Most States in the North East have yet to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, in spite of Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the Zone.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), survey indicates that only Bauchi State has domesticated the Act, leaving Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Jigawa and Gombe State behind.
The VAPP Act was passed into law in May 2015, as a result of agitations for protection of persons against different forms of violence in the country.
It is an improvement on the penal and criminal code in relation to violence, as it makes provision for compensation to victims as well as protection of their rights.
Findings by the survey however, indicated that although Bauchi State has domesticated the Act, the law has not been fully implemented due to some challenges.
Mr Sabiu Gumba, Deputy Director, Civil Litigations, in the State Minitry of Justice, said that the Act was domesticated few years back after the bill passed by the State House of Assembly was signed by the governor and gazetted.
Gumba said, however, that the Act has not taken firm roots in the state in spite of the domestication.
“We were concerned that in spite of the fact that the law has been gazetted, there are some grey areas that needed to be addressed.
“The bill was sponsored by the speaker of the house himself. We later realised that there are some areas that needed amendments.
“The challenges are basically procedural, that is to say legal rule of procedures, there are moves to see that those areas that we have been having challenges are amended.
“Not withstanding that the law has been gazetted, anytime from now the amendment will be done, ” he said.
In Yobe,Mrs Altine Ibrahim, Chairperson of the state chapter of International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), said that the Act has so far scaled through public hearing at the State House of Assembly.
Ibrahim, also an Assistant Registrar in the State High Court, Damaturu, said that the bill was undergoing review before it would be passed and presented to the state governor for his assent.
“I am optimistic that Gov. Mai Mala-Buni will assent to the bill without delay as soon as it is presented to him.
“Mala-Buni has always frowned at sexual and gender-based violence, especially the recent cases of rape against both girls and boys who are minors.
“It is because he abhors this predatory behavior that he recommended 25 years imprisonment for rape offenders in the bill.
“And if the victim is a minor, the governor recommended life imprisonment for offenders. This is a testimony that the governor is worried about rape offences and will not waste time in signing the bill into law,” Ibrahim said.
The chairperson assured that FIDA would continue to lead the struggle for the domestication of the Act in the state.
In Borno, Mrs Aisha Kabu, an activist and chairperson of a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Zenith of Girl-child and Women Initiative (ZEGCAWIS), blamed the delay in the domestication of the Act on cultural and religious factors.
Kabu said that the State House of Assembly conducted a public hearing on the bill in March but failed to make progress for some reasons.
“We held public hearing on the bill in March, but there has been no positive response from the house several months after,” Kabu said.
She, however, said that there has been remarkable improvement on the protection of the rights of women and children since the assumption of office of Gov. Babagana Zulum.
“The present Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Zuwaira Gambo has been passionate about the rights of women and children, and has been supporting their cause, ” Kabu said.
She assured that stakeholders would continue to advocate for the domestication of the Act in the state.
Alhaji Abdullahi Askira, deputy speaker of the state House of Assembly also assured that the House was working on the bill.
In Adamawa, Mrs Kate Mamuno, a member of the State House of Assembly said that the house was also working on the bill.
“The bill is in the pipeline,” Mamuno also Chairman of House Committee on Finance, Appropriation and Budget said.
She said that the house held public hearing with major stakeholders and generated inputs over the Act Vis-a-vis the Penal Code Law to see which one was better and can be adopted.
“Now we are going to invite the focal ministries to meet with the deputy speaker and resource persons to show us the way forward,” she said.
Mrs Halima Abdulrahaman, former chairperson of the state chapter of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), appealed to the lawmakers to speed up the process of domesticating the Act.
“The domestication of the act will go along way in addressing violence against persons such as rape that is so rampant in the society,” she said.
Halima said that FIDA was making efforts to sensitise stakeholders towards speedy passage of the bill.
“We met with the first lady of the state and a female lawmaker, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Women Affairs and and House is fully in support of that, ” she said.
In Gombe State, Mrs Comfort Mukollo, member of a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) Alliance for the domestication of VAPP Act said that the non domestication of the Act has increased the rate of violence against women and girls in the state.
Mukollo said the VAPP act when domesticated would help address the increased cases of violence against women and girls in the state especially rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence.
According to her, women and girls’ rights are not seen by many as human rights as most residents of the state still believe that women and girls have no rights of their own.
“The absence of the act has made perpetrators to commit these crimes and yet go freely in our society because there is no legal framework to ensure that perpetrators are severely dealt with.
“Sometimes when perpetrators are charged, they get away with it; this has brought set back to women and stopped them from having a strong voice, but the narrative will change when the law is domesticated,” she said.
Mukollo said that during the advocacy visits to traditional and religious leaders and other stakeholders in the state, some issues were observed as to why some people resisted the bill.
“The delay in passage of the bill is due to religion, tradition, culture and norms of the people. “Issues that relate to aspects of religion and tradition of the people are very sensitive.
“This is why we had several advocacies especially to key stakeholders to sensitise them on the importance of the bill and to tell them the categories of people the bill seeks to protect,’’ she said.
Mukollo, who is also the state NAWOJ chairperson in the state, said that progress had been made toward the domestication of the act in the state following commitments secured in that regard.
“We made a draft, took it to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General of the state where we made some amendments that will be suitable to the culture, norms and religions of the state.
“The ministry forwarded it to Gov. Inuwa Yahaya. The governor is trying to make it an executive bill and as it is now, it has not yet been transmitted to the house but we are hopeful that very soon, because the governor promised to fast-track the domestication,” she said.
In Jigawa, Alhaji Muhammad Saudi, the Head of Programme, Village Development Initiative (VILDEV), an NGO said that the bill has scaled through second reading at the State House of Assembly.
Saudi said that a public hearing will soon be organised by the House in collaboration with Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders to get inputs.
Contributing, Mr Idris Garba, Speaker of the State House of Assembly said that the bill was part of the Executive Bills approved by the state Executive Council and forwarded to the house for passage.
“The bill was submitted to the house and read to the lawmakers and is ready for second reading,” Garba said.
Mr Habu Mohammad, Majority Leader of the House expressed optimism on early passage of the bill.
“The law, if domesticated will eliminate and prohibit all forms of violence against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment for offenders.
“The bill will also provide for the welfare and protection of children from violence, neglect and maltreatment in the state.
“Though the law is a national law, it was amended to suit the peculiarities of the state interms of culture and religion, as some sections of were contrary to Islamic teachings,” Muhammad said. (NAN)