Barakah Versus Ogun Commissioner: NRHJN Calls For Justice
The Network of Reproductive Health
Journalists, Nigeria, NRHJN, has called on Governor Dapo Abiodun to ensure that justice is done in Barakah’s case, describing it as a test of government’s will for justice and pursue of truth.
In a release signed by Roland Ogbonnaya and Yinka Shokunbi, NRHJN’s President and Secretary respectively, they urged the governor to use his good office to ensure that this incident is thoroughly investigated to logical conclusion and ensure that justice prevails.
The story of sexual harassment by 16-year old Barakat Melojuekun from Ibiade community, Ogun State against the suspended Commissioner of the Environment, Saheed Abudu-Balogun has taken several twists since Saturday, January 2 when it broke.
The young girl in the midst of the drama, Barakat, in a video that went viral on Twitter alleged that the commissioner, sexually harassed her in his house and then inciting some incantations while trying to place his hand on her head.
Her words in the video: “Immediately Austine (the aide who took her inside the apartment) went outside, Honourable Abiodun Abudu-Balagun locked the door instantly and put the key in his pocket. He now moved closer to me and asked for the name of my School. I told him I am from Victory Model College and he asked me how much is my School fees? I told him its N30,000. He asked me the person that is paying my School fees, I told him it’s my dad. He now told me that one is a small thing.
“He now asked me, didn’t I think of starting a business before going to School? I told him, no, that I want to go to Higher Institution. He said, ok, and asked if I need money now, like how much would I need? I said, any amount. He said, I should state an amount; but I said any amount. He now moved closer to me and pressed my breast and I now moved his hands.”
According to Barakat who was asked by the interviewer, “I moved his hands away, that he shouldn’t touch my breasts. He asked me, “won’t I cooperate”? I asked why would I cooperate? He now started pressing my breasts and my body…I was struggling to free myself from him to gain freedom. He then started reciting some incantations and wanted to place his hand on my head and I moved his hands away not to touch my head telling him, they don’t use to touch my head. He now wanted to force me inside his bathroom. But I struggled with him and started shouting.. But because people were around his compound and he didn’t want them to hear what was happening, he now leave me and gave me four N500 notes which is N2,000 that I should use it as my transport, I rejected the money”.
Soon after the video went viral, the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun suspended the Commissioner and ordered immediate investigation into the incident by the State Commissioner of Police.
While the dust was still on, Barakat and her father in separate videos apologized for the earlier video accusing the commissioner.
Barakat, in the 38 seconds video noted,
“There were few misconceptions and misunderstandings” between her and the commissioner thus appreciating “well-meaning Nigerians” and seeking “to use the opportunity to appeal to meaningful Nigerians please, allow this matter to rest.”
Her father, Mansur Adesola Melojuekun in his 2:12 seconds video also noted that he “discovered that there were few misconceptions and misunderstandings” between his daughter and the commissioner and having discovered this, deemed it fit to inform Nigerians and the international community as well as the media to allow the matter to lay to rest and that he has no interest in the case again.
As a media advocacy group on sexual and reproductive health and rights, the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN) is following this alleged case of sexual harassment against a minor.
The Network commended the Ogun State Goverment for promptly stepping into the matter even as we recognize the personal commitment of the state governor, H. E. Prince Dapo Abiodun.
The Network also appealed to Her Excellency, wife of the governor H.E. Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun to ensure that justice and truth prevail in the investigation.
“The Network is aware of notable achievements of Mrs. Abiodun and recognise her passion for the wellbeing of the girl-child in Ogun State.”
It is on record that she never hides her disdain for sexual molestation and at different fora, she continues to assert: “As girls, I encourage you to speak up on issues that affect you. I joined the protest against rape and sexual violence, because I believe it is an issue that must stop in our country. When a matter is dear to your heart, speak up”.
The Network therefore charged the Ogun State Commissioner of Police to leave no stone unturned in the investigation and ensure there is no cover up.
It is on record that Ogun State is one of the 25 states of the federation that has domesticated the CRA as far back as 2003.
In Section 11. of the Act, “Every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no child shall be –
(a) Subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment,
including sexual abuse.”
According to the CRA “(1) Every child is entitled to enjoy the best attainable and state of physical, mental and spiritual health, etc.
(2) Every government, parent, guardian, institution, service, agency, organization or body responsible for the care of a child, shall endeavour to provide for the child the best attainable state of health.”
Barakat is by the Child’s Right Act (CRA) a minor, and has a right to be so protected.
Under the CRA as well as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act , Barakat deserves the protection of her parents from abuse, intimidation and assault.
“Unfortunately, from the video released by the father, this right appears to have been tampered with because of an alleged intervention of third parties which put undue pressure on the family.”
“As an advocate group, we stand for the protection and promotion of he sexual wellbeing of women, girls and the vulnerable which Barakat Melojuekun is one, we shall continue to follow the story with full expectation that it is not swept under the carpet.” The group concluded.
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