A lawyers’ group in Nigeria, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) is tackling the Federal Government and the Nigeria Police to scale-up action on the raging social vice of rape in the country.
While strongly condemning the recent rape incidents in various parts of the country, LEDAP calls on the government, the Police and all the other relevant agencies to take urgent action to tackle the rising cases of sex crimes in Nigeria.
LEDAP is, however, a non-governmental organisation of lawyers engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and good governance in Nigeria. It has observer status with the Africa commission on human and peoples’ Rights.
It was founded in 1997 by a group of pro bono lawyers working to protect and support political prisoners. Since then, it has grown to 1700 members across Nigeria. It has zonal coordinators and offices in Oshogbo, Jos, Kano, Awka and Port Harcourt, with the national office in Lagos.
The group provides free legal representation to poor and vulnerable victims of human rights violations. It undertakes programmes to raise awareness of the legal community in Nigeria of international human rights norms and how they can be integrated into the system of administration of justice in the country. It works with the Directors of Public Prosecution to improve the administration of criminal justice in the country.
It also works to promote and protect rights of women under its domestic violence and reproductive health programmes promote rights of children through legal and other support to children in conflict with the law, and seeks to advance the rule of law and good governance through impact litigation and social advocacy.
It focuses on improving the legal and human rights framework for economic and social justice through its social security project as well as on human security under its Impunity Project and Death Penalty Project.
On May 27, Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year old microbiology student of the University of Benin was raped and brutalised in her empty church building where she had gone to study. She was rushed to the hospital by the security guard who found her lying unconscious in a pool of blood but she succumbed to death on May 30.
Just days after this, Barakat Bello, an 18-year old student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Ibadan was reportedly raped to death at her Ibadan residence.
These are just two out of the very many girls and women who have suffered rape and sexual violence in Nigeria over the past few years.
For LEDAP, ‘’the female gender in Nigeria has become more and more vulnerable, with a large number of them susceptible to physical and sexual violence.
‘’Nigeria is a signatory to many international and regional human rights treaties which protects the rights of women to dignity and freedom from all kinds of violence. Also, Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) specifically provides for fundamental human rights. However, it is sad that the female gender is still being subjected to varying degrees of physical and sexual violence.’’
The group is calling for the speedy domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) 2015 in the 36 states of the federation, as well as the domestication of the Child Rights Act 2003 in the states that are yet to do so.
‘’This is in order to afford further and effective protection to the female gender in Nigeria. It is hoped that with the speedy domestication of the VAPP Act 2015 and the Child Rights Act 2003 in all states of the federation, there will be an extreme reduction of rape incidents in the country’’, the group says.
It wants the central government and the Police to take drastic steps to ensure that the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, and Barakat Bello are apprehended and brought to face the full wrath of the law.
Continuing, the group urges the Police to ensure that rape offenders are prosecuted fully, whether or not the families of the victims are interested in out of court settlement. This will act as a deterrent to prospective rape offenders.
‘’LEDAP calls on the government, the Police and the relevant agencies to make concerted efforts in preventing and forestalling future occurrence as well as in upholding the rights of the Nigerian female gender to dignity and liberty.’’