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Lawyers Alert advocates for implementation of VAPP, ACJ laws

By Brenda Agba

A Non Governmental Organization (NGO) Lawyers Alert has in collaboration with her SGBV Justice Network (SJN) cluster members, launched the SGBV Campaign Hashtag “#IMPLEMENTSGBVLAWS” in Benue State.

Addressing members of the media during a press briefing held shortly before the launch, the Director Programs, Lawyers Alert, Barr Uneje Jerome, said the aim of the SGBV campaign hashtag launch was to galvanize support of partners including the media towards the activation/implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Laws (VAPPL) and Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJL) for speedy justice service delivery for Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) survivors.

“The VAPP and ACJ Laws exist to provide redress for survivors and victims of SGBV who are mostly the poor and vulnerable women and girls. These laws were passed to also hasten the process of justice, which today is long, slow, tortuous and expensive. Even though these laws are fully implemented, barely a good number of the public and citizenry of Nigeria are aware of them and their provision.

“For example, the ACJL prescribes six months as the period to commence and end criminal trials, which SGBV is one. But in practice, a case of SGBV when reported to authorities, takes an average of five to ten years for decisions. Where a perpetrator often goes free owing to lack of interest or witness due to length of time, an avenue to motivate other perpetrators.

“As such, there is need for all hands to be on deck to ensure these laws are effectively implemented in a manner that would serve and resolve SGBV cases,” Jerome explained.

“So, this SGBV Campaign Hashtag launch is a seed propagation by Lawyers Alert and her SJN Cluster members in partnership with Palladium under the USAID Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project, to commplement efforts and further build synergy with other SGBV and Human Rights actors/activists in project states who are truly pushing for justice service delivery for SGBV survivors. It is not enough to have the VAPP and ACJ Laws passed and domesticated with beautiful provisions,” she added.

According to the director programs, “under this project, Lawyers Alert and her seven cluster members (SJN) are working in six states including Bauchi, Benue, Enugu, Kaduna, Osun and the FCT. Given that these states have all passed and domesticated the VAPPL and ACJL, but have a common issue cutting across them which is the lack of adequate and effective implementation of the laws, including a state agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring implementation and oversight. Nonetheless, the FCT presents a different picture where the issue is strengthening and implementation.”

Jerome, who expressed regret that Nigeria is a Federation that swiftly signs up to charters and treaties without putting structures in place to end violations or discriminations that such statutes address, however, expressed optimism that “with the launch of this SGBV Campaign Hashtag, advocacy via the developed campaigns hashtags will do well to galvanize support for the implementation of VAPP and ACJ Laws in Bauchi, Benue, Enugu, Kaduna, Osun and FCT towards speedy justice service delivery and resolution of SGBV cases.”

In their separate remarks, some of the SJN Cluster members, including the state Chairman of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Elizabeth Achagh, state Chairman Nigeria League of Women Voters (NILOWV), Barr Irene Awuna-Ikyegh, as well as Barr Solumtochuku Ozobulu of Lawyers Alert all described the campaign as a welcome development, saying the VAPP and ACJ Laws if properly implemented, will go a long way in bringing to the barest minimum, issues of violence and abuse.

A major highlight of the campaign launch was a sensitisation rally during which members of Lawyers Alert and its Cluster members which includes Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWD), went round parts of Makurdi, the state capital.

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