Despite Nigerian governors’ declaration of state of emergency on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, the menace has been on the rise, an advocacy group has revealed.

The Sexual and Gender-Based Violence movement consisting of several non-governmental organisations including TechHerNG, Yiaga Africa, Connected Development (CODE), amongst others, said this at the one-year anniversary of the movement on Monday.

The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), on June 12, 2020, declared a state of emergency on SGBV.

But according to the movement, rather than wane, the menace spiked.

“During the COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent nationwide lockdown, Nigeria witnessed a disturbing surge in cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

“Before the pandemic, violent and domestic attacks on women were common. However, the lockdowns caused a significant spike in the incidents, resulting in an alarming increase in brutality and death.

“According to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (2018), 30 per cent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported being subjected to sexual abuse. The Lagos State Domestic and Gender Violence Response Team reported a total of 3193 cases of gender-based violence between January and December 2020 alone. The statistics are similarly dire across the rest of the country,” the group stated.

Disturbing cases

One of such is the murder of 22-year-old Vera Omozuwa, who was gang-raped and clubbed to death inside the Ikpoba Hill branch of Redeemed Christian Church of God in Benin City, Edo State, in May 2020,

Another is a 12-year-old raped by a 57-year-old man and 11 others in Jigawa State.

Grace Oshiagwu, Barakat Bello, and Azeezat Somuyiwa were raped and gruesomely murdered in Ibadan.

One year after, these victims are yet to get justice, the movement noted.

In April, Iniobong Umoren, a graduate of the University of Uyo, was allegedly raped and killed by Uduak Akpan, who, under the guises of possible employment, lured her to her death in Akwa Ibom State.

Last week, Olajide Omowumi Blessing, a 300-level student of the University of Ilorin, was sexually assaulted and killed by rapists.

The group also lamented that the prosecution of Kogi State Commissioner for Water Resources, Abdulmumuni Danga, accused of assaulting Elizabeth Oyeniyi, last year, has been stalled.

Similarly, the case levelled against the Ogun State Commissioner for Environment, Abiodun Abdul-Balogun, accused of attempted rape, remains uninvestigated, it added.

Way forward

On the way forward, the founder of TechHerNG, Chioma Agwuegbo, said it was not enough to have laws, adding that it is pertinent that laws are implemented.

“SGBV cases should be promptly prosecuted within a reasonable timeframe and in line with the provisions of extant laws, regardless of requests or interference by the victim’s family or interested parties.”

She also stated the the group noticed that some states are “adopting a watered-down version of the VAPP Act, significantly reducing the punishments for violence against women and girls.

“This is not acceptable. While national leaders can modify laws in line with the socio-political peculiarity of their states, the standard remains the 2015 version of the VAPP passed by the National Assembly. We, therefore, call for urgent amendments to these below-par versions in these states.”

The group also urged the 36 state governors to establish independent specialised courts for sexual offences, etablish new or fund existing Sexual Assault Referral Centers (SARCs) and shelters in every state.

“A Sexual Offenders Register should be opened in all the states.

“The Police should implement well-resourced functional Family Support Units and Force Gender Units of the Nigeria Police Force to address GBV cases in collaboration with and at the state level. Also, there should be public disciplinary measures against officers of the Nigeria Police Force and state prosecutors who mishandle cases of GBV, ” the group demanded.

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