Oluchi Okoh is brilliant and smart, and hopes to become a medical doctor in future.
The 14-year-old, who is in her last term in senior secondary school can’t wait to gain admission into any of the country’s prestigious medical schools to achieve her dream.
But all of that is in the past. That enthusiasm has been replaced by melancholy and deep-seethed resentment.
Oluchi was allegedly gang-raped by seven men and left for dead on May 6, 2021, at the Ogboli Quarters, Issele-Uku, in the Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State.
She was found semi-conscious and in a pool of her own blood by concerned villagers.
Sunday PUNCH reliably gathered that she sustained a second degree perineal tear, while her hymen was jaggedly thorn.
Aside from being stripped of her innocence, the teenager has been forced into a life of seclusion and has become a shadow of her former self.
Oluchi told our correspondent that the trauma had been unending, adding that she also nursed suicide tendencies.
“I am a sad girl. I did not do anything to deserve what happened to me. I can’t eat well or sleep. Each time I close my eyes, I see their faces,” she said in tears.
With the alleged perpetrators absconding after the sordid act, the teenager feared that her case might be swept under the carpet, like other unresolved rape cases in the country.
Based on this, she appealed to Nigerians to ensure that justice was served in the matter.
Altercation with neighbour
Recalling what led to the incident, Oluchi said on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, Patience, a neighbour, accused her of having an affair with her husband.
The teenager stated that earlier she went on an errand for the woman’s husband and he gave her a tip. She added that some minutes later, an angry Patience stormed her parents’ apartment, demanding to know why her husband gave her money and what business they had transacted.
She recounted, “My mother and elder sister were not around when the woman came. She called me out and was shouting. She said I should explain why her husband gave me money. She accused me of sleeping with him. She slapped me several times and left after collecting the money.”
Oluchi said the next day, around 7pm, while returning with her younger brother from an errand, she was accosted by the woman’s son, Onyechukuwgoziri, popularly known in the community as Aboy, who wanted to know what actually transpired.
She said, “When Aboy stopped me, he told my younger brother to go home that I would join him later. He said I should follow him to a friend’s house, so that we could settle the issue. When we got to the house, immediately I sat down, six of his friends entered and locked the door. They raised the volume of the radio, held me down and raped me one after the other. I can’t remember how many times I fainted.”
After taking turns on the helpless teenager and having satisfied their libido, Oluchi said she was pushed out in a critical state.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that weak from losing so much blood, the teenager managed to crawl to a point in the village, where she was found and taken home by some concerned villagers.
She was later rushed to the Asaba Specialist Hospital, where her private parts were stitched and she had blood transfusion.
She cried, “I can’t remember what happened later because I fainted. I woke up to find myself in the hospital in terrible pain. I was given blood and they sewed me up. I have yet to recover. These people stole my virginity. I didn’t do anything to them.”
The teenager said that she was still haunted by memories from the incident, wishing they could be permanently erased from her head.
“I feel so bad. I cry each time I remember what happened. I was raped by our neighbour’s son, Chukwuma, Abraham, Uche, Sunday and Jungle man. I cannot remember the name of the seventh person. I find it hard to eat and sleep since then. I want justice and justice I must get,” Oluchi vowed.
Narrating what happened to Sunday PUNCH, Oluchi’s mother, Angela said she was still in shock, adding that her daughter didn’t deserve the treatment meted out to her by the suspects.
“Oluchi always helps Patience and her husband. She washes plates and clothes for them. I cannot believe that their son can plan with his friends to rape my daughter. The matter between Patience and Oluchi was settled that day and we all went to sleep without knowing that the son had evil plans,” Angela stated.
Continuing, the woman said, “When my son came home alone, I asked after his elder sister and the little boy said she was outside speaking with Aboy and that he asked him to go home. After some minutes, I told the elder sister, Favour, to look for her, but she did not find her.
“I became worried because it was getting too late. She went with her brother to buy something around 7pm and by midnight, we were still looking for her everywhere. I had a feeling that something was wrong.
“I went to report the development to the vigilantes and on my way back, I saw some people bringing Oluchi home. She could not walk and was drenched in blood.
“My daughter managed to tell me what happened and fainted. All the commercial motorcycle operators refused to take her to the hospital because it was late. I had to call my pastor for help around 2am. By the time we got to the hospital, she had lost so much blood.”
The distraught mother said she was shocked to later learn that Patience, her son and his friends had absconded.
“We have not seen any of them till now. Since the incident, I have been very sad. No mother will be happy to see her daughter go through this type of a terrible experience. I can’t eat. Even Oluchi finds it difficult to eat. Nigerians and the government should help me to get justice,” Angela appealed.
I don’t support my son’s act – Father
Aboy’s father, Chekwube Wise, told our correspondent that he was saddened by the development.
He added, “I am not happy. No parent will feel good that his son carried out such an atrocity. God knows that I don’t support this evil act.”
Wise said his wife and son accused him of having an amoral relationship with Oluchi, noting that it was just a figment of their imagination.
He described the teenager as an intelligent and obedient girl, adding that he was still shocked by his son’s alleged action.
