THE NIGERIAN POLICE AND THE ORDEAL OF BATTERED WOMEN
This is a the story of Beatrice, Solomon and the Nigerian Police.
Beatrice is not her real name for privacy reasons, but all other names, including those of the Police Officers are real.
When Beatrice (not her real name for privacy reasons) married Solomon in 1998, it was one of the happiest days of her life.
She was looking forward to a very loving and long lasting marriage full of joy and blessing.
The marriage was blessed with two children in quick succession and everything appeared to be working out according to her dreams.
Unfortunately, soon thereafter the happy dream became a nightmare.
Solomon soon began a regime of verbal abuse.
At every little opportunity, he would rain abuse on Beatrice, belittling her and her family.
Beatrice prayed for salvation for her husband and family, but each time there was a reprieve it was short lived.
Sooner rather than later, Solomon would go back to his abusive ways.
Beatrice bore the abuse for the sake of her children and in a bid to maintain her matrimonial home.
In addition to the verbal abuse, Solomon was very manipulative and controlling, using his position as the bread winner of the family to oppress and maltreat Beatrice.
He vowed that Beatrice would not do any business that will give her financial independence.
Each time she started a business, he would by manipulation make sure that he drained the business of money by refusing to provide for the family financially, thereby forcing Beatrice to raid her little resources to feed and clothe her children.
Things soon went from bad to worse when Solomon was no longer satisfied with the verbal abuse and other controlling acts.
He began to be physically abusive.
Initially the physical abuse would happen when he came back home after rounds of heavy drinking.
These occasions became more and more frequent.
With no provocation, he would pounce on Beatrice and inflict bodily injury on her with his fists.
Fists soon turned into any object that was handy.
Many a time he would beat her black and blue.
Beatrice was too ashamed to seek help from her friend and family.
Like most battered women, she blamed herself for his behavior thinking that may be she was doing something wrong.
In addition, Solomon always threatened to kill her if she dared to live.
Not only would he kill her but he promised to harm her family as well.
Indeed, he would do so far as sending the same threatening messages to Beatrice's mother and other family members.
Beatrice continued to pray for salvation, but it was not coming from any source.
The family tried to intervene but Solomon would not listen to anyone.
Then in January 2011, he escalated the physical abuse, inflicting severe injuries to Beatrice, locked her up in the house and left with the keys.
She had enough.
Beatrice believed it was time to go to the law and get some help in dealing with the situation.
Was she wrong.
With the help of family and friends, she was able to get out of the house and rushed to the Police Station to file a report.
The initial reaction of the police was that it was a family affair and that the Police could not get involved.
Instead they advised her to go back to the house and reconcile with the Husband.
The police did not as much as volunteer to even go to the house to inquire about Solomon and what might have transpired.
Beatrice persisted and the Police eventually and very reluctantly 'invited' Solomon to the Police Station.
He honored the invitation and after an apparent exchange of money, the matter was killed off by the Police.
Hapless, Beatrice listened to the advice of family and friends and returned to the house.
Solomon was no emboldened by his ability to get around the Police by just splashing some money on the investigating officers.
He believed that nothing was now in his way of maltreating the wife.
Not surprisingly he increased the verbal and physical abuse.
Then on December 11, 2013, without provocation, he again attacked Beatrice with his fists and any other object he could lay his hands on.
He left several bruises on her and she barely escaped out of the house with her life, leaving her belongings behind.
Between the last incident in 2011 and 2013, the Police had set up a human rights division and the Lagos State Government had created a Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
In fact, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation had put out a booklet describing the rights of battered women and the governmental resources available to them for help in the situation.
These bodies were supposed to fight the incidents of Spousal abuse especially against women such as Beatrice.
Now Beatrice felt that there was hope that with the help of these bodies something would be done to address the battering she was getting from Solomon.
With the blood still on her body Beatrice went to The Nigerian Police Force Headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos.
She was directed to the Human Rights Resource Center under the office of the Lagos State Commission for Police.
A Deputy Superintendent Inspector Ben Ekundayo first saw her, received the pictures of the injuries she had that she had taken, and gave her paperwork to go to the General Hospital in Ifako for treatment and documentation of her injuries.
Beatrice was full of hope and went to the Hospital as directed and her injuries were documented by Dr.
Bamidele and the medical report returned to the Police.
Then the case was assigned to Deputy Superintendent of Police Olu Falomo and Inspector Isaac (also known as Ikwukwu) to handle and things quickly went downhill from there.
No sooner was the assignment made than Inspector Isaac demanded money to enable him transport himself to Solomon's residence to interview him.
Beatrice gave him 10,000 naira for that purpose.
Instead of using the money he had illegally collected to go look for Solomon as he stated, Inspector Isaac did nothing more than make telephone calls to Solomon to invite him to the Police Station.
Once Solomon got to the Police station, money must have again changed hands and it became one excuse after the other from Inspector Isaac and DSP Olu Falomo.
Rather than producing any tangible result of an investigation, Inspector Isaac asked for more money to allow him to and track down Solomon.
But when questioned about his previous efforts, Inspector Isaac could not even describe Solomon's residence that he claimed to have gone to.
