By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
The Maimuna Diary
There have been significant developments since I wrote “Maimuna” and I feel that I owe my readers a duty to keep them informed about them.
The first significant development is how the police revived their investigation immediately after the three yahoo discussion groups in Kano issued a press release which was carried in many national dailies. One of the relatives of the girl said the culprits who were already released from custody were re-arrested immediately after the press release. They have been in police custody since.
The Kano State Commissioner of Police (CP) has also been up and doing on the matter since. Reports indicate that he was mad with the misconduct of his men and is trying hard to see the culprits are brought to justice with, understandably, as little damage as possible to the already battered national image of the Force. I have also received reports that following public uproar on the issue and the calls for him to intervene, the Inspector General of Police has put the Kano Police Command on its toe. The suspects now know that Maimuna, the little girl they deflowered and turned into a sex commodity over a month ago is not just any weak girl as they thought. She is more powerful than they are. She now has the world behind her. We will keep pressing, relentlessly.
The only setback here is that the three civilians involved in the crime have escaped to Lagos, said the CP. He irritated all of us in the discussion groups by showing his disappointment over the public's emphasis on the Police culprits with little mention, he said, on their civilian accomplices. Who would he blame? Does not he know that the crime is particularly magnified by the involvement of the Police? And whose laxity was it that allowed the civilians to escape? Do we know them? And even if we know them do we have a cell to lock them in?Anyway, he promised to apprehend them.
There are also indications that the police have completed their investigations and the accused police personnel might be arraigned in court next week, if not earlier. Here, we must commend the effort of the Kano State Attorney-General (AG) and Commissioner for Justice along with the Hisbah Board which I learned has been competently handling other similar cases before. It must not be forgotten that it was the Hisbah that demanded from the Police a comprehensive investigation on the matter. I am convinced that the two offices are on top of the matter. This will not, however, prevent us from appealing to the AG in particular to ensure that he prevails on the Chief Justice of the state to assign the case to a reputable judge that will administer the justice without undue delay or compromise. He knows his men well. And we know Nigerian courts very well too. The eyes of the world are on this case.
I will also plead with the AG to seek a trial in camera in order to safeguard the identity of Maimuna. It should not be in public; otherwise, she will live with a painful stigmatization for the rest of her life. We in the media have dubbed her Maimuna for the same reason. The same thing must, however, not apply to the suspects. Just as armed robbers are arraigned before the press, let them be exhibited in public by the Police Commissioner. This will further help to deter other policemen from similar actions.
Thirdly, I will appeal to the AG or whoever is handling the case to include a substantial plea of compensation to Maimuna which will be paid by the Nigerian Police.
Also commendable is the concern shown by various groups and the efforts they have been making since the news broke out. The Hisbah Board has opened a register for the groups that have shown interest in the case. Apart from general NGOs, the women advocacies have been pursuing the matter. Our sister Maryam Uwais has been on it since 12 December according to the thread of emails I received from the groups on the matter. They have been in contact with the Maimuna and her family, giving her the right counselling and doing whatever is possible in the circumstance. Their silence, I understand from the communications and indeed from Maryam’s published response in this blog (Maryam Fires Back!), is informed by the desire to protect the girl from a campaign that may scare the family into dropping the matter. And it almost happened.
Maimuna’s family indeed wanted the case dropped because of the stigmatization that the accompanying publicity would bring her. However, a representative from the discussion groups and from the women advocacies has each met with the family members separately and convinced them to stick to their guns at least for the sake of other girls who may fall victims of such violation in the future if this one is let to go unpunished. They have also been well informed of the interest that many of us have shown on the matter and assured the family that it will not be left alone to tread the long distance to justice alone.
I am overwhelmed by the outpour of support for Maimuna. We are trying to see a unified front is forged. The effort of Hizbah would help here considerably. However, I have my reservations about government establishments. People in this country have lost confidence that government agencies can sustain such tasks expeditiously. I still prefer the fund to be under a foundation specifically made for the poor girl, rather than left to a department of government.
Some have questioned why money would be useful in this course, arguing that justice is what the girl needs. From our experience, money and status are what guarantees justice in Nigeria, and Maimuna has neither one nor the other. Some N50,000 paid by someone to persuade the family to retreat almost compromised one of her relatives if not for the resolve of the uncle.
Maimuna and the family needs the money, one, as an inevitable provision on the long journey to justice. They must have the economic strength that will augment the moral one.
Two, I am of the opinion that Maimuna must not come out of this excruciating experience with the happiness that “justice is done” only and left to face the future as hopeless as any other girl of her class. When justice is done, her credentials would be that of a 16 year old girl that has suffered the worst humiliation we can imagine; a minor who, instead of keeping sealed lips, cried out to our hearing, even against the opinions of some of her family members until the world came to her aid. She has thus served as an example that is vital to protect other girls from such criminals in our society. In that way, she gave herself as a sacrifice for the public to fight injustice and to protect itself.
