By Tijjani Ibrahim
On March 17, 2021, the Katsina State House of Assembly commenced investigation into a petition against two personnel of the Nigeria Customs Service, who allegedly raped and impregnated a 15-year-old girl, Aisha Dahiru, now a nursing mother.
The petition was brought to the House by a non-governmental organisation, Queen Dijah Women and Children Awareness Initiative.
The chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Alhaji Abduljalal Haruna-Runka, read the petition on the floor of the House at a plenary, after which Speaker Tasiu Musa-Maigari mandated the committee to investigate the matter.
Haruna-Runka said the committee would invite the suspects and the victim during investigation.
According to him, the committee would submit its findings after the House resumes sitting in April.
The petition, dated March 8, 2021, obtained by our corresondent, was signed by the organisation’s president, Khadija Saulawa, adopted and endorsed by three others, Muslim Rights Concerns (MURIC), Save the Children International and the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in Katsina.
The petition called for a discreet investigation over “aggravated sexual assault, rape and impregnation of a teenage girl.”
It stated that the crime was allegedly perpetrated at Rijiyar Hamza village, Katsina Local Government Area by the two suspects (names withheld).
It was alleged that the two men came in a Hilux vehicle with tinted glasses, lured and had sex with the victim inside the vehicle.
According to the petition, the victim revealed that the duo sometimes gave her N200 after sex for the six months the relationship lasted.
The petition reads, “It is our observation that the suspects took undue advantage of the poverty and humble background of the said teenage girl’s family.
“It is with heavy heart and great consternation that we inform you that the victim delivered a baby boy three months ago.
“We became aware that a purported amicable settlement was made between the suspects and the parents/relatives of the victim, whereby at the end of every month, each of the suspects contributes N15,000 for feeding of the pregnant teenage girl.
“However, after the transfer of the suspects from Katsina, they started abdicating from their responsibilities, which we found incongruous because the gravity of the offence is not the one that can be settled, hence this petition.
“We urge you to investigate the issue so that the culprits will be brought to book.”
How we met – Victim
“One day, the Customs officers came to our village while on patrol, and one of them, Ibrahim, asked me whether I sold gruel (fura) and I said no. He gave me N500 and his phone number, saying I should buy for him. In the evening, I called and informed him that I had bought it, but he said he would not be able to come, so I should use it.
“After some time, he came back and gave me N1,000. He came again and said our courtyard was not okay for us to stand because smugglers could suspect that I was their informant. He asked me to enter their patrol vehicle, where he took me to the bush and raped me inside the vehicle. On another occasion, he took me to his house, saying I should meet his wife, but when we got there, I discovered that there was no one in the house. There too, he had sex with me.
“When my family discovered that I was pregnant, they beat me to tell them who was responsible. And I told them that it was only Ibrahim that we met, so they said I should call him so that the matter would be discussed in private.
“I called him several times but there was no response. I went and met his friend, Idris, who told me that he was not around but I should wait for him. That was when Idris too had sex with me in his house while I waited for Ibrahim for five days,’’ she narrated.
How we got to know – Saulawa
On how they got to know about the matter, the president of the organisation that wrote the petition, Khadija Saulawa, said, “The issue was reported to us by the family of the victim. For us to verify, we went to the Customs office here in Katsina and lodged a complaint. The suspects were called and asked whether they knew the girl and had sex with her, to which they answered in the affirmative.
“Our concern was that they defiled a 15-year-old girl. It was when the person suspected to be responsible for the pregnancy denied it that it became another issue.
“It was agreed that only a DNA test could solve the issue, but it was halted until when the girl would deliver the baby.
“As punishment, the Customs office directed the two suspects to contribute N15,000 each at the end of every month for the upkeep of the victim because her father said he could not take care of the health and other needs of the girl.
“When the girl finally put to bed, the issue of DNA test came up again. The suspected father came with two men, one of them with a laboratory coat, saying they would conduct the test. We rejected that plan because that is not how DNA test is done. And as far as I know, there is nowhere in Katsina where DNA test is conducted; even if there is, it is not his responsibility to bring somebody to the family.
“At their office, the deputy comptroller (admin) had told us that they arranged for the test at Kaduna, including the financial implication, so he could not fool us by bringing somebody in laboratory coat to do the test. That means there is something fishy. This is why we wrote a petition to the State House of Assembly. We have also written to the commissioner of police, but we are yet to get his response.’’
How Human Rights Commission got involved
According to Saulawa, the suspect reported the matter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Katsina, alleging that one Khadija, who claimed to be their staff, was extorting him. Without any prior investigation, the personnel of the commission went to the village of the victim and asked whether they regularly received money and foodstuff, including bags of rice and vegetable through Khadija, to which they said no. They, therefore, dissociated themselves from the said Khadija, alleging that she was a fraudster.
Part of a letter dated March 8, 2021, written by the NHRC and signed by its state coordinator, Adamu Umaru Kasimu and addressed to the deputy comptroller, administration of the Customs, reads, “It was established that one Hadiza Suleiman, parading herself as a staff of the National Human Rights Commission, Katsina office, was extorting one Ibrahim Ismai’la (alleged violator) under the pretence that she was handling a case of rape against him.
“More so, Isma’ila is being accused of alleged rape (sic) of one Aisha Dahiru of Rijiyan Hamza village in Katsina Local Government Area.
“Upon investigation by the commission, it was discovered that the age of Aisha Dahiru is between 19 and 20 years, according to her father; hence it cannot be an offence of rape.”
But Malam Maharazu, the victim’s uncle, told our correspondent that though her birth certificate could not be traced, their daughter was about 15 years when the incident happened last year.
“I was the one who punished her to find out who impregnated her and she said it was Ibrahim. She sneaked out of the house in an attempt to go and meet her mother in Kano, but unfortunately, she went to Ibrahim’s friend, Idris, who kept her for five days and gave her transport money to travel to Kano.
“Her father married her mother in Kano when he was working there, and that’s where she was born,” he explained.
The letter further stated that the commission had directed for a DNA test to be carried out and fixed a date, but the victim and her parents refused to comply with the directive; hence it was decided that the alleged violator could resume duty in his workplace.
When our correspondent contacted the Customs command in Katsina, the public relations officer, Isah Danbaba, said the issue had been taken over by the headquarters of the Service in Abuja.
“The Customs headquarters has sent a committee to investigate the matter. They were here in Katsina and visited wherever they wanted, gathered their information and returned to Abuja.
“I want to assure the public that once they conclude their investigation, appropriate action will be taken based on findings,” he said.
All attempts to reach the coordinator of the Katsina State office of the NHRC, Adamu Umaru Kasimu, a lawyer, were not successful as he was said to have travelled out of the state and his phone lines were switched off.
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