Nigerian pop star allegedly abducts woman after she accuses him of rape

By Emmanuel Akinwotu

A woman who accused an Afrobeats star of rape has claimed she was subsequently targeted by police and then held hostage by the singer, sparking outrage amid rising activism in Nigeria against endemic sexual abuse.

Seyitan Babatayo reported to Nigerian police on 6 June, three days after she alleged on Twitter that the music star D’banj, whose real name is Oladapo Oyebanjo, had forcibly gained access to her hotel room as she slept and raped her.

Officers did not pursue the case, she said, and when D’banj denied the allegations, she said she became a target.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday, she said that on 16 June four officers had stormed her apartment, arrested her and detained her overnight without charge.

Police then handed her to D’banj’s management team, who took her to a separate location where she was held for a second day, she said in a statement from Stand to End Rape (STER), an organisation supporting victims of sexual abuse.

Babatayo said: “I was isolated from my family, coerced, pressured and intimidated in person by D’banj and his team to retract all statements and to announce that my testimony was a publicity stunt.”

All her posts were deleted on her personal Twitter account and replaced with tweets claiming to retract her allegations, along with videos promoting D’banj’s songs.

The alleged rape, detention and coercion of Babatayo has sparked outrage in Nigeria, and further brought into focus the treatment and vulnerability of victims who report sexual abuse in the country.

Earlier this month the rape and murder in a church of the 22-year-old student Uwaila Omozuwa as she studied fuelled mass condemnation and calls for reform.

Greater numbers of women in Nigeria have posted on social media in recent weeks their experiences of alleged sexual abuse, inflicted by known figures and celebrities.

After Babatayo went missing and her personal tweets were deleted, a campaign to find her launched on social media, with donations made to STER. She was found on 18 June by the NGO, activists and friends, and taken to a secure location where she has been receiving care and is pursuing charges against D’banj.

“I am still dealing with the effects of the rape, the trauma of recounting that multiple times this week and the indignity of being held against my will for two days,” she said in the statement.

“D’banj through his team has continued to harass me with incessant calls and boasting that he can buy off anyone within the justice system in Lagos,” said Babatayo.

In a statement since deleted on Instagram, before Babatayo’s arrest, D’banj denied the claims of rape as “false allegations and lies from the pit of hell”. In a subsequent post he said: “Innocent until proven guilty, stop social media trial. Say no to rape.”

Kiki Mordi, an investigative journalist in Lagos, was alerted to the case by Babatayo’s friends and tweeted that she was missing. She worked with STER and other groups to find her and secure her release.

The alleged co-opting of Babatoya’s twitter account by D’banj’s team was “a horrid thing to witness”, she said. “Not only are women’s bodies up for violation, their social spaces can be, too, while the world watches in real time.”

The Lagos police gender unit, which works on sexual abuse cases, was involved in the case, officers told the Guardian.

In recent years reported cases of sexual abuse have increased in Nigeria but sexual abuse cases are rarely prosecuted, undermined by poor police investigations, prejudice against victims and bribery.

Governors in Nigeria earlier this month declared a state of emergency on sexual abuse, promising to set up police units to tackle sexual abuse.

According to Nigerian police, 717 incidents of rape were reported in the first five months of the year and during the Covid-19 lockdown. Statistics on the prevalence of sexual abuse are scarce but a national survey on violence against children in Nigeria in 2014 found that one in four women had experienced sexual violence in childhood, with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident.

Lawmakers have committed to making the punishment for rape more severe, yet activists have said that reforming the justice system to improve the rate of prosecution for rape would be an important step.