But what does she gain out of all this if we allow her to swim in the surrounding stinking pool of poverty which was the condition that predisposed her to victimhood in the first instance? If she were a girl driven in her family’s vehicle, as we the elite do to our daughters, would the police have abducted her? No. they would have saluted her, begging for a tip, saying, “Kiyaye ki Hajiya. Ana sanyi hajiya (May God protect you, Hajiya. The weather is cold)” If the car had broken down, they would have assisted her to repair it or tow it to safety for her. But Maimuna, the orphan, was riding a commercial motorcycle after sunset on her way back from her grandmother’s house. It did not have headlight. So instead of the police to protect her by getting her a taxi or another motorcycle, something that would cost them nothing more than N50 (30 cents), they used her pecuniary circumstance to abduct her and keep her as a sex slave for 28 days. We must remove Maimuna from this predisposing poverty in addition to helping her find justice.
Maimuna must be empowered by our effort to live a happy life for the rest of her life. She must have a happy marriage, a happy family in a prosperity that will prevent her children from becoming victims like their mother even in their worst dreams. In addition, we need to empower Maimuna whose experience would be an unparalleled force to fight for the emancipation of the girl child from poverty and other social injustices. We just cannot allow such a valuable experience vanish into thin air without exploiting it to her advantage and to that of the society at large.
How do we achieve these noble objectives? It is simple. Give Maimuna the best education we can find around and everything will fall in place. Though I have never met her, but having dealt with the education of thousands of children like her and given her background, I can pretty guess that she is not better than other girls who go to our public school but who, even at the age of 16, cannot construct a single sentence in English. So she needs special training to catch up and then excel; for excel she must if she is to realise our dreams for her. The fund, therefore, is also important for this purpose.
With the money at hand, she does not need to be whisked to Britain or to the States. We must protect her from the traps that others like Amina Lawal fell into. We must keep her home-grown, as much possible. Quietly, we can employ a very good teacher for her, who will train her in both Islamic and secular subjects. All this must be done without the attention that will prolong her trauma or stigmatize her. Within few years she will make significant headway. Then she goes higher and higher and higher in education and career. Along the way, God willing, Maimuna would be happily married with children and pursuing a career.
It is difficult for me to figure out a better way to help this girl than this. But this is just my opinion. Please do not hesitate to express yours below or elsewhere, in support or in objection.
On how the fund would be gathered, I still feel that a trust registered in her name into which donations made would finally be deposited and administered would be the best. The trustees should better be non-governmental, made of people of impeccable character and must include her resolute uncle, and a representative each from Hisbah, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education. In collecting immediate donations, however, as I said, the groups can still be used. Emeka and some other readers have suggested my involvement. But I live four hours away from Kano. Moreover, the groups are made up of younger people whom I believe should be allowed to carry out responsibilities like this. This will prevent a repeat of the mistake which elders in this region have been making: They alone know the best and can do the best. That has left us without a tradition of continuity. My generation should be different.
Finally, as we look up to the beginning of the trial that will eventually lead to the justice that Maimuna deserves, possibly next week according one source, I will appeal to my colleagues in the media to continue to do all they can to safeguard her identity. The family needs to be assured of this. The Hisbah as a statutory body should also endeavour to ensure it. Nothing will break her like exposure. So far, so good! We do not know her actual name and cannot recognise her face. However, the trial risks changing this safety if it is not handled carefully. In addition to the call for a trial in camera, I would like the family to ensure that Maimuna for now wears a dress that will enhance her anonymity. A khimar – veil– even if it is only on any day in court or when she meets with outsiders will not be out of place. Better suggestions should please be made by readers below if possible.
So let us keep our eyes open and keep pressing hard. Once the fund raising arrangement is completed the public will be notified through various channels. I will also publish the details here. We will intimate you about the people involved in the collection and the accounts to deposit your contribution before the trust is registered, if that idea is accepted to the organizations at the centre of this nobleeffort.
Do not forget to contribute by giving your suggestions or expressing your views below. They will be highly appreciated now and later, as historical documents that Maimuna would gladly read in some years to come, in sha Allah.
20 December 2010
As I arrived Kano this afternoon, one of the leaders of Raayi Riga yahoo discussion group called me to break the news that the CP has just finished addressing a press conference on the matter. To lower the tension that he said is too much in Kano per the matter, he announced the immediate dismissal from service of two of the three policemen and the demotion of the third, Inspector Dantalle, to the rank of sergeant. The case will be immediately handed over to the DPP for instant prosecution, he said.
Let us keep pressing.