By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) have set modalities in place to strengthen their collaboration in dealing with cases of rape and other Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) brought before them.
Speaking at a working visit to the Acting Inspector General Force Intelligence, Ibrahim Lamorde in his office in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu Esq. said it had become imperative to activate the Bi-monthly meeting between the Commission and the Police.
Ojukwu stated that the meeting would be focused on deal with all human rights cases which deserve urgent attention from the police, especially cases of SGBV which he described as a “pandemic.”
Continuing, the NHRC Boss said, “The the Commission’s work to effectively discharge its mandate in dealing with certain violations cannot be complete without relating with the police, we need the police to coordinate timely response to save lives”.
He noted that there was a need to build the capacity of Human Rights and Gender Desk Officers in all the Police commands across the country, to ensure professionalism and efficiency in dealing with numerous cases generally and rape/SGBV cases in particular.
He observed that most survivors of rape are deflated in spirit on arrival to make complaints at the police station.
Ojukwu attributed this to the unprofessional conducts in handling the cases by police officers who stigmatize survivors through dismissive comments, describing it as highly unacceptable.
The CEO of the Commission said, “A crop of professional police officers dealing with Human Rights and SGBV can provide accurate data on SGBV cases. Adding that “data is key in addressing these cases because it will help us to get a rundown of cases across the country by knowing how many cases we have at hand; how many are prosecuted and so on.”
Responding the AIG Force Intelligence expressed gratitude to the Commission for the visit, noting that “stigmatization makes rape cases thrive,” and that it needs to be addressed from the point where survivors report the incident to the police. He said officers need to understand the magnitude of the problem they create when they discourage survivors due to their unprofessional conduct.
AIG Lamorde further advocated for a special court to ensure accelerated hearing, provide enabling environment to ensure privacy for survivors and encourage them to speak out freely when they present their cases during hearing.
He emphasized a need to check the threshold of dealing with rape cases which are usually delayed due to the ambiguity surrounding the evidence to prove such cases. According to him, delay in justice has psychological impact on survivors which emboldens the perpetrators.
AIG Lamorde reiterated the importance of retaining professional police officers trained in dealing with rape cases to stay on their beat for at least three (3) years to ensure continuity in capacity to deal with cases as well as share knowledge with other officers on how to deal with such sensitive cases.