The Senate has called on the judiciary to re-visit the law on all sexual offences, especially rape and domestic violence, to address the seriousness they bear.
It also urged Police authorities to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual abuse, violation and violence in line with the provisions of extant laws of the Federation.
This followed a motion by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Sen. Bala Ibn Na’Allah, entitled “Urgent Need to Investigate Alarming Rate of Rape and Sexual Assault against Women, Children and Vulnerable People across the Country’’.
Presenting the motion, the lawmaker said that the frightening increase in sexual violence cases, particularly rape where more than half of the victims were minors and children below the age of consent.
He said that in most of the cases, the perpetrators were usually familiar neighbours, employers of labour and close family members.
“The activities of these sexual predators constitute a serious security threat to the larger segment of our society and are severely under-reported.
“The perversion is spreading across the country, with both the male and female gender as victims, especially in view of the poor prosecution and conviction numbers being turned out.
“It was stated that 1,480 cases of domestic violence, ranging from rape, child abuse, sexual abuse, assaults, defilement, to matrimonial issues were recorded in two years,’’ he said.
Na’Allah recalled a Human Rights Watch publication which alleged that government officials raped and sexually abused women and girls who survived Boko Haram violence, a case yet to be legally concluded.
He said that it was time the disturbing trend was curbed, and stressed that it portrayed the country in a bad light.
He called for full implementation of the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act and the Sexual Offences in Tertiary Institutions Prohibition Bill 2016 to combat the crime.
In his contribution, the Deputy Minority Whip, Sen. Biodun Olujimi, expressed concern at the rise in sexual offences across the country.
She said that it was high time law enforcement agencies and other relevant stakeholders took the issue of rape, other sexual offences and domestic violence seriously to serve as deterrent.
“Yesterday, a one-year-old child was snatched from the back of the mother by six men and raped to death.
“Rape is bad and disgusting and there is a mental issue attached to rapists. The issue of paedophiles is also on the increase.
“Unfortunately, those that are supposed to curb the crime are guilty because they turn their eyes away from this heinous crime.
“Our law enforcement agencies must enforce laws on rape and other related laws and the time has come to ensure our laws are strengthened.
“In fact, there is nothing wrong in saying that people who rape should be shot because it has come to that. Girls are no longer safe even at homes and dormitories,’’ Olujimi said.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, while supporting the motion said it was expedient for the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, to wade into the matter in view of its seriousness.
He also urged law enforcement agencies to diligently carry out their duties in order to build the confidence reposed in them.
Abaribe decried the situation where victims who were meant to get justice were subjected to more torture by law enforcement agencies, saying that it was unacceptable.
He added that rape victims were often scared to report such cases because they didn’t know what to expect, adding that all hands must be deck to tackle the menace.
The Chairman, Committee on Poverty Alleviation, Sen. Ali Wakili, said it was pathetic that some Nigerians had lost their senses of humanity.
He called for the strengthening of extant laws to check the crime, which affected mostly women and children.
“We as people have lost our sense of humanity and we have allowed our animalistic tendency to take a better part of us.
“We now live in a society where morals are no longer taught. Yesterday I saw on social media where someone was caught raping in a mosque. This shows the level of degeneration in our society.
“We need to go back to history and regenerate our moral values and our religious leaders have a duty in that respect,’’ he said.
Equally, Sen. Joshua Lidani (PDP-Gombe) said that the rise in the number of paedophiles in the country called for concern.
“The issue of sexual offence is not restricted to any part of the country. It is everywhere and it gives course for concern.
“Today the rape of children is on the increase and one of the problems of prosecuting rape is proving evidence of penetration.
“I think we need to strengthen our laws and our religious leaders should equally play a part in finding lasting solution to this problem,’’ he said.
The lawmaker called for whistle-blowing on rape.
In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, who presided at plenary, commended the deputy leader of the senate for coming up with the motion.
He expressed optimism that with increase in reported cases of rape and other sexual offences in the country, there would be more prosecutions.
“I felt a sense of relief when Sen. Ben Bruce said that five ladies admitted to him that they were raped.
“Before now people were dying in silence but today people are reporting cases of rape and other sexual offences.
“We call on our ladies to report any form of molestation to appropriate agencies. It is because reports were not made in the past it continued to date,’’ Ekweremadu said.
He commended the judiciary, particularly the courts for prosecuting more sexual offences cases in recent times.
He called on all to work towards curbing rape, adding that “the callousness of rape these days does not even give doubt on penetration because of the level of harm suffered by victims.
“We need to re-define what constitutes the offence of rape and we also need to amend our laws to define what penetration is because it could be anal.’’