Following the reported ugly incident of rape and death of an IDP by a development worker in the north east, Caritas Nigeria's Deputy Executive Secretary, Fr Peter Audu, representing the leadership of the organization was in Maiduguri Tuesday, February 1, 2022 to hold a press conference on the issue.
A Press Statement by the Executive Secretary of Caritas Nigeria on the reported incident of rape and death of an Internally Displaced Person (IDP), by an official of an International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO), in Borno State
Good morning, distinguished ladies and gentlemen!
I am Rev. Fr. Peter Babangida Audu, the Deputy Executive Secretary of Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (Caritas Nigeria). I am standing in for Rev. Fr. Dr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina the Executive Secretary/CEO of Caritas Nigeria.
The Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (Caritas Nigeria), condemns in strong terms the reported case of sexual abuse and exploitation of late Aisha Umar and her eventual death, allegedly committed by a staff member of an International NGO, at 303 Housing Estate, near Dalori IDP camp, Maiduguri. This, indeed, is a very disheartening criminal offense, which violates the very essence of the dignity of the human person and humanitarian principles, which we all should uphold and fight for, especially as humanitarian agents.
This conduct is a sickening betrayal of the trust of the people we serve. It is also a betrayal of our colleagues who put themselves in harm’s way to serve others, including those who have paid the ultimate price, those killed by insurgents in the North East region of Nigeria while rendering humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced and vulnerable persons.
We request for a thorough investigation of the incident and justice to be fully executed for the victim, her family, and her loved ones. It is our top priority to ensure that the perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation are not excused or condoned, but held to full account under the law.
On our part, Caritas Nigeria will continue to sensitize her staff and agents on principled staff code of conduct and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, while advocating for full disclosure in reporting of any infraction observed by staff, persons of concern, and relevant stakeholders. We are committed to a survivor/victim-centered approach, which prioritizes the needs, preferences, and participation of affected persons.
We call on all humanitarian and development organizations to put in place adequate mechanisms and measures to guard against the perpetuation of sexual exploitation and abuse by their employees and agents beginning from its recruitment processes to onboarding and service delivery. We appeal to all humanitarian and development organizations in Nigeria, not to be negligent in the management of, nor treat with levity, reports of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). This would be tantamount to professional misconduct on the part of the top management of such organizations. We must have zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, and zero tolerance for inaction against it.
We urge all organizations to undertake reform of policies and processes to address sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as identify and correct flaws in organizational culture or leadership that fail to adequately protect the people we serve or create opportunities for abusers to exploit.
We implore all humanitarian and development actors to provide safe and easily accessible reporting mechanisms anywhere in the world.
Caritas Nigeria has a zero-tolerance policy against any form of sexual and/or gender-based violence (SGBV). Our recruitment process follows strict and detailed guidelines in compliance with the organization’s prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse policy, and its implementation is constantly followed up by a dedicated unit.
In line with this, Caritas Nigeria has taken several innovative steps to improve our HR practices in recruitment, onboarding, induction and training. We also are taking steps to integrate standards of behaviour relating to sexual exploitation and abuse into performance management, starting with leaders and managers.
We are more determined to ensure that all our staff participate in continued refresher trainings to ensure that they are able to create an environment for the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment and to take action without delay in the case of any suspected incident.
We would like to commend all actors carrying out humanitarian actions in Nigeria for their work, as well as the journalists who first reported the allegations of the rape and death of Aisha Umar. We value the role of the media in providing coverage of and uncovering these issues, and in holding organizations and duty bearers accountable. We call on the relevant authority handling this criminal offence to do the right thing. The world is watching!
18th January, 2022 was indeed a dark day for the humanitarian community in Nigeria, but by shining a light on the failures of individuals and organizations, we hope that the victims feel that their voices have been heard and acted upon; we want the perpetrators to know there will be severe consequences for their actions; we expect and demand that all staff and agents of humanitarian and development organisations at all levels, understand the heightened responsibility that comes with working in the sector.
We are very conscious that we need to rebuild trust with the people we serve and our partners as well. It is on that note that we can have a dignified humanitarian response.
Revd. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina (Ph.D.)