Nigerian lawmakers are pushing for the death penalty for rape, weeks after allegations of sexual assault against senior religious clerics sparked nationwide uproar, amidst concerns over rising cases of sexual abuse.
“We should review our laws and make it a death penalty and by the time we kill one or two persons, those who are raping will control that thing that is making them to rape,” said Senator George Sekibo of Rivers State, during plenary on Tuesday.
The lawmaker made the suggestion while contributing to a motion on “Sexual abuse in Nigeria: a growing scourge”, sponsored by Senator Rose Oko (PDP Cross River) and 10 other senators.
Ms Oko had raised a point of order to present a motion on the increasing rate of reported rape cases and sexual assault especially on children across the country.
Cases of rape have been widely reported in recent times across the country.
A controversial case was reported two weeks ago when Busola Dakolo, wife of the singer, Timi Dakolo, accused Biodun Fatoyinbo, the senior pastor at Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA of raping her when she was a minor.
Mr. Fatoyinbo denied the charge, but stepped down as pastor.
However moving the motion, Senator Rose Oko, who represents Cross River, described rape as a “dastardly act” and said it is perpetrated on children as young as six months.
She referred to a UNICEF report of 2015 which states that six of ten children under the age of 18 experience emotional and sexual violence.
Citing the rape cases of a six-month-old baby in Kano and Ochanya Ogbaje in Benue State, Mrs. Oko said there are more reports of children being raped by school teachers, relatives among others.
She also faulted the unserious attitude of relevant agencies towards rape crimes and that failure of states to implement laws protecting children against such violence.
She said: “Authorities have been accused of treating child molesters with levity. Nigerians have complained of the lackadaisical attitude of government agencies towards the fight against child sexual abuse.
“In most cases, prisoners, rapists inclusive, get released because of overcrowding. The lack of training of security officers on how to deal with victims of sexual abuse.
“Despite international agreement, laws aimed at protecting minors such as the Criminal Code Act, Penal code act, Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law Enforcement and administration Act 2003; Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015, and the Child Rights Act have not been fully implemented.
“The Child Rights Act has been adopted by only 23 states as state laws while Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 adopted by three states,” she said.
She also said state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation and commended recent reactions by the public especially Interest Groups and NGOs against perpetrators of all forms of rape and violence.
Meanwhile Senator Sekibo in his contribution to the debate blamed the government for failing to implement penalties for rape crimes. He therefore called for death sentences for perpetrators of the act.
“If a man commits sexual abuse on a six-month old baby, it is criminal. That person ought to be killed not to be sentenced. It has been happening in this country and perpetrators are not punished. Are there no laws? Don’t we have departments of governments that are handling these laws?
“No religion accepts that. We should review our laws and make it a death penalty and by the time we kill one or two persons, those who are raping will control that thing that is making them to rape.
“The problem is, when issues are reported, people take it for granted. Parents may be poor people who may not be able to push the matter to a higher level and then the matters will die there.
“My appeal is, when an abuse takes place, let the parents report and if they can, run to the Senate. If the police cannot handle it, I’m sure the Senate through its committees will address the issue,” he said.
On his part, Senator, Dino Melaye, (PDP Kogi) said the issue was not only evil but “satanic, nefarious, barbaric and outrageously wicked”.
“It is an evil that if we do not propose stiffer punishments, people will continue to exhibit it and get away with it. Unfortunately, because of the corruption that is endemic in our systems, many rape victims get away with it. You report a case of rape to the Police, it is treated as a minor offence.
“The National Orientation Agency and other relevant agencies must take seriously, sensitisation programmes concerning this issue,” he said.
Similarly, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC Lagos) said a lot has been said about rape but nothing has been done. She said children are the most vulnerable groups who don’t even understand the meaning of sex.
“It is very criminal and I think it will warrant a death sentence at this point in time. What has been done to this child besides physical damage. Most of these acts are done by people living with the victims. They are mostly relatives. It is time we do the right thing to do to curb this menace.
“Parents should be given the orientation how to raise their children. They should sensitise their children on sex education too,” she said.
The Senate thereafter directed its Committees on Judiciary, Police Affairs, Women and Social Development (when constituted) to seek ways of improving implementation of all legislation and policies aimed at protecting minors from rapists and other forms of violence.
It further directed the committees to review the relevant legislations to provide stiffer penalties against sexual abuse of infants and minors especially.
The Red Chamber called on the Police and other law enforcement agencies to conduct mandatory training for officer in dealing with cases and young victims of abuse.
Other resolutions include, “urge the judiciary to establish a National Sentencing Framework for child sexual abuse cases and judicial officers to impose the heaviest penalties committed by law on perpetrators of all forms of abuses against minors to serve as deterrent;
“Urge federal government to domesticate and robustly implement the child rights act and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 in order to curb sexual abuse against minors and
“Urge the general public to continue to act as watchdog and voice of voiceless as a way to curb sexual abuse and all forms of violence.”