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Ese Rita Oruru: An end to impunity?

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Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
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Ese Rita Oruru disappeared from home under circumstances that her father considered embarrassing to the family. He quickly blamed his wife Rose. The man couldn’t imagine how else his daughter would have come into contact with a character such as Yinusa if she didn’t occasionally help out at her mother’s food joint.  But Mr. Oruru got it all wrong! It wasn’t Rose Oruru’s fault that14 year old Ese got lured away by a man who lacks scruples.  That the abductor met the girl at the eatery, and that she is playful are non-issues.  He could have done the same if he met her in church; or it could have been any other girl in a different scenario. Ese is just a child who fell victim to a man without morals, a man who had nothing to fear since he believed that the law would not catch up with him.  He had seen many other depraved persons get away with similar crimes. For Yinusa, the criminal way was the easy way. He didn’t understand why he should rein his sexual hunger for a mere child when he could easily steal her, sexually abuse her, and the heavens won’t fall.

There’s nothing unique about Yinusa’s thinking. Many persons would commit one crime or another if they believe that they can get away with it. Human beings naturally tend towards the line of least resistance, and quite often, the forbidden route appears to be the easy way out. Which contractor wouldn’t be tempted to avoid the rigmarole of due process if there are other easier but illegal routes to get a job?  Lazy youths fantasise about admission without hassles if only they can cheat their way through the West African Schools Certificate (WASC) and University Matriculation Examinations. What about the advance fee fraudsters (419ers)?  They don’t see the point in setting up and growing their own business when they can easily collect other people’s money by merely sending out scam mails.

No doubt, conscience restrains a lot of persons from doing evil, but the minority who wouldn’t be bothered can only be deterred by the fear of punishment. Unfortunately for the society, the law doesn’t always catch up with evil doers.

The Ese Oruru odyssey, and similar cases that have been raked up in its wake, reveal lapses in our law enforcement system; lapses that have encouraged Yinusa and other perverts to let loose their predatory tendencies.  Mrs. Oruru’s strange encounters during her risky trips bring to question the actual roles of the village Chief, the Police, the Sharia enforcers (Hisbah), the Emir and his staff.  They all knew the girl’s whereabouts but vacillated for some unknown reasons. While they dithered, Ese remained captive, got pregnant and her family’s pains increased. It is most astonishing that the village Chief flared up when the distraught Rose Oruru pleaded with him to have her daughter released!  According to media reports, the man thoroughly chided her, presumably for doing the unthinkable. Had Mrs. Oruru been faint hearted, her daughter’s case would have gone the way of others – swept under the carpet.

A law enforcement system that appears confused over a simple case of child abduction is flawed. The cultural and religious dimensions were a mental assault on Ese, and shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction. The attitude of the authorities exposed a system where might could easily become right.  No wonder girl-child stealing for forced marriages has become an epidemic! We now know that evil men have been having a field day sexually abusing minors, but it’s not because mothers are failing in their duties, nor is it a matter of children becoming more wayward these days. It’s simply because the protection system is ineffectual. Children don’t know any better, and that’s why the law gives them special protection. However, it appears that in practice, the system, by default protects the offender more than the child.  Rose Oruru had the nerves to penetrate a racket. Apparently, other affected parents gave up when they encountered the type of brick wall that confronted her.

A mother cannot possibly hover around her children all the time, and that’s why the entire society takes responsibility for child protection. The law provides that anyone who chooses to exploit a child’s innocence and vulnerable nature must be punished.

A situation where the law enforcement system seems unable to act promptly emboldens the bad people in the society.  If an efficient structure is in place to arrest, try and punish anybody, no matter how highly or lowly placed, who violates in whatever guise, the rights of any child, it would send a clear message to others thinking of doing the same, that they too are unlikely to get away with it.

Ada Agina-Ude is a journalist, women’s rights activist and community leader. She is an amazingly young 70 year old grandmother.













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