A former lawmaker, Senator Bassey Henshaw has said there is an urgent need for the federal government to consider capital punishment for rape offenders particularly against minors.
Henshaw, who said this at the unveiling of the centenary banner of the Nigeria Girl Guides Association (NGGA) Lagos recently was reacting to the high rate of rape and other forms of abuse especially on the girl-child in the country.
According to him, domesticating such law would drastically reduce the rate of such occurrence. “Take the case of the late Ochanya Ogbaje, the 13-year-old girl from Benue State, who was continuously raped by both father and son for five years until she gave up the ghost recently.
“It is just as sad as it is unacceptable. This is a case of outright violation of human right and we as a nation must not let this wicked act go unpunished and severely so. There are laws in Nigeria against many of these things and it is usually the duty of the police to ensure that offenders are apprehended and punished.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is that people always think they can get away with crime and indeed do get away with crime, so they continue to commit these crimes.
Henshaw added: “For me, the rape and eventual death of late Ochanya deserves capital punishment. But again, it is the duty of the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the culprits behind this shameful and unfortunate act are apprehended and punished appropriately in accordance with whatever laws are on the book anyway.
“But what I am also saying is that laws to deal with these issues need to be broadened in terms of involving both the state and local governments not just the federal government.”
He stressed that there is no moral justification for any form of child abuse, especially rape of young and innocent children and imagined how many others may have been going on unreported.
Henshaw, who is also a member of the advisory board of the association, noted that due to some beliefs and cultures in various communities, many people that were abused are afraid to speak out openly.
“We have girls going abroad to prostitute, taking oath of secrecy in the process, and all these things are challenges, and so we need to do more advocacy, sensitisation and education, coupled with the assistance of the press.”
He congratulated the NGGA on its centenary celebration, adding that its efforts in protecting, adding value to the girl-child, as well as ensuring that they are relevant and heard in the process of nation building is priceless.
The association’s Chief Commissioner, Mrs. Maria Goretti Sule said the advocacy campaign is a wakeup call aimed at protecting the right of the girl-child, as well as to condemn acts of physical violence against the girl-child on a daily basis in the country as was obtained in the case of Ogbaje.
“We are appealing to the federal government and other leaders in our country to speed up action in ensuring that justice is carried out on the two men who raped the young 13-year-old innocent girl to death.
“We can no longer fold our hands and watch this evil to continue in our society. Our association has been on the forefront of speaking against violence of whatever form, especially violence against children, girls and women.”
“I also want to challenge our girls and young women to be strong to break barriers and refuse to keep quiet when they are being violated, opposed and intimidated. You can only receive help when you call for help. Raise your voices against violence and do not permit anyone to keep you silent against your will.”
The association’s Assistant National Project Commissioner, Mrs. Lilian Damie called on parents to always watch out for early signs of violence against their girl-child, this she said will assist in the fight against the ugly trend.
She said education has a huge role to play in the fight against violence against the girl-child and women.