Unveiling The Unheard: How Authorities Are Fighting SGBV In Bauchi State

By Muhammad Sani Abdulhamid, Bauchi

The increasing number of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence cases in Bauchi State is highly alarming, as a report by USAID Integrated Health Program (IHP) 2023 indicates that 21.7% of women in Bauchi experience physical abuse, 22.7% experience Sexual abuse, and 57.5% experience emotional abuse from their partner or spouse.

Another data collated by Ikra Foundation, a Bauchi-based non-governmental organization indicated that it recorded 500 suspected SGBV cases in Bauchi within one year. According to the data, three local government areas – Toro, Katagum, and Alkaleri account for the chunk number of the complaints.

Women and children are identified as especially at risk, particularly in rural areas where traditional harmful practices may be more prevalent.

Many cases likely go unreported due to societal stigma, fear of reprisal, and lack of awareness about support services.

My friends father raped me, survivor

An eight-year-old girl whose identity was hidden explains how her father’s friend raped her in an uncompleted building around 6 -7 pm while she was on her way to buy pepper for her mother.

According to her, the man asked her where she was going, and after telling him, he told her to follow him so that he would give her his phone to look through the road. He then took her to an uncompleted building.

“When we entered the building, he told me to lie down; he removed my pant and raped me. I felt the pain. The man warned me not to tell anyone. I removed my pants and kept it somewhere. I went and bought what my mother sent me to buy. The phone he gave me to look through the road went off and I took it back to him before I went back home.

When I sat down to eat food, my Mother realized that I removed my pants. She asked me why I removed it; I told her I had a stool in my body that’s why I removed it. She directed me to go and bring it for her, and then I went back, picked it, and wore it. When my mother asked me why I wore it, I narrated how the man raped me.

I want justice for my daughter, the survivor’s mother.

Speaking, the mother of the victim, who pleaded anonymity, said her husband (the victim’s father), didn’t agree with what they told him and asked her to investigate the matter before taking any action.

 “I immediately called one of my husband’s brothers and narrated what happened to him. He came, and we went to a primary school near us with the child, where we met the suspect. When we asked him to tell us the truth after the girl narrated what happened in his presence, he refused to say anything about it. I told him whether he confesses or not, justice would be done for my daughter.

“In the morning, I took the case to our village head, but the man was nowhere to be found – he ran away. Two days later, the village head invited us and told us that the man was back.  

The mother added that they were asked to forgive the man because he confessed to the crime, but he was too shy to tell her. According to her, I insisted that the man must confess in everyone’s presence to serve as a piece of evidence. He later confessed but asked us to forgive him.

The accused person offered N10,000 to the victim’s mother to abandon the case, but she turned down the offer, to stand for her daughter’s rights. The mother proceeded to the hospital for basic investigations where they confirmed that the girl was raped. Upon the confirmation by health personnel, the mother reported the matter to the police. When the man was invited by the police, he confessed to the crime.

According to the survivor’s mother, they are facing threats from the accused family that they should withdraw the case against him, but she resisted the threats and vowed to seek justice for her child. At the time of this report, the matter is still in court.

The mother explained that, at first, her husband agreed to support her in pursuing the case, but later changed his mind. “Sometimes, when I talk to him about the issue, he will leave home without giving us food, even today as we are coming to court I asked him to follow us but he declined. He also refused to give transport fare to facilitate our coming to court today. I sold my phone before getting money to come to this court. 

The mother seeks justice for her daughter, to serve as a deterrent to others.

Bauchi Government Moves to Address SGBV Cases 

In 2021, the Bauchi State Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed moved to address the menace by signing into law, the amended Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law 2021, which now includes the death penalty for rapists.

The Bauchi State Government, in partnership with the UN Women and the UK Government, inaugurated a technical and advisory committee to implement the VAPP Act in the state on April 30, 2021.

Speaking on the VAPP Act, Mohammed lauded the state for being among the first in the Northeast to adopt the law, saying it had earned the state a lot of respect in the country.

But, due to some noticed gaps, and some traditional inhibitions, it was taken back and it is corrected.

SGBV is a critical problem in the society, Ministry of Health

The Gender Desk Officer, Bauchi State Ministry of Health, Zuwaira Baba said Sexual and Gender-based Violence has become a critical problem in society, where victims of the violence especially rape victims find themselves in crucial health conditions both physically and psychologically.

Zuwaira added that being among the first responders in terms of rape cases, health workers examine the victims to confirm the occurrence of the incident and issue medical reports that will serve as evidence against the perpetrators.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. So, when a person is raped, all this has been distracted. First, we give immediate response to the victims within 72 hours of the incident occurrence to address any physical injuries. We also conduct physical examination to check for any internal injuries followed by basic investigations. The reason we give these immediate responses is to rescue survivors, who usually find themselves in a life-threatening situation.

“Secondly, we give an intermediate response – psychological support within 72 hours and above from the time of the incident, to check for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection among other investigations which we give Emergency Contraception drugs to prevent pregnancy and other diseases. From there, other investigations would follow.

She describes the lack of synergy between sisters’ organizations, members of the community, and all stakeholders involved in the fight against SGBV as one of their major problems.

Zuwaira Baba said some communities hide the occurrence of the incident to avoid stigmatization of the survivors, not knowing that hiding cases related to SGBV gives room for the offenders to continue committing the same offense in the community and the same community would be the one to be stigmatizing the victims which is also a problem.

She added that having a VAPP law in Bauchi State gives an avenue for a multi-sectoral approach to SGBV where everyone involved will work within his jurisdiction and have one voice at a time.

“I would like to commend the Bauchi State First Lady Hajiya Aishatu Bala Muhammad for constituting the State Action Committee on the fight Against Gender-Based Violence GBV, which includes all stakeholders involved in the fight against SGBV in Bauchi. The committee has funds to support victims who are usually from a poor family. Also, with the help of that committee, the Sexual Assault and Referral Center was provided in Bauchi State Specialist Hospital and a rehabilitation center for the survivors to be trained on different skills accusation before going back to the community”.

“In the Bauchi State Ministry of Health in the 2024 Budget, we have allocated funds to support our hospital on free medication to the survivors”, Zuwaira explained.

What judiciary does

From the judiciary, the Gender Desk Officer, Bauchi State Ministry of Justice, Barr. Maimuna Ibrahim Yusuf said they are working with evidence gathered by police to prosecute the culprit in court and to prove to the court that the person committed the.

Maimuna Ibrahim said the court delivers judgment based on the strong evidence presented before her whether from the prosecutor or the suspect, and the evidence is not produced by them but rather by the persons looking for their rights in the courts.

She stated that the biggest challenge they are facing is from the community where many people think that when they report an SGBV case to the police, action won’t be taken. Barrister Maimuna pointed out that many people lack commitment towards following the case because, along the line, some will say they have forgiven or were asked to forgive the offenders, which is a major setback to the SGBV cases in Court.

“We are doing our best to create awareness to the public concerning SGBV through any means of communication we find. 

With the coming of the VAPP Law, we have recorded successes in the fight against SGBV in Bauchi State compared to some years back” Maimuna Said.

She called on the parents to take good care of their children and report any issue related to SGBV for justice to be done.

How SGBV cases in Toro reduces due to awareness creation

A social worker from Toro Local Government of Bauchi State, Hannatu Yakubu Dauda, attributed many SGBV to ritualistic beliefs and selfishness She wondered how a 50 or 60-year-old man will rape a girl of 3, 5, or 10 years. Hannatu laments that no culture or religion believes or guarantees any form of Sexual or Gender-Based Violence.

According to Hannatu Yakubu, they are working round the clock to advocate for the fight against SGBV. We go around schools to tell the young ones the forms of SGBV. We also tell them not to remain silent when they find themselves in any situation related to that for easy prosecution of the offenders.

“We also take this advocacy and awareness to marketplaces, mosques, and churches where Imams and pastors preach to their followers on the effort of SGBV, the penalty for offenders, and for them to voice out any related issue for action to be taken by the authority and also to shun stigmatization on the survivors”.

Hannatu added that the district head of Toro Alhaji Umar Adamu, is working tirelessly in the fight against SGBV in Toro LGA where he usually sits with community leaders under him to discuss issues concerning SGBV and direct them not to take any case lightly.

“He also assists us with all necessary support we need mostly when going into villages for awareness – he gives us letters to get easy access to the community.

“The challenges we are facing is lack of adequate resources, mostly means of transportation that will enable us to be going into the far village for the awareness, and we are hoping that non-governmental organizations will support us to address the problem”.

Hannatu Yakubu said with the current advocacy and awareness of the fight against SGBV in Toro LGA, cases have been reduced to the minimum level compared to the previous situation where cases are reported daily but now it can take weeks or months to have a rape case.

Community leaders not left behind.

A community leader in Bauchi, Dan Iyan Bauchi, and Ward Head of Dan Iya, Alhaji Sulaiman Ahmad Bashir, said no religion or culture gives room for violating someone’s rights. It’s selfishness, illiteracy, or ritualism that makes offenders commit offenses.

Sulaiman Ahmad added that as community leaders, they are working round the clock to fight against SGBV in the community, through advocacy and awareness to the community leaders under them so that they will take it back to their various communities.

“We also call Imams and Pastors to give them awareness on SGBV, for them to extend same to their places of worship. There is an improvement in the fight against SGBV because people believe in what community and religious leaders say.

