A day to Nigeria’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) Network Conference, the European Union has declared its intention to support the West African country in establishing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) courts.
The EU ambassador to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, said this Wednesday, according to a statement issued during a media lunch at her residence.
The EU says offering this support is top on its priority list, adding that since 2016, it has spent over N1 billion on the SARCs.
“The SARC Network Conference will be followed by mock SGBV courts sitting. This will be modelled on what survivor-centred SGBV court processes and proceedings should look like if they existed in Nigeria. The mock courts will simultaneously sit at Transcorp Hilton Hotel and the Federal Ministry of Justice,” Ms Isopi said.
The seventh Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) Network Conference organised by Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), is expected to be attended, on Thursday, by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Women Affairs, and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
The EU also highlighted that during the 16 Days of Activism, an annual international campaign to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, victims of sexual assault will receive free legal and psychological counselling under a joint effort by RoLAC, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Judiciary and the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP.
Ms Isopi added that the European Union (EU) and its partners are stepping up efforts to mobilise action towards fast-tracking prosecution of offenders and guaranteeing access to justice and remedies for victims of sexual assault.
“Through its Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme, implemented by the British Council, and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, the world’s largest targeted effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls, the EU has been at the forefront of the campaign to stem SGBV and bring succour and justice to victims.”
Ms Isopi noted that despite positive developments in awareness-raising, service provision and data collection, much more needs to be done to address the recognised data gaps.
According to her, to underscore the importance of reporting and quality data collection in the fight against SGVB, the Spotlight Initiative is launching a report spotlighting 16 facts about SGBV, co-signed by the EU, the UN and the Nigerian government.
“In spite of the remarkable expansion and spread of the SARC initiative in Nigeria and stronger focus nationwide on the provision of comprehensive medical and counselling services for survivors, cases of sexual assault remains grossly underreported to the centres. Still worse is the proportion of cases that are prosecuted. To make matters worse, even fewer convictions are secured, often after long, tortuous, winding legal processes,” Ms Isopi said, adding that “fast-tracking access to justice for SGBV survivors has become imperative.”
Commenting on what expectations should be from her office, Ms Isopi said the European Union’s agenda remains the same.
“The EU will continue to engage with the Nigerian government; civil society organisation and all stakeholders to work on the same issue on which both nations have built partnerships.
“We will continue to support Nigerian civil society organisations; democratic institutions; good governance; gender and youth agenda. We will continue to support Nigeria to fight the challenges of insecurity, poverty and other regional issues.”
She noted that Nigeria is a key EU partner in Africa, bilaterally and beyond.
According to Ms Isopi, the EU considers Nigeria a very important ally on a number of issues including post-Covid reconstruction, climate change amongst others.
Ms Isopi says she expects that they will continue to build partnerships through stronger political relations and more opportunities for youth as well as investment opportunities.
Ms Samuela Isopi
Samuela Isopi, 49, the new EU ambassador to Nigeria, trained in Political Science, specialising in International Relations, Modern and Contemporary History, Public Law, International and European Law. Besides her native Italian, she is fluent in English and French.
She arrived in Abuja to assume duties as Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on August 31, 2021. She presented her letters of credence to President Muhammadu Buhari on October 25, 2021.
Ms Isopi occupied the same position as the EU Ambassador at the EU Delegation in Bangui, Central African Republic. She had previously served as Ambassador of Italy to Cameroon, with concurrent accreditation to the Central African Republic, Chad and Equatorial Guinea. Previous postings include the Russian Federation, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as Deputy Head of Mission and First Counsellor.
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