For the purpose of assisting law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes of sexual abuse and eliminate incidence of child molestation, the Lagos state government has perfected plans to establish sex offenders’ register in the state as the House of Assembly held a public hearing on ‘ a bill for a law to Establish the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency and Sex Offenders Register and for other Connected Purposes’ on Wednesday.
The public hearing which was held at Assembly Complex, Alausa, Ikeja, had in attendance, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs Cecilia Bolaji-Dada who represented the FirstLady, Dr Mrs Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, Commissioner for Education, Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, Mrs Sherifat Solebo who represented the Chief Judge of the state, Mr Kazeem Alogba, Hon. Tijani Suraju who represented the Wife of the Speaker of the House, Mrs Falilat Obasa and other dignitaries.
In his Keynote address, the Speaker of the House, Rt (Hon) Mudashiru Obasa, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, said domestic violence is on high in the society, saying that approach taking to eliminate the menace should be adjudged laudable.
He added that the victims most often had everlasting pains and agony inflicted on them, saying that gender based violence was counter productive and at variance with sanctity of life.
In her welcome address, the Chairman House Committee On Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), Hon. Mojisolaoluwa Alli-Macaulay said the proposed bill would create a one stop centre for victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence through the establishment of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency.
Alli-Macaulay added that the bill if passed into law would guarantee the protection and enforcement of rights of victims against domestic and sexual violence crimes in the state.
She stated “the essence of the Bill is to protect victims of sexual and gender based violence crimes from discrimination and stigmatization; ensure that victims of domestic and sexual violence crimes have access to medical, legal and counseling assistance”.
She added ” it also tends to establish a sex offender’s register in the state for the purpose of assisting law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes of a sexual nature, reduce and eventually eliminate incidence of child molestation, protect members of the society from sex offenders, as well as domestic and sexual violence crimes”.
” It is believed that this is indeed the best time to consolidate on our gains and create institutions to appropriately prevent and respond”, said Alli-Macaulay.
Dissecting the bill, the Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, said the bill is very sensitive because it is gender oriented.
Agunbiade said the bill has 33 sections in all and that the purpose of the Bill was to regulate the activities of sexual violence and restore sanity in various homes.
He added that section 3 of the Bill which deals with establishment of an agency that would ensure that the objectives of the law are realized.
According to him section 17 deals with establishment of sex offenders Register in Lagos State.
The Register shall bear the record of all sex convicts in Lagos State and shall be maintained by the domestic and sexual violence Agency.
applauded the State for the iniative but suggested that ‘victim’ in the Bill should be replaced with ‘survivor.’
She also advised that the Register should be displayed publicly, saying that is one of the ways to meet up with international standard.
Speaking on section 5 (2b), Titi Akosa from Center for 21st century Issues, opined that philanthropic gestures from public and private sectors should be separated.
She argued that the philanthropy of public and private sectors differ, saying conflict of interests should be avoided.
Alhaja Onitiri Kuye from Alimosho wanted sex offenders especially men should have their manhood not only castrated but should be cut off to avoid a repeat of such crime.
She also advised government to expedite action on quick dispensation of justice.
Mrs Onasanya Adeyosola called for protection of victims who are willing to voice out, saying threat to their lives should be adequately looked into.
The Vice Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA, Ikorodu Branch), Toun Adekoya, said the agency may face the challenges of compelling the culprit to appear before it, suggesting that the agency should sensitive the public on the implication of rape.
Adekoya suggested that funds should be allocated for police in carrying out sexual abuse investigation.
A physically challenged participant, Mr Babatunde Saliu ( Representative of the GM of LASODA), said that LASODA was not represented in the board and the response team, calling for the inclusion of physically challenged person in the structure so as to give them a sense of belonging in the body so they also suffer sexual abuse.
In the proposed law, there shall be a response team with a legal backing and having the teeth to bite as stated by the Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade.
Members of the response team according to section 14 (2) are; Divisional Police Officer(s) in the family support units of the police nominated or as directed by the Commissioner of police in the State.
Other members shall include, Director of Public Prosecutions, Director of the Office of the Public Defender, Director of the Direcotortate for Citizens’Rights, Director in charge of Women Affairs in the ministry of Women Affay and Poverty Alleviation, High Court Judge presiding over the family court in the State judiciary, Magistrate presiding over the family court , Officer in charge of Child protection in the ministry of youth and social development, Officer in charge of Reproductive Health and Nutrition in the ministry of health and in the primary health care board, Director in charge of co-currilar activities in the ministry of education, a representative of the Sexual Assault Referral Agencies in Lagos State, three Non-Governmental Organizations with at least ten years expertise in the field of sexual and gender based violence, the Executive Secretary of Lagos Public interest Law partnership and two representatives of the media to be determined by the Agency.
Also, section 17, stipulates that there is established Register to be known as the Lagos State Sex Offenders Register.