He recounted, “The girl is like a daughter to me. I am 56 years old and at my age, there are certain things I cannot do. I usually send her on errands and occasionally give her money. My son and wife know that I give the girl money sometimes. I do not understand why they became angry this time and even fought with me about it.”
Continuing, he said, “On this particular day around midnight, I was woken up by a loud noise within the compound. When I got outside, I saw Oluchi drenched in blood and she said my son and his friends gang-raped her. We took her to the hospital and the mother went to report the case to the police immediately. It was a big slap on my face. Till now, I do not know my son’s whereabouts.”
Wise accused his son of being a cultist, deviant and disobedient.
“The law should take care of him. He joined a cult not long ago and since then, I have not had peace. He calls me a ‘Jew’ man and insults me at will. The police have been looking for him and I have joined them in the search. When he is caught, he should be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
Oluchi needs psychosocial support
A professor of Clinical Psychology and Personality Assessment at the Lagos State University, Kayode Taiwo, described the incident as disheartening, noting that Oluchi, and other rape victims require psychosocial support.
He said the first step to healing for the teenager would be to seek professional help.
He further said rape damages the personality of victims, leaving them with lifelong traumatic experiences and could cause sleep disturbances induced by nightmares.
Taiwo said, “If someone is raped at a young age by robbers or a family member, the stigma will linger. It is not a stigma associated with the environment, but from a mindset of feeling unworthy and used, because the rapist has violated a personal cognitive space. The damage done to the personality of that person will be extensive and lifelong.”
Rape, Nigeria’s albatross
Based on reports, Oluchi’s ordeal is not an isolated case. Over the years, Nigerians have expressed fears and concern over rising rape incidents with bloodcurdling details.
They blamed the rising incidents on the inability of public institutions to address the menace.
In June 2020, after several rape incidents were recorded, including the gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl in Jigawa State, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), declared a nationwide state of emergency on rape.
He was unanimously joined by all the governors in the country.
Later in his Democracy Day speech, Buhari said he was determined to fight Gender-Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and was upset by recent incidents of rape, especially of young girls.
Nigerians say not much has been done in that respect. Despite increasing rape incidents, it is still difficult to compile a list of victims because statistical reports on cases over the years have been inaccurate, as most incidents go unreported due to fear of stigmatisation and lack of follow-through investigations by law enforcement agents and agencies.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, one in four boys and one in 10 girls under 18 years are victims of sexual violence.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also said nearly one in five women are raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, often by someone they know and trust.
The World Health Organisation said 35 per cent of women worldwide experience some kind of physical or sexual assault in their lifetime, with adolescent girls much more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or assault.
A 2016 report by UNICEF titled: ‘Violence Against Children in Nigeria,’ revealed that four out of 10 girls experience sexual violence between the ages of six and 11, while it is one in every 10 for boys before they become adults.
According to experts, laws against rape are not deterrent enough and have fuelled a pervading culture of silence.
In Nigeria’s Criminal Code, punishment for rape as spelt out in Section 358 is life imprisonment, while an attempt to commit rape attracts just 14 years in jail.
Not much has been heard about the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act passed into law in May 2015, and which came up based on agitation for protection of persons against the different forms of violence.
Rape is a systemic problem in Nigeria
The Chairperson, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Lagos State Chapter, Phil Nneji, said only a few rape cases have ended in prosecution, widespread stigmatisation, and there are tendencies to blame victims.
She said gender-based violence has been on the increase and bemoaned the fact that underage girls have become prime targets.
Nneji described Oluchi’s ordeal as disheartening, insisting that she must not be denied justice.
“She must be facing psychological trauma and she needs support,” she added.
The FIDA chairperson said the police owe Nigerians a duty to investigate Oluchi’s case and that of other victims with due diligence and competence.
She stated, “Ending rape requires collective responsibility and this issue must be tackled with all the seriousness it requires. Government, reputable NGOs, community leaders, faith-based organisations and relevant stakeholders should all come out to be a voice.
“Rape is a criminal offence and there should be an executive fiat to it, so that we can be able to prosecute. The police, most times, compromise. After the #EndSARS protests, we don’t know if the police are working again. The security apparatus is close to zero and it’s a problem.
“For rape victims, the first port of call should be the police. They are the ones to arrest, investigate, prosecute and ensure that the case gets to a logical conclusion and those found guilty are punished accordingly. This is to serve as a deterrent to other would-be perpetrators.
“We must all cry out and say no to impunity. This is why FIDA is dedicated to helping people like Oluchi get enhanced access to justice. The more we fold our hands and watch, the more things will never get better.”
She said the Child Right Act and the Violence Against Persons (prohibition) Act, 2015, if they had been adopted in Delta State, should be used as an instrument of law to prosecute Oluchi’s abusers.
“The sex offender register, launched at the national level, should be adopted by all the 36 states, so that perpetrators will be named and shamed.
“Delta State should sit up and fight this case. This heinous crime should be tackled so that there would be a better environment for our future generations.”
Police keep mum
However, the Delta State Police Command didn’t respond to requests for comments on the matter.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ali, and the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bright Edafe, did not take their calls and had yet to respond to text messages sent to their respective mobile telephones as of the time of filing this report.