Rape and related sexual violence happen every day in many parts of Nigeria. But it is more prevalent in environments where structures needed for the protection of the victims are missing. Places like camps for persons displaced by Boko Haram or any other kind of conflict leave the female-child particularly more vulnerable to rape.
In the past years, there have been rising concerns over the spike of rape and related sexual violence on female inmates of internally-displaced persons’ (IDPs) camps as well as those living outside the camps.
Teenage and underage girls are daily abused but hardly do the survivors or their families speak out. The society they live in would instead pressure survivors not to press for charges, or the parents would rather keep quiet to “protect the dignity” of the girl-child growing up. Many would instead look unto God for justice because they could not afford the process of litigation. As such, most of such cases die at the police station.
Fatima, 16, is the mother of a one-year-old son. She was barely 14 when she was raped and became pregnant. Even at 16, she is still too young to nurse the child, Adamu.
As she spoke to the PREMIUM TIMES reporter, her son sat on her laps. She struggled to hold onto Adamu, who kept jumping and giggling as he fondled his little mother’s face and attempted to pull off the veil covering her head.
“I don’t know where his father is at present; I haven’t seen him for over two years now,” she said with her sad face looking down.
“Muhammadu is the father of Adamu, but he is not my husband – he can never be my husband because he raped me.
“He did not only rape me; he also asked four of his friends to strip me naked, held my hands and my legs while he forced himself on me and defiled me,” she said in tears.
Not a stranger
Muhammadu, the young man, whose surname Amina does not know, was not a stranger to her. The two of them were internally displaced persons from Bama, one of the local government areas worst affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. When the outlawed armed Islamic militia rained terror on various communities about four years ago, the entire town of Bama, which is the headquarters of Bama local government, and its surrounding communities were sacked. The residents fled to Maiduguri, the state capital.
Most of the IDPs who survived the Boko Haram carnage of 2016 took refuge in Bakasi 1 and Bakasi 2 IDP camps located on the outskirts of Maiduguri along Bama road. It was at the IDP camp that Muhammadu met Amina, an orphan whose parents died in an attack by Boko Haram. She was living with a maternal aunt in Bakasi Camp when Muhammadu began to make love advances towards her.
“Since when I was 14 years old, he said he wanted to marry me. I developed affection towards him, and we later became friends,” she said.
Every evening Fatima, in spite of her age, would quickly finish her chores, take her bath, put on some makeup, and wait for Muhammadu to come lurking around the dark corner behind their house.
Maintaining a distance, they would chat romantically about their future as spouses. Sometimes, Muhammadu would bring her little gifts like roasted meat, sweets, and other snacks. Sometimes he would give her some money.
“He wanted to marry me and I looked forward to being his wife,” she said.
As tradition demands, there would be no sexual relationship until he paid her dowry.
But her aunt did not approve of their relationship.
“When Muhammdu made his intention known to my aunt and her husband, my aunt said it would never happen. When Muhammadu’s relatives came to see the husband of my aunt to ask for my hands in marriage, the husband told them he had no say in such matters, that my aunt, his wife, should be the one to be consulted.
“When they approached my aunt with the matter, she told them bluntly that she won’t give her daughter to a Kanuri person – because she felt those who killed my parents were Kanuris.
“But Muhammad kept sending emissaries to ask for my hands in marriage, and my aunt kept turning them back.
“So after the third attempt, Muhammadu became angry and mobilised some boys to pelt stones into our apartment in protest against my guardians not letting him marry me.
“Days later, I started hearing though some of his friends that he threatened that he wouldn’t spare me should he lay his hands on me. He threatened that he would either beat me up or abduct me. For that reason, I became scared. I had to stop going out of our house.
“But one evening, when I ventured out to fetch water for my aunt, Muhammadu attacked me. I never knew he had been monitoring my movement.
“Muhammadu and some of his friends grabbed me and dragged me to a dark place and he forced himself on me while others were holding my hands and my legs.
“After raping me, they all left me crying on the floor and ran away. Some days later, Muhammadu called me on the phone to tell me that he knew he had left something inside me and that no matter how long it takes, he was coming back to get what belonged to him; or I will look for him to give him what belonged to him.
“He said he had fled to Lagos. It was some months later that I discovered I was pregnant.”
Fatima said her love and affection vanished the moment Muhammadu’s friends began to drag her, ripping off her clothes