Senate condemns rising rape cases, demands stiffer penalties for offenders

Members of the Senate, at the plenary on Tuesday, took turns to lament the rising cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence in Nigeria.

The upper chamber of the National Assembly specifically asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to investigate and prosecute sexual crimes in the country.

It also urged judges to revisit the sentences for sexual offences and domestic violence to reflect the seriousness of the crimes.

The lawmakers lamented that while there were existing laws to check sex-related crimes, the rate was rising due to the failure by security agencies to enforce the laws.

The condemnation came when the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, moved a motion titled, ‘Urgent need to investigate the alarming rate of rape and sexual assault against women, children and vulnerable people across the country’.

In the motion, Na’Allah said, “The Senate notes the frightening increase in cases of sexual violence, notably rape, where more than half of the victims are minors, children below the age of consent.

“The Senate further notes that in most of these cases, the perpetrators are usually familiar neighbours, employers of labour and close family members; and it is concerned that the activities of these sexual predators constitute a serious security threat to the larger segment of our society and are severely underreported.”

Na’Allah lamented that the perversion was spreading across the country, with both the male and female genders as victims “especially in view of the poor prosecution and conviction numbers being turned out.”

He added, “The Senate is disturbed that on a nearly daily basis, our newspapers are awash with reports of rape and other sexual violence. It observes that these acts portray the country in a bad light and are alien to both our cultural and religious orientation as a people.”

The lawmakers unanimously granted the prayers of the motion, including to “urge the Inspector-General of Police to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual abuse, violation and violence in line with the provisions of the extant laws of the federation.

They also mandated the Senate Committees on Health; Women Affairs; and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters “to engage relevant stakeholders with a view to resolving these issues.”

The lawmakers also “urge all heads of courts to revisit the sentencing policy on all sexual offences and domestic violence to address the seriousness it deserves.”

Seconding the motion, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce said many rape cases were usually not reported.

“A few years ago, we heard of a report from Lagos State which basically said rape was the number one crime in Lagos; not armed robbery or assassination. Boko Haram is occupying too much space in the media, yet it is not the number one crime. The number one crime in Nigeria today is rape,” he said.

While describing sexual violence as “a very serious issue,” the lawmaker warned that “there will be a time when our mothers and sisters – 70 per cent of Nigerian women – will be rape victims.”

He added, “The laws may be there but they are not being enforced.”

Senator Ali Wakili explained that the rampant cases of sexual crimes indicated the level of moral degeneration in the society.

Wakili stated, “There are extant laws, not that there are no extant laws. But it is we, the people, who are supposed to ensure that these laws work. If all our clerics from the divides have always been talking about fine cars, prosperity and good jobs without talking about righteousness, I think we are doomed.”

In her submission, the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, said the rising trend of rape had shown that Nigerians were losing their human feelings.

Olujimi added, “More than anything else, there is a mental situation attached to anyone that rapes a woman, a child or anybody. The issue of paedophiles now abounds in Nigeria; people who are raping underage children and it affects all us because anyone raped gets disoriented. They lose it all, and that is not fair.

“Somehow, the people who are supposed to enforce our laws on rape are complicit in this matter. If not, where have they been when all these are happening in the ‘Centre of Excellence’, Lagos; Abuja, Kaduna and Kano. People are being raped on a daily basis and people are turning their eyes away from these heinous crimes.”

Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, called on victims of sexual violence to report cases to government agencies.

Ekweremadu said, “The major problem in all these has been that people find it difficult to report incidents of rape. People die in silence; they bear the pain in silence. I think that now society is coming up to ensure that we know what happens to them. As long as people are reporting incidents of rape to the police, I am sure that investigations will take place.

“We need to call on our ladies and whoever is raped to take the bold step and report to the appropriate agencies. I am sure that they will not take it lightly.”