The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) in its bid to curb the scourge of sexual and gender based violence in Nigeria and particularly in the South-East, today 27 Jan. 2020, commenced its 4 days investigation and inquiry on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Imo State. The goal is to arrest the menace of sexual and gender abuse that has been and is on the increase in the country.
The programme started with the national anthem and then an introduction of the members of the panel among whom are; Mr. Anthony Ojukwu Esq. (chairman of the panel and Executive Secretary NHRC), Mr. Andy Yakubu among others. While some of the councils representing victims and perpetrators of the SGBV included Mr. Epiphany Anzinge (SAN), Rachael Adejo etc., the members of the press (NTA and correspondent of BBC Africa- Kiki Mordi) and then leaders of various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) where also asked to introduce themselves.
The panel promote, protect, and enforce human right laws in Nigeria…. Thus a panel was set-up to look into the issue of SGBV in the country.
The Chairman of the Panel and Executive Secretary NHRC Mr. Tony Ojukwu (Esq.) Started the opening statement by thanking everyone for coming out for the opening ceremony of SGBV in Imo State (South-East), which he said was focused to promote, protect, and enforce human rights in Nigeria. He said the panel also investigate, monitor and assist victims of SGBV. He went further to give a brief history why the panel was instituted. “the panel was constituted by the vice president of Nigeria prof. Yemi Osinbajo as a result of compliant received on Friday April 26 2019, where armed security personnel led by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) under the auspice of the FCT Joint Task Force raided night clubs and the street of Abuja. Victims (believed to be prostitutes) of the raid (who were all women) made allegations of rape and sexual harassment, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” he said. He went further to say that in all this arrests, no man was involved or apprehended. The vice president therefore mandated the commission to investigate and arrest the situation. Thus a panel was set-up to look into the issue of SGBV in the country.
Mr. Ojukwu said that the function of the panel is to review the laws guiding various agencies and ensure that they are in line with section 4 of the constitution (Fundamental Human Right). They also investigate issues of gross misconduct by police and other enforcement agencies in the country, clarification of guidelines in the country, investigate all report of SGBV in institutions, organizations, churches and at home. Etc (for instance the investigation on “sex for grade”). They also identify individual of abuses, set guidelines and policies in institution and provide recommendations. He went on to say that victims of SGBV are attended to in a close chambers so as to protect their identity and therefore those who are being abuse should always feel free to lay their complain.
He went on to say that the essence of the panel was to aid in creating awareness and reducing the rate of SGBV in the country, ensure fair hearing for everyone, create public opinion on how best to end the scourge of SGBV, ensure strict compliance to the law in face of harassment and intimidation. He pointed out that stigmatization is also a leading cause why people don’t turn up to report, thus reiterating the panels commitment to protect the identity of victims of SGBV. He thereafter commended the government for recognizing the office of the commission to tackle issues of SGBV so as to curb this menace.
According to a United Nation (UN) study, 1 in every 3 girls and 3 in every 5 boys experiences one form of SGBV or another
Objective of the panel
According to a United Nation (UN) study, 1 in every 3 girls and 3 in every 5 boys experiences one form of SGBV or another in Nigeria. He therefore listed the objectives of the organization as;
- Document issues of SGBV
- A platform for victim to lay their complain
- Opportunity for respondent to defend themselves
- Work towards changing the attitude of silence due to stigmatization
- Ensure victims are heard in secret
- Ensure perpetrators are held accountable
- Assist victims get redress
- Assist government at all levels make policies and laws to eliminate SGBV
Questions were asked concerning the office of the NHRC in Owerri and how to lay complain to the Commission aside going to the police, Mr. Ojukwu said that their office located at Number 7 Yaradua drive Owerri Imo State. He encouraged everyone, including civil society organizations to work with their State office of the NHRC in addressing the scourge of SGBV in the country. Also he emphasized that the Commission does not entertain cases that are already in Court to avoid duplicating responsibilities.
Finally, a roll call of cases (south-east) that are on the table of the panel were called, they are 32 in number. After this, everyone, aside those directly involved in the cases called, were asked to leave the hall for a private hearing session. He therefore thanked everyone for coming out for the opening ceremony of the sitting of the special investigation panel, south-east zone –Owerri, Imo State.