When the chair, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Delta State, Mr. Benefit Orugbo, called me on phone, about a fortnight ago, and said that he had a spine chilling case of human rights abuse in his hands, I did not understand the brutality of the matter and almost ignored the issue.
However, it was not until Warri Reporter, EGUFE YAFUGORHI, detailed to meet the victim at an agreed venue reported his encounter with Igbobi Beauty Uzezi, an Air Police of the Nigerian Air-force, NAF, with Personal Service Number, NAF10/25157F, that the reality dawned on me.
Uzezi, who hails from Bayelsa state, revealed that an Air-force officer (names withheld) drugged, raped and infected her with a Sexually Transmitted Diseases, STD, and the said officer detained and tortured her through proxies for daring to expose him and finally got her dismissed from the Airforce.
The air-force officers she complained to and sought help before the hammer fell on her, queried why she chose to make trouble with the officer, pointing out that she was not the only female personnel to pass through the ordeal.
They detained her in a cell with a mad woman, chained her to the bed in the hospital, locked for several days without food to force her to forgo justice. She refused to surrender and was court marshaled after she threatened to shoot one of the air-force officers used to intimidate her, who allegedly wanted to disarm her.
The court marshal was a leeway for those who want her thrown out of NAF, as the case was getting messier by then. Systematically, they congested her with drugs and a physician diagnosed of critical depression disorder, CBD, paving way for her final discharge.
Igbobi appeared dehumanized when she spoke to Niger Delta Voice, NDV, and what ricocheted throughout the interview was her cry for justice. This interview, first in the series of our reports into and alleged Nigeria Air-force rape scandal is hair-raising. Will she get justice
Tell us about your enlistment into the Air Force
My name is Igbobi Beauty Uzezi. I enlisted into the Nigerian Airforce August 18, 2010 when I was 18. My Personal Service Number is NAF10/25157F with seniority of Air Craft Woman, ACW, in 19 February 2011. On 17 May, 2011, two months and 10 days after my passing out from the Nigeria Air Force basic military training, Kaduna, I was posted to 335 Base Services Group, Kaduna as an Air Police. We reported March 7 2011.
How did your ordeal start?
On that May 17, 2011, at about 8.00 pm, I received a phone call from a strange number. From the conversation, I discovered that the caller was one of our training instructors on general service knowledge during our training (names withheld by NDV). He said I should come to the Protestant Church inside the Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna.
With lots of conviction as our former training instructor and his claim that he was in Kaduna for a special assignment of which I do not know, I obliged his strange invitation. Getting to the church, I saw him and another instructor, who also trained us, Sgt. Hossan and my course mate, who he said gave him my phone number, ACM Bello and a woman I do not recognize.
He said I should join them to the Nigeria Defence Academy, NDA old site. I asked why I have to join them because there was Kafachan crisis in Kaduna then. He said they were going to drop the woman companion at the NDA old site and return.
He said he trained me and asked if I was scared of being with him. He said I should not entertain any fear with my course mate on the movement. I joined them out of sheer respect and having no thought of any sinister motive.
At the point they ought to drop the unknown woman, I heard Sgt Hossan tell the officer (instructor),"Oga, after we train recruit finish, e no go do something for your godson?"
Opposite the place we supposedly came was the Communicator Mess. At that point, I asked excused myself to urinate, but before I left, I overheard him ordering two wines and barbecue fish. I eased myself, came back and he gave me a glass of wine.
I took the glass of wine, not knowing he had drugged it for me. I was urging to return home because it was late and there was crisis. We entered the vehicle and proceeding a little, they dropped the woman. At the Air Force Base, Kaduna, I stayed behind the Aeromedical Hospital, opposite a branch of Oceanic Bank, now Ecobank.
Approaching there, I said I want to drop, but Sgt Hossan said they wanted to drop the instructor in his own quarters before coming to drop me. From their discussion, I discovered Hossan stays in Block B next to my Block C.
We proceeded further and Bello dropped. At JD Quarters where the officer resides, they parked opposite his apartment. He and Sgt Hossan came down discussing while I was inside the vehicle.
The instructor came to me and said I should come into his apartment to wait at the parlor while he finished his discussion with Sgt Hossan, who happened to be owner of the car we drove in. I was hoping as my immediate neighbor, he would take me home after dropping off instructor, the last man remaining besides me.
I sat at the parlor and all of a sudden, I heard the sound of Hossan vehicle outside and I made the door to go out to confirm. Immediately, the instructor rushed in, pushed me back and shut the door. I asked why he pushed me and shut the door knowing Sgt Hossan was to take me home.
He asked in Pidgin English, "U mean say after I train you finish as recruit, na your course mate go charge through you first before me?"I asked what he meant by that utterance just as Sgt Hossan zoomed off. I told him he knew quite well that it was not right for me to be in his apartment and Hossan, supposed to take me home has driven off.
I begged him to open the door, he refused and we started an argument. From the argument, we started fighting.
Battery and rape
He was beating me mercilessly, carrying and hitting on the floor. If I want to scream, he would cover my mouth so violently that no passerby hears my screaming. We struggled for more than two hours as I shouted for help. I pleaded with him not to touch me because it was evident he wanted to forcibly sleep with me. I pleaded that I am a virgin and he should not hurt me.
