Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, and the UN Deputy Secretary General, Mrs Amina Mohammed have said violence against women and girls must stop in Nigeria for the country to make progress.
The leaders spoke at a two-day Northern traditional and religious leaders’ summit on ending gender-based violence and harmful practices organized by the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development in Abuja yesterday.
The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Abubakar, in his remarks at the event, emphasised the need for the government to go beyond the enactment of laws and strengthen awareness around gender-based violence.
He said no government could claim to be addressing the menace when law enforcement institutions remained weak in the discharging their functions.
He said: “Everyone should understand that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.
“Government at the community level should put in place a sex offenders register to name and shame perpetrators and end the impunity around gender-based violence.
“Government should also establish and fund at least one GBV response centre and shelter with government-paid staff deployed and with effective linkages to other support services that survivors may need.
“In addition, the government should establish at least one forensic lab in each geopolitical zone in the country to support the prosecution of GBV cases.”
Speaking in a similar vein, CAN President, Ayokunle, stated: “The abuse of the girl-child and the vulnerable must no longer continue in our own time.
“All forms of gender-based violence is appalling in the 21st century. We should all rise together to eradicate them. Our society will be better through our collective action in this direction.”
He charged royal fathers and faith leaders to step up their roles as custodians of custom, tradition and faith in ensuring women and girls were safe.
In his remarks, Vice President Osinbajo urged state governments to intensify efforts to address the issue of gender-based violence in their territories.
Represented by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, the vice president said the Federal Government was committed to supporting deliberate measures to tackle the menace.
He, however, said unless all stakeholders took practical steps to protect the vulnerable population, especially women and girls, the nation would be the worse for it in the years ahead.
Osinbajo said: “For the Child’s Rights Act, I am so pained and my heart is heavy that 10 States in the North that are yet to domesticate it. Same goes for the Violence Against Persons Prohibition, VAPP, Act. Only three states in the Northeast and Northwest regions have domesticated the Child’s Right Act.
“I want to use this opportunity to commend the governor of Kaduna State. Apart from domesticating the laws, he also amended the VAPP Act to deal with offenders. It is high time we moved to action. We cannot keep talking without action.
“People use religion to commit all sorts of evil things, but the two religions, Christianity and Islam condemn violence against women.”
To the Northern traditional rulers and faith leaders, the Vice President said: “You are the custodians of the society and highly respected in your communities.
“So, if you want to take action against perpetrators of violence against women and girls, we can have a better society and achieve greater result in addressing the menace of gender-based violence that is before us.”
On her part, the UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed, lamented that around the world, one of every three women experienced gender-based violence in her lifetime.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the challenge, reversing the many gains made in addressing the issue.
Mohammed, nonetheless, said traditional leaders were central to addressing structural inequalities and transforming communities for the better from within.