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Sexual/Gender-based Violence: NHRC explains probe panel

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Cyril Mbah, Abuja.

The executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, has disclosed that the Special Investigation Panel on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), was set up by the commission following the high rate of violence against women in some states and the country in general.

According to Ojukwu, “This panel was constituted as a result of the complaint received on Friday, the 26th of April 2019, where armed security personnel led by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, (AEPB) under the auspices of the FCT Joint Task Force raided night clubs and the streets of Abuja. They claimed that the raids were intended to arrest prostitutes in which about 71 women were arrested and held in different police stations in Abuja.

“In these raids, nine or very few men were arrested. Victims of the raid made serious allegations of rape, sexual harassment, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments against the Police personnel.”

Ojukwu disclosed that the panel, at the first sitting received 113 complaints across the political zones while the second sitting, coming in the wake of a resurging COVID-19 pandemic makes the panel’s work very unique in a number of ways, due to the astronomical rise in the number of cases of SGBV.

According to him, “In this round, the panel which has already sat in Enugu and Lagos shall be sitting in Ebonyi, Cross Rivers, Rivers, Sokoto, Adamawa and Abuja,” during which a total of 119 cases received have been slated for consideration.

The executive secretary noted that the breakdown of the cases, are as follows: Enugu (28), Lagos (15), Ebonyi (12), Cross Rivers (9), Rivers (16), Sokoto (7), Adamawa (4) and Abuja (27).

The director civil and political rights in the NHRC, Mr. Abdulrahman Yakubu led the panel to Abakaliki, Ebonyi state on behalf of the Executive Secretary said that the aforesaid incident raised an outcry on the SGBV menace in homes, work places, church places, and other places of worship. “The case of little Ochanya in Benue state can also not be overemphasised”, he noted.

The terms of reference of the panel, include but not limited to review of extant laws and regulations applicable to joint task forces in all the states and FCT in particular, especially the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and whether such laws and regulations are compliant with Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution and other international human rights conventions and protocols applicable to Nigeria.

Others are to identify individuals directly responsible for any violations and abuses and make recommendations for further actions including but not limited to prosecutions, disciplinary proceedings and damages.

The National Human Rights Commission boss commended the complainants and the public for the courage to lodge and follow up their complaints and submit memoranda to this Panel despite some reported cases of intimidation.

“I want to reiterate the assurance of this Panel and the Commission’s commitment to the principles of fair hearing in discharging its functions”. Ojukwu said.

Similarly, he commended the government for recognising the mandate of the Commission and supporting the Commission in setting up this panel even as he lauded other partners who had supported the project.

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