From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, has said insurgency, banditry and COVID-19 lockdown have led to the astronomical rise in cases of abuse in the country.
This was even as the First Lady advocated that violators of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, 2015, should receive punishments commensurate to the gravity of their crime.
Buhari spoke during the virtual/hybrid conference on ‘Child and Vulnerable Witnesses Protection in Nigeria’ organised on behalf of the National Association of Women Judges, Nigeria.
Buhari who was represented by the Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development, Barrister Mary Ekpere-Eta, added that such punitive measure will serve as deterrent to offenders and engender a sense of justice and closure to the victims.
Buhari also said the move will have the overall effect of encouraging other victims to come forward and, eventually, for the crimes of violence against all vulnerable persons to drop.
“I am happy to be in the midst of learned people to review something which I am passionate about: the issue of protection of children and other vulnerable victims and witnesses of abuse.
“Let me use this opportunity to thank the National Association of Women Judges for organising this important conference, even though I am not surprised because as mothers, women are always driven by maternal instinct no matter where they find themselves.
“These days, cases of abuse have skyrocketed due to many factors including insurgency, banditry, and the COVID-19 lockdown. For as many of the victims that have found justice, many more have remained traumatised and unserved. Even those who have ventured to speak out have drawn opprobrium and stigma from the community and lack of compassion from the system that is meant to protect them,” Buhari said.
Buhari further took note of the barriers in delivering justice to victims of abuse which included unnecessary and long delays in processing cases in courts, and poor questioning practices and hostile physical environment in which the administration of justice takes place.
The First Lady however expressed hope that the barriers will be addressed adequately by the conference.
“Various international instruments and a pantheon of laws on violence against women, children and other vulnerable persons abound, all of these dovetailing in the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, which has provided a semblance of hope to victims. It is my ardent hope that the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the Act will validate our expectations.
“I want to use this opportunity to advocate that violators of the VAPP Act should receive punishments commensurate to the gravity of their crime. This will serve as deterrent to offenders and engender a sense of justice and closure to the victims. This will have the overall effect of encouraging other victims to come forward and, eventually, for the crimes of violence against all vulnerable persons to drop,” Buhari added.
The conference, according to the President of the National Association of Women Judges, Nigeria, Justice Mary Peter-Odili, was designed deliberately to give participants an overview of the protection of child and other vulnerable witnesses who may be victims of crime, accused of a crime, or witnesses to a crime, particularly in cases of sexual offences, domestic violence and child abduction in Nigeria.