“Again, we sensitized people on the implications of hiding; especially rape cases because in some cases such happens within a family and the family will try to cover it to avoid stigmatization or lose the reputation of the family, or a community leader will try to hide it which is a capital offense. In this case, if anyone is found guilty, the person will be sentenced for not less than 8 years in prison as content in Bauchi State VAPP law”.

On the issue of stigmatization of the survivors, Dan Iyan Bauchi said some Women mediators sit with the survivors, guide and counsel them not to consider what happened to them as the end of joys in life.

He calls on people to stay vigilant in their respective communities and report any SGBV case to the appropriate authorities for action to be taken, urging them to avoid stigmatization of survivors and to join hands in the fight against SGBV.

CSOs commit to sensitization.

On their part, the Bauchi State Network of Civil Society Organizations (BASNEC) said they were at the frontline of struggling to have VAPP law in Bauchi State from day one and now it’s in existence for the betterment of the society.

The chairman of BASNEC Jinjiri J Garba said they are raising awareness for the people to know more about the VAPP law and to benefit from it when the need arises and for the authority to use the law appropriately.

Jinjiri added that despite the law being in existence, there are numerous challenges they are facing especially from parents who think their reputation will be tarnished or the survivor will be stigmatized, as a result, they will not report for action to be taken.

“In our awareness, we tell them that the reason for reporting it is to seek justice for the victim because if that is not done, the person that commits such offense will go back and commit the same offense somewhere else, but if he is punished for what he did it will serve as an example to others in the future.

“Another challenge is an issue of evidence. Sometimes, when the incident occurs the survivor will be bath and all the evidence would be nowhere to be found. This is also a challenge that we are always calling on parents not to wash the survivors when such happens to have evidence to prosecute the culprit”.

According to Jinjiri Garba, they are working with CSOs that give support in the provision of lawyers to stand for the survivors in court to fight for their rights, noted that the fight against SGBV in Bauchi State has some much-improved calls on people to speak out when their right is violated for justice to be done.

Culture is silence not helping matters, Police

Speaking, the Police Public Relations Officer Bauchi State Command, SP Ahmad Muhammad Wakil, said they have started taking inventory and statistics of the SGBV cases in Bauchi State since 2020. However, he decried that people have a culture of keeping silent when such cases occur because most of the cases are found to be from family or relatives. He added that rape cases are unforgivable, as it is a case against the state and humanity, therefore, survivors and parents have no right to forgive the case.

Ahmad Wakil added in 2020 they have recorded 176 rape cases and arrested 222 suspects, while in 2021, 182 cases were recorded, and 234 suspects were arrested. In 2022, 188 suspects were arrested and 151 cases were recorded, while in 2023, 81 cases were recorded and 93 suspects were arrested by the police.

He said there are a lot of improvements in the fight against SGBV in Bauchi State, which comes as a result of the coming together of all relevant stakeholders.

“We have prosecuted offenders of rape cases and the court convict them, which gives hope to people that justice will be done to them, with the advent of VAPP law in Bauchi State, has brought a lot of improvement in the fight against SGBV, and when we have rape case as parents, relatives or community leader when you come to such that you want to withdraw such case we will arrest and take you to court to face justice because it is an offense.

“And with the creation of Bauchi State Action Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Gender Desk officers have been provided, we aired jingles on Radio and Television, we distributed our phone number, conducted sensitization workshops and awareness to Religious and community leaders and all the stakeholders involved in rural and urban areas on the danger of SGBV.

The PPRO, who said that they face challenges when rapes happen in far places, stressed the need for government to provide more Sexual Assault Referral Centers to ease the process of having medical reports to prosecute suspects. He added that Mobile courts will also ease the process of court hearings which sometimes people have no enough resources for the day-to-day process.

He commended the people of Bauchi State for their support towards having a crime-free society and called on them to give more support to the police in the fight against SGBV and other crimes in the state.

A Standing Ovation for BAOBAB’s SGBV Media Fellowship: Shining a Light on a Critical Issue.

BAOBAB deserves a resounding applause for its groundbreaking SGBV Media Fellowship. This visionary initiative tackled a crucial societal challenge – Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) – by empowering journalists to become champions of change.

The SGBV Media Fellowship is a testament to BAOBAB’s unwavering commitment to social justice. It’s a beacon of hope, demonstrating the power of media to break the silence, challenge societal norms, and ultimately dismantle the scourge of SGBV.

For their courage, vision, and dedication, BAOBAB deserves not just our commendation, but our continued support in amplifying this critical conversation. Let’s join hands and ensure that every voice is heard, every story is told, and every survivor finds justice.

This story is supported by BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, under the 2023 SGBV Media Fellowship funded by MacArthur Foundation 

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