A dozen officers are busy in their old offices dimly lit, where the paperwork is piling up, and hear the victims come to complain: in Lagos, the police unit specialized in sexual assault is overwhelmed and lacks resources to to work.
In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with 180 million inhabitants, Lagos is the only one of the 36 states to have set up a unit dedicated specifically to the fight against sexual violence.
The working conditions of this unit in the chaotic mega-city are sketchy: no interrogation room, no vehicle, no computers.
Sitting behind a pile of files, an officer points to a small plastic chair to an alleged young victim. Here, many cases investigated by police deal with children.
« You see, it’s difficult to manage, » says Inspector Alaba Munisola, who heads the unit. « And the number of reported cases is only increasing ».
In Nigeria, more and more women and girls are daring to denounce the violence they are subjected to. This is even more difficult for men and Parliament only started this week to discuss an amendment to the « law of rape », to finally recognize that men can also be victims.
However, victims still have to deal with the weaknesses of underfunded institutions, with untrained investigators in this area.
The recent creation of a national sex offender registry is seen as an important step towards the end of impunity. But community activists insist: this is just the beginning of a fight that looks long and difficult to reform criminal justice in Nigeria.
« The way the police record cases and whose information is disseminated is absurd. Everything is handwritten, « explains the director of Stand to end Rape, Ayodeji Osowobi.
« The registry will help agencies identify repeat offenders, the police will have more information when dealing with suspects. »
« Justice bought »
Statistics on sexual violence are rare in Nigeria, but according to the United Nations, one in four women is a victim before the age of 18.
The rapid increase in the number of cases reported in recent years has highlighted the poor treatment of victims.
Stand to End Rape, which has treated hundreds of cases since January, provides psychological support to victims and helps them in their efforts.
« For the victims, confronting the police is one of the most daunting experiences ever, » says Osowobi. « What they do to survivors is not asking them questions, but real interrogations. »
According to the activist, victims are often interrogated in public spaces, in front of witnesses, and even before the suspects they denounce.
« In most cases, the police are asking for » mobilization fees, « says Osowobi. « They say: We need fuel, we need something to stimulate ourselves. »
Inspector Olakunle Orebe has been working in the Lagos Specialized Unit since its inception in 2015 and recognizes the flaws in the police and judicial system.
« Often, there is no budget for basic needs, such as transportation, printing of records, site visits to investigate, » he justifies, denouncing the lack of drastic means in the police.
According to him, suspects and victims are sometimes transported in the same vehicles and sometimes even in public transport, for lack of alternative.
« How can you transport together the survivor and the alleged perpetrator in the same car? » He says. « It happens sometimes. »
« We do not want a situation where victims must buy justice, so these costs are often our responsibility, » says the inspector.
Under these conditions, the vast majority of rape cases never lead to convictions: for those who have had the courage to complain, the judicial process takes on average two years and most victims end up discouraged, according to Ms. Osowobi from Stand to end Rape.
Some cases never succeed because of insufficient evidence, lack of training of doctors to gather evidence of rape, or because of the limitation period of only six years.
Activists hope, however, that the new online offender registry will change the game. Until now, the Lagos sex offender database, available only in paper form, contained only 140 names for a city of 20 million.