By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
This is not trivial at all.
Maimuna is the 16 year old girl whose plight was reported by Weekly Trust last Saturday, 11 December 2010. She was abducted on the street by Yusuf, a policeman on a night patrol team in Kano, and kept in his house as a sex slave for 28 days before she could escape. Maimuna alleged that while in his custody, Yusuf sold her out for sex to his friends among the Police and others who could pay a handsome amount. In a plea for her compliance, a drug dealer, Sanusi Pele, told her how he repeatedly paid Yusuf before he could get her. With Yusuf, however, the rape was on a daily basis. The full story of the poor can be read at http://www.weekly.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4835:how-policemen-turned-girl-16-into-sex-slave-they-forced-me-to-sleep-with-others-including-drug-dealer&catid=40:cover-stories&Itemid=26
Maimuna’s family complained to the Police but it took the intervention of Kano Hisbah Board before the Police started investigating the matter. Yusuf admitted keeping the girl but, naturally, denied raping her. He and the others, I reliably learnt yesterday, have already been released from police custody. There have been veritable reports of pressure mounted on the family to withdraw the case. The Divisional Police Officer under whom Yusuf is serving and to whom the complaint was first lodged “begged the relatives to forgive his men and let the matter die”, reported Weekly Trust. Nor was the word of his boss, the state Police Commissioner more reassuring: “If the allegation is found false, the Hisbah Board will be required to buttress their information so that the general public will know the true situation of the matter.”
From this, one can safely conclude the outcome of the investigation. The police command in Kano is famous for unending investigations. High profile murder cases have vanished in its case files after the initial promises to ‘bring the culprits to book.”
Therefore, I am not ready to squander my hope that Maimuna’s case would be any different. Otherwise, why the effort to buy the silence of her relatives who are so poor to even afford the almost daily taxi fare to the police station? Perhaps, it is in recognition of the enormous forces against her that little declared, “If I don’t get justice here on earth, I am sure I’ll get it in the hereafter.”
My argument in this short discussion is that we cannot afford to wait for the hereafter. Maimuna is our daughter, just like the daughter of any of us. This is the first reported case of its kind. There have been cases of rape in police custody, just as there have been many cases of sex slavery. What makes Maimuna’s different is the combination of the two: the use of state instrument of law to rape and sex-slave a teenager in a traditional society like Kano. Yusuf abducted her as she was riding a bike to return home when he was on official duty to protect the civilian population of Kano. He and one Inspector Dantalle have been using the patrol vehicle to transport her from one customer to another. He threatened her with his status, his uniform, his gun, his friends, and with the authority of state. That is the difference.
Being the first also necessitates the need to show sufficient public outcry against the breach of public trust. More girls might have suffered the same fate silently in the past. But more will definitely suffer in future if we remain silent and allow Maimuna's case to fizzle away while Yusuf and his likes continue to serve as policemen. This is where I find us guilty. Since the story hit the stands, there has been no public protest over the issue except the press release made by the management of Dandali/Ra’ayi/Yan'arewa yahoo discussion groups. That Hisbah and the office of the Attorney-General are handling it is not enough; that is simply official.There is the need for the outcry to come from other quarters. The silence is sickening.
First, where are our women’s right advocacy groups who deafened our ears when Senator Sani Yariman Bakura allegedly married a 13 year old Egyptian girl? Where is their advocacy against child trafficking? Where are those advocating against child abuse?
In fact, where are the people of Kano who have in the past distinguished themselves with the culture of protest over all sorts of issues – political, economic, ethnic and religious? Why have they not protested so far to the Police headquarters and added their voice on the need to bring Yusuf and other culprits to book? Where is the Kano that could spend its fortune on regulating Hausa films not forthcoming in lending its voice collectively in support of it's 16 year old daughter? Where are its Ulama? Has any of them delivered a Friday sermon condemning this action? Where is the Shariah committee? Has its members demanded that Yusuf be handed over to any Shariah court for trial? Where are its academicians and writers? Are their pens dry? What has become of the ancient city and its great people?
Indeed, where is Governor Shekarau, the Sardauna of Kano? Would have the original Sardauna failed to rest his weight behind Maimuna until justice is done? Where is Ado, it's Emir, who inherited the throne of his father Sanusi who never wasted any time since his youth to protect the interest of his subjects and attend to their needs, as Sir Sharwood Smith once said?
