By Angela Atabo
Yiaga Africa, has urged the National Assembly to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill within the shortest possible time.
The Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Ms Cynthia Mbamalu, at a Stakeholders Workshop to Review Legislation on Women and Girls Rights in Nigeria on Wednesday in Abuja said the passage of the bill would guarantee more protection and inclusion for women and girls.
Mbamalu said that Nigeria recorded high rate of sexual gender based violence in 2020 as reports indicated that many girls, babies and women were sexually abused.
She said that the passage of the bill was necessary because the current legal framework in the country was weak and not sufficiently enforced and implemented.
She said that the national outcry for a State of Emergency on Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) led to the adoption of Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law in states like Adamawa recently.
“We need states to actually give priority to legislation that enforces and protects the rights of children in Nigeria.
“Beyond having the laws is the question of enforcement, implementation is the question of justice, but the essence of this law is to ensure the survivals of violence actually access justice in due time.
“This conversation supported by the spotlight Initiative is to first bring us as stakeholders to the table to look at the existing law, the VAPP Act, to interact with actors and non-state actors.
“It is time to build support to ensure that the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill currently before the Senate is finally passed by the 9th Assembly.
According to Mbamalu ,National Assembly will resume on Sept.14,so one of the considerations of the Senate should be the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill.
“This is because Nigeria can no longer take the last position within the continent on addressing issues on gender equality and the rights of women and girls,’’ she said.
Mbamalu called on President Muhammadu Buhari to speedily assent to the bill once it was passed by the 9th Assembly, as part of the legacy he would leave behind because of its strategic importance.
She expressed hope that before the next general elections, progress would have been made on the amendment of the Constitution to ensure protection and guarantee on the rights of the women as well as the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill.
Mbamalu said that the workshop was aimed at ensuring that the VAPP law was domesticated at state levels and the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill.
Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, represented by Illiyasu Omar ,an Assistant Director in the ministry commended Yiaga Africa for the initiative .
Tallen reiterated the ministry’s commitment for partnership to tackle the menace of SGBV in Nigeria.
VAPP Coordinator, FCT,Dr Ene Ede, said that she was not happy that some states were yet to domesticate the VAPP Act.
“It is not that it is a foreign law, it is our own law,just to adopt, what is the problem with that?
“ We have yellow colour indicating that seven states that have passed the bill, but their governors have held their assent to themselves,’’ he said
The Assistant Chief Legal Officer, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Ms Mariam Kadiri, said the commission had set up a special panel to investigate cases of SGBV in Nigeria.
She said that the panel consisted of experts in women and gender based violence adding that they were to investigate cases and make appropriate recommendations to government.(NAN)