By Shola Akingboye – 19th, June 2020
“Stop the Rape! Stop the Rape!! Stop the Rape!!!, were slogans that rents air in the Federal Capital Territory on Thursday, as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), led by its Executive Secretary, Mr Tony Ojukwu, organised a no hold bare public rally as parts of the Commission’s nationwide public protest to nip the unending Rape and Gender Based Violence in the bud, with theme: “Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence”.
The Protest and The Call for Action Letter
Stormed the judiciary with the entire leadership and staffs at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)’s Headquarters in Abuja, the Executive Secretary, Mr Tony Ojukwu, said the protest has become imperative to unravel the rising scourge of Rape and SGBV related crimes in Nigeria.
The crusade which began at the Eagle Square in Abuja, covers part of the stretch of Ahmadu Bello Way.
As the commission headed for the Federal Ministry of Justice, its first point of call was the Federal High Court Headquarters, where the ES and his team canvassed for a total lockdown against rapist and other gender based offenders.
The NHRC charged the Federal High Court judges, demanding a stringent justice delivery against offenders of growing rape cases in the land, irrespective of whose ox is gored, this includes presentation of a ‘Call for Action’ letter to the leadership of the court as a wake-up call on the crucial roles expected of the judiciary in the battle against rape and SGBV in the society.
Received by the entire judge of the Federal High Court, led by the Chief Judge, Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho; The Human Rights Commission’s chief, demands a ‘no mercy’ judgements against anyone found culpable of sexual assault against women and other gender based offences.
Ojukwu, who is a renown lawyer though expressed his regrets over constraints and limitations faced by judges under the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Gender-Based Violence and issues on Rape offences. He therefore launched an appeal before the judges, to exacerbate stringent approach not to allow criminals against sexual violence escape unpunished.
He maintained that enough is enough of a lackadaisical approach to issues on gender base violence by those in authority, who he accused of paying lip services to SGBV related crimes, particularly the increasing rape cases.
“We are the National Human Rights Commission, with the mandate for the protection and freedom of Human Rights.”
“We are here to bring to your attention the fact that there is raping scourge in the society, which has always been there but exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“Rape, Sexual and Gender Based Violence has reached an alarming rate in our society, and there is a call for action of all organs of government, which involves the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court on issues of Gender Based offences.”
“But we know that to be represented by the judiciary, are reasons we are here today to solicit for your cooperation.”
“We are here to extend our arms of fellowship. We are here to say all hands must be on deck. Everybody must join hands to say this is an epidemic for us, which has reached a very alarming stage.”
“We want to thank you for making out time despite your busy schedule to come out enmasse as the hope of the common man, to join stakeholders to curb this menace”
“We want to thank you my lords, as we submit this written Call for Action to you, as a request to join hands and condemn Sexual Based Violence, and to take appropriate action in order to make sure this scourge is exterminated from our society” The ES declares.
While received the letter by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho, he welcome NHRC.
Tsoho described the menace of sexual based violence and the likes as issues of general concern. He pledged the Federal High Court’s determination to study the letter presented before it for further actions in collaboration with the clarion calls for actions against rape and other SGBV.
Justice Ministry Mulls Specialized Court for Rapist
Furtherance to his campaign strategy in demonstration of no business as usual against rapists in the country, Ojukwu led his crowed to the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The Minister of Justice and the Attorney General for the Federation, Abubakar Mallami (SAN), represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Dayo Apata (SAN), noted at the joint press briefing organized at the instance of the National Human Rights Commission, that the bedrock of every successful State dependent on the national response to the enforcement of the dignity of a human person, irrespective of the individual’s social status.
While expatiates actions so far taken by the Buhari administration against SGBV, the Minister of Justice commends what he described as the proactive and pragmatic leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, for pledging the commitment of the Federal Government to protect children from sexual violence, domestic abuse and exploitation at the celebration of the 2020 African Child, held recently.
Mallami extols the federal government for its timely intervention in condemning acts of rapes and the increasing gender based violence in Nigeria, consequence upon which he directed the Nigerian Police to apprehend every of such culprits.
The Minister noted that the president’s action has further demonstrated the present administration’s zero tolerance to rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence on the girl-child. He added that the President has directed all the relevant government agencies to scale up support for victims of sexual and gender-based violence and to ensure that those who engaged in the condemnable conducts face the full weight of the law.
On the Ministry of Justice intervention against SGBV, Mallami reveals the ministry’s plan thus:
“My office, the Ministry of Justice is engaging with the respective Heads of Courts, for the establishment of Specialised Courts for the speedy and seamless trial of Rape/Gender Based cases and to facilitate their conclusion within record time”
“ Further to above, my office has commenced the review of all the existing laws and policy instruments relating to offences of rape, child defilement and gender based violence in Nigeria.”
