President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday endorsed action plans drafted by the Ministry of Women Affairs to tackle the increasing rape of girls and women across the country.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, while briefing State House reporters after the fourth virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Buhari, said a memo was presented to address the current rape “pandemic”.
Outrage as rape cases rise in Nigeria
Tallen, who said the memo “got the full support of Mr President”, added that her ministry would pursue an aggressive media campaign against the menace in conjunction with the Ministry of Information.
The minister, who described the upsurge in rape cases as embarrassing, called for the domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA), 2015 in states to ensure rapists face deserved punishments for their actions.
She said only nine out of the 36 states of the federation had domesticated the VAPPA law.
Wide condemnation had trailed the death of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology student, raped and killed in an empty church in Benin City.
Last week, an 18-year-old Barakat Bello was also raped and killed at her parent’s home, while Azeezat Shomuyiwa, a 29-year-old pregnant woman was also murdered at her residence in Oyo State.
Tallen, who said members of council were unanimous in their decision, added that she had also received the full support of the governors.
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 reach 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 pick 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 wish 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.”
She added: “I am happy to announce that the governors gave me 100 percent, they are committed to join hands with the ministry to fight this dreaded scourge. Because, it is horrific because embossment 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.”
The minister said both the traditional and religious leaders would be engaged in the advocacy campaign.
“As soon as COVID-19 is cleared, we will move out with the minister of information on advocacy round the country.”
Tallen, while speaking on the issues of minors being mostly affected, said it was most serious and disturbing.
According to her, “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 rapping his daughter. 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, is either diabolical or mental cases.
“So, these are the issues and a research is going on to identify 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.”