Senate Canvasses Stiffer Penalties against Rapists

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Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Senate yesterday canvassed for the imposition of stiffer penalties on rapists of minors and infants to help curb the menace in the country.

This is just as the upper legislative chamber also blamed rising wave of suicide in the country on economic frustration among the citizenry.

The Senate took the decision to canvass for stiffer penalties for rapists following a motion of urgent public importance, sponsored by Senator Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North), entitled, “Rising incidence of rape of minors”.

It directed its committees on Judiciary, Police Affairs, Women Affairs and Social Development, when constituted, to interface with relevant stakeholders, in order to strategise on enhancing robust enforcement and implementation of all legislations and policies aimed at protecting minors from rapists and other forms of violence.

The Senate also directed the aforementioned committees to review relevant legislations with a view to providing stiffer penalties against sexual abuse on infants and minors in the country.

It further urged the Police and other law-enforcement agencies to conduct mandatory training for officers in dealing with rape cases and young victims of abuse.

The upper chamber also urged the judiciary to establish national sentencing framework for child sexual abuse cases and judicial officers, to impose the heaviest penalties permitted by law on perpetrators of all forms of abuses against minors to serve as deterrent.

The lawmakers also called on state governments to domesticate and robustly implement the Child Rights Act and Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 in order to curb the atrocity of sexual abuse of babies and minors just as it urged the general public to continue to act as watchdogs and voice to the voiceless as a way to curb child sexual abuse and all form of violent
abuse.

Leading the debate on the motion, Oko who brought her motion through Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rule, drew the attention of the Senate to rising incidences of rape of infants and minors in parts of the country, describing the development as worrisome.

The ranking Senator, who was visibly disturbed by the situation, claimed that six out of every 10 Nigerians were being raped on daily basis.

The lawmaker noted the shocking rape story of a six-month old baby in Kano as a case of rape of a minor, and other cases of students being raped by their teachers and lecturers in Nigeria’s institutions of learning as cases of concerns to the parliament.

She lamented that law enforcement agencies had not lived up to their responsibilities in checking the increasing wave of rape in the country, and therefore, called on the Senate to evolve ways of providing stiffer measures to serve as deterrent to rapists.

Contributing, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central) also frowned at the ugly practice, describing rape of minors as extreme wickedness and calling for imposition of death sentence on offenders.

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central), in his contribution, noted that the country had sufficient laws on rape but lacked the will power to enforce such laws.

He therefore, called on the Red Chamber to review the existing laws, with a view to focusing on the sentencing guidelines of the extant laws.

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, noted that the issue of rape of minors is a very sensitive one in the society, assuring that the Senate would help address the enigma enacting relevant legislations in that direction.

The Senate also yesterday blamed the rising incidences of suicides among Nigerians on economic frustration and in particular, high level of poverty in the land .

In separate submissions made during debate on a motion sponsored by Senator Theodore Orji (Abia Central) and fifteen others on “Rising Incidences of Suicides Amongst Nigerians”, lack of political will to comprehensively address Nigeria’s worsening economic problems as well as poor understanding of the country’s political economy were alleged to be compounding the problems.

Contributing to the debate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central) , said : “ poverty is one issue that is confronting us on the face which must be addressed holistically by government.

On his part, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Edo South), observed that economically “things are getting worse and worse every day”

According to him, bleak future, hunger, unemployment, and other economic challenges were the major problems making people to commit suicide.

But Senator Rochas Okoroacha (Imo West) said lack of happiness arising from all manner of frustrations, triggers suicidal instincts in people .

“Most of our citizens are not happy. Our nation is characterised with unhappiness. Many people commit suicide because they lack the ability to express themselves or to share their feelings with people”.

At the end of the debate, the Senate resolved to “urge the federal government through the Ministry of Information National Orientation Agency and the Ministry of Health to urgently create awareness on how to control stress and depression and establish trauma centres across the federation”.