The spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force, Frank Mba has points out major reasons why many rapists in Nigeria go unpunished.
In a chat on TVC on Friday morning, the PRO stated that the number one reason why rape cases are never successfully prosecuted is because they are reported late. He also disclosed that alteration of the crime scene largely affects the success of a rape investigation.
According to him:
”Rape is a very serious criminal offense and rape it is not fun. Rape is not sex. Rape is not lovemaking. Rape is violence. It is a very extreme form of torture. It is a life threatening event. It is totally humiliating.
As a matter fact, you can define rape as robbery of another persons essence, dignity and the worst form of assault on any woman. It is a serious thing.
Unfortunately for us, it is one of those crimes that has posed a lot of problems in managing, in presenting, in investigating sometimes and in succeefully prosecuting.
Most cases of rape are unreported. As a matter of fact, some statistics say between 60% to 90% of rape cases are unreported. It is even worse when they are cases that has to do with incest and molestation of children. A lot of this cases are unreported.
The fundamental problem for us as investigators are three. Number one is the fact that a lot of rape cases are reported very late and the fact that they are reported late, it impacts on the quality and the success of investigations.
The longer you stay in reporting a rape case, the higher the probability or the chances that evidence and the crime scene will be mismanaged.
Although there is no status bar limiting the time you can report a rape case, you can even report twelve months later, but the earlier you report a rape case, the better and higher the chances of success.”
Mba said the most important part of a rape investigation is the management of the crime scene. He stated further:
”As a matter of fact, in most crimes, how the crime scene is managed determines the success of investigations and people must remember that rape cases are even very special in the sense that in a rape case, there are two immediate crime scenes.
The first crime scene is place where the crime took place whether it is in a room, a car, a bush path or in a church like the case of Uwa. That particular place where the crime took place is a major crime scene.
The second crime scene is the body of the woman. In fact, the body of the victim is a walking crime scene. It is a living crime scene. It is a mobile crime scene. And how we manage both the physical as well as that living crime scene will determine the success of an investigation.
Let me give a few tips on how we can manage this because often times, before the police gets to the crime scene, a lot of persons have messed up the crime scene.
Whenever there is a rape, the first thing is to leave the physical crime scene intact. Don’t adulterate them, don’t take anything out of the place, don’t alter the position of any object, don’t touch anything. Don’t even flush the toilet.
If there is a condom pack there or a used condom, don’t even touch it and for the woman, don’t shower, don’t douch. Don’t change your clothing and if it is a case where we suspect it is a Date rape where probably drug was used or a drug facilitated rape, then the woman has additional responsibility to make sure that she doesn’t urinate except it is a situation where if she doesn’t urinate, she might suffer something.
She will need to urinate in the hospital because the first urine after that incident might help us determine the kind of drug that was laced in her drink and if for example you suspect it is a drug-induced rape, don’t dispose any glass cup there or even the drink whether it is a wine. Leave it there for us.
This is the major problem we have in Nigeria. You get to the crime scene and the whole place is messed up and even when police officers take finger prints, we get multiple fingerprints making investigations run into very murky water.”
When asked how the police protect the testimony of a victim since the memory from such events may be lost over time, the force PRO said
”Protecting the memory or refreshing the memory of a victim are facilitated by two things. If the victim reports the case on time, what we do is we take the statement of the victim. These days we don’t just take written statement.
We might also do an audio taping of the testimony of the victim so whenever and wherever we are bound to begin the prosecution of the suspect, we will give the victim ample opportunity to refresh her memory.
Where we have major problem in terms of memory loss are the ones when the case is reported months after the incident in which case even as at the time of reporting, the victim might not remember a whole lot of things and it is only what the victim tells the police that the police can work with.” he said
He also gave instances where some families pull out from rape cases and frustrate police officers from prosecuting the suspects. He said:
”This actually the most worrisome trend and sometimes people forget that policemen are very emotional people. There is nothing that hurts a police officer, a police detective, an investigator or a prosecutor like when you have your case wrapped up, you have worked so hard to put up evidence together, you are very sure you have a watertight case and as the time you are about to initiate prosecution or halfway into prosecution, you discover that the families of the victims are pulling out and even in cases where we refuse their request to terminate the prosecution, they come to the court and they become hostile witnesses and clearly they will frustrate you.
Let me give you an example. When I started my career, I was working at Trinity police station in Apapa and we had this case of the defilement of a young girl that was just about ten. The girl was hawking oranges.
One big guy took her to an uncompleted building and got her defiled. I was assigned that case as a young investigative police officer. We worked so hard with other persons, established a clear case and when we were about to initiate prosecution, the families reached an agreement with the suspect, collected some amount of money and told us that they were withdrawing and this kind of thing happens every time.
I remember I cried my eyes dry. Some older policemen were just making jest of me saying I haven’t seen anything yet. These are the things that happen and it can be very very frustrating.”
When asked if every police station in Nigeria has the capacity to handle a rape case, Mba said:
”What we have done overtime is to raise a generation of officers who are trained and given some specialization in investigating rape cases but the honest truth is that every police station can act as a first responder.”