By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) Justice for All Programme yesterday in Enugu expressed dismay at the increasing cases of Rape, defilement, sexual assault as well as domestic violence in the country, asking the federal and state governments to arrest the tide by funding the current efforts by concerned international organisations.
Speaking at a network meeting of Sexual Assaults Referral Centres (SARC) aimed at building a SARC Advocacy Network in Nigeria in Enugu, the National Programme Manager of Justice for All, Bob Arnot lamented that in Lagos and Enugu states alone, a total of 1862 rape cases had been recorded in the past two years, noting that the situation had capacity of getting out of hand if something was not urgently done.
Arnot said already, the United Kingdom government had spent one million pounds in establishing SARC centres across the country as well as in providing training, advocacy and giving attention in forms of social works, getting justice and medical attention to survivors of sexual abuse across the country.
He noted that since their funding season was coming to an end, with a lot of work yet to be done, it had become imperative for the Nigerian government to show considerable interest in the fight. According to him, with about fifty million pounds so far spent in Nigeria under the Justice for All programme in the last five years on a wide range of issues including assistance to police and anti-graft agencies, the UK government had shown so much interest in the country.
Aside funding, he also urged the government to find ways of addressing the slow pace of justice delivery system in the country, bemoaning a situation where out of almost 2000 rape cases, less than 20 have been successfully prosecuted.
He said that so far, the SARCS established in the country had provided medical and counselling services to over 1700 victims of sexual violence including 1, 294 under the age of 18.
The SARCs, according to him provide survivors with immediate forensic and clinical examinations, medical treatment, crisis counselling and practical support. They also assist survivors in accessing and negotiating the legal and judicial systems should victim choose to pursue the matter in court.
“These SARCs have successfully demonstrated the significant positive results of collaboration with Ministries of Health, Justice, Gender and Women Affairs, the Police and key justice sector actors to address sexual and gender based violence,” he said.
adding that by August this year, Justice for All would have supported the establishment of an additional seven centres in Akwa-Ibom, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Niger states outside the already existing centres in Lagos and Enugu among other states.
He said the network meeting in Enugu among other reasons was aimed at identifying sustainable approaches to offering SARC services across states and create space for greater dialogue and lesson sharing between states and civil society around issues of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria.