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Obaseki wants prosecutors, judges to prioritize sexual offender cases

Edo State Government on Wednesday appealed to prosecutors and judges to prioritize cases of sexual offenders and violence against women and girls in the State.

The State Governor, Godwin Obaseki , made the call at the launch of the Edo State Sexual Assault Referral Centre and the Edo State Sexual Offenders Register in Benin City.

Obaseki named the centre Vivian centre to immortalize Vivian Ogu who in November 15, 2009 resisted to be raped and was subsequently killed by her attackers.

He opined that to reduce sexual assault and violence against women there must be stringent punishment for offenders.

“Unfortunately with technology today we should be able to undertake a lot of investigations, accelerate the pace of investigations so that we can persecute and get conviction for these offences.

“But unfortunately it is human beings that will still have to man whatever technology we have. So I am using this opportunity to appeal to our persecutors, appeal to the judges that they should prioritize cases that relate to sexual offenders.

“I also want to use this opportunity to plead because if you look at the data and statistics today of the number of cases we had 70 percent of those cases are under investigations.

“We will like to have more convictions so that it can send a very strong message that we will not tolerate cases of sexual offenders in Edo State particularly rape”,he said.

Obaseki, who assured that his administration will continue to provide financial support to the centre, however, added that it will not be treated exclusively as a government agency.

“I also want to use this opportunity to advice that even though that this center is a brain child of government for sustainability we should put in place governance structure with other stakeholders to ensure that it is properly managed and sustained.

“We will like to see more CSOS, NGOs participate to support this centre so that should in case it need to be expanded, in case more research need to be done it is opened for such uses.

While also assuring that government will continue to do its bit to ensure that cases like crimes against women and children are reduced in the state, he noted that 70 percent of such cases are under investigated.

Earlier, the State Commissioner for Justice, Yinka Omorogbe, said the centre had between June and August recorded a total of 270 assaulted persons.

Omorogbe, said the Rule of Law Advisory Team in the office of the Vice President of Nigeria (ROLAT) in partnership with the Rule of Law and Anti- Corruption (ROLAC) programme in January 2019 inaugurated the Edo State Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response Team to put measure in place to ensure that survivors of gender based violence are given all the necessary care and support needed.

She added that the development resulted to the emergency of the Vivian centre which is the first Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

She further said that the launch of the Edo State Sexual Offender Register (SOR) which is the third state sexual offender register in the country was the first to be linked to the National Sexual Offender Directory.

In her goodwill message, Melissa Omene, Edo State Programme Coordinator, the Rule of Law and Anti- Corruption (ROLAC) programme, expressed hope that with the launch of the centre, other vulnerable persons will have access to the best health, social and legal services through the SARC and the service provider register.

“It is our hope that with this launch, there will be no hiding place in Edo State for sex offenders through the naming and shaming of perpetuators on the sexual offender register.

“In some foreign jurisdictions, registered sex offenders are subject to additional restrictions in areas such as employment, housing, social media and more.

“While this is not currently the case in Nigeria. We hope that the registers will provide the general public with the necessary information to put in place their own protective measures, such as ensuring that anyone applying for work as a teacher or other position of power among vulnerable groups does not have a history of rape or sexual violence”,he added.

Omene, who said ROLAC programme is funded by the European Union and implemented by the British Council, has helped state government across Nigeria to establish or support 22 SARCs which have tended to the needs of 13, 075 clients as at June 2020 and have resulted in increased convictions.

She also said the programme supported the National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to establish the Sexual Offender and Service Provider Database which was launched earlier in the year.

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