Media Advocates on the platform of Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN) are demanding justice in the sexual harassment case involving Ogun State Commissioner for Environment, Saheed Abudu-Balogun and 16-year old Barakat Melojuekun.
The advocates from across 20 states are asking Governor Dapo Abiodun to invoke the Child’s Right Act, 2003 which guarantees the safety and protection of every girl-child in the State to which the state has signed into Law since 2003.
According to the statement signed by the President and National Secretary, Roland Ogbonnaya and Yinka Shokunbi respectively, the group drew attention of the Governor to the promise of government at inception, to safeguard the lives and wellbeing of all children of the State.
The group noted, “Although the state government has shown that it is pursuing the case, but there are doubts expressed in several quarters on how sincere the government is, in ensuring there is fairness and justice without compromise”
The media advocates observed that the numerous twists and turns that have visited the sexual harassment case since it was first reported on January 2 is a pointer that pressures and threats are mounting on the family of Barakat Melojuekun for them to drop the case after compromised offers.
According to the Statement titled: “Test of Government’s Will for Justice and Pursue of Truth”, the media advocates noted, “As a media advocacy group on sexual and reptroducyive health and rights, we are following this alleged case of sexual harassment against a minor, Barakat Melojuekun.
“We urge the governor to use his good office to ensure that this incident is thoroughly investigated to logical conclusion and ensure justice prevails”
The young girl in the midst of the drama, Barakat in a video that went viral on Twitter alleged that Abudu-Balogun sexually harassed her in his house by fumbling on her body and then incited some incantations while trying to place his hand on her head.
According to Barakat who was asked by the interviewer, “I moved away his hands away, that he shouldn’t touch my breasts. He asked me, “wont 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 (sic)”
Soon after the video went viral, Governor Abiodun suspended Abudu-Balogun and ordered immediate investigation into the incident by the Commissioner of Police.
However, two other videos soon surfaced in which both Barakat and father, Mansur Adesola Melojuekun, tendered apologies for accusing the commissioner.
Both father and daughter in the separate videos said, “There were few misconceptions and misunderstandings” in the alleged sexual harassment incident; apparently in what Barakat revealed as what transpired while she was allegedly lured to the commissioner’s home in Ibiade, Ijebu-Waterside, Ogun State.
The media advocates also called on the Wife of the Ogun State Governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun to boldly prevail on the state to showcase her known disdain for sexual molestation which she is known to have exhibited at different fora in recent past .
Mrs. Abiodun is known to publicly urge girls to speak out in the face of sexual harassment and molestation.
Ogun State is one of the 25 of the 36 states of the federation which has domesticated the CRA as far back as 2003.
In S 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”
The Network affirms “As an advocate group, we stand for the protection and promotion of sexual wellbeing of women, girls and vulnerable to which Barakat Melojuekun is one”.