The jubilation that greeted the announcement of the appointment and subsequent confirmation of the new Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Ehigiator Arase within the rank and file of the Force as well as sections of the public, appears to be an indication that the man for the job may have been found after all. With a track record of many firsts, both in intellectual and professional prowess, Arase appears very prepared for the task at hand and many observers have attested to this.
I feel privileged to have read some of his authored writings on the Nigerian Police of his dream as well as community policing in Nigeria. And as expected, ever since taking control of the office, the IGP has made a series of pronouncements and welcoming reforms for the Force.
Top on the list for many is the dismantling of road blocks which has been identified as the most visible link of corruption between the Police and the citizens. Should this be successfully implemented and sustained even after the end of Arase’s tenure in office, Nigerians may eventually rid their memories off the N20,00 bribe syndrome associated with the Police.
I am however, more interested in some of the issues that directly impact on me and Nigerian women in general. It is said that time and fortune make a man, I believe also that a man’s decisions are shaped by the circumstances of his life. As an only male child of his mother, young Arase reportedly grew up in a large family surrounded by many females as sisters, aunties and cousins.
So he has no doubt seen them at their various highs and lows, watched them cry and laugh and has shared in their joys and pains and all these must have helped in shaping his life and his compassionate disposition towards the female gender. Faced with numerous cases of domestic violence and related issues while serving as Assistance Commissioner of Police at the FIB, he’d set up the Gender Unit in Lagos, to investigate and prosecute offenders, within the ambience of the law, positively using his position to ameliorate the plight of women in Nigeria.
The passing of the Child’s Right Act in Lagos State as well as several Bills aimed at promoting the rights of women and children have contributed immensely to the success of this Unit of the Police in Lagos. This must have motivated him to go the whole hog in one of his recent pronouncements that he will be replicating this Unit in all 36 States of the Federation and Abuja. Perhaps, the most innovative in his quest to ensure justice for victims of gender abuse is the procurement of a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, an international Non Governmental Organisation (NGO)to assist in the setting up of a modern Gender Data Centre at the Intelligence Unit of the Force.
According to IGP Arase, the unit will be responsible for coordinating intelligence relating to gender crimes, maintaining an electronic data base of gender and youth crimes, interfacing with NGOs concerned with gender and youth affairs with a view to collaborating for mutual benefits and to develop institutional capacity to investigate, prosecute and counsel abusers and victims as applicable. If successfully implemented, this will be a remarkable turn in the prosecution of gender related crimes in Nigeria.
All things work for good for those who believe, the Bible says and when God says it is time for something to happen, nothing can stop it from happening. One of the parting gifts of former President, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan was the signing into law, the Violence Against Persons (prohibition) Act 2015 as well as the Immigration Act 2015 earlier passed by the Senate on May 4. Surely, this to me is an indication that God has intervened in the situation of the Nigerian children and women. It is now up to us to embrace this opportunities with open hands.
With the new Act in place, combined with the giant strides of the Mr. Arase, many offenders of sexual and gender based violence, especially raping of little children which has now reached alarming proportions, may soon be a thing of the past, or at least, reduced to the barest minimum.
The Police will now be effectively equipped with the necessary laws to properly prosecute abusers and prevent others from committing these heinous crimes against vulnerable people. No longer will an abused Nigerian woman be turned back home to go and sort things out because it is a family matter. Already, officers are being specially trained on how to handle cases of these nature as well as acquaint them with the technicalities required for effective prosecution processes. For instance, in the case of rape, officers will be trained to international standards for the gathering and preservation of evidence, including the use of the rape kit, post trauma counselling as well as protection of witnesses, should the need arise.
It is sad to note that violence against women and girls remains one of the biggest violation of human rights across the globe and indeed, Nigeria. Unfortunately, it is fueled and sustained primarily due to cultural and traditional practices; as well as societal norms and perceptions which continue to undermine and devalue the worth of the girl child and women in general. Worldwide, up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16 years. In 2002 alone, about 150 million girls under 18 years suffered some form of abuse.
Today, over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides with Sub Saharan Africa owning 14.1 million of them. Women and girls constitute 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders annually and 79 percent of them are for sexual exploitations. Approximately 130 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting and more than 3 million of them also come from Africa annually.
Violence against women include and are not limited to battery, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry related violence, marital rape, traditional practices harmful to women, non spousal violence and violence related to exploitation, physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution, as well as physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetuated or condoned by the state wherever they occur, as listed in article two, sub-section a, b, and c of the United Nations declaration of 1993. Interestingly, the new Act in Nigeria, went further to list forceful ejection from home and husband abandonment of spouse, children and other dependants without sustenance as part of violence against women which are punishable by law. (hmm! men you better be warned).
Beyond all the laws and prosecution, there is no doubt that we will need a holistic approach to effectively tackle and significantly eliminate violence against women and girls.
This is because, for every single case, there is always a peculiar factor, different from the other to have warranted and sustained the abuse. Coupled with this are level of education, exposure of victim and perpetrator, economic and social class, and instructively, the lower, the worse. The culture of silence and stigmatisation also prevents the law from taking its course on perpetrators, while some abused persons don’t even know they are being abused and/or have accepted their situation as the norm.
While we cannot generalise that all men are abusive, there is a great need for men to be sympathetic to the course of the female gender. Like IGP Arase, all men are blessed with mothers, sisters, nieces and daughters and would not like to see their own, suffer any form of hardship from the opposite sex for the sake of being in a relationship. A couple of years back, a young friend of mine received her first beating from her husband during an argument. It has since been the only beating so far. She called home after the beating and narrated the incident to her family.
The older brother on hearing, decided to get his pound of flesh on the quick fisted brother-in-law. So, he invited him out for a drink where unsuspecting to the “Tyson”, two other guys were laying siege for him. He received the beating of his life, plus a warning that he would lose a vital part of his body, should he raise his hands against his wife again. You may call it breeding bad blood but it sure served the purpose as macho husband got the message loud and clear.
As I have stated in my many articles on curbing violence against women and girls, the ability of the girl child to fully develop and achieve her full potentials in life depends largely on the men she comes in contact with throughout the course of her life. We need more men like Arase, ready and determined to force that positive change our society needs. Do have a wonderful weekend!