Beatrice refused to part with any more money, prompting Inspector Isaac to state that from his telephone discussion with Solomon, he could tell that Solomon was a violent person and that he did not feel comfortable going to his house to confront him.
To add insult to injury, he asked Beatrice to go and lay siege around the house and call the Police Station if she is able to sight Solomon in the area.
This advise was coming from the Police that are supposed to protect its citizenry from any form of physical abuse.
Of course, Beatrice being in fear of her life did not take up the instruction from Inspector Isaac to institute surveillance of Solomon.
She continued to appeal to the Police for help an even went up to the Assistant Commissioner for Police in Human Rights Center of the Lagos State Police Command.
The ACP only made token attempts to have ASP Olu Falomo and Inspector Isaac (A.
Ikwukwu) to track down Solomon.
Both Police Officer ashamedly claimed that each time they had called Solomon he stated that he was out of town and could not come to the station to see them and that eventually, Solomon had begun to threaten them with physical harm over the phone.
Meanwhile emboldened by the inaction of the police, Solomon continued to send threatening messages to Beatrice directly and through his friends.
A month into the devastating ordeal, ASP Olu Falomo and Inspector Isaac summoned Beatrice to the station to inform her that they did not have enough evidence to proceed with the case, that Solomon had denied ever touching her and that it was word against word.
Beatrice was aghast.
What about the obvious physical injuries that she had.
What about the pictures that she had given to DSP Ekundayo, when she first came to the Police to make the report.
What about the medical reference and the medical reports and documentation by Dr.
What about the tenants that lived at their compound, whose names she had given to the police as witnesses to what happened.
How can all this not be enough to proceed with an investigation and prosecution.
Something must be wrong.
Solomon must have given more money to the police.
Beatrice had uncontroverted proof that Solomon was in Lagos, but both ASP Olu Falomo and Inspector Isaac, insisted that he was not, since according to them, Solomon told them he had been in Abia State on business all this while.
When Beatrice went back to the Assistant Commissioner of Police to press the case, she was told that she needed to go back to the matrimonial home and resolve the issue with Solomon.
The officers handling the case, ASP Falomo and Inspector Isaac, brought in female officers in the department to persuade Beatrice by moralistic arguments to go back home, for the sake of the children and other spurious reasons usually used to support and justify keeping women in unsavory matrimonial living conditions.
To cap it all, ASP Olu Falomo and Inspector Isaac told Beatrice that she would have to go back home, but that they would keep the case file open and if Solomon ever touched her again, they would certainly step in and arrest him.
That the open file would act as a warning for Solomon and keep him in check from future misbehavior.
If the police did little investigation, Beatrice's complaint to the newly minted Lagos State Ministry for Poverty Alleviation received even less attention.
The employee assigned to the case, went from promising that they will go and visit with Solomon, to that they would write to Solomon to come to the office to that they will call Solomon on the phone to discuss the matter with him to eventually silence and no action at all on the complaint.
Beatrice was devastated.
Both the police and the Ministry for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation that were supposed to protect her from the physical abuse of Solomon have failed to do so, instead choosing to compromise themselves by accepting money from the suspect to look the other way.
The case of Beatrice is real and reflects a continuing refusal of the Nigerian Police to take seriously the issue of battered spouses in the society.
The news is replete with cases of women that are killed by their husband after years of unchecked physical battery by the husband.
Tragically these complaints of spousal battery are assigned to and handled by male police officers who themselves believe that the woman's place in the home is one of obedience and that any woman who has been beaten by the husband must have done something to deserve it.
The conclusion of Beatrice's complaint is particularly shocking that she was advised to go home and report back if any other incident occurred.
It must not have occurred to ASP Olu Falomo and Inspector Isaac that the next complaint might be one of murder of Beatrice by Solomon.
Beatrice's case played out in the urban setting of Lagos where the police is supposed to be more discerning and there is an additional Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
Beatrice is an educated woman with some means to push her case.
There are several similar cases all over the country but if Beatrice's case received such dismissive attention, what happens to cases of other women not so placed as Beatrice.
Indeed, many women do not bother to go to the Police anymore knowing what kind of treatment would be given to the complaint.
The actions of ASP Olu Falomo and Inspector Isaac in the handling of Beatrice's complaint are despicable and condemnable, but they are certainly not alone in the issue.
The superiors and higher ups in the Police are also complicit in the dereliction of duty.
They cannot claim to be unaware of the rot in the system, or perhaps they choose to turn a blind eye because they benefit from the trickle down bribes that the junior offices receive from the suspect husbands in these cases.
They are content to sacrifice the safety of the women victims in order to line their filthy pockets.
How they sleep well at night is unimaginable given the number of women that have lost their lives due to the refusal of the Police to act on complaints of battered women such as Beatrice.
There is need for pressure on the Nigerian Police to take the issue of battered women more seriously.
Without comprehensive reform in approach, many women will continue to lose their lives at the hands of their husbands, many children will continue to be made motherless in the process and many a family lose their precious daughter and sister in the process.
Meanwhile Beatrice continues to live in fear of her live, but has vowed to continue her fight for justice in whatever form she can get it.
Written By Ogochukwu Victor Onwaeze.