A fortnight ago, the Jigawa State Government enacted the child protection law, which prescribes the death penalty for rape with an option of fine. In another instance, the law includes a provision that rules out any option for rapists of the girl child below 10 years. The law is contained in the Child Rights Act, which the state government has passed. It says that anyone convicted of raping a child below the age of 10 shall be sentenced to death with no other option.
This distinction, well thought out in our consideration, gives a human face to an otherwise drastic law for a disturbing menace that has been stalking Nigerian women in various disguises in recent times
Explaining the details in Dutse, the Commissioner for Justice and the Attorney General of Jigawa State, Dr Musa Adamu, said that Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar signed the Violence Against Prohibition Bill, which prescribes the death penalty for rapists but with the option of life imprisonment. But recently the government also signed the child protection law which prescribed the death penalty for anyone that raped a child below the age of 10.
According to him, before the passage of both laws, the ministry received a total number of 196 case diaries, while 178 pieces of legal advice were prepared in respect of the case diaries, received in the year 2021.
He said, “Out of the total number of case diaries, 90 were rape cases; 27 culpable homicides; sodomy has 31; kidnapping and abduction have a total number of 18 cases; incest two; two acts of gross indecency; 20 armed robberies, while road traffic offences have two cases.”
Clearly, the law could not have come at a better time. Apart from being on top of crimes committed in the state in a year, cases of rape were more likely to continue to be on the rise unless addressed frontally. That is what we think the Jigawa State Government has done with this new law. We salute the government for this radical effort, particularly in that part of the country where the girl child goes through early emotional challenges because of the prevailing culture that puts her in the family way quite early in life.
There is more. Given the cultural stereotypes and stigmatisation that forces a culture of silence on most victims, as well as the low level of prosecution of reported cases, lack of referential data in the country, we can hazard a guess that the Jigawa rape figure, high as it is in comparison with other type of crimes committed in the state, could be higher. Therefore, drastic action needs to be taken to deal with the dangerous trend.
Indeed, in a report unveiled on November 2021, Amnesty International, disclosed that 11,000 cases of rape were reported across the country in 2020 and that of these cases less than 10 per cent were prosecuted while the others met a hostile justice system that paid no attention.
We hope that the state government will avert itself to this lacuna in the justice system, if it is not already within its purview, so that it can ensure that the beautiful law it enacted in praiseworthy effort does not suffer neglect on the shelf.
Enlightenment of the citizenry combined with enforcement of the law to the letter would have the double effect of breaking the culture of silence among victims and serve as a deterrent among would-be perpetrators.
We call on other states that are yet to sign either the Child Rights Act or enact a law against gender-based violence to follow in the footsteps of the Jigawa government.
The sanctity of the family is usually violated when violent crimes are perpetrated with impunity without chances of legal redress by the victims. It is a sad commentary on our commitment to the protection of the so- called future leaders of tomorrow when only 25 states have passed the Child Rights Act since it was enacted in 2003, almost two decades ago.
Since the family unit is the foundation of society, nurturing and breeding values of change from generations to generations, it is vital that any action that would support and sustain it in giving the child a brighter future ahead should be encouraged. More so for a country that is currently reeling from the lack, if not absence of values, in all facets of human life and suffering the consequences with the ongoing senseless killings, mistrust and violence ravaging all parts of the country.