Almost every day, stories of rape and dehumanizing human treatment are reported in Nigerian media.

Often times, Nigerian females fall victim of prowling male neighbors, acquaintances and sometimes strangers.

These female victims are assaulted and subjected to inhuman treatment with little or no attention paid by law enforcement agencies whose responsibility it is to protect them.

But what happens when these assaulters are parents or guardians of the victim?

In this investigative report, sponsored by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, correspondent Uche Ndeke, speaks with some of the female teenagers in some communities in Anambra State to know how easy it is for them to get justice whenever they are assaulted by their parents or guardians .

Female teenagers tend to be more vulnerable in the society as they are sometimes beaten and subjected to other dehumanizing punishments by their guardians and sometimes their parents.

This is despite the provisions of the law, which tends to protect such child under the child’s right law.

Under the criminal justice, actions and activities which cause physical or mental harm and torture to teenagers, are described as Assault.

Assault is said to mean intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact and could be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual.

Assault comes in different shades and shapes against the female teenager, who often times do not have what it takes or know how to go about seeking redress and justice against the perpetrators, who are most times closely related to them.

The Child Rights Act was adopted in Nigeria in 2003 with a view to ensuring that assault and other criminal cases against children were redressed and controlled.

Before the Child’s Right Law, many parents and guardians as custodians often maltreat teenagers under them all in the name of bringing the children up for a better society.

However, the trend has continued to change as the rights of children and teenagers begin to take centre stages across the globe leading to the establishment of laws for their protection and prosecution of victims.

Investigations by Radio Nigeria reveal that many parents and guardians still don’t know that they are liable to criminal charges for inhuman treatment of teenagers whom they lived with.

Some communities, Umuokpu and Okpuno in Awka South Local Government Area as well as Amanuke and Isuaniocha in Awka North Local Government Aarea of Anambra State are some of the places where female teenagers living with their parents or guardians experience assault not because of the environment but generally a case study to what obtains almost in all the communities across cities in Nigeria.

Three months ago in Awka, a female teenager, Precious Nwali, who hails from Ebonyi State was allegedly assaulted by her guardian, Mrs. Charity Effiong, Who put pepper into the girl’s private part and chased her out of the home at about ten o’clock in the evening before a good Samaritan ran into her while she was crying.

The man, who brought Precious to her guardian, Mr. Efiong Inang, told our correspondent that the poor economic condition of her parents forced them into releasing the primary three girl to a stranger, who kept on assaulting her physically.

The Assault victim, Precious Nwali, who could not talk due to the shock and pains of the pepper inserted into her private part was however lucky as she was later sent back to her parents and the suspect arraigned in Court.

The case of Onyekachi Okafor, who lives with an Aunt in Isuaniocha, is different as she narrates in Igbo language how she does all the house chores and yet gets to be flogged almost every day she fails to finish sales of the tray of groundnut she is forcibly assigned to hawk by her guardian.

“My aunty is not my mommy, she said my mother is in Awba Ofemmili, I am seven years old, each day I don’t finish sale of my groundnut or any other thing she gives me to sell, I will not eat and she will flog me with belt,” Precious narrated with tray full of groundnut on her head.

Another victim of Assault reportedly had her hands and legs tied by her own mother, who claimed ignorance of the Child Rights Law by the time she was apprehended by neighbors, who could no longer bear the inhuman treatment served on the teenage girl by her mother.

The neighbors, who sympathized with the girl demanded for justice, which they said often times eluded such victims.

At Umuokpu Awka, sixteen year old Onyinyechi Maduka, who is in junior secondary three had marks of canes and wounds inflicted on her by a guardian, who is a civil servant in Awka.

Precious Nweke from Ikwor, Ebonyi State said she wants to go back to her parents as the guardian she stays with maltreats her and batters her whenever she does not wash the children’s clothes as expected by the madam.

A human rights activist, Lady Joy is of the view that most of the assault and inhuman treatment against female teenagers are as a result of the hard economic situations in Nigeria, which makes some parents and guardians to vent their frustration and anger on the vulnerable ones around them.

Condemning the act, Joy also blames the incident, which is on the increase in many cities across the country, on parental failure, especially mothers, who are supposed to nurture their children rather than expose them to assaults and dehumanizing treatments.

In an interview with Radio Nigeria, a Consultant in Child Protection, Mr. Emeka Ejide observes that assault against young persons is very prominent among those that migrate from rural to Urban areas in search of greener pastures or income to assist their poor families.

Mr. Ejide enumerated, bureaucracy, deliberate delay in prosecution and stigma as some of the reasons assault victims do not get justice easily in magistrate court.

