Urgent Call to Action: President Tinubu, Addressing the Devastating Impact of Sexual Assault in the Nigerian Military

Feature Article Ruth Ogunleye, Philomena Nnamoko and President Bola Tinubu
FEB 17, 2024 LISTEN
Ruth Ogunleye, Philomena Nnamoko and President Bola Tinubu

As a practicing sexual offender psychologist, I'm acutely aware of the devastating impact of sexual assault, and I can only imagine the profound suffering experienced by victimized individuals, including female soldiers. This issue poses one of the most pressing challenges facing Nigeria today. Urgent action from President Bola Tinubu’s administration is crucial to overhaul the military justice system, guaranteeing fairness and accountability in cases of sexual assault. This issue stands as one of the nation's most egregious and shameful problems, particularly given Nigeria's current climate.

Failure to address this crisis promptly will precipitate a growing exodus of women from uniformed positions and exacerbate the already dire consequences.

The psychological toll inflicted upon female soldiers subjected to sexual abuse is profound, manifesting in a myriad of debilitating symptoms that perpetuate profound suffering and despair. Many victims experience debilitating depression, characterized by a profound sense of hopelessness and despair that engulfs their daily lives. The relentless onslaught of anxiety consumes their thoughts, rendering them prisoners to their own fear and trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ravages their psyche, leaving them haunted by recurrent nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic events they endured.

Moreover, the insidious impact of sexual assault extends beyond the individual, corroding morale within the ranks and compromising the operational effectiveness of the military as a whole. Female soldiers, who should be pillars of strength and resilience, are instead shackled by the chains of trauma, their spirits crushed under the weight of unspeakable violation. In some cases, the trauma becomes unbearable, driving victims to contemplate the unthinkable act of suicide as a desperate escape from their unrelenting torment.

The profound agony lies in the silent suffering endured by countless victims. These women bear their anguish in silence, paralyzed by fear, forced to endure the torment of their trauma day in and day out, all to maintain a semblance of normalcy and earn a livelihood. The pain is compounded by the agonizing reality that the perpetrators of their suffering continue to roam free, their presence a constant reminder of the horrors they have endured.

It is a cruel irony that these survivors must face their assailants on a daily basis, their trauma rekindled with every glance, every interaction. To add insult to injury, the perpetrators often remain unpunished, shielded by a veil of impunity that further deepens the wounds of their victims.

In such an environment, the mere act of naming the perpetrators is not enough; decisive action must be taken to ensure that they are removed from the vicinity of their victims, sparing them the anguish of reliving their trauma with each passing day. Only then can we begin to address the profound suffering inflicted upon these brave women and embark on the path to healing and justice.

Such profound suffering cannot be ignored or trivialized; it demands urgent and decisive action. President Tinubu must wield his executive authority to enact comprehensive reforms to the military justice system, dismantling the entrenched culture of impunity and ensuring swift and impartial justice for survivors of sexual assault. The gravity of this crisis necessitates the establishment of a dedicated committee on Women's Issues within the National Assembly, providing a platform for victims and advocates to amplify their voices and demand accountability.

The authority to prosecute such cases should no longer rest solely with commanding officers. Instead, contracted civilian prosecutors should be empowered to make these decisions, thus removing potential conflicts of interest. While it may take time to witness the tangible results of these changes, their implementation will undoubtedly foster greater trust, professionalism, and confidence in the military justice system. Media outlets like Punch News and Sahara Reporters play a vital role in exposing these atrocities, but true change requires systemic reforms that strike at the heart of institutionalized injustice. Empowering contracted civilian prosecutors to handle sexual assault cases, independent of commanding officers, is essential to instill trust and professionalism in the military justice system.

In all dominated military hierarchies, these men, from privates to leadership, often protect each other, creating a culture of impunity that shields perpetrators from accountability and perpetuates cycles of abuse. This entrenched system of protectionism not only perpetuates the suffering of victims but also undermines the integrity of the military as a whole. It is imperative that we dismantle this culture of silence and complicity and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, regardless of rank or status. Only then can we begin to create a military justice system that upholds the principles of fairness, accountability, and respect for human rights.

Failure to address this pervasive culture of sexual violence within the military not only undermines the integrity and effectiveness of our armed forces but also erodes the very fabric of our nation. The silence surrounding these atrocities must be shattered, and the perpetrators held to account for their heinous crimes. President Tinubu, the time for action is now. The fate of countless female soldiers hangs in the balance, their lives and dignity imperiled by a system that has failed them.