Alex Enumah in Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), First Lady, Mrs. Aisha, and Supreme Court judge, Mary Peter-Odili, yesterday called for protection of child and vulnerable witnesses in crimes in the country.
The vice president alongside other Nigerians who made a case for stiffer punishment against those perpetrating violence on innocent children and vulnerable citizens of the country, advocated for stronger laws that will give adequate protection to the child and vulnerable witnesses working towards eradication of crimes in the nation.
In their separate papers yesterday at a conference organised by National Association of Women Judges, they canvassed a policy that will ensure justice delivery without sacrificing the well-being of vulnerable witnesses in the process.
Osinbajo in his paper delivered on his behalf by Senior Special Adviser on Research, Legal and Compliance Matters, Professor Bulkisu Saidu suggested that all hands must be on deck to end attack on child and the vulnerable witnesses.
Osinbajo assured that the federal government will do its best to eradicate violence against the child and vulnerable in the country.
He said that discussion at the conference must not only address the overwhelming cultural and social norms and barriers to exposing criminals but must also assess and address the problems that the witnesses may face before trial, during trial and after trial.
He said that at all times, “the protection of their privacy and their identities should be paramount.”
“It is not enough to pass laws for the protection of the child and other vulnerable witnesses, there is the need to have in place clear implementation and enforcement mechanisms aimed at actualising the intendment of the law,” he stressed.
Osinbajo also stressed the need for appropriate protective measures for children, adding that the prevalence of sexual and gender-based offences against children has further brought to the fore the imperative of designing appropriate protective measures for these children, who are sometimes the only witnesses to the offences.
Also speaking at the conference, the First Lady Mrs Aisha Buhari advocated that violators of violence against persons should receive punishment commensurate to the gravity of their crime.
“This will serve as deterrent to offenders and engender a sense of justice to the victims.
“This will have the overall effect of encouraging other victims to come forward and eventually lead to a drop in the crime of violence against all vulnerable persons.”
While declaring the conference opened, President of the National Association of Women Judges in Nigeria (NAWJN), Justice Mary Peter-Odili, explained the essence of the conference on child and vulnerable witnesses protection.
She said that it was meant to create awareness, cross fertilise ideas and congregate experiences that would chart a new course for child and vulnerable witnesses in the country.
She said this is essential because “it has been shown that Nigeria is behind in the protection of child and vulnerable witnesses compared to her Commonwealth counterparts.
According to her, “no single legislation in Nigeria provides for the protection of Child and vulnerable witnesses in the country. The situation is further compounded by the challenge of defining who is a child under the Nigerian law.
She said that though the Child Rights Act has been passed by the federal government some states of the federation are yet to domesticate the legislation.
Justice Peter Odili charge the participants to drive discussion in the conference that would provoke law makers, legal practitioners, and judges towards a deliberate legal frame work for child and vulnerable witness protection in Nigeria.