From Judex Okoro, Calabar
A special investigation panel on sexual and gender based violence in Nigeria has commenced public sitting in Calabar.
The panel is in furtherance of request by the office of the Vice President on the National Human Rights Commission to take immediate steps to arrest the scourge of gender and child based violence in Nigeria.
The first round of public sittings of the panel took place in Enugu, Lagos and Ebonyi while the second round will comprised Calabar, Rivers, Sokoto, Adamawa and Abuja.
The panel is supported by a number of organisations including the UN Spotlight Initiative agencies through the implementation of the UNDP.
Speaking in Calabar while inaugurating the panel, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC,Tony Ojukwu, said the country has had it’s fair share of gender based violence which which has sparked public outrage and condemnation.
He said the second round of public sitting is unique and will afford all parties the opportunity to address the issues induced by the pandemic along with other SGBV cases.
He said: “In recent times a number of incidences sparked public outage and condemnation of the brazing and gruesome dimensions of SGBV in Nigeria.
“The sitting affords the panelists, the parties and the members of the general public the opportunity to address SGBV issues induced by the pandemic along with other SGBV cases from a whilistic perspective.”
He added that members of the panel were carefully selected to represent diverse interests in the society.
He added that the panel
members, which were carefully selected to represent diverse interests in the society, would be guided by eight objectives including identifying individuals directly responsible for any violations, identify victims of violation and ensure adequate remedy.
He commended the government for recognizing the mandate of the commission and supporting it in setting up the panel.
Also speaking, the State Chief Judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme, said the public sitting is expedient and pledged her support.
On her part, Rita Agim, the state commissioner for women affairs deplores the culture of silence which hampers effective prosecution of culprits.
The Commissioner, representated by a senior official from the ministry, Asi Archibong, said families tend to cover this up and encouraged families, victims and survivors to come out and tell their stories.