There were more than 200,000 child rights abuse cases in Nigeria in 2020, according to the National Human Right Commission (NHRC). Today, many girls in Niger State, Nigeria have chosen to remain silent about the sexual abuse they’ve experienced, often due to stigmatization. In some cases, too, the perpetrators are relatives.
In September, Crusaders Radio, an independent radio show that broadcasts from Niger State received a report about a young man who had committed sexual violence against two related minors. The radio station dived into the case, and involved Niger State Child's Right Agency to help identify and prosecute the perpetrators. The men were later arrested by authorities.
For the past five years, Crusaders Radio has focused on shedding light on civil and human rights abuses in the state. Through its reporting, the radio show has helped groups — especially the less privileged — receive justice.
During the independent radio show, which today has over 70,000 listeners, listeners submit complaints which are then discussed and resolved on air.
“Our activities are mainly centered on injustice, abuse of power, human rights abuse, child abuse and theft among other social vices,” said Crusaders Radio’s founder and CEO, Sony Otache. “Any of the problems we can’t provide solutions to, we look for the root causes of the problems and uproot [them] directly."
Crusaders Radio has helped over 2,000 people through the outlet’s unique dispute method, according to Otache. Cases brought to the radio show’s attention are first negotiated off-air between the parties and the outlet; only when one party refuses to resolve the case after several attempts is it brought to discuss on the program.
For instance, co-host Ahmed Isah Sapke explained how the show helped several students at the School of Nursing Sciences, Bida, in Niger State graduate in 2022. In this case, the school management published names of students who would not be sitting for their final year semester examination because of their failure to obtain their index number, which indicates the cost of studies for students, due to changes in the school fees payment system by school management.
In October, just before the commencement of exams, one of the students, Saratu Abubaker Doma, forwarded the list of the affected students to Crusaders Radio’s service line, accompanied by a brief text explaining what transpired between them and school management. After Crusaders Radio reported the case to the state government, the school changed its decision and allowed the affected students to obtain their index number and register for final exams.
In another case, a former police officer reached out to Crusaders Radio claiming he had been illegally dismissed from service in 1991 on a misconduct allegation that could not be proved. The radio show contacted the police commission in the capital of Abuja and the officer ultimately received some of the retirement benefits he was previously barred from.
Coming with clean hands
A popular saying in Pidgin English, often spoken by the presenter of the radio show, is “na person wey he hands dirty na him dey hide am for back” — in other words, “He who comes into equity must come with clean hands.” For those behind Crusaders Radio, this means that they must not take sides during the disputes.
The radio show’s continued existence shows its impact, explained Otache. “Government and the society could clamp down on us if we are doing our things wrongly and out of context,’’ he said. “We are on track and we are heading in the right direction. We are prospering and we hope to strive higher to touch more lives.”
Going forward, the team plans to search for experts in pressing issues like elections, politics or social conflicts, for interviews and to offer timely insight. The main challenge Crusaders Radio continues to face is in gaining further trust among the public, including with government officials, in order for citizens to report cases to them without fear of reprisal or biased decision making.
Raising public awareness
Mohammed Dantala Aliyu, a journalism lecturer and public affairs analyst, noted that radio shows like Crusaders Radio have gone a long way in addressing problems of social injustice, which has become rampant in Nigerian society. The easiest way to curb injustice, said Aliyu, is by raising awareness through the media.
Aliyu added that these radio shows have been instrumental in educating the public about social injustice and how it can be managed, making their presence in the public space invaluable
Today, many victims of social injustice in Niger State have stories to tell, but have been unable to voice their problems due to a lack of opportunity. By providing a platform for victims to speak up and be heard, Crusaders Radio and programs like it are fulfilling a crucial need in the region.
Photo by AMISOM on Iwaria.