- Pushes for domestication of law in States, prompt dispensation of justice
The Federal Government on Wednesday said that with the “embarrassing” rate of rape cases in the country, it has decided to push for the domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA), 2015 in the 36 States of the federation in order to ensure that offenders face deserved punishments for their actions.
Of the 36 States in the country, only nine have domesticated the VAPPA law, which defines rape as when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his/her body or anything else without consent, or with incorrectly obtained consent.
According to the law, consent can be incorrectly obtained where it is obtained: by force/threats/intimidation; by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, by the use of substances capable of taking away the will of that person; by a person impersonating a married woman’s husband in order to have sex.
For now, the VAPPA, a federal law, is only applicable in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as it does not apply in other States of the Federation.
Also, under the Child Rights Act (CRA), sex with a child is rape and anyone who has sexual intercourse with a child is liable to imprisonment for life, upon conviction.
Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari, presented a memo on the rape epidemic and the outrage that has greeted the high cases of rape and gender based violence in the country, which has increased with lockdown arising from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
For example, outrage had trailed the death of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old Microbiology student of University of Benin who was raped and killed in an empty church in Benin City. Also, 18-year-old Barakat Bello, who was taking her bath, was raped and macheted to death in Ibadan, Oyo State.
In addition, 14 men in Jigawa State repeatedly raped a minor. And in Anambra State alone, no fewer than 80 rape cases were recorded in various parts of the State during the COVID-19 lockdown between April and May.
Mrs Tallen told journalists at the end of the fourth virtual meeting of the FEC, which lasted seven hours that members were unanimous in their decision.
According to her, “I’m sure you are aware that for the past few weeks, the country has witnessed a lot of outrage and outcry because of the pandemic within the pandemic that we are facing. I know before COVID-19, we have always had pandemic of rape cases and gender based violence. But with the lockdown due to COVID-19, women and children are locked down with their abusers and the number has escalated three times.
“There is no State that is an exception. This has reached an embarrassing situation that a memo was presented in Council calling for immediate intervention, legal and prompt dispensation of justice in the cases. Because, from the statistics we have, and from the meetings I had with the 36 State Commissioners of Women Affairs, we have hundreds of cases within our courts that have not been addressed. And out of one case that has been reported, be sure they are 10 others that have not been reported. As a result, we called for aggressive media campaigns, public enlightenment for people to rise up and pick out against abuse of minors and rape cases.
“We also called on the judiciary for prompt dispensation of cases and the Police to ensure rape cases are not treated with levity or wish away. These are issues that were presented before Council and I am happy to announce that we got the full support of Mr. President and all members of Council, that government will take decisive actions at the highest level to protect women and children in this country.”
Tallen said the Council noted that there is an existing law already, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA), 2015.
She said: “That Act covers everything but our problem is lack of domestication of that Act. Out of the 36 States, only nine States. While the council was on, the Nigeria Governors Forum, also invited me to come and brief them on the same topic, because it has reached an alarming stage. I am happy to announce that the governors gave me 100 per cent. They are committed to join hands with the Ministry to fight this dreaded scourge. Because, it is horrific because embossment is an understatement and it does not give Nigeria a good image. We are destroy the future generation because, if you rape a child, you have destroyed that child for life and that is not acceptable.”
Tallen said that both traditional and religious leaders would be engaged in the battle against rape and other violence acts against women and girls.
Stating that the Ministries of Information and Culture and Women Affairs Development will collaborate and launch a media advocacy campaign to aggressively address the issue at all levels especially the rural areas, she noted that “as soon as COVID-19 is cleared, we will move out with the minister of information on advocacy round the country.”
On minor being victims of these predatory evils, the Minister added that “I have put in place a team, in fact a research is going on at all the State levels while we have the national data collection at the Ministry. We are also working closely with National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), to find out the reasons why a man of 80, 75, 60 will rape a child of one, two years.
“In fact the recent one in Kaduna is a father rapping his daughter of child of three months. He has been doing that until the child turned nine months and he was caught. So many horrible cases that will break your heart. I think there is more to it, IT is either diabolical or mental cases. So, these are the issues and a research is going on to identify because, the Ministry of Health is also concerned and we are working with them. There are issues of mental health and other issues that need to be addressed.”