The federal government has pledged to take decisive action against rapists, especially given the upsurge in reported rape cases.
The Federal Executive Council took the decision at its meeting Wednesday following a memo presented by the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen.
PREMIUM TIMES has reported several rape cases across Nigeria in the past few weeks, some leading to the death of the victims.
In some of the recent cases, a graduate undergoing the mandatory National Youth Service Corps was gang-raped in Akwa Ibom, while two underage girls were also raped in the same state.
Last week,18-year-old Barakat Bello was gang-raped and murdered by unknown assailants in the Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Ms Bello was a student of Department of Science Laboratory Technology (SLT), Federal College of Animal Health and Production in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Before that, a female undergraduate of the University of Benin, Vera Omozuwa, died in a hospital after she was allegedly raped and assaulted in a church premise in Benin, the Edo State capital.
FEC rolls out measures
At its meeting Wednesday, the FEC resolved to call on all states to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA), which is currently only operational in Abuja.
Mrs Tallen said the recent rape cases across the county were discussed at the meeting presided by President Muhammad Buhari, who described the menace as as embarrassing.
She admitted that the loopholes in some of the laws against rape such as failure to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA), 2015 was part of what led to the increase in rape cases. Hence, the government pushed for the domestication of the act, she said.
“Out of the 36 states of the federation, only nine states have domesticated the VAPPA law. The VAPPA 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.
“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.”
She also read the provision of Child Rights Act (CRA), which states that sex with a child is rape, and anyone who has sexual intercourse with a child is liable to imprisonment for life upon conviction.
“No fewer than 80 rape cases were recorded in various parts of Anambra State during the COVID-19 lockdown between April and May. 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 states commissioners of women affairs, we have hundreds of cases within our courts that have not been addressed.”
The minister said for one case that has been reported, “there 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 the government will take decisive actions at the highest level to protect women and children in this country.”
‘Governors key in’
Speaking further on VAPPA 2015, Mrs Tallen said: “That Act covers everything but our problem is lack of domestication of that Act”.
She added: “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 doesn’t give Nigeria a good image.
“We are destroying the future generation because, if you rape a child, you have destroyed that child for life and that is not acceptable.”
Mrs Tallen noted that advocacy would be done by collaborating and launching a media advocacy campaign to aggressively address the issue at all levels including in rural areas.
“As soon as COVID-19 is cleared, we will move out with the minister of information on advocacy round the country.
“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 the 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.”