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Tag Archives: violence in Nigeria

THE CLASS ACT OF THE 8TH BENUE ASSEMBLY AND THE VAPP LAW

By Jerome Uneje

criminaljustice

 

“Hmmm…Torkwase my sister, so it’s true that everything about the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPPA) is finally done and dusted! Hah…the glory of the 8th Benue Assembly and the Governor will never be erased from the memory of the Benue people o! At least vulnerable and indigent women, children and even men will benefit greatly with this VAPP Act as assented to in Benue State. The two Women smile and lean their backs against the wall at the same time.

The most recently rattled and misconstrued Law has finally seen the limelight. Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill like other bills presented to the National Assembly became a Law in May, 2015 and it seems to have overshadowed all other instruments and laws in Nigeria regarding the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against persons regardless of their sex and/or gender. This instrument enshrines the concerns and needs of vulnerable and indigent women including men and other groups who often fall victims of violence in Nigeria.

The Law which is applicable only at the  Federal Capital Territory had left the option to States at the Sub National level to domesticate the law in their respective States or otherwise. However it became imperative for the Law to be domesticated at the sub-national level especially in States such as Benue where on a daily basis, newspaper headlines are awash with killings, rape or maiming, particularly of spouse and/or lovers by husbands or man-lover, or rape of even minors like the case of Ochanya, who died from a gradual torture of rape by her so-called uncle and his son in Ugbokolo, Benue State and that of a young woman that was strangled to death by her husband for denying him sex in Plateau State and every 1 out of 3 women and/or young girls who suffer violence daily. All of those necessitated the propagation of the campaigning and advocacy for the VAPP Act to be domesticated in the State.

Be that as it may, the VAPP Law among other things has strengthened advocacy against rape, Female Genital Mutilation, partner battery, stalking, harmful widowhood practices by State Actors while prohibiting all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychosomatic, domestic, harmful traditional practices; discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.  In as much as this all powerful legislation instrument has provided for the above, it has also initiated positive innovations such as prohibiting persons from being forcefully isolated or separated from their family and friends and preventing widows from being subject to harmful traditional practices. It has even gone ahead to provide for a Commission of Violence Against Women which will be responsible for the general supervision of the Bill while a Victim of Violence Trust Fund will be established to provide and manage victims of violence. Under the Trust Fund, rehabilitation programmes, shelters and rape centers will be provided to cater for victims of violence. This indeed is a huge and robust fortification especially for victims of violence.

The positive effect of this Law is overwhelmingly amazing as prior to this law only women could be raped as approved in other legal materials and in the true definition of the word ‘rape’ as well as penetration of the vagina and for this sole reason, only women could be said to be raped. However, this Law now provides that a man can also fall victim of rape. VAPPA is the first piece of legislation in Nigeria which recognises that men are capable of being raped and also recognizes that not only penetration of the vagina is acceptable. All other criminal statutes delineate the offence in relation to women.  The VAPP acknowledging that unlawful anal and/or oral sex can be rape and not sexual assault is therefore ground-breaking.

The above has truly shown that the Benue people at this point will be thoroughly protected by the appropriate application of this Law and in secure environment notwithstanding the degree and/or pedigree of persons involved in violations.

In conclusion, we express our warmest gratitude to the out gone 8th Benue Assembly for a great job well done. This singular act has demonstrated beyond every reasonable doubt that their tenure was people oriented and has therefore purged it of all shortcomings while the House lasted. We also commend the Executive Governor of Benue State His Excellency Samuel Ortom for his speedy action towards signing the bill into law. We also commend the doggedness of the Civil Society including FIDA, Lawyers Alert, The Civil Society Coalition in Benue, The Media and all other actors involved in the course of this struggle.

As the struggle continues, Torkwase and her friend Ada laugh out loud shake hands and stand up. They walk out of the room towards the door to catch up with a new day in a new Benue where the rights of Women and other vulnerable groups are fully protected under the Violence Against People Prohibition Act.

 

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GISHIRI VILLAGE MOB ACTION AGAINST DEFENCELESS CITIZENS SUSPECTED TO BE GAYS

PRESS RELEASE BY LAWYERS ALERT

Lawyers Alert views with concern the Gishiri village mob action led by one Pastor Blaze wherein he embarked on a path of “cleansing” Gishiri village of people he termed as, or suspected to be homosexuals on the 12th and 13th days of February 2014.

On these days                Pastor Blaze became a law unto himself and at about 01.00am and 02.00am on the respective days; he assembled a team and embarked on a breach of the law by disturbing the peace of the sleepy village. The mob broke into the homes of some citizens, destroying doors and windows in complete acts of unlawful destruction of people’s properties using wood and other harmful objects like rakes and hatchets.

About 14 citizens were dragged out of their homes and attacked without any provocation whatsoever, and in the process, looting of valuables and properties ensued alongside other vices. After the orgy of assault and battery of these defenseless citizens for no reason whatsoever, Pastor Blaze alongside his mob dragged these citizens to the police station at Gishiri and subsequently to the Divisional Office of the Nigeria Police at Mabushi Abuja.  At the Mabushi Divisional office, these citizens were further detained, after suffering unprovoked attacks, looting and assault for absolutely nothing and the assailants allowed to go home.

Please note that these citizens were not caught contravening any law of the federal republic of Nigeria,

We however commend the actions of the Divisional Police Officer, who next day, let the citizens go home as no charges could be brought against them as they were not breaching any laws, but were themselves the object of brutal attacks by a mob.

Lawyers Alert notes that we live in a democracy that is increasingly being threatened by lawless and violent sects. These violent sects and people start from somewhere and gradually grow into a terminal menace to the society. Pastor Blaze and his followers (mob) is one of such, and we are worried that up to till date, no arrest has been made and this mob and their ilk across the country will view the handling of this situation as a compass for future similar acts.

This culture of violence, particularly extra judicial killings, is gradually becoming the norm in Nigeria. The manner our security agents and the law react to the advent of these tendencies is important. The Gisihiri incident appears to be but the beginning of another form of religious extremism, this time right in the heart of the Federal Capital Territory. We implore the police to decisively deal with the situation by the arrest and trial of the suspects. We understand useful statements have been made to the police regarding Pastor Blaze and his followers and we call for action.

Our country is a country governed by laws, and we implore citizens, no matter our level of belief, bias or conviction in like situations, to allow the law take its course. We, as a people cannot begin to express hate and violent acts towards defenseless citizens when we have the law to resort to.

It could be said that every human being stands the chance of being in a situation where s/he is the minority. It could be due to reasons of ethnicity, race, religion, social standing, physical attributes etc. Such situations should not be used to justify violence nor invite it on us for the reason of our various minority statuses.

 

CHIGOZIE ONAH ESQ

HEAD, ABUJA OFFICE OF LAWYERS ALERT.

19th Feb, 2014

 

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