For the last five years, 30-year-old Bassey Victor, has been working as a barber in a shop along Raji Oba, Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos.
For those five years, Rachael’s husband and three of her four children have been part of his loyal customers.
They referred to him as their family barber.
Rachael (not real name) is a trader married to a Delta State indigene, a businessman who often travelled for days, entrusting the care of the home and children in the hands of his wife.
But sometime in March, while her husband travelled out of Lagos for work, she became a victim of a heinous crime she could not have imagined would ever happen to her.
Rachael sounded strong initially, as she told our correspondent her story in the office of the Esther Child Rights Foundation she had run to for help.
But midway into her story, her strong façade cracked, spilling out the evidence of her trauma. She cried. The tears spilled out in torrents.
Rachael did not have to explain all the physical and psychological trauma that had been brought upon her since that afternoon in March. Her expression alone told a million stories.
She said, “He (Bassey) was so familiar with my family that he once even approached my husband, pleading with him to open a barber’s shop for him.
“Around December, my husband took his clipper to the barber to have a haircut and it seemed it did not work well. He left it with Bassey to have it repaired. I asked for the clipper back because it had been there for too long and he said he needed money for the repairs. My husband gave him the money.
“Sometimes, when I took my three boys there to have a haircut, I would leave them with him. He would cut their hair and send them home.
“There was a time I noticed an infection on the head of one of them and I asked if he was using our clipper but the children said they did not know.
“I then asked Bassey for the clipper. He gave some excuses that it still did not work well after the repair. The last time I asked, that day in March, he told me that the clipper was at home.”
Bassey, who lived a short distance from his shop, allegedly told Rachael that he had something to do along his residence and he could stop by and get her the clipper.
Since she had insisted on getting back the clipper that day, Rachael said she followed Bassey to his house.
It was about 1pm on a Friday.
“When we got to the house, I stayed at the entrance as he went inside. His younger brother was at home. While I waited outside, he spoke in their dialect to his younger brother. The boy then went out.
“While I stood, he was going about as if he was trying to locate the clipper. His younger brother lingered around outside too. He then spoke to the boy again in their dialect. The boy suddenly pushed me inside the house. Before I knew what was happening, Bassey had locked the door.
“I was initially confused because I had no idea what he was trying to do. I asked him if he was mad. I was so angry I was looking for any object around the room to just hit him and injure him.
“He then said he had something to tell me. I asked what he wanted to tell me that he could not say while I was outside and had to tell his younger brother to push me inside.
“He said he had wanted to tell me for a long time that he had feelings for me. I told him he must be stupid because he knew I was married and knew my husband. He suddenly grabbed me and I screamed for help. He punched me till I found it difficult to struggle with him any longer.
“He tore my dress and my underwear as he slammed me on the bed. When he was done raping me, he let me unlock the door but I made sure I took the torn underwear with me.”
Rachael said when she stepped outside the apartment, she then realised why nobody came when she screamed. She said the compound was deserted.
Two weeks passed after the incident. Rachael cried alone at home. She could not leave the house. She waited for her husband to arrive from his journey. It was not a discussion that could be made on the phone.
When she narrated what transpired to her husband, he immediately called his family members.
For Rachael, who is a Yoruba woman, her troubles were not over.
She was mandated to undergo a cleansing ritual in her husband’s hometown in Delta State.
It was learnt that without the ritual, she would never be allowed to cook for her children or husband and neither can he ever have intercourse with her.
“They said I would bring calamity over my husband and children and may cause their death,” she said.
Rachael said she ran around to find N300,000 which was used for the rituals.
Meanwhile, the case was reported at the Ipaja Police State, Moshalashi.
One Inspector Omoh was assigned to it as investigating officer. Bassey was arrested and later arraigned at the Ogba Magistrate’s Court, Lagos, for rape.
He was granted a N500,000 bail along with other conditions which he could not meet for two weeks and so, remained in the Kirikiri Prisons.
It was learnt that while the case was ongoing, more revelations about Bassey emerged.
Rachael said an old woman and her daughter came to her house to beg her one night. She later realised that the daughter was living in Bassey’s house as his “wife.”
“The woman said I should forgive him. She then said, ‘Is it not the same way he raped this one (her daughter) and impregnated her before her father sent her out to live with him (Bassey)? I was shocked. I told them the matter was not in my hands anymore,” Rachael said.
But again, this was not the end of Rachael’s problems.
She told our correspondent that she had become a laughing stock on the street as some neighbours now call her “Bassey’s wife.”
