When it rains it pours. That perhaps has been a theme for Nigerian women in 2020. In June, there was a reckoning of sorts when a range of stories detailing the rape and assaults of a diverse set of Nigerian women made the news: Uwaila Omozuwa, Barakat Bello, Farishina, Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje, Azeezat and Peace Onaiwu. In wake of that, pop star D’Banj was next in the firing line as Seyitan Babatayo published her account of her sexual assault, providing rich detail that enhanced her credibility. D’Banj’s response was to use his wealth and access to ensure the arrest of Seyitan Babatayo and her mother. Her release was granted about 24 hours later after the accusations on Twitter had been recanted and some half-assed apology in support of D’Banj had been released. In the last week, two domestic violence stories have appeared in the news. Music artist, Lhil Frosh was accused of assaulting his girlfriend. Former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) was caught on video violently charging at his wife. While Fani-Kayode has not borne any consequences, Lhil Frosh has been dropped by his label, Davido Music Worldwide. This move has been received well with the label getting credit for taking a stand and laying an emphasis on propriety regardless of the impact or potential impact on its bottom line. Again, this highlights the experience of Nigerian women in a country where patriarchy is enshrined into the national psyche.
Nigeria has enshrined in law, the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015 which was enacted to eliminate various types of violent acts. According to Societies Without Borders, “domestic violence constitutes a violation of women’s human rights in [in Nigeria]. It contravenes the fundamental rights provisions contained in the constitution: for instance, the right to life and all the basic civil and political freedoms including freedom of association, assembly, expression and worship and freedom from discrimination.” Despite this constitutional provision, “an average of 300–350 women are killed every year by their husbands, former partners, boyfriends, or male relations. Most times the incidents are considered family feuds, which should be treated within the family. It’s also common to find the Police refusing to intervene and advising the victims to go back home and settle “family matters”.
For us to evolve to utopia, there is an implicit need and desire to do better. The wheels of society are built on constant, progressive action. Men need to do better and stop assaulting women. It would also be helpful if victims of assault are able to find strength from using the tools at their disposal: the law and the media to hold perpetrators to account and to enable them to Lface the consequences. We also need to continuously offer support to organizations who do the hard work of fighting this fight and offering support to victims.