Justice for Mohammed, by Saleh Babayo

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On Friday evening, December 6, 2019, a journalist with the name Hussaini Mohammed Isa broke the sad news on Facebook of how the Ward Head of Lawan Fannami Ward, Lawan Mari, allegedly serially sodomized a six-year-old schoolboy in Bade LGA of Yobe State.

According to Mr. Isa, the boy is a nursery 3 pupil of Nurul Islam Primary and Nursery School, Gashua.

Unconfirmed reports have it that the victim was initially lured by his tormentors-numbering four-to read for them. They then took advantage of the situation and had carnal knowledge of him on multiple occasions while threatened to kill him if he ever tells anyone. So, after discovering unusual behavior in him-like returning home late after school closing hours-his parents started monitoring his movements closely.

One day he returned home late despite being beaten severely by his father and his teacher on the same day. His mother didn’t hesitate to ask him the reason why. He couldn’t give her any satisfactory answer.

In the cause of the interrogation, she perceived bad odor coming from his direction. She was astonished when she found out that he defecated in his pants, and had difficulty using the toilet. To cut the long story short, they lacerated the anus of this minor. What an abuse of trust!

She then persuaded him to tell her the truth after she assured him safety. That was how she realized that this boy was sodomized by his supposed protectors. Just put yourself in his parents’ shoes: If this boy was your son or brother how would you feel? The level of the trauma his family is passing through can best be imagined. We should not, whatsoever, make the mistake of thinking that this matter does not concern us. If it’s somebody else’s son today, it could be yours tomorrow. Therefore, let’s stand united and seek justice for Mohammed.

The biggest problem is the obstruction of justice. There are allegations that the traditional ruler involved got released by the police on bail after collecting bribe and did try to sweep the whole case under the carpet. In fact, some reports indicated that some powerful forces are pushing for a soft landing for the suspect. Pathetic!

Thanks to social media, within a few hours after Mr. Isa broke the news, the hashtag #JusticeForMohammed went viral and caught the attention of the authorities and became a subject of public interest. The Commissioner of Information, Home Affairs, and Culture, Abdullahi Bego, immediately issued a statement dated December 8, conveying the order of His Excellency, Governor Mai Mala Buni suspending the Lawan “indefinitely from his position pending the outcome of the police investigation into the matter.”

The Governor also directed that appropriate administrative and legal measures be taken swiftly to investigate and prosecute the matter.

The statement also added that the victim has also been evaluated and treated by medical personnel at General Hospital, Gashua.

The Bade Local Government Council and The Bade Emirate Council followed suit by suspending him on December 8 and 9 respectively. Lawan Mari has successfully set an infamous record for receiving three suspension letters within the space of 48 hours.

Nonetheless, lest we forget that the Lawan remains innocent before the law until and unless proven guilty. That’s the rule of law. Hence, no matter how bad we may feel against him, he is still a suspect, not a convict. Only a competent court of law has the sole prerogative of pronouncing him guilty.

The Youth for Human Rights International in Yobe State has been doing great jobs in uncovering these kinds of shameful social vices and abuse of trust. They immediately intervened in Mohammed’s case and became the first NGO to carry out on-the-spot assessment of the situation and took over the case. At the instance of the NGO, the suspect has been transferred to the Damaturu branch of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

The Mohammeds are actually many. I have spoken with the Yobe State Coordinator of Youth for Human Rights International, Mohammed Jajere, multiple times on alleged cases of rape in Yobe State which has risen exponentially in recent times.

He specifically told me of how a nine-year-old orphan-a primary 2 pupil of Bindigari Primary School, Damaturu-was raped, impregnated, and infected with HIV by seven suspects in Damaturu. Worse still, one of the alleged perpetrators was her stepfather.

Finally, I think it’s high time we reconsider how our societies stigmatize, vilify, and ostracize rape victims. That isn’t helping matters at all. Many victims are crying in silence and fear the consequences of making their ordeal public. This allows the perpetrators to go scot-free, and repeat the heinous crime at the slightest opportunity. The society is complicit in this regard.

For records, I have never been a supporter of the methodology used by some activists who are advocating against domestic violence, rape, patriarchy, etc. The end doesn’t always justify the means. Their methodology is full of flaws. We may share the same goal but our ways are apparently different.

I believe in respect for people’s norms, values, and culture. We can have an ethical revolution that is in tandem with our religion and culture that can help politely reverse these primordial practices that predate us.

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