The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on Friday, charged the judiciary to speed up the process of justice delivery on cases of sexual and gender-based violence, noting that the conviction of more offenders will serve as a deterrent to others who might have the intention of committing the same crimes.
Obaseki gave the charge at a one-day sensitization and capacity building workshop on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) for High Court Judges and judicial officers in Edo State, held in Benin City.
According to him, “For us in Edo, we consider gender-based violence as serious, which is why from the onset of our government we made a commitment to protecting the rights of vulnerable persons in our state.
“We saw a tremendous increase in gender-based violence during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has prompted us to increase our actions in tackling the issue of abuses.”
He noted, “The gruesome murder of Uwaila Omozuwa was a wake-up call for us. As a government, we couldn’t just sit and allow our society to accept such conduct. It is our collective responsibility to drive the desired changes that are required to ensure that we have a society that is free of violence, particularly gender-based violence.
“The Judiciary is a very critical arm of government; you must play a very active role in addressing these challenges. We must get a lot more convictions because it’s only convictions that serve as a deterrent to the abuse of persons.
“We have worked with our lawmakers to update our statues to meet our present-day challenges, and are very much aware and understand the tasks ahead in establishing synergy and ensuring policy consistency across our three arms of government, as part of the efforts that we must understand to rein in offenders.”
Reassuring the government’s commitment to protecting the girl-child in the state, the governor stated, “In Edo, our commitment to address gender-based violence or violence against persons has been demonstrated as we are one of the first states in Nigeria to sign the Violence Against Persons (VAP) Bill into law.
“We have launched a sexual offenders’ register which serves as a tool to shame all those persons who have been convicted in gender-based violence. We have linked our register with that of the national register. We are driven by the need to ensure that those who perpetrate gender-based violence are apprehended and made to face justice strictly.”
Obaseki further noted, “It is important to note that Edo has established the Sexual Assault Referral Centre which is named after a girl, Vivian Ogu, whose life was cut short by criminals who tried to rape her, years ago. Addressing the menace of sexual-based violence has to be holistic and thorough.
“You are all gathered here today because we want you to take charge of this mandate. We are lucky in Edo because the majority of our judges are women, so we do not have to preach to the converted.”
Earlier, the wife of Edo Governor, Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, who is the Chairperson of the Edo State Gender-Based Violence Management Committee, reiterated the need for more convictions in support of the government’s fight against gender-based violence in the state.
She noted, “Let us all be committed and take all we have learned from the workshop seriously and put them into practice, and taking our work to the international high level. At the end of the day, we want to see more convictions.
“The governor has assured us of providing requisites; we need to build new courthouses and a special courthouse for gender-based violence, with special judges assigned to these courts.”
In her welcome remarks, Ms. Comfort Lamptey, United Nations (UN) Women Representative to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who spoke via zoom, described the judiciary as crucial in ensuring access to justice for women and girls.
Lamptey further applauded the state government’s commitment to ensuring access to justice for all, especially for women and girls in Edo.