contingency. By which I mean, if any of the buses ran into difficulty, the others can be quickly alerted and vulnerable passengers immediately taken to safety.
The other usefulness of convoys means that scale can allow for escorts either by licensed security agents or the police, ensuring that passengers do not fall easy prey to opportunistic attacks.
Camping stops at dusk
I was also told these buses rarely travel at night and whilst this might have been an exception due to all sorts of extenuating circumstances, it is not beyond Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport Company Limited to have setup camping stops to accommodate passengers, especially vulnerable ones as dusk sets in, with information of the progress of the journey relayed to the destination to allay the fears of parents, guardians and relations.
In my view, none of this is rocket science, there is nothing unique about convoys and Nigeria presents the conditions, situation and setting for using convoys, security and camping stop motels to avoid the daring and reckless exposure of vulnerable passengers to menace.
Processing rape
One of the victims of this sad tale offered in rather graphic detail information of how she avoided getting raped as the police vehemently deny that any of the girls were sexually harassed apart from being robbed.
I can well understand that societal stigma of rape but the girls are twice abused if they are not provided psychological and counselling support after their trauma as parents hope the passage of time might heal the scars.
We need to realise that there are benefits to therapy and need to begin to avail ourselves of that professional service. Denial is no medicine for trauma, just as we need to be better educated about the need for extended support systems that do not castigate, judge or condemn victims for situations they could not have avoided.
Justice must matter
Basically, nobody is helped by obfuscating the truth because it means the criminals will not be adequately charged for their crimes and the girls will hardly have obtained the required and needed justice that appears to elude many rape victims in Nigeria.
Difficult as the subject of rape might seem, it needs to be addressed without scruples and dealt with sympathetically on the part of the victim and without mercy on the part of proven rapists and accomplices who could have prevented the situation but tolerated and condoned it.
The least that can be done to restore the honour and dignity of these girls is to prosecute their assailants to the fullest extent of the law whilst ensuring that Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport Company Limited is no way exculpated for allowing such vulnerable passengers to fall prey to such unforgivably atrocious circumstances.

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