Justice Delayed: His Excellency, Governor Ben Ayade Must Protect The Child (Victim)
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Your Excellency, Sir. It is with utmost respect for your honourable office and unstinted deference to your person as a learned Jurist and Barrister, we, the undersigned, wish to draw your attention to the ongoing miscarriage of justice within your jurisdiction, a situation which sullies the good name and image of Cross River State; and detracts from your achievements and accomplishments as Executive Governor of the beautiful state of Cross River. We use this medium, being the most accessible of last resort, given the futility of all other avenues, to appeal to you to please use your good office to redress this miscarriage of justice and help correct the travesties, in the matter concerning the rape and sexual exploitation accusation levelled against one of the members of your administration, your Special Adviser on Biodiversity, Ntufam (Mr.) Edet Okon Asim.
Mr. Asim was arrested along with Ms. Stella Noah for repeatedly raping Ms. Noah's daughter (the Child Victim) from when she was 12 years old, until the time of his arrest, when she was 15. Arrested with them was one Dr. Abeng Enangha Sunday, a politician and medical doctor who was alleged to have performed multiple abortions on the victim whenever she became pregnant as a result of the incestuous rape committed by Mr. Okon Asim, ultimately inflicting irreparable injuries to the womb of the Child Victim.
Shortly after the arrest in 2019, your Attorney General at the time (and now your Commissioner for ICT), Mr. Joe Abang declared thus (in reference to the arrest and case):
"...I have since okayed the trial of Edet Okon Asim and two of the other suspects. I okayed that opinion before Easter and they will be charged at the High Court...I have signed the opinion and it's a public document in my office..."
The Director of Public Prosecutions in your administration at the time also commented on the case and declared thus:
"...On the issue of rape, it is our considered opinion that the statement of the victim, an underage who stated that the first suspect (Ntufam Edet Okon Asim) sexually molested her (ed: The Victim) and got her pregnant... Our resolve to ascribe probative value to the allegations of the victim that the 1st (ed:(Ntufam Edet Okon Asim))...sexually molested her and got her pregnant on different occasions is largely premised on the fact that this is the statement of a witness who is narrating first-hand what happened to her and we are convinced that the victim could not have singled out the suspects for these serious allegations, especially considering the special relationship she had with the first suspect (Ntufam Edet Okon Asim). She is, in our considered opinion, a witness of truth."
"...Based on the analysis of the facts and the law in relation thereto:
It is recommended as follows:
a. we shall prosecute the 1st (Edet Okon Asim) ... for the offence of rape alone..."
Your Excellency, Sir, it is with regret, sadness and utter disappointment that we hereby draw your attention to the fact that, more than one year after these public and documented promises by officers within your administration, not only has Ntufam (Mr.) Edet Okon Asim not been charged as promised, he appears to have been rewarded with a promotion and continued participation as a member of your administration.
Sir, we hesitate (and sincerely apologise for appearing) to be educating you on matter of legal references but we ask that you please indulge us in this exercise.
The Nigerian Child Rights Act (henceforth simply referred to as the "Act") which Cross River State adopted and signed on the 26th of May, 2009, in Section 31(1) expressly prohibits "unlawful sexual intercourse with a child". Anyone who contravenes said provision is deemed to have committed an offence of RAPE and liable for life imprisonment (31(2)).
A Child is defined in the Act as anyone under the age of 18 Years. Yes, some parts of the Constitution and Local Laws deviate from this age specification, but, even then, Mr. Edet Okon Asim’s alleged victim is recognised as a “Child” deserving of protection by even the most expansive definition of a “Child” in Nigeria. The Rape is alleged to have commenced at the time she was merely 12 Years old.
To be clear, Section 31(3) makes it unambiguously clear that it doesn’t matter whether the Offender believed the Victim to be older than 18 years, nor does it matter whether the Victim gave consent at the time of the Offence. The Offender is guilty so long as the Child is a Child in the eyes of the Law. The Victim here was a Child at the time of her Rape by Mr. Edet Okon Asim.
Your Excellency, Sir, we the undersigned beseech you to:
1. Demonstrate by actions and public utterances, your personal and official repudiation and disavowal of the actions of Mr. Edet Okon Asim and assure the indigenes of Cross River, Nigerians, and the world at large that neither you nor your administration is shielding, protecting or otherwise enabling Mr. Okon Asim's continued evasion of the legal remedies prescribed in the Child Rights Act and other governing regulations.
2. Demonstrate by affirmative actions and other methods, your unequivocal and declarative support for the enforcement of the Act as adopted by your predecessors, by issuing (or causing to be issued) an official communique and Press Release in all applicable media of mass communication in the state, a statement to the effect that your government will not be party to the support, tolerance, encouragement or cover up of any action which violates or contravenes the provisions of the Child Rights Act.
3. Forthwith, invoke the provisions of the Child Rights Act (as endorsed by Cross River in conformance with the globally acknowledged rights of the Powerless Child to be protected within your jurisdiction), and order (or cause to be ordered) the prosecution of Mr. Edet Okon Asim for the offence of Raping, Defiling, Impregnating and Injuring a Child in Cross River State.
4. In service to humanity, as a Father, and Constitutional Guardian and Protector of the Child Victim in the alleged case, immediately provide (or cause to be provided) the necessary remedies, assistance and restitution to the Child Victim as are determined by qualified counsellors and professionals engaged by your good office to evaluate the injuries and other effects of the atrocities inflicted on her.
5. Commence (or cause to be commenced) an expansive review, investigation or examination of all cases of child rape, incest, molestation, brutality and similar acts directed at the children and minors in the great state of Cross River, with a view towards judiciously addressing each, and prosecuting the Accused to the full extent of the Law.
Your Excellency, Sir, you have a moral, religious and constitutional obligation to serve the interest of the great people of Cross River who count on you for leadership, safety and protection. You especially have the duty as a Father, to be there for the most vulnerable and innocent amongst us. We ask that you please, be for this little girl, a compassionate father, particularly, in the absence of her biological father who was snatched by the cold hands of death.
Sir, you have a CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION to ensure that Mr. Edet Okon Asim's victim gets Justice and Redress in your State. Please, do not shirk your responsibilities, Sir.
SEVENTH SCHEDULE (of the Act) [Section 174 (4)]
State Government Support for Children and Families
Prevention of neglect and abuse
4. (1) Every State Government shall take reasonable steps, through the provision of services under Part XV of this Act, to prevent children within the State from suffering ill treatment or neglect.
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