Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi has, following the rise in reported cases of rape in the state and across the country, directed the office of the State Attorney General (AG) and Commissioner for Justice to oppose bail applications and plea bargains for rape and child defilement offenders in the state.
Governor Fayemi said he would deploy his position as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to rally the 36 state governors to declare a state of emergency against the menace.
The governor spoke in Ado-Ekiti on Friday evening while signing the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Child Victims of Sexual Violence Bill (2020) into law.
The bill, targeted at fortifying and tightening the loose ends in the Gender-Based Violence Prohibition Law 2012, had earlier been passed by the Ekiti State House of Assembly.
Speaking after assenting to the bill, the governor said: ‘The Ministry of Justice is further directed to reaffirm state policy of opposing bail and rejecting plea bargain proposals from perpetrators of rape and child defilement. The State Government’s policy of ensuring that convicted sex offenders do not benefit from my power of prerogative of mercy remain in force.
‘We will strengthen the Gender-Based Violence Management Committee to continue to provide rapid and comprehensive responses to all forms of violence against women and children. In particular, the GBV Management Committee will be empowered to improve the collection and analysis of data to monitor our GBV programmes.
‘A statewide sexual violence prevalence study will be commissioned in the general population to enable us to have reliable data on the nature of the problem.
‘I’m proud to sign a law that affirms one of the important policies of my administration. The ‘Compulsory Treatment and Care for Child Victims of Sexual Violence Bill, 2020’ reaffirms our commitment not only to prompt medical care for child victims of sexual violence but also supports our resolve to achieve the effective prosecution of sex offenders.’
Describing the law as timely, the governor added that ‘it is fitting that the House of Assembly passed this legislation this week. Over the past few days, our country has witnessed acts of extreme violence perpetrated against women and children. In our state, the story is not different. Not a day passes without reported cases of rape and child defilement.’
The governor stated, that confronted with how women and children were being dehumanised by rapists, the women in the state are demanding that there should be a ‘State of Emergency’, which will enable more decisive actions to be taken against the scourge.
‘While I appreciate the basis for this demand, it is my view that there is a need for a national consensus on the issue. I will be engaging the Nigeria Governors’ Forum at our next meeting to determine what emergency measures can be put in place to address this crisis more effectively and on a national basis.’
Reeling out steps taken to deal with offenders and reduce the scourge, Governor Fayemi said he had opened a Register of Sex Offenders of all persons convicted of acts of sexual violence and have adopted a policy of publicly naming and shaming convicted sex offenders aside enacting a progressive Gender-Based Violence Law.
Cataloguing the benefits inherent in the new law, Fayemi said: ‘By virtue of the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Child Victims of Sexual Violence Law, 2020, a child victim of sexual violence in this state will have rapid access to a medical facility that can administer emergency medical care, including treatment to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and counselling.’
Fayemi clarified that he had also directed the Ministry of Justice to review existing laws with a view to proposing to the House of Assembly necessary legislative changes to ensure that the offences of rape and child defilement attract harsher sentences.
‘The Ministry of Justice is already working on measures to clear the backlog of rape and child defilement cases stalled because of the closure of courts during the COVID-19 period. We are determined to improve conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate support services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subject to further trauma.’