Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The federal government rose from its fourth virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja yesterday with a resolution to decisively move against rapists whom they accused of destroying the lives of women and minors.
Describing the trend as horrific, embarrassing and unacceptable, Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, said the situation had only been worsened by lockdown in the past few weeks as a result of COVID-19.
Mrs. Tallen who said FEC’s decision to aggressively fight the scourge was the fallout of the memorandum of understanding that she presented to the council, following the alarming cases of rape and gender-based violence since the outbreak of COVID-19.
She said the number of rape cases in recent times had tripled what it used to be, noting that of every one case reported, there are 10 others that do not come to public knowledge, lamenting that judiciary had not helped the matter as hundreds of cases before the courts are not addressed.
According to her, the council unanimously resolved to deploy power at the highest level to combat the scourge adding that different strategies had been conceived to achieve this.
She said one of the ways the federal government would fight the scourge is to ensure the domestication of Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, (VAPPA), 2015 in states.
She said: “I’m sure you are aware that for the past few weeks, the country has witnessed a lot of outrage and outcry because of the pandemic within the pandemic that we are facing. I know before COVID-19, we have always had pandemic of rape cases and gender-based violence.
“But with the lockdown due to COVID-19, women and children are locked down with their abusers and the number has escalated three times. There is no state that is an exception. This has reached an embarrassing situation that a memo was presented in council, calling for immediate intervention, legal and prompt dispensation of justice in the cases.
“Because, from the statistics we have and from the meetings I had with the 36 states, commissioners of women affairs, we have hundreds of cases within our courts that have not been addressed. And out of one case that has been reported, be sure they are 10 others that have not been reported. As a result, we called for aggressive media campaigns, public enlightenment for people to rise up and speak out against abuse of minors and rape cases.
“We also called on the judiciary for prompt dispensation of cases and the police to ensure rape cases are not treated with levity or wished away. These are issues that were presented before council and I am happy to announce that we got the full support of Mr. President and all members of council, that government will take decisive actions at the highest level to protect women and children in this country.”
Tallen who said she had had a meeting with governors and secured their support, added that the governors gave her 100 percent support, and promised to join hands with her ministry to fight the menace.
“It is horrific because embarrassment is an understatement and it doesn’t give Nigeria a good image. We are destroying the future generation because, if you rape a child, you have destroyed that child for life and that is not acceptable.”
She said a team had been set up to investigate the matter at all levels, adding that the Ministry of Women Affairs is working with National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to unravel the mystery behind the mystique.
“I have put in place a team. In fact, a research is going on at all the state levels, while we have the national data collection at the ministry. We are also working closely with National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), to find out the reasons why a man of 80, 75, 60 will rape a child of one, two years.
“In fact, the recent one in Kaduna is a father raping his daughter, a child of three months. He has been doing that until the child turned nine months and he was caught. So, many horrible cases that will break your heart. I think there is more to it. It is either diabolical or mental case. So, these are the issues and a research is going on to identify the cause because, the Ministry of Health is also concerned and we are working with them. There are issues of mental health and other issues that need to be addressed,” she said.