Thirty-two young Nigerian Choice4LifeAdvocates have urged the National Assembly to urgently pass the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP Bill).
The VAPP Bill — which seeks to eradicate violence in the public and private spaces, and among others, abolish all obsolete laws relating to as rape, assault etc. and bringing them into consonance with present realities — has been pending before the National Assembly since May 28, 2002, when it was first formally presented by Hon. Florence Aya.
And the Choice4LifeAdvocates believe that while it is important for Nigerians to continue pressuring the government to rev up efforts towards rescuing the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a conscious effort must also be made to reintegrate the
girls into the society — a mission the VAPP Bill, for example, will help to accomplish.
“Since Monday, April 14, 2014, more than 200 girls, mostly teenagers, have been abducted by heavily armed men from their school in Chibok, Borno State, north-eastern Nigeria,” the group, comprising young men and women from diverse ethno-religious and social backgrounds across the country, wrote in a jointly-signed statement.
“The news of this event sent ripples across the nation, and many are yet to recover from the shock of such a catastrophe. While some of the abducted girls have escaped and returned home, the exact whereabouts of the others remain unknown.”
The group observed that reports regarding the event are increasingly dominating the media, especially the new media, with the launch of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign; while Nigerians, especially women and some parents of the abducted girls, have taken to the streets in different states and countries around the world.
It commended them for showing solidarity through protests, pressurising government to swiftly and continuously take necessary actions to ensure the girls are returned home alive.
It lamented that kidnappings have recently being on the increase in Nigeria, victims suffering untold traumatic physical, psychological and emotional consequences; and warned that in this particular case, the girls are at high risk of sexual violence.
“While we earnestly anticipate their quick return in order to stop the continuous abuse they may be going through, it is imperative that we consider our readiness, especially our legal and health systems, to ensure that the victims immediately commence the process of full recovery upon their return,” the advocates said.
“We recognise the challenges of handling insurgencies such as this, as we unreservedly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of our military, para-military and other security personnel towards ensuring that peace, order, and security of lives and property is restored in Nigeria.
“We commend all the efforts of well-meaning Nigerians who have toiled over the last couple of weeks, to raise awareness about the kidnapped girls; and who have worked to pressure the government to go the extra mile towards bringing our girls home. We appreciate the support from non-Nigerians, global leaders, and the international media to the campaign for government to rescue our girls and bring them back alive.”
Commiserating with the families and relatives of all the kidnapped girls and assuring them that Nigerians stand as one with them through their trying times, members of the group urged the Federal Government and the Borno State Government, through relevant security agencies, to intensify and strengthen all current efforts being made towards the quick release of the girls. More importantly, they demanded the passage of the VAPP Bill.
“Given the fact that our current laws on violence against persons, especially women, are insufficient in ensuring justice for the abducted girls upon their much-anticipated return, we request the National Assembly to pass the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (#VAPPbill) without further delay, so as to guarantee a robust legal framework needed to seek justice for the girls,” they said.
“The swift passage of the VAPP Bill will also, among others, boost the confidence of the citizens in the polity, as well as serve as a legal protection of citizens against all forms of violence regardless of sex, age, culture, tribe or religion.”
They further demanded the formulation of a policy on the right of every Nigerian to education, as well as its inclusion in the Constitution and/or relevant documents, so as to protect and guarantee the right of citizens to education regardless of cultural and religious beliefs.
“This is expected to take pre-eminence over any local, cultural, and/or religious policies, which are against right of citizens to education. The education and empowerment of women should be given the adequate priority and urgent attention it requires,” they said.
“All necessary structures and actions should be put in place immediately to forestall a repeat of this and similar incidents in any part of Nigeria. We do look forward to the earnest return of all the girls unharmed. It is time to #BringbackOurGirls Alive!”