Where is the larger umma that could protest the cartoons of the Prophet or the Miss World pageant, matters far smaller in Islam than the rape of a girl? One cannot imagine what would have happened were the culprits not Muslims. Chineke! Fortunately, for the peace of Kano and the nation, the evil was homegrown. All of them are Muslims – Yusuf, Dantalle, Salisu, Shehu, Misbahu, Sanusi, name them – though, we must hasten to add that the religious identity of the girl is immaterial to a conscientious public that is threatened by wolves in uniform. When things are left to government in Nigeria, their end is more predictable than the coming of tomorrow.
All cultures place high premium on the dignity of their women. Islam in particular takes serious offense when women are molested. One of the major conflicts between the Muslims in Medina and their Jewish neighbours during the lifetime of the Prophet was over the molestation some the Jews meted on a Muslim woman in the market. Also, when a Muslim woman was once held captive by an emperor of a foreign land, the Caliph sent him a letter, threatening him with war: “Release her immediately; otherwise, I will fight you with a force that would begin at your end and end at mine.” The emperor obliged immediately. Those were men with guts. Their dignity comes first before their material interest. For us, we are bourgeois, as Fukuyama has described us. We are the "last man" who has compromised his self-pride for the ingredients of survival.
Not all of us, though. I recount the display of courage by one medical student at Ahmadu Bello University four years ago. A visiting professor, Singh, was teaching the class how to revamp the respiration of a person that has seizure as a result of accident or other causes. It required a demonstration which is usually done on a male student. Unknown to the cultural sensitivity of the class, the professor asked a girl to come forward for the demonstration, which required her to strip her chest. She started crying. He insisted. Kabiru, one of her classmates, rose and objected, saying, “She won’t.” And that was the end. Singh complained to the Dean about Kabiru’s ‘rudeness’ but the matter was laid to rest by explaining to the professor the inappropriateness of his demand in the cultural context of the class. Kabiru is now in his clinicals. Than him, I think, Bauchi has not produced a better boy. He is my hero. Had he thought of the consequences of expulsion or so, he would have kept quiet and allowed the girl to suffer the humiliation. But he was instantly transfigured by the self-pride he shares with the girl to do the right thing, which saved the girl.
In a world of very few Kabirus, we can still accord Maimuna and her family some succour. The girl, as the press release by the discussion groups suggested, needs professional counselling to help her manage the traumatic experience. The regime of counselling should be lasting. She also needs to be clinically tested and treated immediately for any STD including HIV, now and later, especially given the type of characters that have raped her repeatedly. She and her family need money to help them stick to their guns and ward off any attempt to buy their silence. It will also help finance a private litigation if the need arises. Finally, though the voice of men will bring a lot of assurance to the family, that of our female advocates will particularly boost the confidence of the girl.
Should we fail in this, our silence makes us accomplices in the eyes of humanity.
What should be done to Yusuf and his gang? I quite agree with the calls of the discussion groups, that pending completion of investigations, the suspects need to be suspended from the Force and retained in custody without bail because they will interfere with the investigations. There is admission of culpability from Yusuf when he conceded that he harboured the girl. That is enough a circumstantial evidence. When the investigation is completed and the evidence of their culpability ascertained, they should be charged to court for rape, slavery and breach of public trust. Their sentence must be aggravated, to run successively, not concurrently, given the heinous nature of their crime. That is enough to keep them in jail forever. Other criminals among the police will not miss the signal of deterrence.
Also as suggested by the groups, the Inspector General of Police needs to take over the investigation and display the resolve that is required to allow Maimuna attain justice. If the present Kano State Commissioner of Police is the same Yabo that was in Kaduna some months ago, I will cry with a loud voice for the transfer of the case for Force Headquarters.
Finally, there is a brewing idea of establishing a fund for the family by the discussion groups. When arrangements are completed, in addition to my personal contribution, I have pledged to appeal to my readers across the world to also donate. Though the stomach in us is gone, at least this much we can do for the poor Maimuna. Before then, please let me have your comments below.
15 December, 2010