Thirty-seven days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Nigerian security officials of raping and sexually molesting women and girls in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Borno State, two policemen, three army personnel, one prison official, one Air Force personnel, a staff of Borno Ministry for Agriculture and two members of the Civilian JTF have been arrested.
Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Ibrahim Idris, disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday.
Speaking at the Inspector-General of Police Conference, Idris said police will work with the army and Air Force for investigation of their personnel and added that, on conclusion of investigation, any suspect found guilty of the offence would be dismissed and then, “taken to court.”
In an October 31 report, HRW alleged “government officials and other authorities in Nigeria have raped and sexually exploited women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram.”
The group further added that, in July, it documented sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation of 43 women and girls living in seven IDP camps in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
“The victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa. In some cases, the victims arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening camps.
“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram.
“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people, who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them. Four of the victims told HRW that they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.
“Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned after they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatisation from other camp residents. Eight of the victims said they were previously abducted by Boko Haram fighters and forced into marriage before they escaped to Maiduguri.”
Women and girls, abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups – civilian self-defence groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – told HRW they feel “powerless and fear retaliation” if they report the abuse.
The HRW report documented how a 17-year-old girl said just over a year after she fled frequent Boko Haram attacks in Dikwa, a town 56 miles west of Maiduguri, a policeman approached her for “friendship” in the camp, and, then, he raped her.
“One day, he demanded to have sex with me. I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon, I realised I was pregnant. When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So, I was too afraid to report him, ” she said.
The report added that, “in some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately-needed food or other items to have sex with women.
“A woman in a Dalori camp said residents get only one meal a day. She said she accepted the advances of a soldier who proposed marriage because she needed help in feeding her four children. He disappeared five months later when she told him she was pregnant. Victims of rape and sexual exploitation may be less likely to seek health care, including psychological counselling, due to the shame they feel. Fewer than five of the 43 women and girls interviewed said they had received any formal counselling after they were raped or sexually exploited,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at HRW.
President Muhammadu Buhari subsequently ordered the IGP and North East governors, to, as a matter of urgency, commence investigation into HRW’s report.