India and Nigeria are very much alike in several respects. There is sprawling poverty across the two countries vis-à-vis the wealth of a few. The two countries have a problem controlling their population meaningfully in the face of dilapidated social amenities. In the two countries, there is widespread mistrust in key government agencies, especially the police. Among the various similarities, I would like to focus on public policing. This is based on the recent incident in India involving the gang-raping of a young lady. The lady’s partner just spoke for the first time since the incident and recounted what happened (here). According to his report, he and his girlfriend were dumped on the street from the bus after the lady was mercilessly abused. However, upon arrival of the police, they delayed taking her to the hospital for about 30 minutes over disagreement about who had jurisdiction over the area the incident took place.
The above situation is exactly what happens in Nigeria. If it were Nigeria, the police men would come after a long while, and thereafter haggle over who had jurisdiction, which Divisional Police Station should document the incident. But that wouldn’t be the only thing they would argue over. They would tell whoever is around that there is no fuel in their car to take the victim to the hospital and therefore would require someone, possibly the victim, to provide some funding for such purposes. If there is no ready cash, they would insist on going on bike with whoever would volunteer to go to an ATM to get money. This would have followed lengthy exchanges about how the woman had invited the rape on herself by going out with a man or dressing in a particular fashion, as though one’s dressing is the molder of another person’s animal instinct.
According to the reports, the Police Authority in New Delhi immediately rebutted the young man’s accusation, claiming that they arrived the scene within three minutes of receiving the alert and left for the hospital twelve minutes later. This is typical of Nigeria’s Police Force. They are always quick to put the blame on the citizens, but hardly accepting responsibilities. In fact, if it were Nigeria, the Police would probably have announced how they had to airlift the victim due to terrible traffic congestion as a means of saving her life. Though also injured during the incident, the lady’s partner was not considered as being in need of medical care. But, he was considered fit for continued police investigation. So, rather than let him be taken to the hospital, the police kept him in their station for four days. A very typical Nigerian situation. In fact in Nigeria his family would have had to come and bail him out, except civil society groups cry out and the presidency intervene through the Inspector General of Police. If he were a girl in Nigeria, it is highly likely that she would have been kept as suspect in the police station and duly gang-raped while there.
Like in Nigeria, there was public apathy towards giving help to the victims after they were dumped. No one wanted to play the Good Samaritan because in the face of inability of Police Authority to make headway in a case, they are likely to drag innocent citizens into the web of lengthy legal cases. That is a commonplace experience in Nigeria where we have had experiences of illegal arrest and accidental discharges. If the Police don’t get the suspect, they are ready to lock up his aged parents, pregnant wife and even infant child. If they don’t get any of these, then the neighbours – far and near – are likely victims. In the face of such threats, people who would otherwise offer timely life-saving help are cowed and become apathetic in responding to situations of emergency. It takes more than a casual disposition or desire to help to provide adequate assistance during such critical moments.
I’ve experienced the corruption of the Indian Police at the Mumbai airport during the process of declaring foreign currency in my possession and I wasn’t surprised at all because I had a baggage of similar experiences by the Police in my own country. That was in 2009 and since then, I knew that India was no different from Nigeria. In fact, I have come to know that the police in both countries have dual nationality – Indo-Nigerian. Nigerians may be heading to India on medical tourism, but I have also realized that funding of some of the medical trips by public institutions have been characterized by corrupt practices involving Indian health consultancy firms and Nigerian agencies. No matter the level of technological development or economic growth, the people must remain central to every society. The recent rape incident in India juxtaposed against Nigeria’s widespread sex crimes is a reminder that we live in unsafe world and that women are being constantly abused and then blamed for the abuse in addition to inadequate justice system to protect those hurt.The culture of silence engendered by hostile male-dominated environment has made it even difficult for women who are abused to seek justice or even come out to talk about their experiences. Many of them choose to suffer the indignation with attendant trauma all life-long.
Just while the world vents its outrage against the sex crime that is common in India, the Child Protection Network (CPN) in Nigeria has released a Report that chronicled 95 child rape cases which have been recorded in five northern states of the country. Guess what? A police officer couldn’t miss being among those indicted. Unfortunately these cases involved mainly minors, some as young as 14 years. The incidence of women being gang-raped eats at the core of survival of a society and it is of such hurtful nature that were the women to push for castration of the male folk, they would have sympathizers. It is bestial to inflict such violence on others and also painful when this is perpetrated by young persons or those who have to been placed in positions of trust. We have a duty as individuals to watch and act, because those who perpetrate these sex crimes live in our midst. We must also support organizations, especially credible civil organizations that have taken over the fight to stop these abuses and seek justice for those affected. Beyond the actions of individuals and civil groups, this is the time for leaders to demonstrate their will and take actions that are necessary to give justice to those affected and promote the rights of the vulnerable, whether they are women, children or men. This is one way to guarantee the sanity and health of the society we live in.