By Egufe Yafugborhi
Perceived delay in the trial of suspect has left stakeholders doubting whether 23-year-old Rivers State widow will get justice over alleged rape by a police inspector.
Amidst twists and turns that cast doubts over police sincerity in prosecuting alleged Police Inspector Peter Ibah’s rape of a 23-year-old widow in Rivers State, the victim continues to win growing support from well-meaning individuals and groups pledging to stand by her in ensuring that the matter does not end in a case of justice delayed, justice denied.
Wednesday, August 19, it was the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which came out strongly to declare their support.
The Port Harcourt NBA, led by its Chairman, Prince Nyekwere, confronted Rivers State Police Command, following rumours that the prime suspect and other colleagues declared to be in custody were seen back on duty at a checkpoint in Sakpenwan, Tai Local Government Area.
The victim’s rape ordeal started at same checkpoint July 30 when the four-man police team from Mobile Police Base 56, Bori arrested the widow for not wearing nose mask among passengers in a Port Harcourt bound commercial vehicle trip from Bori.
“Thereafter they carried me from one place to the other, claiming they wanted to take me to police station, but never took me to any police station. After some time, they took me to a guest house where one of them raped me till dawn. His name is Inspector Peter Ibah”, the victim narrated.
Following intense condemnation by rights activist, Prince Wiro, who brought the victim’s ordeal to public attention with stern call on the police to urgently investigate and prosecute the perceived offenders, Ibah and his team were summoned by Rivers CP, Joseph Mukan, and case almost immediately transferred to SCID for further investigations.
With complainant and suspects’ statements taken, preliminary denials by prime suspect disproved by witnesses, stakeholders have been edgy that investigation by the SCID was taking too long before trial commences on the matter, raising suspicion of police insincerity amidst fears that the suspects said to be in custody were seen back on duty days back.
However, the Port Harcourt NBA Chairman, following Wednesday’s visit to DCP Kontagora, where he was shown the suspects in SCID detention, affirmed assurances from the SCID head that investigation was ongoing.
Nyekwere stated, “I can confirm that the officers alleged to have committed that offense are still in detention. Orderly Room Trials starts today (Wednesday).
“We want that matter properly investigated and those found culpable charged to court and brought to book.”
In further doubts over her being able to get justice on the matter, the victim had alleged, “One of the policewomen in the SCID investigating this case asked me that is it not any report the police give that the world will take? I can identify who I am talking about if I see her.”
Akanto Asogo, elder brother of the alleged victim, said, “My sister is sick, her situation deteriorating as a result of the trauma from police harassment and rape by one of the officers.
“I appeal to well-meaning stakeholders, rights groups, the NBA and the state Ministry of Women Affairs to intervene in this matter.
“From what we are seeing, the police are already compromised. About three weeks now, report of investigation has not been released.
“The CP had appealed to Rivers people to remain calm, that the police officers involved in this act would face the wrath of the law. Up till now, nothing has materialised. My sister has suffered. We can’t fight this alone.”
Police spokesman, Omoni, however, said, “We are close to concluding investigation. What is left is the medical report issued the alleged victim. She is yet to bring it.
“We would form conclusive opinion on what really happened because that report will be able to state if she was sexually assaulted or penetrated as alleged as the case may be.
“We are still investigating. Justice will be served. All we need is cooperation.
“The officers are still in detention. We would have commenced their orderly room trial, but for this very important aspect (medical checks) of our investigation.
“The mere fact that they left their beat is an offense again. Once an orderly room trial is done, they stand to be dismissed and then charged to court.”
The complainant had respondent, “The police claimed they gave me the medical report the day I reported the case.
“I want to clarify the fact that the medical report was not given to me the day I reported the case.
“It was issued five days after but backdated to the day I reported the issue. Also, I haven’t been able to submit that report because of my ill health”
Wiro, rights defender, said, “Though medical report is one key ingredient in establishing rape, same is not necessary in this case since the accused Inspector in the presence of journalists and civil societies admitted having sexual intercourse with the widow but claimed it was with her consent.
“The issue for determination is whether she gave consent or not. We will also write the Rivers State government to investigate the hotel the widow was allegedly raped to ascertain if check-in procedures for guests as stipulated by government were followed on the day the incident occurred.”