By John Ameh
THE United Nations and the European Union have praised initiatives by the federal government in combating sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
A representative of the UN in Nigeria, Ms Ulla Mueller, said Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is a “devastating occurrence that happens every day in Nigeria,” adding that it is a reality that women and girls live with and fear every day.
Mueller stated this while delivering a goodwill message on Thursday in Abuja at the inauguration of the Inter-Ministerial Management Committee on the eradication of SGBV in Nigeria.
“We are delighted to commend the government of Nigeria for taking these initiatives. It shows the commitment and dedication to put action behind the words of wanting to eradicate gender-based violence.
“I want to reiterate the commitment of the UN system to the work and efforts of the government of Nigeria and this committee. We stand side by side with you by working with you to ending gender-based violence in Nigeria,” Ms Mueller said.
On his part, the EU Representative, Alexandrer Borges Gomes, said the inauguration of the committee marked a “milestone in the fight against gender-based violence in the country, pledging the EU’s commitment and support to the initiative.
While inaugurating the committee, which comprises representatives from the UN, the EU, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and members of civil society organisations, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the prevalence of SGVB is having devastating social and economic costs on Nigeria.
“The excruciating impact of SGBV is not limited to only victims and their families but also involves devastating social and economic costs to our nation. The need for concrete and urgent actions to combat this problem can, therefore, not be overstated.”
The AGF further stated that the Federal Ministry of Justice, in furtherance of its primary responsibility of defending constitutional rights of citizens, had undertaken the task of coordinating government action in response to tackling SGBV cases in the country.
According to Malami, the Justice Ministry will continue to engage relevant government ministries, agencies and departments to ensure adequate and sustainable response to the crisis.
The terms of reference of the committee, Malami said while inaugurating it, include, among others: “To conduct a review of all existing laws and policy instruments touching on offences of rape, child defilement and gender-based violence for adequacy, and a situation analysis to understand and propose necessary legislative changes to bridge the gaps between policy and implementation of the requisite counter-measures.”
Earlier, in a goodwill message, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, said rape and SGBV are gross violations of the right to human dignity, right to life and sexuality, which are guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He noted that there could not have been a better time for the inauguration of the committee than now, owing to the spike in cases of gender based violence in the country.
“The National Human Rights Commission, which has the mandate for protection of human rights in Nigeria, has taken the bull by the horns through sustained campaigns and demand for accountability from various stakeholders for violations in relation to rape and SGBV,” Ojukwu disclosed.