Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Task legislators to strengthen oversight of VAPP Act

… As NASS expresses concern over 28,000 reported SGBV cases since 2020

… Delta, Katsina, Imo, 11 others yet to domesticate Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 

Maureen Okpe

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism Against Sexual and Gender-based Violence today, the European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to make adequate budgetary allocations in provision of safe places for survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).

This is even as they tasked the National Assembly to strengthen their oversight of the implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015.

EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Samuela Isopi stated this on Friday at a Parliamentary Summit in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against SGBV 2023, in Abuja, organised by the EU-funded Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC Phase II) Programme of International IDEA, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.

Isopi lamented that there is no budgetary provision for the implementation of the VAPP law, adding this has created additional burden for mandated institutions and further traumatized the survivors of SGBV. 

She said, “I would like to make an urgent appeal to the National Assembly here to strengthen oversight on the implementation of the VAPP law so that survivors can access the services they need or ensure the effective prosecution of offenders.

“A challenge is the funding of line Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) responsible for the provision of SGBV services. Dedicated budgetary allocation is needed to create more sexual assault referral centres and more shelters to provide safe havens for victims in immediate danger of harm or death.”

“We also need more medical facilities that are sensitive to the needs of vulnerable survivors. There is no budgetary provision for the implementation of the VAPP law,” the Ambassador added.

Also, Resident Representative, UNDP Nigeria, Simon Ridley, pointed out that the legislature has an important role to play to ensure that institutions that attend to gender-based violence are properly funded, even as he expressed the commitment of the international organisation to eradicating the menace.

“The legislature has an important role to play to ensure that institutions that attend to gender-based violence are properly funded,” he stressed.

On his part, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu, decried the rising statistics on violence against women and girls in Nigeria, expressing deep concern over the situation while maintaining that concerted effort needed to be carried out to curb the menace. 

He expressed concern about the more than 28,000 cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) recorded in the last three years. 

Data collated on SGBV from the National Situation Room/Dashboard housed by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs revealed that from 19 August 2020 to 23 November 2023, a total number of 28,428 was reported, with less than 450 convictions across the country.

According to Kalu, approximately 30% of Nigerian women and girls experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in their lifetimes, and a distressing 55% of survivors do not receive the support they urgently need. From harmful traditional practices to economic violence, gender-based violence takes on many forms.

He noted that, “as Parliamentarians, we have the unique role to legislate, allocate funds, and hold the executive branch accountable for the implementation of laws and policies that prevent and address gender-based violence. We must utilize this power to its fullest extent, ensuring that sufficient resources are allocated to support survivors, raise awareness, and provide the necessary training and capacity building for law enforcement agencies and judicial systems. 

“The renewed commitment of parliamentarians to the effective implementation of the VAPP Act is evident in the revitalized oversight and funding efforts that will emanate from this summit. The need for parliamentary work to be responsive and proactive in addressing gender-based violence is now more important than ever, so we therefore implore this summit to set a target for parliamentarians to work with and we are waiting for your feedback.”

“The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is a call to action, a call for change. Let us, as parliamentarians, rise to the occasion. Our commitment to funding, oversight, and legislative action will shape a future where women and girls live free from fear and violence,” the speaker added.

In the same vein, Head of Programme, Nigeria RoLAC II, International IDEA, Mr. Danladi Plang, said the objective of the summit was to sensitise and bring to the knowledge of parliamentarians, the persistent issues that continue to limit access to justice and support services for survivors of Gender-based Violence (GBV) in Nigeria.

Plang said the aim is to also update parliamentarians on the progress achieved so far in the GBV response sector and recommend actions that must be taken to enhance and sustain progress, including the establishment of a parliamentary mechanism for VAPP implementation monitoring and sensitise parliamentarians to the critical role they play in ensuring appropriate allocation of funding and resources for implementation of the VAPP Act. 

L-R: H.E Samuela Isopi, European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS; Rt. Honorable Benjamin Okezie Kalu, The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Mr. Danladi Plang, The Head of Programme Nigeria, RoLAC II, International IDEA; at the Parliamentary Summit in Abuja yesterday organized by the EU-funded Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC Phase II) Programme of International IDEA, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative on November 21, 2023, in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja

Also speaking, Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, SAN, of the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria Nsukka & Former United Nations Special Rapporteur, Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo SAN, underscored the importance of having a significant budget to address the unmet justice needed for survivors. 

She said, the cost-benefit analysis also demonstrates that investing in the justice sector makes economic sense to ensure access to justice for all, irrespective of gender or type of violation in a contest or dispute. 

“A victim of domestic violence needs as much help as a suspect detained, including wrongful detention, to seek enforcement of his or her fundamental rights. In the case of domestic violence, the right to life is at stake and for a woman victim of sexual harassment- it amounts to not only discrimination but a violation of her bodily integrity and reproductive self-determination. Her right to education and a safe environment, dignity and bodily integrity in effect cumulatively violated.”

Project Manager, Access to Justice Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC Phase II) Programme, International IDEA, Oluwatoyosi Giwa; and the Gender Human Rights Programme Lead United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, Onyinye Ndubuisi; in a joint statement, disclosed that, over the past six years, RoLAC Phase I, UNDP under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, and various partners have made significant strides in establishing and implementing mechanisms that offer enhanced protection for survivors of violence and strengthened institutional frameworks for ensuring appropriate punishment for perpetrators. Notably, 36 out of 36 states in Nigeria have adopted the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015, compared to 17 states six years ago.

“However, challenges persist with low prosecution rates of SGBV cases due to the gross underfunding of the SGBV response sector. The slow pace of criminal justice administration denies survivors the justice and social support they deserve, enabling perpetrators to commit crimes with impunity.”

Giwa further disclosed in her presentation that while 14 states are yet to domesticate the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 13 have signed into law, 10 assented and two awaiting governors’ assent. 

She listed the 14 states yet to pass the legislation to include: Delta, Bayelsa, Osun, Kebbi, Niger, Katsina, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Akwa Ibom.

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