Govs to Declare State of Emergency on Rape

  •  Mandate Tambuwal to discuss with speakers on financial autonomy for states’ legislature

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Governors have agreed to declare a state of emergency on rape and other gender-based violence against women and children.

The governors, under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), after a virtual meeting, also renewed their commitment to ensuring that offenders face the full weight of the law.

In a communiqué issued at the end of its 10th teleconference meeting, the 36 state governors commended President Muhammadu Buhari for accepting to postpone the implementation of Executive Order 10 on financial autonomy for states’ legislature and judiciary, pending further consultations with all stakeholders.

They also mandated the Deputy Chairman of NGF and Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, to continue to engage the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly on how to ensure agreeable modalities for the implementation of the executive order.
The communiqué of the meeting held on Wednesday, which was released yesterday, was signed by the Chairman of the NGF and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

According to the communiqué, the governors agreed to, “Declare a state of emergency on sexual and gender-based violence. Governors strongly condemned all forms of violence against women and children and committed to ensuring that offenders face the maximum weight of the law;
“Call on state governors that have not already domesticated relevant gender-based protection laws to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, the Child Rights Act and the updated Penal Code to increase protection for women and children and ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of perpetrators in addition to creating a sex offenders’ register in each state to name and shame.”

They also had discussions with the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, who addressed members on the rising case of rape and gender-based violence in the country, which has escalated threefold since the enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The governors called on state commissioners of police to provide detailed reports on the actions taken to strengthen their response to sexual and gender-based violence through the Family Support Units and Force Gender Units at the state and local government levels.

They said they would commit additional funding for the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence through appropriate Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

They also endorsed the communiqué of the meeting of the First Ladies in Nigeria, held on June 7, to evaluate and mobilise action to check the alarming rate of sexual violence against women and girls, including all forms of violence against women.

The communiqué said the forum met with the Chief of Staff to the president, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), on the executive order.

The communiqué added that the governors discussed the implications of the contentious executive order, which among others, mandates the allocation of appropriated funds to the state legislature and judiciary in the states’ appropriation laws as a first line charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of each state.

The governors resolved to “congratulate Mr. President for the decision to postpone the formal publication of Executive Order #10 of 2020 in the Official Gazette to enable further consultations among all stakeholders.

“Through the NGF Committee led by the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, continue meeting with the delegation of the Conference of Speakers and other stakeholders to work out modalities for resolving all concerns regarding Executive Order #10 amicably,” it added.

The governors reiterated their position that “the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 takes into account the crucial role of state governments within Nigeria’s federal system in responding to pandemics in the country.

“Specifically, state governors should be conferred with the powers, among others to, declare any place within their state an infected area; make regulations and directives towards prevention and further spread of an infectious disease within the state; establish states’ centres for disease control; the discretionary powers of Mr. President and the director general as contained in the proposed bill should be reviewed.

“Finally, while cautioning on certain human rights violations in the proposed bill, governors also highlighted potential contraventions with the Nigerian constitution.”

The governors also endorsed the work of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s Committee to consolidate measures to gradually open the formal and informal sectors of the economy, especially agricultural activities in rural areas, manufacturing (including the distribution of goods across states), markets, construction, hotels and restaurants (takeaways only), and worship centres based on existing COVID-19 protocols.

They also agreed with the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) to prioritise government’s response in hotspots across the country that account for the largest share of COVID-19 cases.

The communiqué said the governors encouraged citizens who have COVID-19 symptoms to go for testing to ensure that they receive timely care and that their families are protected from being infected.

States are already working with the PTF to ensure that there are operational testing laboratories in each state, it stated.

The communiqué also called on each state government to develop a strategy for opening its economy based on the guidelines agreed to by the PTF and the NGF.

The governors passed a vote of confidence on the newly-appointed Chairman of the Police Trust Fund to steer a responsive and responsible police force and called on him to ensure that the composition of the PTF Board is representative of the country’s diversity.

They urged the chairman of the trust fund to seek legal advice on the funding sources of the organisation as the current arrangement in its Act, which amongst others, sources its funding from 0.5 per cent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account violates the constitution.

They commended the World Bank on the provision of $750 million additional financing for the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme for Results (SFTAS).

In addition, they pledged to ensure that their Ministries of Finance, Budget and Planning are positioned to access available funding to strengthen the COVID-19 response of state governments.

The governors also endorsed the recommendations of the NEC Ad-hoc Committee on COVID-19, which highlights key public health and macroeconomic actions for the federal and state governments, many of which states are already implementing.

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