The Federal Government said on Wednesday that it would move against rapists decisively to halt the growing rape cases in the country.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) took the decision at its virtual session presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, had presented a memo on the issue, drawing the attention of cabinet members to the trend.
The FEC said one immediate step was to ask state governments to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA) 2015.
The Act defines rape as when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his/her body or anything else without consent, or with incorrectly obtained consent. Consent can be incorrectly obtained where it is obtained: by force/threats/intimidation; by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, by the use of substances capable of taking away the will of that person; by a person impersonating a married woman’s husband in order to have sex.
Incidentally, the law only applies to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and nine out of the 36 states, where it has been domesticated, for now.
Nigeria recorded a spike in rape cases amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, including the trending case of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old Microbiology student, who was raped and killed in a church in Benin, the capital of Edo State.
Up to 80 causes were said to have been reported in the last three months alone.
Aside from the VAPPA, there is the Child Rights Act, which has life sentence as penalty for sex with a child on conviction.
Speaking with State House Correspondents after the meeting, Tallen said members viewed the increasing rape cases seriously.
She stated, “I am sure you are aware that for the past few weeks, the country has witnessed a lot of outrage and outcry because of the ‘pandemic within the pandemic’ that we are facing.
“I know before COVID-19, we have always had a pandemic of rape cases and gender-based violence. But, with the lockdown due to COVID-19, women and children are locked down with their abusers and the number has escalated three times.
“There is no state that is an exception. This has reached an embarrassing situation that a memo was presented in council, calling for immediate intervention, legal and prompt dispensation of justice in the cases.
“From the statistics we have and from the meetings I had with the 36 states commissioners of women affairs, we have hundreds of cases within our courts that have not been addressed. And out of one case that has been reported, be sure there are 10 others that have not been reported. As a result, we called for aggressive media campaigns, public enlightenment for people to speak out against the abuse of minors and rape cases.
“We also called on the judiciary for prompt dispensation of cases and the police to ensure rape cases are not treated with levity or wished away.
“These are issues that were presented before council and I am happy to announce that we got the full support of Mr President and all members of council, that government will take decisive actions at the highest level to protect women and children in this country.”