The Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), a Muslim civil society group, joins all men and women of conscience across Nigeria and the world in condemning, in the strongest terms, the recent cases of rape of women across Nigeria. We hereby urge the government to do everything possible to make sure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act face the full force of the law.
We are particularly worried by the recent upsurge in the crime of rape in Nigeria. The statistics released by the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team a few days ago was alarming. According to the agency, _“from January to April 2020, 529 Rape and Domestic Violence cases have been taken to court in Lagos State”_. The figure was for only Lagos State over a period of just four months! We dare say that those cases were merely the reported ones as many more cases of rape and domestic violence may go unreported by the victims and their families for fear of stigmatisation and for other reasons.
We are horrified by the direction of the national conversation which in part blames victims of rape for the inhuman, invidious and criminal act. There can be no justification for rape under any circumstance. Rape is an act of violence that robs the victim of her dignity and sometimes her future and her life. Many living victims of rape live with the attendant mental, physical, emotional and social trauma throughout their lives. This is a violation of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person which Islam, the Constitution and the universal declaration of human rights protect.
It is, therefore, important that the government makes more concerted efforts to protect and rehabilitate the victims of rape. While stigmatisation of victims of rape should be a punishable offence, victims and their families should be encouraged to report the crime of rape to appropriate government agencies. It is the rapist rather than the victim that should be shamed.
The prevalence of violent behaviors in different parts of Nigeria in recent years points to the deteriorating value system in the country. This is worrisome. We, therefore, call on the government, religious bodies, the traditional institution and women groups to provide leadership in addressing this ugly descent into the abyss as a matter of urgent national importance. It is our submission that all organs of government and other critical segments of the society in Nigeria need to do more in their efforts to prevent the incessant cases of rape and other crimes in the society. This ominous reality makes campaign for value re-orientation an urgent national imperative.
We wish to remind the government that, as provided in Section 14 (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. To this end, guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of all citizens, irrespective of their situation and station in life, is the _raison d’etre_ for which government at all levels exists.
To this end, we call on the police and other relevant agencies of the executive arm of government as well as the judicial arm of government to ensure that the offenders are brought to justice. Law enforcement agents should be trained to attend to victims with compassion and obtain their evidence timeously. Cases of rape should be handled with dispatch while convicted rapists, in addition to the appropriate punishment under the law, should be made to pay damages to their victims by way of restitution. In the same vein, the legislature should review the extant laws on rape with a view to determining the viability of the punishment for rape to serve as deterrent to any would-be rapist. A rapist is a potential murderer and should be treated as such.
Finally, NDD commiserates with the families of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, Miss Barakat Bello and other victims of rape in Nigeria. May Allah comfort the families and set the nation on the path of rectitude.
*Dr. Abdul-Wasi B. Moshood,*
*_Director of Public Affairs_*