The nation has been haunted for some weeks by the harrowing story of the Ese Oruru saga. The more you become familiar with the story, the more it should look unreal; somewhat like a Nollywood movie. But unfortunately this is Nigeria and the story is real, because it is still one of the few countries on earth where anything is possible. It should thus hardly be a surprise that a 13 year old girl who is nowhere near the age of consenting to anything—residing in Bayelsa state with her parents is whisked away to Kano by one Yinusa alias (yellow) sometime in 2015. Different narratives have come with the story. Some say she was kidnapped, some others say she went willingly, but at the tender age of 13, it couldn’t be anything less than abduction for her to be taken to distant Kano without the knowledge and consent of her parents.
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On getting to Kano, she was forcefully married off to her abductor, converted to Islam and renamed Aisha. Thereafter she settled to a grim life surrounded by strange people and a strange culture quite different from what she grew up in. For a girl that age, taken from the care and attention of her parents and all those she knew, it must have been a wrenching experience. In addition to the insecurity of being in a strange environment, she also of course had to endure a life of sexual molestation by her paedophile abductor and maybe even other perverted paedophiles. When her parents eventually tracked her down to Kano and asked for her to be returned back to them, they were audaciously rebuffed while the police was unable to act. Indeed as a demonstration of the deeply embedded culture of impunity in Nigeria, it was widely reported the IG claimed only the Emir could set her free.
When the police constitutionally established to protect citizens from crime abdicates from their duty and surrenders such responsibility to an individual or individuals; it goes to show how some people have become untouchable and how much the nation has become a jungle of injustice and impunity. It was not until some high profile individuals and the media launched a massive campaign that she was finally released in March 2016. But the point had been made. For a young girl at the tender age of 13 to be held in full view of the public for almost a year while neither her parents nor the Police could do anything establishes beyond all doubt that Nigeria is a lawless, unjust and chaotic nation with a deeply established culture of impunity that has been long in the making.
Given the prevalent culture of injustice and impunity in our clime, it wasn’t surprising that so many otherwise reputable people choose to play the devils’ advocate by going to great lengths to defend and justify the abduction and forceful marriage and conversion of a minor to Islam. Some even blamed the victim rather than the perpetrator while some blamed the helpless parents who were themselves victims of a vicious crime on their daughter. Of particular note were some of the perfidious defenders of evil who claimed Ese was 17 and not 13 years at the time of her abduction all in a bid to defend her abductor and the obnoxious culture of impunity that allows the criminal violation of minors in the name of marriage. But even if Ese were to be 17, her marriage would still be a violation of section 29 (4) (a) (b)of the Nigerian constitution which stipulates that any married woman shall be deemed to be of full age meaning 18 years and above. But in a country where impunity is highly entrenched and violating the constitution is a given ritual, it is no surprise that nobody cares about the constitution especially when a section of the country nurtured in arrogance and a sense of entitlement can always exempt themselves from constitutional provisions on religious grounds.
After all between 2001-2002 twelve Northern states damned the constitution and declared Sharia laws amidst tumultuous riots that claimed thousands of lives, while Senator Sanni Yerima the former Governor of Zamfara state defied both the constitution and public opprobrium as he shamelessly wedded a 13 year old Egyptian girl a few years ago with no legal consequence from the authorities. Such abhorrent practices and constitutional violations have become so common place that the practice of abducting and forcefully marrying and converting minors such as Ese will continue unabated in spite of the modest voices of opposition. And when the minors become stricken with VVF as they often do, they are abandoned by their abductors and society at large because they come from a nation where too many are above the law.
Sadly; the Ese imbroglio is just an aspect of Nigeria’s institutionalised culture of impunity so prevalent that even organisations like the Nigerian army established solely to protect the citizenry violates citizen’s fundamental rights with troubling alacrity. Right from their training, it appears they are inducted to disregard the civil population and to act with utmost impunity. The recent group of NDA military trainees who severely beat up a young civilian on the streets just because he complimented a female cadet is a case in point. The video of the assault went viral and eventually came to the attention of military authorities at the defence academy but as if to confirm that the training institute and military high command tacitly supports such errant behaviour and human rights violations, the defence academy strangely announced that the time limit for disciplinary action against the cadets had passed and with that the issue was closed with no consequence for the offending cadets.
This leaves one with no doubt that the Nigerian army officially endorses such despicable behaviour even while the cadets are still on training. Such cadets having been given the licence to brutalise civilians will predictably go on to commit more atrocities in time. Little wonder the Nigerian army is globally indicted for human rights violations. From the 60’s, 70’s, 80’ and 90’s one cannot forget the brutality of military rule and how Fela Kuti’s mother—a 78 year old woman was unconscionably thrown down a 2nd floor window and killed by demented soldiers during the invasion and siege of Fela’s residence under Obasanjo’s military junta because Fela was critical of the excesses of the government. Even now in a supposed democratic dispensation, the recent massacre of Shiites and unarmed IPOB protesters in Aba only demonstrates how deeply rooted impunity and human rights violations are in Nigeria. In scale and scope the Nigerian military has unleashed on Nigerians what neither the erstwhile Apartheid regime in South Africa nor British colonial masters in Nigeria ever dared unleash on the citizenry. A nation without respect for human rights and the rule of law is literarily in a state of anarchy. It’s time the government acted to reverse that ugly trend.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu
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