‘” This will enable holistic review aimed at proposing relevant legislative changes required to bridge the gaps between policy guidelines and implementation mechanisms required for effective prevention and investigative counter-measures.” He stressed.
The Justice minister further said efforts are being put in place to developed a framework for effective introduction of Sexual Offenders Registrar in various Police formations and other security agencies, which will include collation and publication of the details of all sexual offenders aimed at public humiliation and deterrence to such conducts.
“Further to the above, this office has constituted Inter-Ministerial Management Committee on the eradication of Gender-Based Violence. The committee comprised the representatives of the following Ministries and Agencies: Ministry of Justice, NHRC, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Ministry of Health, NAPTIP, Nigeria Legal Aid Council, Nigeria Police Force, and two civil society organizations among others.”. He added.
Other areas highlighted by Abubakar Mallami, as parts of the Ministry’s inter-ministerial intervention terms of reference, includes:
“To develop sexual abuse/violence prevention strategy for 2021-2025”
“Define clear institutional responsibility matrix for all relevant stakeholders; developed an implementation roadmap”
“Developed framework for the development of Sexual Assault Referral Centers; Standard Operating Procedures Framework; enlightenment and awareness campaign program; collaboration with relevant stakeholders such as NGOs and CSOs, and to developed and implement an effective monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure sustainability.” He noted.
One Week Activism By Human Rights Comission
Earlier, the Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu says the collaborations with the Ministry involves submission of a letter of Call to Action as parts of the commission’s one week-long programme, which he said involves the ongoing actions at the various branches of the commission in the 36 states of the federation.
“In every states of this country, the officers of the Human Rights Commission, their friends, CSOs partners have been marching on the street, visiting all organs of government, including the wives of the state governors at the state levels.’
“We have paid visits to the Speakers of various states, Chief Judges, head of religious bodies. All these are parts of the campaign of Call To Action for gender equality, dignity of women and for the fight against rape and AGVB”
“Here at the national level, the NHRC is partnering with NAPTIP, the IGP of Police Force on which we have released our resolution to work together with these bodies, including all other stakeholders and the Federal Ministry of Justice for the reasons we are here today, this includes Ministry of women Affairs, Information, the judiciary, that we should all work together because the issues of Rape and Gender Based Violence requires a multilateral approach.”
“Every hand must be on deck, and the Ministry of Justice is the vehicle of any sustainable actions that can be taken against this scourge, in case of the need of policy reform, this is the Ministry that can make it happen, which is key for this partnership for changing the narrative on this scourge of rape and SVGB”
“ So we are here today to submit our Call To Action to the Attorney General of the Federation against this scourge that have reached a scary proportion in recent time”
“In all, statistics of girls and women being raped and abuse on daily basis comes from all parts and regions of this country”
“Rape and Sexual and Gender Based Violence is a gross violation of principles of Human Rights as well as a crime”
“It is a violation to the rights to dignity, rights to life, rights to security. It is not only an abuse by violators”
“Rape affects different categories of people, especially the most vulnerable like children, women, elderly as well as men”
“Rape and SGBV has consequences on the victims, but on the society, and not only affects the victims but also the socio-economic wellbeing of the country in a holistic manner.”
“In line with the mandate of the Commission, we have put together a one week of activism in protection of dignity among women for the fight against SGBV”
“This is reasons we have come here today, to tell the Attorney General that we have seen all you have been doing”
“We have seen the steps you have taken, we come in solidarity with you, so that we can all work together to fight this scourge”
“We are no longer going to sweep anything about rape under the carpet and make sure it continues to be in the front burner for accountability against and every violation”
“We intend to bring steps people need to take if they are confronted with these problems.” Ojukwu stressed.
The ES, Human Rights Commission in conclusion calls on stakeholders, including traditional rulers, religious leaders, wife of governors to leave according to their responsibilities by putting in place an enabling environment for the protection of dignity of lives of women of the federal Republic of Nigeria.
While presents the Call to Action letter to the Minister, the NHRC boss calls on the Minister to make use of his good office to join other stakeholders in the fight against Rape and SGBV.
“We enjoin you not to only condemn the menace as others in authority, but to take strict action for accountability on this horrific crime”. Ojukwu snapped.
Other stakeholders at the event who equally delivered goodwill messages against the rising scourge of Rape and SGBV were the representatives of the UNDP, Onyinye Ndubuisi and Chioma Okoh, who represented the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)