Following the enactment of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2020, in Akwa Ibom, courts in the state are empowered to maintain a register for convicted sexual offenders and make it public.
The Act also states that any person who attempts to intentionally penetrate anus, mouth, or any other part of the body without the consent of another is liable on conviction to five years of imprisonment or N100,000 fine or both.
Assented into law by Governor Udom Emmanuel on June 10, the Act states that any person who incites, aids, abets or counsels another person to commit rape is liable on conviction to three years of imprisonment or a fine of N200,000 or both.
Mr. Aniefiok Dennis, the Chairman, House Committee on Information and member representing Etinan state constituency in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, at a press conference in Uyo on Thursday, June 11, as part of the activities to mark the seventh Assembly’s first year in office, stated that the house had enacted Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) bill.
The Act entitled “A Bill for a Law to Eliminate Violence in Private and Public Life, Prohibit all Forms of Violence against Persons and to Provide Maximum Protection and Effective Remedies for Victims and Punishment of Offenders and for Other Matters Connected Therewith” while the short title of the Act is “The Akwa Ibom State Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill.”
It has five parts, 47 Sections, and a Schedule with six Forms.
The Act says “A person who receives or assists another, who to his knowledge commits an offence under subsection(1) of this section, is an accessory after the fact and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000 or both.”
“A person who coerces another to engage in any act to the detriment of that other person’s physical or psychological well-being commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not less than 3 years.
“A person who willfully or knowingly places a person in fear of physical injury commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000 or both.
“A person who aids, abets, or counsels another person to commit the offence provided for in subsection (1) of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or to a fine not exceeding N200,000 or both,” the Act stipulates.
However, before the passage of the bill into law, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa Ibom State branch, had written and presented a position paper to the state House of Assembly on Tuesday, February 4, 2020.
The CLO observed that the legislature and the drafters of the Bill erred by ignoring a fundamental principle of Criminal Law, which is also enshrined in Section 36(8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), in the drafting of Section 45(1) of the Bill. Section 45(1) of the Bill states thus:
“Any offence committed or proceedings instituted before the commencement of this Law under the provisions of the –
(a) Criminal Code, Cap. 38, Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000
(b) Criminal Procedure Law, Cap. 39, Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000, and
(c) any other law or regulation relating to any act of violence defined by the law, shall as the case may require to be enforced or continue to be enforced by the provisions of this law. “(Emphasis ours).
The body recalled that the Federal Government repealed the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Code and enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 in their stead.
In 2019, the Federal Government sustained the momentum by enacting the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 which replaced the Nigeria Prison Service with the Nigerian Correctional Service. The hard fact is that prison hardens rather than reforms.
The Akwa Ibom State Government should make public and put to use the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2017, which came into force on 21st March, 2017.
On contrary, FIDA Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State branch on the title: *AKWA IBOM STATE VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) BILL: THE IMPERATIVENESS OF HIS EXCELLENCY, THE GOVERNOR’S ASSENT* urged the state Governor to sign the bill.
FIDA, on its Facebook page, on February 20 remarks “In my 21 years of legal practice and 15 years as an active member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State Branch, I have seen and heard cases that would cause ordinary ears to tingle and the strongest heart to quake. The level of man inhumanity to man has reached an all time high.
“I have seen a 9-year-old boy brutally sodomized by adult men who were supposed to keep an eye on him whilst his parents go looking for daily bread.
“Or, is it the cases of grown men who abscond and leave behind 5, 6 or 7 children to the bewilderment and shock of their wives who perhaps, have little or nothing to care for the children.
“Or is it the husband who wakes up one morning, provoked or not, and forcefully ejects his wife, who perhaps had contributed or built the home she’s being forced to leave. Or is it the case of 4 grown men who gang-raped a woman to death and still inserted a foot-long stick into her vagina. Or is it the 3 months old baby who was violently violated by a 45-year-old man who inserted 3 fingers into her vagina effectively tearing her apart.”
According to the body, “Social media is awash with spouses causing grievous harm on each other and even murder. Recently, we heard about 5 women who ‘raped’ a man to death. I can go on and on!
“For the past 7 years the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Nigeria, FEYREP and other like-minded NGOs have been at the forefront of the fight for the passage of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law in Akwa Ibom State. To the glory of God and good of man, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly recently passed the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill.
“The reasons for our agitation are simple and are captured in the Long Title of the Bill which is to eliminate violence in public and private life, to prohibit all forms of violence against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.”
FIDA notes “This Bill redefines the offence of rape and offenders will now be criminally liable if he/she intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any part of his/her body or with anything else without that other person’s consent. Thus people who say ‘ I only inserted one finger’ or ‘I only rubbed the tip of my penis and did not penetrate’, can now go in for rape. Before now, section 366 of the Criminal Code, Cap 38 Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000 only defined rape exclusively in relation to women and girls. Under the Bill, people who rape men and boys and who forcefully insert their genitals into the mouth of another without their consent is guilty of rape and is liable to life imprisonment.
“However, this is not a mandatory sentence. The judge has the discretion to impose sentences less than life imprisonment. Where the offender is below 14 years, he may be sentenced to a maximum of 14 years. Offenders who are 14 years and above are liable to a minimum term of 12 years imprisonment. In the case of gang rape, the offenders are jointly and severally liable to a term of 20 years.
“The Bill also criminalizes circumcision or genital mutilation, forceful ejection of a spouse from home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, damage to property with the intent to cause distress, forced isolation or separation from family and friends, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, harmful widowhood practice including forceful ejection from spouse’s property, abandonment of children, spouse and other dependents without care or sustenance, stalking, spousal battery, harmful traditional practices, political violence, incest, indecent exposure and violence by State actors.”
“With the recent increase in all forms of violence and instances where abusers walk away free because there are no far-reaching laws to deal with the incidences of abuse, violence and sexual exploitation of women including minors, it is imperative that His Excellency assents to this Bill so it becomes Law and operative in the State.
“The Federal Government had enacted the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act in 2015 and since then States like Ekiti, Rivers, Plateau, Imo, Lagos, Kogi, Anambra, Oyo, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Osun, Kaduna, Ondo, etc have enacted same as State Laws. This is in line with global best practices and trends and our State cannot be left out,” it concludes.