By Kunle Sanni
The study also said 640 arrests or 88.6 per cent of the total number of sexual and gender-based violence cases were recorded in four years.
At least 5,623 cases of gender-based violence were recorded within four years in Nigeria’s Northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, a report by the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) has said.
The incidents were recorded between January 2018 to July 2022, according to the report.
The three conflict-torn states have seen devastating attacks by Boko Haram terrorist group, over the years. Reported cases of rape in the camps for displaced persons have become an epidemic.
SARC’s National Team Leader, Muhammed Tabiu, said this during a two-day workshop on results and lessons of initiatives to address Sexual and Gender-Based in the three states held in Abuja on 20 October.
The event was in collaboration with The Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN) Programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the British Council.
“The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) and SARC Steering Committees compiled 5,623 incidents involving child abuse and other sexual and gender-based violence from January 2018 to July 2022 for the BAY (Borno, Adamawa, Yobe) states,” the report said.
The study also said that 640 arrests, or 88.6 per cent of the total number of SGBV incidents recorded, were made in the four years period.
In addition, it stated that 82 offenders had been charged, with eight convictions recorded across various courts in the three states.
According to the organisation, its data was collated through its units set up in hospitals, and offices of the police, NSCDC, and other security agencies, in response to reports of widespread SGBV cases across the three states.
Mr Tabiu, who is also a professor and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the initiative was developed to offer services for survivors and victims of gender-based violence.
According to him, it also led to the establishment of the Family Support Units FSUs in divisions and the Criminal Investigation Departments (CID) of the police.
He said the new police unit “responds to reports of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and other issues affecting families.”
Prosecution challenges, special courts
Mr Tabiu said although the states have recorded success in working with its respective ministry of justice and women’s affairs to bring perpetrators to book, “people do not like reporting rape cases because of the stigma and profiling and also the increased trauma of the victims.”
Bringing offenders to book through prosecution “is very challenging in the country with a lot of weaknesses,” the professor said, adding, however, that “a number of states have been taken by the programme to support and increase the level of conviction.”
The team leader also revealed that Adamawa and Yobe states now have specialised courts for the handling of rape cases, as the centre had pushed for.
“All three states have changed their law to provide for more punishment for rape and broaden the definition of rape cases,” he said. “And another intervention is advocating for courts to be designated to have specialised courts that would help in fast-tracking the prosecution of cases of rape.”
Nearly two-thirds of women in the north-east have experienced one or more forms of gender-based violence, Edward Kallon, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator said in a report published by the UN in 2019.
Saleh Samanja, the Commission for Justice and Attorney General Yobe state remarked that the state has established about six Sexual Referral Centres, that take care of the medical needs of victims of sexual assaults including rape.
He said the centres are located across the various local governments in the states. “The impacts are being felted generally by the society”
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development Adamawa State, Saso-Benson Ali, said cases of sexual and gender-based violence remained on the rise, despite the ministry’s efforts to reduce it.
She said the state has no records of successful convictions involving sexual violence.
She, however, lauded the police and other security agencies for their efforts towards ensuring that violators are brought to justice.