…AS TRAINIG COMMENCES.
The Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, OON,mni has said that the training of Investigators and Prosecutors is in line with the drive of the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ), to deliver on its mandate of ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) through successful prosecution of offenders.
Jedy-Agba stated this in her keynote address at the Capacity Building Workshop for Federal and State Prosecutors of the Ministries of Justice to respond to SGBV in Abuja on Tuesday December 13th, 2022.
She explained that much has been said about the huge disparity between the alarming high numbers of SGBV victims on the one hand and the number of convictions secured against perpetrators on the other hand. This, she said has reportedly contributed to the impunity by perpetrators and increase in the level of SGBV crimes.
‘According to her, “it is intended that this noble gathering serves as a platform for collaboration amongst criminal justice actors in the FCT and the establishment of a network of prosecutors and investigators working to improve access to justice for SGBV victims/survivors’’,.
‘’It is equally our hoped that at the end of this training, participants would have acquired knowledge of best courses of action to give an effective criminal justice response to the SGBV challenge in accordance with applicable laws, standard and best practices and thereby bridge the gap in the justice sector response to SGBV’’, She added.
The Solicitor General explained that the global discuss on SGBV has been on the front burner in various fora as an emerging menace, that can no longer be ignored and one which must be combated decisively. She stated that SGBV included sexual violence, physical violence, emotional violence and psychological violence as well as economic violence. Jedy-Agba described SGBV as any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will on the basis of gender norms and unequal power relationships. She pointed out that factors which continue to impede the fight against SGBV in the communities are well known and they include cultural, social, economic, political and legal.
She emphasized that, ‘’The spate of SGBV in Nigeria, particularly against women and children peaked during and after the covid-19 pandemic lock-down, particularly in the Northern part of Nigeria following the activities of the insurgency in the North-East .It has since not abated’’.
She revealed that the Federal Government has in response initiated far-reaching policy, institutional and legislative measures to curb the growing incidence of SGBV in the communities and the objectives of the law are to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, harmful traditional practices, discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.
She stated apart from prosecution of offenders, SGBV Response Unit has since taken significant steps and initiatives towards achieving its mandates which include; facilitation of access to justice for SGBV victims through legal counseling and negotiation of settlement agreement between parties on family law issues with focus of the protection of the rights of women and children.
Furthermore, establishment of a robust referral mechanism whereby victims’ cases are forwarded to relevant key MDAs in the GBV field to provide other necessary investigative, health, psychosocial and sheltering services to victims as their situations may require.
In his Opening remarks, the Director, Public Prosecutions of the Federations, Muhammed Abubakar represented by Mr. Abdulkadiri Yusuf, noted that many victims never report their victimization or they have been filtered out of criminal justice system, resulting in low charge and conviction rates making it one of the most important factors affecting the prosecution of cases.
He added that the way in which the criminal justice professionals initially responded to victims was critical in determining whether a victim chooses to participate in further legal action or abandons it because she has experienced secondary victimization or harsh treatment by criminal justice system.
Mr. Muhammed emphasized that, Prosecutors and Investigators play critical roles in criminal justice, they generally represent the authority of the state in bringing a criminal case against the accused (perpetrator), ensuring the application of the law during the criminal proceeding.
However, the goals of the prosecution are to protect the Victims while holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and communicate a strong message to the community that violence against Women and Girls will not be tolerated” he warned.
The Honourable Minister of Women Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen OFR, in her goodwill message said that with high level sensitization and advocacy by many organizations spearheaded by Federal Ministry of Women Affairs pushing for various interventions to address the menace, survivors are now speaking out and reporting these violations.
Pauline Tallen regretted that despite government efforts to combat SGBV not much is done in the area of prosecution. She noted that from the available statistics from the national situation room and dashboard set in the federal ministry of women supported by UNDP under the UN/EU spotlight initiative not much has been achieved in the area of prosecution.
“As at November, 2022 the total number of cases reported was 11,053, fatal cases were 401,close cases 592, while open case pending stood at 3, 507 while only 33 have been convicted. ” said Tallen.
She disclosed the directives to the Inspector-General of Police to deal with all perpetrators in furtherance of the declaration of zero tolerance to rape and other Gender -Based Violence, as well as constant engagement with the Police on the need to promptly address issues of Gender Based-Violence.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Right Commission, NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, SAN, OFR encouraged victims of SGBV to always speak out to discourage violators from getting away with their crimes.
The Director General National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in persons, (NAPTIP), Dr. Fatima Waziri in her Goodwill Message informed that the Agency has received 773 reported cases of Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) from January till date, counseled 364 Victims, investigated 150, prosecuted 89 and convicted 4.
Fatima said, challenges encountered in the fight against SGBV include countering impunity, culture of silence, fear of stigmatization, shame surrounding SGBV etc. But in all, she stated her Agency’s courage to eradicate it to barest minimum by drives creative changes and innovations in deepening society’s consciousness on the social ill.
Gender Unit, Nigerian Police DCP Rita Oki hinted that the 36 states of the unit will be trained by UNODP on how to investigate SGBV cases, adding that there would be a holistic approach towards handling of SGBV cases.
EU representative said that SGBV is a key factor because it’s holding women backward, while her counterpart EU-UN Spotlight Initiative Representative, Hadiza Aminu Dorayi noted that 90% of SGBV can be achieved if the stakeholders work in holistic measures.
Giving her vote of thanks, Head SGBV Response Unit, FMOJ, Yewande Gbola-Awopetu, expressed appreciation to the HAGF, SGF/PS, Minister of Women Affairs, international donors and participants for their tireless efforts and commitment towards ending SGBV in Nigeria.
The programme is with the support of the British Council Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Program (RoLAC).
13th December, 2022