By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho has described rape and sexual-based violence as “heinous” crimes that must be stamped out of society.
There has been a horrific spike in rape and domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, the head of the country’s foremost human rights body, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu said.
Justice Tsoho spoke on Thursday when he received a group of protesters who marched to the headquarters of the Federal High Court in Abuja over upsurge in rape and gender-based violence in the country.
He said: “Rape is evil. It is a heinous crime that must be dealt with determination. Gender-based violence has been an age-long problem, but has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I urge the National Human Rights Commission to relentlessly mount the advocacy on rape and sexual violence until perpetrators are brought to justice,” Justice Tsoho said.
While presenting the NHRC Call-To-Action document against rape to the Chief Judge, Ojukwu said though the Federal High Court had limited jurisdiction in adjudicating on gender-based violence matters, however, the CJ could use his position to constitute special courts to hear such cases for quick justice delivery, saying the judiciary has a critical role to play in the legal response to ending violence against women.
Ojukwu who led a 5-day of activism march against rape and sexual-based crimes in Abuja and across States capital, noted that the burden of proof in rape cases was too much on victims, urging the country’s lawmakers to review relevant legislations on rape.
The group of protesters comprising members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Abuja Branch, United Nations representives and civil society organisations, marched on Abuja through the Central Business District with a stopover at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, where Ojukwu presented a copy of Call-To-Action document, Mr. Lai Mohammed who heads the ministry.
Ojukwu led the group to the Federal Ministry of Information seeking cooperation towards ending SGBV in Nigeria.
Subsequently, the march terminated at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, where the group had a joint press briefing with the ministry’s Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Akpata (SAN), who represented the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The Federal Ministry of Justice is the fulcrum for any meaningful fight to curb rape and sexual-based violence, Ojukwu told the AGF, who was represented by Mr. Dayo Akpata (SAN), Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General of the federation.
“We are to create and maintain visibility on the issue of rape until it is tackled. There must be accountability for every violation.
“The burden of proof is too much on rape victims. That is why most rape cases are lost in court, thereby setting suspects free,” he said.
Akpata revealed that the AGF had directed the police to apprehend rape suspects for swift prosecution.
“Efforts are being put in place to effectively combat sexual offences by opening sexual offenders’ register. This will help collect data of sexual offenders for their humiliation and public disgrace,” he said.