By Ayobami Agboola, Osogbo
About six months after governors of the 36 states of the federation agreed to declare a state of emergency on rape, most of the state Houses of Assembly are yet to pass the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill for the state chief executives to sign into law.
CityMirrorNews Weekend recalls that in June this year, the governors under the auspices of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) had agreed to declare state of emergency following the public outcry over growing cases of rape in the country.
Investigations by this medium revealed that 23 out of the 36 states of the federation are yet to domesticate the VAPP Act five years after the Act was signed into law.
As part of its social responsibilies, an Osun-based non-governmental organisation, Justice Development and Peace Makers Centre (JDPMC), had organised a stakeholders forum where people with highly intelectual acumen gathered to reflect and review the act for the common good of the society.
At a round table discussion, held at the Catholic Church conference hall, Oke Ayepe Area, Osogbo, number of legal Practitioners , human right defenders and other stakeholders shared ideas and views on the Violence Against Persons Prohibition act 2015, just as they reflected together on the prospects of its domestication in Osun state as a means to improving the respect for human rights of persons in Osun state especially the most vulnerable.
The participants reviewed the federal law and called for it domestication, just as they identified areas which require urgent and quick rectification.
The stakeholders, however, called for strict adherence to laws against perpetrators to serve as a deterrent to others that derive pleasure in such heinous acts.
More so, the meeting maintained that the VAPP bill, when passed, will reduce the rampant violence against persons and punishment of offenders would be made effective.
Speaking, Rev. Fr Peter Akinkunmi , the General Coordinator, JDPMC, demanded that the state government and other stakeholders should put machineries in place to ensure quick domestication of the Act in Osun and all other states of federation.
Akinkunmi said that some states, including Ekiti, Kwara had domesticated the law, which was passed in May 2015, while some had yet to do so. He said rape and other gender-based violence have continued to increase on daily basis in the state.
He said that passing of the VAPP Bill by the State Assembly and the governor to append his signature to it to become part of the state laws will help reduce the crime to the bearest minimum in the state.
He further said: “I don’t think rape and other gender-based violence in society are on the decline. Rape occurs on a regular basis. The challenge, which can sometimes create the wrong impression that it is not happening, is that the incidences often go unreported in the media.
“Many victims often are ashamed of reporting that they were raped as a result of the social perception of rape victims. Sometimes, those who muster the courage to seek redress hardly get justice and this discourages others from reporting.”
“It is on this note that our organization commenced the effort towards proposing the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 to the Osun State House of Assembly for domestication. In line with our principle of social action, the development of our views on issues that affect the general public relies strongly on consultations with
experts and openness to wider perspectives.
“Over the years, in response to the mandate of the social teachings of the catholic Church whose organ JDPMC is, this Organization has been partnering with all people of goodwill to contribute to the development of Osun State and Nigeria as a whole, paying special attention to the plight of the weak or vulnerable and the poor in accordance with the principles of the gospel of Christ. Consequently, we cannot disregard the fact that most of the abuses of human rights especially acts of violence are directed against these categories of persons.
“And that when it pertains to them, the acts are usually concealed in a conspiracy of silence that is fueled by prevailing culture. As such, innumerable persons whose lives already suffer imbalance due to economic disadvantages and social biases are further destroyed physically, psychosomatically, spiritually and socially by unabated perpetrators of violence.
“This unjust oppressors of fellow human beings thrive in their evil acts because their actions are accommodated by the society and sometimes sadly defended by myths, and tolerated by religions, and cultures whose perspectives clearly indicate their lack of harmony with the contemporary progress made in the reasonable understanding of the fuller identity of the human person.
“Acts or tendencies of violence of persons against persons are as old as the conflict of interests between human beings across spaces and times. However, each society develops culture, powered by written and unwritten values or laws which define and regulate human behavior to ensure that human persons are defined and treated strictly within the values and standards of society”.
Also speaking, Barrister Veronica Ene Onoja , Programme Supervisor Justice and Human Rights Department ,JDPMC, said the nitty gritty of the round table discussion was to review and give recommendations on how curb the rising issues of violence against Persons.
She identified jurisdiction of the court as one of the major fundamental lapses , saying “the law says it’s only high court that has jurisdiction, the high courts are already crowded and the process of getting to the court is very cumbersome.
“You have to go through the lawyers. You have so many fees to pay, I think if we can bring it down to Magistrate Court which has summary jurisdiction it would be faster and justice would be better passed in that case but for the high court it can take up to ten years for just one case.
Corroborating the point, Barrister Susan Olubunmi Ajeigbe, said there is the need for the reviewing of the jurisdiction of the law in a bid for the victims to get justice quickly.
Ajeigbe, therefore, called on all states of the federation to domesticate the law.
Mr Patrick Olusegun , JDPMC finance Manager said the round table discussion became necessary going by numerous advantages attached to it.
Olusegun who described the Violence Against Persons Prohibition act as a good one said the JDPMC has taken a necessary step by organising the programme, saying it would further their contribution for the emergence of a better society.
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