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Sextortion: Checkmating this new alias for bribe in Nigeria

•Photo: •Justice Binta Nyako

By Anthonia Soyingbe, Senior Reporter

President, National Association of Women Judges in Nigeria (NAWJN), Justice Binta Nyako, is championing a course against sexual extortion fast gaining grounds within the Nigerian society, killing many men and women while the victims keep sealed lips as they suffer in silence.

Queen, can be mistaken for a beauty queen because of her frame and beauty.  But beneath her appearance is an emotional wreck. With tears running down her cheeks, she narrated her ordeal: “I have just been sexually exploited by a team of policemen.” How do you mean was the instant query?

Hear her story: “I was a victim of ‘one chance’ bus. I had travelled to my village for a family event. On my way back to Lagos, the bus dropped all the passengers at Ojota. Immediately, I hopped into the first bus going my way. The driver appeared to be in a hurry to get to his destination. He just picked about four of us: three females and one male.

Along the way, he announced that he didn’t need our money but our lives. With that announcement, he took us to an unknown destination where we stayed for three days until I was able to escape. In truth, I did not know the name of the location, but it is within Lagos here. As I was running, I ran into a man and explained my ordeal. He then directed me to a nearby Police Station.

“On getting there, I narrated my story to the policemen I met on duty. I could hear one of them later saying I could be a commercial sex worker. But I did not say anything. They told me I would be at the station for a while for them to investigate and verify my story. But right from the first night, one of them came to me and said that if I wanted them to help me, I should cooperate with them. I asked what he meant and before I knew what was happening, he had forced himself on me. They all took turns in raping me. I was eventually let off. Some women, who took me back to Cele-Ijesha along the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, gave me money to go home.”

“That’s one typical case of sextortion,” Justice Nyako said. “And there are many others presenting in similar instances. In each case, sextortion, is a form of corruption in which sex, rather than money, is the currency of the bribe,” she said.

Justice Nyako explained, “Sextortion is actually a word used to describe a combination of ‘sex and extortion’. And that is the concern of the International Association of Women Judges.

“Ethics of our profession might not permit me to talk about specific cases we have handled as female judges, but I can tell you of open instances. Sextortion often has elements of corruption in it. And that is why it is treated as a criminal offence. Painfully, it is not a new phenomenon. It is just that nobody wants to talk about it. We have however realised the serious need to break the silence just as the world was able to break the sealed lips on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. One thing we must come to terms with is its current rampant in our societies. And so, now is about the time we break the silence and begin to talk about it openly.

“Sextortion, even as admitted by the international communities during some of the conferences that have been hosted, is basically about an element of abuse of power by somebody entrusted with authority and somebody who is seeking either an advantage or justice from that person who holds the clout. And sadly, it is in all spheres of life – the judiciary, executive, legislator, media, police, army and indeed, every sector of the Nigerian life. It is within the university campuses, villages, cities and everywhere you can think of. We have now decided to bring it out and stop keeping sealed lips on it so that people can become aware and seek redress.

“It can take any form. There was the case of a woman seeking immigration status in one of the Western countries who got sexually molested by the judge that was to grant her the immigration status. He actually refused to do his job, saying that after all, he only wanted to ‘do it’ just twice. We also had another situation where a woman was stopped in the traffic and the policeman that stopped her said ‘I won’t issue you a ticket, just show me your breasts. But these are things that people just take for granted, but they dehumanise their victims.”

She also shared the pathetic story of The Baby that Refuses to Die. “This happened in our own country. She is about six and left in the care of a male guardian who took daily delight in molesting her sexually. After a long period, he devised a means of terminating the young girl’s life. He attempted to suture her abdomen for ritual purposes and in the process, sliced off a part of her outer body. When he could not handle the profuse bleeding, he dumped the girl and ran away. Apparently, a few minutes later, someone saw the little girl and drew attention. Of course, he was later arrested, and he is still answering questions from the investigating authorities. Concerned Nigerians then flew the girl abroad for proper medical attention. The operation was successful, but she may never be able to have a child of her own,” she narrated.

She went on, “you can see this is a serious issue in our part of the world. Unfortunately, there are no statistics due to the silence and denials that often trail the sad occurrence of sextortion. That is why we have now decided to bring the matter into public attention so people, suffering in silence, will be encouraged to speak out and seek medical attention. And because somebody says it is sex for corruption, everyone is afraid to talk about it.”

According to her, the essence of the one-day conference in Port Harcourt, on Saturday June 30, 2012, in conjunction with the National Institute for Advanced Legal Studies is to boost the confidence of many men and women to be able to come out in the open and say “I am a victim…”

“Our aim is to make it public so that we can start collating statistics on its widespread within our country.” This, she said, will help break the conspiracy of silence surrounding the nefarious act.

According to Nyako, “If the silence is not broken and quickly too, I pray we don’t have a repeat of an incidence in which a randy Judge took five of his female victims down to the grave with him. He completely wiped off a whole set of office staff within five years. Here was a man who compelled every female staff to do overtime just to earn a little extra allowance than their peanuts salaries. It did not matter to him whether the woman was married or not. All he wanted was to gratify his avid libido. Yet, he was HIV positive, never told the women, but silently passed the virus to each of his victims. In the process, he passed Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) from one woman to the other all of whom could not speak, one, because of his highly exalted position, and two, because he was threatening them with sack if they should open up. It wasn’t until he was dying himself that he confessed. By then also, his wife, who also got infected with similar kinds of ailments that killed the other women in his office, had died. So, this is just to show you the gravity of the incident we are talking about. It is no longer an issue that should be swept under the carpet. It must be exposed as much as we all can.

She went on, “We cannot say in the judiciary that we have the answers to all the questions. But I have had a case in my court where a very pretty woman was kept in police custody and the men were taking turns to sleep with her. At the end of the day, she became emotionally traumatised. In fact, I had to grant her bail because she became a mental case. That was a very sad case for me, because at a point, she even had to abort a pregnancy because she was not sure who the actual father was. That is why we are inviting all of us (Nigerians) who have the know-how to come join and share with us on this silent killer of emotions so that we can chart a way ahead. There are women out there who are sleeping with their bosses, not because they want to, but because they were forced. Similarly, we have men who are being forced by their female chief executives to sleep with them. Yet, they cannot resist because they need the jobs to keep their families or build a future for themselves. So, we are not making this a female affair. It is a humanity affair. Sextortion is not a woman’s problem alone.

There are male CEOs who are gay and may want to compel their younger male staff into their sexual trend. And there are also female CEOs who equally want to intimidate their younger female staff into such sexual cravings. It is happening in the political circles where meetings take place late in the night with women, married or not, in attendance. Women who refuse to play the game might not be considered for one juicy slot or the other. Sextortion is a national problem that must be given a national importance so we can all fashion a way out to nip sextortion in the bud.”

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