Senate President Harps On Stiffer Penalties For Rape Offenders

Senator Ahmed Lawan
Senator Ahmed Lawan

Amidst growing rape cases, Dr. Ahmad Lawani, the Senate President, has harped on the need for the introduction of stiffer penalties in Nigeria’s criminal and penal code that would serve as a deterrent to perpetrators of the act.

Senator Lawan in his Twitter handle on Tuesday wrote “With the rising cases of rape across the country, what we need to do is to put in place stiffer penalties in Nigeria’s criminal and penal code that will serve as a deterrent to perpetrators involved in the act.”

This came in the wake of rape and murder of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology UNIBEN student, in The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Benin City.

Last Wednesday evening, a church security guard found Uwa, as she was known, unconscious in a pool of blood, and was rushed to hospital but she died on Saturday afternoon.

Angered by the incident, Apostle Johnson Suleman, a Nigerian televangelist and general overseer of Omega Fire Ministries International with its headquarters in Auchi, Edo State, placed N1 million bounty for the arrest of the perpetrator of the crime.

Though police have launched an investigation amid an avalanche of calls from rights groups, public figures and government officials demanding a thorough inquiry, the police have announced to have arrested a suspect based on his fingerprint on the fire extinguisher.

Osai Ojigho, the director for Amnesty International in Nigeria, said the horrific incident “resonates because even in the spaces that women and girls should be safest from gender-based violence, the home, the schools and now places of worship, it is getting there”.

Authorities in Nigeria have not done enough to combat sexual violence, she said. “The method the state has been using over the years clearly has not moved with the intensity required to deter rapists and potential rapists and to protect women and girls,” she said.

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Sexual violence is endemic in Africa’s most populous country. Data on the number of reported cases is very limited but a national survey on violence against children in Nigeria, conducted in 2014, found that one in four women had experienced sexual violence in childhood, with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident. Only 5% sought help, and only 3.5% received any services.

Another group, Say No Campaign, has added its voice against the barbaric act reported in Edo and Jigawa states recently.

The group called on the federal government to take responsibility and act fast on the issue of rape.

Say No Campaign was reacting to the rape of a 12-year-old girl by 11 men, one of whom was 57-year-old man, in Jigawa state and another rape of a 22-year-old female student, Vera Omozuwa, by four men who gruesomely murdered her, in a church at Benin Edo state.

On Sunday, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the global head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the denomination of the church where she was killed, said: “All I can do at this time is to pray for the family of Omozuwa and do everything possible working with relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to book.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs on Monday, June 1, called for justice for both Uwaila and Tina Ezekiel who were both killed in a blood-soaked circumstance.

“Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Nigeria is aware of the recent rising incidences of sexual violence across Nigeria, and it’s on a follow-up to Uwaila Omozuwa and Tina Ezekiel deaths that occurred through sexual violence.

“Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Nigeria condemn these awful acts and call on all and sundry to rise against this cruelty,” the ministry tweeted.