According to Mr. Ejide, “because of the frustrations and bottle neck processes they encounter with security operatives. Most of these matters when they get to court there is a deliberate act of lack of deliberate prosecution and therefore there is no assess to justice.

“Based on our socio cultural background, we tend to shy away from certain types of assault based on its stigma and the other antecedents that may come up later. So these are hindrances that affect the asses to justice. The instruments to prosecute assault cases is already in place but when the complainant discontinue a matter, what do you do?”

The Legal Adviser to Women Aid Collective, WACOL, Anambra State, Chioma Okoye, says the challenge of where the assault victim will go to if she gets justice and the unwillingness on the part of the prosecution stakeholders, including the police and court, have continued to be an impediment.

“Our government has taken the first step, which is implementing the Child’s Right Law. But then that is not enough: after implementation, what happens?

“Sometimes, we hear that the police arrested people but then, after the arrest you hear nothing again. So I think government has a lot of roles to play to make sure that the perpetrators are punished and that the children go through psychological cleansing to regain them back from the trauma they passed through,” she said.

Sometimes, the police are compromised or not even aware of the existing laws that tend to protect the rights of children as explained by the Secretary Anambra State Child Protection Network, Miss. Hope Okoye.

“Children, especially female teenagers, are abused and assaulted in many forms but the truth is that one out of every hundred gets justice because the whole thing starts from the reporting of the case.

“Most people don’t report such cases and many don’t even know that the law exists, and even when it is reported, the case don’t see the light of the day as it begins and ends in police station.

“Sometimes too, the police pressurise them to go and settle out of court or get intimidated by the perpetrators. Some of the police officers working under the Juvenile, Children and Women section are not even aware of the provisions of the Child’s Right Law,” Miss Okoye lamented.

Miss Okoye also decries the absence of a shelter home or transit place where victims of assault who run away from their guardians or parents could stay while the needful is being done by the law court and security agents.

“That’s the most serious issue, when you talk about a safe or shelter of refuge, there is nothing like that in Anambra State. If we have to implement the Child Rights law, there is the need for a transit shelter where if need be, their families would be traced.

“The model home that the Ministry of Women Affairs run is filled up and the police don’t also have, anytime they are in contact with children cases they in a hurry to let them go,” Miss Okoye cries out.

The Acting Permenant Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Anambra State, Mrs. Hope Ekesiobi, explains that part of the mandate of the ministry was to ensure that assault cases against all vulnerable persons are addressed and resolved by ensuring that justice is giving to victims despite the obvious set backs in the Implementation of state Child Right Law 2004.

“There is the need for proper awareness on the provisions of the law as well as training and retraining of all relevant stakeholders involved in the protection of assault against female teenagers,” Mrs. Ekesiobi stated.

The Nigerian Police as one of the major players in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act as well as other legal provisions of child protection, identifies inhuman treatment against female teenagers as an offence that suspects must not be allowed to get away with so says the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Anambra State, Mr. Haruna Mohammed.

“There are challenges of course, for example if the assault was perpetrated by the parent, I don’t think its very easy for the police to charge the parent to court and maybe the children are of tender age, who will take custody of them? Most times, the action will be the last resort, in the interest of the child,” Mr. Mohammed stated.

Mr. Mohammed explains that the Child Rights law makes provisions that when a child is exposed to moral danger and the parent or guardian can no longer said to be capable of taking care of the child, the Government through its relevant ministries will take such victim into custody while investigation is carried out by security operatives.

Also, the Director Public Prosecution (DPP) in Anambra State, Mr. Emma Osunkwor stress on the need for more awareness on the existing laws protecting child rights.

Mr. Osunkwor points out that the fear of where to go to and who to take responsibility of their upkeep discourages many victims from coming out to complain that they are being assaulted by either parents or Guardians.

In the Criminal Code Chapter 36 revised law of Anambra State 1991, section 258, any person who unlawfully assaults another and thereby does him harm is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years while the Child Right law 2004 came into place in the state to guarantee a system of Child Justice Administration and matters connected therewith.

Despite these provisions, the Socio-Cultural background of the victims in Africa and Nigeria in particular makes it rather difficult for vulnerable teenagers to get justice when they are assaulted by their parents and guardians.

This is considering the fact that no one challenges their parents to war let alone dragging a guardian to court knowing the poor family background that pushes such child out from home.

It is therefore hoped that government would reconsider the legal provisions and look at the possibility of improving the country’s economy and also build necessary shelters for such victims of assault in the society.