It is high time a state of emergency was declared in response to the wave of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) as well as the recent murder of girls in the country, Nigerians said on Friday during demonstrations that took place in the Abuja and Lagos.
Speaking during the protest held at the FCT Police Headquarters, founder of TechHer and communications specialist, Chioma Agwuegbo, criticised the Nigeria police for mishandling cases of sexual assault and not making sure there is justice for the victims.
“This is what we are here today to say. We are here to tell the police to do their jobs. We are here to ask them how do you want us to support you with your investigations? Because when a person gets raped, the family wants justice. When a child is raped, this is a crime against the state,” she said.
Agwuegbo urged policemen and parents to resist the urge to withdraw cases especially when the victims are underage and asked governors to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, which was passed in 2015.
“Five years on, there are less than 15 states that have domesticated it. This is wrong,” she said.
“I read out just about a hundred names [of rape victims] from January to June and these are cases that have come to us. There are a lot of cases that haven’t come to us yet. The government has to do something. State governments have to do something. Nobody is absolved of responsibility. We all have to do something.
“We are also saying to men: Don’t rape. They keep telling us, say no to rape, but we have been saying no since. It is when we say no that women get killed. It is when we say no that people get violated so we are saying to them, we are no longer saying no to rape, we are telling you, don’t rape us, don’t kill us, leave us alone. Leave children alone.
“If a person cannot vote, they cannot have sex. You should not be touching them. All over social media, there are videos of people saying it is not rape, it is child abuse. No, it is rape, and rape is a crime against the state. And this is what we are telling the police. This is what we are telling the Nigerian Governors Forum. This is what we are telling the Federal Executive Council. We must declare a state of emergency on rape and sexual-based violence in this country.”
The protesters asked Nigerians to challenge their lawmakers in states where the VAPP Act has yet to be domesticated and ask governors what their government is doing to protect women and girls.
Dorothy Njemanze, human rights activist and founder of the Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, said leaders who are not working to curb gender-based violence have no business occupying political offices and urged Nigerians to oust them from power.
“You can start recalling your legislators now. Yes, you can, as a group of people. Ask them questions. If they are not picking your call, start pushing for their recall. Now is the time for them to know the citizens’ power. The number one office in the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is strongest is the office of the citizen,” she said.
22-year-old Vera Uwaila Omozuwa was raped and physically assaulted in a church in Edo State on Wednesday, May 27, and died three days later from injuries sustained. On Monday, another girl, 18-year-old Barakat Bello was raped in her home in Oyo State while her father and sister were not around.
HumAngle noted that, within the week, at least seven cases of rape were reported to have happened across the country, with many of the victims being minors who are incapable of giving consent.
The Senate on Tuesday considered having tougher penalties for the offence of rape.
“We stand together on this, and I think we need to make the penalties for rape stiffer as a sufficient deterrent for those who are involved in this, or who even desire to be involved. We have to save our future, and these girls and women are the future of this country,” Dr Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President, said.