According to her, when Bassey met his bail conditions and left the prison custody, he started to spread the story around the neighbourhood, making people to jeer at her.
“Sometimes, some people who knew me would come to my house and tell me they heard some bad things about me and ask me what really happened. Everybody expected me to start telling them how he raped me. I have become a symbol of shame. I cannot count the number of times I have seen people, pointing and laughing at me on the street when I pass by,” she said.
However, after an adjournment, a postponed sitting because of holiday and another sitting in which Bassey was never brought to court from prison, Rachael alleged that the prosecutor, Inspector Ayorinde Ezekiel, told her that the next adjournment was Monday, August 28.
Before then, Ezekiel had allegedly approached Bassey and her husband with a strange instruction.
“The prosecutor asked me that if the family of Bassey gave me N300,000, would I accept it? He later told me that five per cent of whatever they pay me would be his. I told my husband about it and he decided to call the prosecutor. I asked him to tell Mr. Ezekiel that whatever they decide to pay, they should take it to court,” Rachael said.
On August 28, Bassey and her husband went to court and were told that the case had been heard on August 21 and had been struck out.
When she called the prosecutor to find out what happened, Ezekiel told her it was struck out by the magistrate because she did not appear that day.
Bassey’s family now suspect that Ezekiel deliberately gave them a wrong date so that he could tell the court to strike out the case.
They believe he had been bribed by Bassey and his family.
On the part of the investigating police officer, Omoh, he told Rachael that he did not know why the case was struck out too, saying he was not in court that day (August 21).
Omoh said it was strange that the court could strike out a case simply because the plantiff (Rachael) was not in court on a single sitting.
Acoording to reports, after advice from family, Rachael had to go to the hospital to have herself tested. She took the test report which showed some staphylococcus infection.
He said, “Did she tell you that I gave you the wrong date? It is not possible for any prosecutor to make an allegation to a court to strike out his own case. No prosecutor will do that.
“She will not tell you the truth of the matter. She cannot stand before me and say these things she has told you. She is the one who forgot the date. I was trying to reach out to her about the day of the sitting but there was no way.
The case was mentioned and I tried to defend the case that she was on her way but the magistrate opened the file and said the case was too long and that if she (Rachael) was still interested, she could go back and make further arrest and bring him (Bassey) back to court.
“When the matter was struck out, she came later and I told her it had been struck out. I asked why she was not in court and she said ‘somebody’ gave her another date. I told her that was not the end of the case. I asked her to go back to the station and that she could still get the man rearrested. I refuse to be provoked this morning about what she told you.”
Asked about the N300,000 ‘settlement’ offer he allegedly made to the woman, the prosecutor said, “You are a man. If your wife was raped, would you collect money? They (Rachael and her husband) were the ones who came to me and said the family of the man were begging with N300,000. How could I have gone to meet the other party and told them to bring money?
“I told her that if they wanted to pay her money, she should take it because the case had no substance and no evidence. You said they raped you but you have no evidence; that was why I told her to collect the money.”
The investigating police officer (Omoh), who expressed surprise that the case had been struck out, has told Rachael to get herself a dedicated lawyer. He has also told her that anytime she wanted Bassey rearrested, he would make the arrest.
Bassey has refused to react to all the allegations against him by Rachael. When our correspondent spoke with him, he said he could only give a full account of what really transpired the day Rachael followed him to get the clipper in a court and if he was re-arraigned.
He said, “If they dare get me rearrested and charged to court, only then would I narrate everything that happened.
“She said I had been abusing her around the neighbourhood and people are making jest of her. But she is the one who has been spreading falsehood about me. The same people she has been telling the story are the ones making jest of her.”
Asked if there was any kind of relationship between them as being rumoured in their neighbourhood, Bassey said none existed beyond the fact that he was Rachael’s children’s barber.
The Executive Director of Esther Child Rights Foundation, Mrs. Esther Ogwu, explained that there was the danger that more victims of rape might never summon the courage to speak out when they realise that cases of victims like Rachael never got resolved.
She said, “We were approached to take up the case by a sympathiser who heard about it and felt she might never get justice.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the justice is being served in this case. We believe the prosecutor has a lot to explain about how a case could be dismissed simply because the plantiff who had never missed a court date did not appear.
“The question is, what did he tell the court at the hearing which the victim and her husband did not have the opportunity to attend because they were given a different date?
“At this point we can only call on the police to make a rearrest and charge the suspect to court because if cases like this are handled this way, the outside world would continue to view us as a country where laws don’t matter.”