Yesterday being 28th Nov, 20116 FIDA Nigeria just had their Week/Annual General Meeting concluded at Stonehenge Hotel, Abuja. The keynote address which was on Gender-Based Violence was delivered by a learned silk, Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN, FCIArb. Gender-Based violence is a mence that has cut across many countries including Nigeria. Though the western countries has deplored some systematic legal reforms and advocacy to eradicate the Gender Based Violence, while in most African Countries, they still lag behind which gives rise to the prevalence of violence against women.
Gender Based Violence means “All acts perpetrated against women which cause or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological and economic harm, including the threat to take such acts, or to undertake the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on or deprivation of fundamental freedoms in private or public life, in peace time and during situations of armed conflict or of war.”
To him , the Constitution of the FRN 1999 as Amended has given protection to all citizens and inhabitants of Nigeria. The provisions of the Constitution are supreme and overrides any other law and to that extent, any provision in any other law which is inconsistence with the provisions of the Constitution is Null and Void to the extent of the inconsistency. He also mentioned some statues and laws which frowns at Gender Based Violence such as Customs and Religious Protocols, Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Acts,2015, Criminal Procedure etc.
He urged,Civil Rights Organizations and Women Advocacy groups like FIDA to ensure that Federal Legislations are re-enacted by various States in Nigeria. This is to strengthen the legal frame work for effective prosecution of Gender-Based violence.
According to the Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN, the reason many of this Gender Based Violence are not reported to the law enforcement agencies, is poverty, most of the victims are from lowly background and do not have money to transport themselves to the police let alone have the money to hire a lawyer. He therefore encouraged, the organizations, agencies in charge like FIDA to take up this challenges by creating help desk at their various branches as well as having a Special Committee which he called “an enforcement Committee”.
Their primary duty is to take up complaints from the help desk and to ensure, not only that a formal complaint is lodged at the police station, but also that the suspect is arrested and that the crime is properly investigated. With the financial burden of going to the police station to lay a complaint of gender based violence lifted from the shoulders of the victim, it is expected that more and more victims will be disposed to report the incidents when they occur. The culture of silence, which itself encourages gender based violence, will come to an end.
He further appeals, that family Court be created in each State of the federation for Gender-Based violence trial, this is to protect the identities of the victims and it will also enhance the expeditious and effective prosecution of Gender-Based violence.
suggested that FIDA and other civil rights and women advocacy groups should be assisted with funds by both the Government and corporate bodies (as part of their corporate social responsibility) to enable them to secure the attendance of witnesses for the effective prosecution of the case in court.
Arthur Obi Okafor SAN, also suggested that there is need to make provisions for the payment of reparation to the victim of gender based violence. Even though most of the offences created under VAPA makes provisions for payment of fine as punishment for the offences which fines are imposed either in addition to a term of imprisonment or in alternative to imprisonment, such fines are paid to the Government and not to the victims of the offences. The result is that the victims are not motivated to go through the hog of full trial. The situation would be different if there is a provision for the payment of reparation to the victim. This will motivate the victims to report the incident to the police and also stand the ordeal of full court trial.