Omo-Agege, Lalong, Abdulrahman, others go tough on SGBV
As the world makes plans for post-pandemic recovery, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, leader of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF), Simon Bako Lalong and Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq have urged governments attention towards victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown. They argued that if ignored, the situation may have life-threatening consequences for victims with a profound impact on their opportunities and life trajectory.
SGBV is reported to have significantly increased during the lockdown with the three most affected areas being Lagos, Abuja and Ogun States. Emerging evidence, according to a United Nations report released in May last year, indicated a sharp rise in SGBV, especially against women and girls with incidents based on preliminary information from 24 states showing that in March, the total number of GBV incidents reported were 346, while in the first part of April, incident reports spiked to 794, depicting a 56 per cent increase in just two weeks of lockdown. Some of these incidents of violence tragically resulted in the death of victims, child rape, incestual rape and tenant–landlord rape.
Omo-Agege during the fifth Voice of Women conference organised by Women Radio 91.7 recently with the theme, Men’s Voices Against Gender-Based Violence, stated that the plight of women in Nigeria and across the world has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic as violence against women more than tripled during the lockdown.
Reports from the Nigerian Ministry of Women’s Affairs revealed that there are at least 3,600 outstanding reported rape cases from the 36 states during the lockdown, which excludes all other forms of violence and cases that went unreported.
Speaking on setbacks encountered by the states and federal government to curb the menace, he informed that the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP 2015), which prescribes punishment for offenders and seeks to eliminate all forms of violence against persons in both private and public life, has only been adopted by thirteen states and the FCT out of Nigeria’s 36 States since 2015 and he called on the other states to domesticate it without further delay.
“Although it may have taken quite a long time for such a law to be introduced specifically on SGBV, there have been aspects of our common Criminal Law as well as the Penal Code that frowns at GBV including battery and rape. These laws as they appear, deal mainly with what we generally know as physical or non-subtle violence”, he said.
Calling on Nigerians to resist the urge of perpetuating violence, he appealed that efforts should be doubled to have zero tolerance for these abhorrent acts of SGBV and the country must move immediately to address the legal and cultural challenges facing women and girls, stressing that men must take more responsibility, intervene and protect women.
Lalong revealed that the NGF has declared a state of emergency over the increasing rate of SGBV in the country, adding that they’ve also resolved to ensure that member states promulgate laws with stiffer penalties against SGBV perpetrators. As part of their resolve, they agreed that all Governors are to ensure the domestication of the VAPP Act in their various states without further delay.
“Working with our various State Houses of Assembly, the domestication of the VAPP Act in the various states will soon be attained and the speakers of the 19 Northern States Houses of Assembly have already assured us of their support,” he said.
For a safe Nigeria for women and girls, he said there must be change in the mind-set of men and boys in not only appreciating that women and girls deserve protection, but have rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution which must be understood and any violation of said rights is a serious crime that carries weighty punishment under the law.
Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq commended Women Radio for its pro-women efforts and campaign, which has been in line with his goals of giving women political power and influence due to her influential nature of driving home policies.
“They can influence policies and programmes to favour the disadvantaged groups in the society. Which is why Kwara is passionate about that and there is no going back. We hope that giving political support to women through gender inclusion would help to inspire our little girls to aspire to the highest level they can.”