Nigeria’s legislature on Wednesday advocated for stricter penalties for perpetrators of sexual assault, including “chopping off the genitals” of convicted rapists, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported on Thursday.
The number of sexual violence cases reported across Nigeria has surged in recent weeks. Lawmakers convened at the national assembly in the capital, Abuja, on Wednesday to discuss solutions for the crisis while receiving a delegation of Nigeria’s Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence.
Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, “advocated for severe punishment for rapists as a way of fighting the rising cases” that could involve “chopping off the genitals” of convicted rapists, the Premium Times noted.
Nigeria documented 717 rape cases and 7,170 unreported rapes across Nigeria within the past five months, according to the report.
“The statistics are very alarming on the issue of rape. You hear figures in terms of rape and gender-based violence that are mind-boggling. It’s only a deprived mind that can engage in rape. I consider the issue of rape as a pandemic. In my estimation, it’s a pandemic,” Gbajabiamila said.
“Nigerian laws related to rape are weak, hence they would not deter people from engaging in the act,” he added.
“The penalty for rape in Nigeria is up to 14 years in prison, but I have seen a judge sentence someone to just four years, with two years suspended, because he was young and had a life in front of him,” Wanda Ebe, a Nigerian social worker who helps survivors of sexual abuse, told the BBC last month.
“No one knows exactly how many rapes take place in the West African state annually. The official Nigeria Bureau of Statistics said more than 2,200 cases of rape and indecent assault were reported in 2017. But experts say the true number of rapes is likely to be much higher,” the BBC reported on June 5.
Recently passed laws have “broadened the scope under which sexual offenses can be penalized in Nigeria, making it easier to try suspects,” though the majority of Nigerian states have failed to implement the new laws, according to the report.
“Most states in [majority Muslim] northern Nigeria practice the sharia [Islamic law] system of justice that would run at variance with the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act [one of the new laws],” lawyer Okani Emmanuel told the BBC. “In the north, it’s the religion, in the south it is down to the cultural impediments where they have some widowhood practices that run contrary to the law,” he explained.
“Any case [in Nigeria] is likely to take years to prosecute,” the BBC wrote of the Nigerian legal system’s “shortcomings.” The national police force stands “accused of not being thorough in its investigations, [and] also discourages victims [of sexual assault] from approaching the courts for justice.”
On Wednesday, Aisha-Ummi El-Rufai, the wife of a Nigerian state governor, addressed Speaker of the House Gbajabiamila over the “rising cases of rape in the country” calling the development “alarming” and saying “urgent action” needed to be taken, the Premium Times reported.
El-Rufai said Nigeria’s current situation was one in which “our women are raped to death and butchered even in churches and mosques where God is worshipped.”
On May 27, a Christian university student was brutally raped and bludgeoned to death by a group of men while studying alone in a church in Benin City, Breitbart News reported. Uwaila Vera Omozuwa, 22, had gone to the local Redeemed Christian Church of God, of which she was a member, to read “in preparation for a possible reopening of school” following coronavirus lockdowns.
“We are all devastated by her death. She decided to do some private studies during the lockdown because the church was peaceful. She’s been taking the key from the parish pastor and returning it after her studies,” Olaitan Olubiyi, a spokesman for the church, said.
“But that day she didn’t return it and the night guard who resumed duty found her in a pool of her own blood and half-naked in the church hall,” he said.
The guard found Omozuwa unconscious and rushed her to a hospital shortly after. She regained consciousness briefly in the hospital and was able to provide an account of the attack. According to Omozuwa, “she had been reading all alone in the church when she was ambushed by unknown men, who beat, raped, and hit her head with a fire extinguisher.”
Omozuwa died from her injuries on May 30, according to the report. On June 2, local media reported that Nigerian police had arrested one suspect in Omozuwa’s rape and murder based on a fingerprint found on the fire extinguisher used to beat her.