By Deji Elumoye
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, has disclosed that a total of 3,600 rape cases were reported nationwide during the lockdown associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is just as the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, stated that the Senate’s recent passage of the sexual harassment bill was to protect Nigerian women’s rights.
Tallen, who stated this while on a courtesy visit to the Deputy Senate President on Monday evening, revealed that during the Covid-19 induced lockdown, each state recorded no fewer than 100 cases of rape.
She condemned the upsurge in rape cases nationwide, adding that reports she received from Commissioners for Women Affairs across the 36 states of the federation revealed the upsurge in the number of rape cases nationwide during the recently relaxed Covid-19 lockdown.
She also applauded the Nigeria Governors Forum for declaring a state of emergency on sexual and gender-based violence.
Tallen also called for more legislation to protect the girl-child and women while commending
Senator Omo-Agege for sponsoring the anti-social harassment bill and noted that by this development, lawmakers have written their names in gold.
Quoting from a letter dated July 7, 2020, and signed by Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Tallen noted that: “UN Women stands ready to support federal and state level efforts to implement this important legislation in the period ahead, working closely with women’s constituencies, students, educational institutions and other relevant stakeholders.”
Omo-Agege had told his visitor that the Senate passed the Sexual Harassment Bill in furtherance of its legislative agenda, which seeks the protection of women’s rights.
He noted that when signed into law, it would not only send a strong signal to those who may want to abuse women but ensure that students are not at the mercy of ‘sexual predators’.
Omo-Agege commended his colleagues for looking beyond cultural, ethnic and religious differences to approve the bill.
He also called on the minister and her entourage to equally reach out to the House of Representatives to immediately concur to the bill.
Omo-Agege said: “This bill was conceived in the Eighth Senate. The reason we did it then is not any different from the reason we pushed it again in this Ninth Senate. But let me just say that we received overwhelming support of our colleagues who came to the conclusion that it was right that we did something about this because this is not an epidemic but a pandemic.
“For most of us who went through higher institutions, we know what happened. It is just that some would rather see it as business as usual. But having convinced my colleagues that this shouldn’t be business as usual and we needed to arrest the situation, we had to rise above our cultural, ethnic and religious differences to be able to make the case that an attack of this nature on our daughters, sisters, wives in Warri is not any different from an attack in Sokoto, Maiduguri or anywhere. And we needed to move past that culture of lecturers who see our young women as perquisites of their offices. And we thought we should put a stop to that.
“The bill is one of the few bills that was sponsored almost by all the senators in the Ninth Senate. This is not necessarily an Omo-Agege bill but a bill of the Ninth Senate. We took this decision in furtherance of our Legislative Agenda which includes amongst others the protection of women’s rights.
“We are also in support of strengthening our anti-rape laws both under the Criminal Code and Penal Code. We will also make it in such a way that there will be better appetite for enforcement of the laws, once we create the enabling environment that encourages the prosecutors to prosecute it, the better for us.”
On Affirmative Action, he said the Senate would examine what obtains in other jurisdictions and make informed decisions.