Not less than 1,000 women in Cross River State yesterday took to the streets of Okuni community, Ikom Local Government Area of the state, protesting against an alleged gang rape of one of them.
The incident, according to the women, occurred on November 6, 2017, when some gunmen invaded their farm, stole bags of cocoa and gang raped the wives of one of the farmers, while the husband was tied to a tree and made to watch. The protesting women were angry that one of the suspects in the crime, who was arrested after being identified by the victim, was charged just for stealing, and had long been released on bail.
Dressed in black and carrying placards and leaves, the women took off from the community through the police station to the local government secretariat to express their grievances, while appealing to the Commissioner of Police and all relevant authorities concerned to intervene into the matter to ensure justice.
The women in their protest document, said: “On November 6, 2017, gunmen attacked one of our plantations where about 12 bags of cocoa were stolen from the farmers. They beat up and finally, gang raped one of their wives to the point of unconsciousness in presence of her husband, who they tied to a tree. They were held at gunpoint, while the gunmen took turns to rape the woman.
“The woman upon regaining consciousness was brought to the state capital and the case was reported to the police, which led to the arrest of one of the rapist who was identified by the victim to have been the first to rape her.
“Sadly, the major culprit who was meant to fish out other perpetrators was released on bail. When the matter came up in court early this month, the suspect was absent and the medical report missing from the file. This is the reason the women have decided to take to the streets of Ikom to demand that the case be revisited and that justice prevails,” one of the protesters said.
Secretary of the women meeting in Okuni, Maria Akpet, said: “To our dismay, the file for rape was missing, the only file left is for stealing of cocoa. When the case is called, it is for stealing and not rape.”
Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Irene Ugbo, said initially when the case was reported, the suspect was arrested and a medical report was conducted that proved rape but the Divisional Police Officer at the time did not brief the Commissioner properly on the matter and along line, the suspect was released.
Ugbo said when this was realized, it led to the removal of the DPO by the Commissioner and the suspect rearrested. The Commissioner ordered proper investigation and prosecution to be carried out.