He said it was none of his business if I were a virgin and that he must charge through me first before any other person. I said I will not allow him rape me. Then he hit my head against the wall, saying he would teach me a lesson since I am proving stubborn. Then I fainted.
Pool of blood
When I regained consciousness, I discovered the bed I lay was soaked with water and I saw myself on a pool of blood. I sensed he has violently beaten to coma and violated me. Even in that state as I regained consciousness, he attempted raping me a second time. I was weak and dizzy with the wine. cannot explain how but I managed to struggle out of the door. Outside, I tried crossing a gutter, but collapsed again.
The next day, May 18, I found myself in a hospital bed at about noon. When I attempted urinating, my whole pelvis was aching severely and blood coming out of my private parts. My body was soaked with sand and water with bruises all over from the struggle and beating from him.
They led me to the toilet, but I could not urinate because of the pains the doctor told me the instructor and ACM Bello brought me. asked how and why they brought me. He said the instructor said I was having malaria and so they were managing me for malaria, but he was doubtful of the indicated condition because of the blood flow from my vagina. Therefore, he asked if I was seeing my period. I said no, but could not explain because of the pain and trauma, so he took me back to the bed.
He started asking me more questions. The medical officer identified himself as Sgt Samsudeen. I told him to give me a paper and pen. The more I was writing the more I felt traumatized. At this point, I mustered courage to open up to him my ordeal. On hearing my story, he called in two colleagues, Sgt. Uganjuwa, now Flying Officer and Flying Officer Balami, a medical doctor.
They examined me and I overheard them saying this is a big problem and wondering how they were going to hide it, not wanting to be involved. They quickly discharged me knowing I was not yet okay at all. They took me to my apartment and told me I have injections and drugs to come and take the next day.
Conspiracy to cover up the rape and battery
The next day, May 19, I received a call from Dr. Balami saying the Aeromedical Commander, Air Cmdr Shinkafi, wants to see me aside injections I needed to take. There was no strength in me at that point. I was still bleeding and aching all over my body, but because of the urgency of medical attention I needed, I summoned courage to be at the hospital, which was luckily just behind my apartment.
A passerby, who saw me struggling to walk down, assisted me to the hospital. I got there and no one was willing to attend to me. I was groaning in pains, but they said I should wait for the Aero-medical Commander. Then I collapsed again. I never knew where I was and what they did to me. I spent two weeks and three days in the hospital from that point. During my hospitalization, they took me to theatre, but they never told me what operation they carried out on my body.
They kept me secluded from other patients. I noticed that I bled for three days before they took me to the theatre. They did scan on me, after those two weeks and three days, they discharged me. During my admission, Squadron Leader Okafor, now late, was the Commanding Officer I served under as an Air Police, he came and collected an official statement from me and told me the Air Force was going to give me justice.
Warned to keep mum
After my discharge from the hospital, the Aero-medical Commander told me I should not talk, that Air Force would give me justice. Air Commodore N.A. Sanusi told me same. The late AVM Salihu, Air Officer Commanding Training Command in Kaduna and the Base Commander 335 Base Services Route, where I was serving, also told me not to talk.
Air Commodore Sanusi, Director of Air Police was repeatedly warning that I should not speak of my ordeal to the hearing of the society, including my family. Surprisingly they appointed a marshal on the incident, but they neither allowed me to have a lawyer nor participate in telling my story, except one day they asked me to appear as a witness to prove how the instructor brutally battered and defiled me as a virgin. They brought prosecution counsels and denied me access to the marshal, all in bid to cover up and sweep the criminality under the carpet.
Immediately after the court marshal, they posted me outside Kaduna in that 2011, I was not due for posting. I am supposed to serve for minimum four years in Kaduna before posting from my first service point. At Abuja, victimization started. In muster parade, Group Capt Inuwa would be asking me before everybody if my virginity was gold. He would say these people were very wicked and they can easily kill me.
He told me this not once, not twice with serious threats. He started the intimidation and threat to my life. When I voiced that what they did to me is injustice, they would say I am a fowl, they can easily kill and that nothing would happen if they kill me. They asked me if I do not know that Airforce women are officers' materials and said that my rape was not the first case.
Infected with STD
From there, I was so restricted and so monitored that I never had a life of my own anymore. In addition, the rapist infected me with severe STD, which they never told me. They were giving me antibiotics and I started fainting on regular basis from that May I left hospital in Kaduna up until my transfer to Abuja. When I asked what was wrong with me, they would say nothing.
In 2012, they posted me unduly again to Lagos. They posted me abruptly again because they found I wanted to expose them as I had gone to Human Rights Fighters in Abuja where they interviewed me. In one of my encounters with Human Rights group, the officer and his gang called to threatened that I would die or not be alive to try the case after which I did not hear from the human rights people again.
I also contacted Barrister Okon because of my ordeal with the rape and torture and the fact that they did not give me adequate medical attention. I had vaginal discharge, swollen vulva, severe itching, pelvic pains, which they termed chronic pelvic inflammatory disease.
At that point, my kidney enlargement was between 10.2 and 11.4cm because I could not urinate frequently from the pelvic pain and the sexual violation, which doctors that attended to me at the NAF Base Kaduna established. They certified that my sexual violation, physical assault and brutal rape with document reports.