More Rape Cases Reported During Lockdown…IG, Activists…

…A Total of 717 Cases
Reported Between January – May, 2020

…Investigations
Already Concluded on 631 Cases with Suspects Charged to Court

…799 Suspects
Arrested in Connection with these Cases

…Victims Range
from Toddlers to Women Over 70

…Police is
Collaborating with Other Security Agencies, NGOs on this Matter

Inspector
General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, has said a total of 717 rape cases were
reported to the Police nationwide between January and May 2020. He attributed
this upsurge to the lockdown arising from government efforts to contain the
spread of Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen cases in the country ballooning to
over 16,000 by Sunday night, with the national death toll also rising to 430.

A
survey conducted jointly by Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre
(WARDC), Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) and
Upright for Nigeria on the impact of the lockdown on women, also indicate the
rise in gender and sexual related violence during the period as the victims
were helmed in together with their potential abusers.

Briefing
State House correspondents on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr Adamu
said out of the 717 cases, investigations have been concluded in 631 cases with
the suspects already in court. He also said investigations were still ongoing
in the remaining 52 cases.

The
IGP further disclosed that 799 suspects were arrested in connection with the
cases.

“It
has come to the public knowledge now that because of the COVID-19 restrictions,
we have a surge in cases of rape and gender-based violence,” the Police boss
said.

“Law
enforcement agents have been dealing with these cases, and in most cases,
members of the public are not aware of the actions that the law enforcement
agents have been taken.

“The
Nigeria Police so far from January to May 2020, we have recorded about 717 rape
incidents that were reported across the country; about 799 suspects have been
arrested, 631 cases conclusively investigated and charged to court and 52 cases
are left and under investigation.

“The
Police and other security agencies and other non-governmental organisations
have been collaborating, to see to it that these cases of rape and gender-based
violence are dealt with.

“The
NGOs and CSOs that have the capacity to deal with this kind of offences, have
been cooperating with law enforcement agencies in capacity building, management
of victims of rape and similar offences and procedures for collecting evidence
towards successful prosecution.

“The
government has taken the matter to another level now because of the scourge we
have noticed,” Adamu noted.

Dr
Nsekpong Udoh, who coordinated the joint CSOs survey in Akwa Ibom, said “The
lockdown has increased gender based violence since the women are locked down
with their potential abusers”. She also disclosed that “most of the women are
not complaining because of fear of going to meet their abusers at home.”

The
revelations are coming at a time protests are holding across the country against
increasing cases of rape and defilement of women of all ages from minors to
those above 80.

A
22-year-old student of the University of Benin, Miss Vera Omozuwa, was raped and
brutally murdered in a church in Ikpoba Hill, Benin City, Edo State, recently. Also,
an 18-year-old Miss Barakat Bello was raped and killed in Ibadan, Oyo State.
There was also the reported case of a pregnant woman, Mrs Queen Igbineovba who
was raped to death at her uptown residence in Uselu, Benin City in the Edo State
capital while another 21 year old National Diploma student at Oke Ogun
Polytechnic, Miss Grace Oshiagwu, was allegedly raped and murdered inside a
church in the Ojoo area of Ibadan in Akinyele local government area, Oyo state
on Saturday, June 13. She was discovered with machete cuts on her body.

The Senate last
Wednesday considered a critical bill seeking to protect victims of rape against
any form of stigmatisation in the country. This is against the backdrop of rising
calls by activists that rapists should be castrated.

The bill, which scaled
second reading on the floor during plenary, also provides for prosecution and
punishment of any person or group of persons who stigmatise such victims with a
view to uphold and protect their Fundamental Right to Dignity and Freedom of
Association as provided by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Titled: Rape and Insurgency Victims Stigmatisation
(Prohibition) Bill 2019,
itwas
sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East).

Leading debate on the
bill during plenary, Senator Musa said if passed into law, the bill would among
other things, encourage victims of rape to testify in court.

The bill which contains
11 (Eleven) Clauses, according to the lawmaker, would also ensure the
re-integration of victims of insurgency into the community of their choice.

“Mr. President, you are
all aware of the scourge of the instabilities in most of our communities in
Nigeria, ranging from insurgence, banditry and violence against women, children
and even men,” Musa said.

“Presently, rape is now
a common phenomenon and occurs worldwide. In fact, available data suggests that
in some countries one in five women report sexual violence or being raped by an
intimate partner and up to a third of girls report forced sexual initiation.
This also cuts across diverse age range of victims ranging from young toddlers
and children to even older victims aged 70 years old, with over seventy percent
of the victims under 19.

“The bill is to provide
for the legal and institutional framework for the protocol for re-integration
of victims of rape and insurgency in Nigeria. If this bill is passed into law,
it would certainly provide a new lease of life for victims of rape and
insurgency in the country.”

The lawmaker, who
bemoaned the trauma which most victims of rape suffer and are exposed to in the
country, blamed the development on what he described as the “ineptitude” of the
Nigerian justice system.

“The justice system in
Nigeria is incredibly inept and for rape cases, this is even more traumatic. A
rape victim goes to the police to report and the policeman or woman tells the
victim to go and sort it out at home as it is a domestic case. And the
consequences of such act is that the victim is left at the mercy of the society
without any protection,” he stated.

“This sort of stigma
has prevented many survivors from reporting abuse and seeking justice. Victims
of insurgency and other violent acts needs this kind of laws that will not only
promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls as fundamental to
all efforts to prevent and address sexual violence, but also progressively
uplift such victims.

“We are all living
witnesses to the upsurge of the criminality of rape and the destruction of
lives been perpetrated by those coward criminals in our communities, coupled
with the fact that our country has an extremely low conviction rate for rape
and sexual abuses despite the increase in violence against women in recent
years.”

The lawmaker, who
recalled the interventions by the Senate on violence against women, noted that,
“it is high time we (National Assembly) legislate and take actions that will
address some of the shortcomings in Nigeria’s legal system on issues of
stigmatisation for victims of rape and violence, where the burden to prove rape
or abuse often lies in evidence of it also being a violent attack.”

According to Musa,
“Nigeria which is home to an estimated 205 million people, has no legislation
that will protect or facilitate care and support for survivors.”

The bill which received
the support of lawmakers was referred by the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan,
to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further
legislative work.

The Committee which is
chaired by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC – Ekiti Central) is expected
to submit its report back to the Senate in four weeks.

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