The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says penalties for rape in Nigeria are weak and advocates for stiffer penalties to deter others.
Gbajabiamila said this on Wednesday when he granted audience to a delegation of the Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence, led by the Wife of the Kaduna State Governor, Hajiya Aisha El-Rufai, in Abuja.
In a statement signed by Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the speaker, Gbajabiamila said the statistics on rape cases in Nigeria “is mind-boggling.
“Some of our laws on rape are old and need review, like many of our laws. Some of the penalties need to be stiffer.
“The penalties need to deter, but they can not deter because they are weak. We need to look at all these things holistically.”
The speaker also said both the leaders and the citizens in the country must rise against rape.
Describing the incidence of rape in the country as a pandemic, he said every stratum of the society, including the media, has a role to play in the fight against the pandemic.
According to Gbajabiamila, Nigerians, especially those that hold religious views on rape, need adequate education and awareness.
He said: “Whilst I see so many women here with you, this is a fight not just for women. I can see some few men too, but this is a fight for all.
“Let a subliminal message be sent that even though over 95 per cent of the victims are women, let it be that it is we, the men, that are championing your course.
“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.”
Gbajabiamila said it was only a deprived mind that could engage in rape.
He added: “In my estimation, it is a pandemic. The issue of rape should be treated the way COVID-19 is treated. How do we treat a pandemic?
“There has to be a frontal onslaught. The media has a role to play. It should be in the front line. There is a lot of work to be done from different angles.
“In a pandemic, you look for cure. No sane man would have sexual intercourse with a three month old baby. The idea alone is sickening.”
The speaker also said he believed a lot of rape cases were not reported as victims felt ashamed to speak out.
He called on them to always come forward and speak up as that was the only way more cases would be brought to public attention.
Gbajabiamila said: “As Muslims, we should educate our people that religion is about perception, but there can only be one truth. It is all about education and awareness.
“We will continue to push hard and bring in our scholars so that we all can be enlightened for the sake of humanity.”
With regards to financing, the speaker urged the movement to make a presentation to see what could be done in the 2021 budget to be presented to the National Assembly in September.
Earlier, El-Rufai drew the speaker’s attention to the rising cases of rape in the country, saying it was becoming alarming and that urgent action needed to be taken.
According to her, the current trend is a situation where women are raped to death and butchered even in churches and mosques where God is worshipped.
She said the group visited the speaker to seek his help, ask questions, seek justice and challenge the status quo, adding that statistics had shown that 717 reported rape cases and 7,170 unreported ones occurred in Nigeria within five months.
She said while more than 7,000 lives have been brutalised with some destroyed and others terminated, perpetrators of such heinous acts were not brought to justice as the laws appear to be lenient.
El-Rufai said as the number four citizen of the country the group wanted the speaker to be their link with the Federal Government.
She also said Gbajabiamila should help them with answers to their questions by spearheading the move to address the problem through lawmaking and budgetary allocation.
She requested the speaker to help them to propose and insist on laws for better result-focused policies in government and assist them to have access to state houses of assembly, many of which had yet to adopt laws that address rape.