…Culprits Will Get Heaviest Punishment Possible, Says Attorney-General
By Benjamin Omoike
It has been revealed that the number of domestic and sexual violence cases attended to by the Lagos State Government under the Administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu between May 2019 and August 2021, has hit over 10,007.
The government, through the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), as at August 26, 2021, had responded to 10,007 cases which involved both adults and children.
The breakdown of the cases in a report delivered by the State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, who doubles as the State Chairman, DSVRT, includes 4,150 domestic violence; 177 rape; 255 rape/sexual assault attempts; 246 sexual assault by penetration/threat; 877 others having to do with separation, not taking responsibilities of children, neglect, custody of the child, and non-GBV.
Also, there were 436 child abuse/physical assaults; 271 defilement cases; 13 defilement by minor to minor; 454 child labour, abduction, neglect/others; 148 sexual harassment/molestation cases.
According to the report, a total of 2,980 children experienced emotional abuse through exposure to domestic violence within the home for the period.
In 2021, the Team provided services to 10 Persons with Disabilities who were experiencing one form of Gender Based Violence (GBV), or the other, while it received reports of five victims of domestic violence who died.
According to report gathered, the cases of the death incidents were escalated to the Police as well as the Chief Coroner of Lagos State for a coroners inquest to be conducted with a view to ascertaining the cause of death, the outcome of which the State believes would strengthen prosecution, as three of the cases were undergoing same, while the remaining two suspects were currently on the run.
In the period under review, the State’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions secured over 365 convictions for various sexual offences, including rape, defilement, and sexual assault by penetration.
In a media parley to commemorate the Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness month, September, 2021, the Lagos State Attorney-General, Onigbanjo, SAN, said the vision and activities of DSVRT are in complete alignment with the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led Administration’s THEMES Agenda, particularly, the pillars of Health, Education, Security and Good Governance of the policy thrust.
Onigbanjo while stating that by virtue of the Teams various initiatives as well as the zero-tolerance declared in the State, there has been a steady increase of formal reportage of cases, disclosed that since May 2019, the Team began to attend to an average of 150 new cases monthly.
Hinting that the State have also witnessed an increase in reporting of cases from other States, mostly from Ogun and Oyo State, he said: “In the past two years, a total of 526 cases occurred outside Lagos. Such cases are promptly referred to the relevant agencies in their respective States.”
According to the Attorney-General, some of the children who have been attended to have been taken through counselling programmes to ensure they were able to psychologically deal with the events they have witnessed without it having a permanent and negative impact on them.
“In view of DSVRT’s mandate to implement the Executive Order on Safeguarding and Child Protection, all reports of Child Protection Policy contravention in schools were duly responded to. From May 2019 till date, the attention of DSVRT, Office of Education Quality Assurance as well as Department of School Social Work of the Ministry of Youth and Social Development has been drawn to incidents of Child Abuse in 37 schools,” he said.
He added that: “All erring schools were investigated by the Office of Education Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Education. All the sexual violence related cases are being prosecuted by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, judgment has been secured in 2 of the cases.”
He further disclosed that the Office of the Public Defender, Lagos Public Interest Law Partnership (LPILP), as well as the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), provided free legal representation to 188 survivors of domestic violence, ranging from judicial separation, divorce, custody of children, mediation and settlement.
He added that as regards provision of shelter for survivors, the State’s Ministry of Youth & Social Development, as well as strategic partner Non-Governmental Organisations, have played key roles in ensuring rescued survivors were evacuated to safer environments for shelter.
“All the survivors of sexual assault received medical attention from Comprehensive Primary Health Care Centres, General Hospitals and Sexual Assault Referral Centres like Mirabel Centre, Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) as well as Idera Centre,” he said.
He mentioned that this year, in a bid to further leverage on technology whilst responding to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), DSVRT with support from the Joint EU Funded Spotlight Initiative, launched the Gender Based Violence Virtual Referral and Response Service which provides uninterrupted access to GBV services.
“From January till date, the virtual system has provided legal, psychosocial, referral as well as emergency services to 841 adults and 105 children; a total of 946 cases,” he said.
Other efforts of the team within the period under review include the launch of E-training platform on Safeguarding & Child Protection with over 10,000 subscribers; introduction of Safer Recruitment procedures for Teachers in Lagos State; Development of a Unified Response Protocol and Referral Pathway (URPRP), in partnership with the European Union Spotlight Initiative to outline a Statewide, unified, consistent response to cases of domestic and sexual violence and provision of psychosocial support, legal support, enforcement, and other special services.
Others were the Kings Club Project: Second Phase; Education District 2 to promote positive masculinity; launch of Holistic Management system (Psychosocial Support) at health facilities to ensure that survivors are able to access holistic care and support.
Also were strengthening capacity of private hospitals to provide sexual assault management services to survivors; upgrade of five additional family support units in Lagos State; ongoing community engagement to promote the awareness of the establishment of the DSVRT Virtual Referral Response Services; launch of Domestic and Sexual Violence Case Management System to manage cases of sexual and gender based Violence in the State.
The Attorney-General mentioned that the State in its zero-tolerance for sexual and domestic violence will stop at nothing to prosecute the perpetrators with the weightyest punishment possible.
“We always ensure that they get the heaviest punishment possible,” mentioning that defilers of children do not “belong to our society.”
Since 2015, the State Government had through DSVRT commemorated the Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Month, which has traditionally been in the month of September, to coincide with the month the Team was Established in 2014.
According to the Attorney-General, activities set for the this year’s awareness will be exceptional with the theme “Institutionalizing Our Reforms.”
According to Onigbanjo, the Team have slated activities which include the launch of the #TurnAlausaPurple Campaign designed to involve officers of the State’s public service during the Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Month.
Other activities include community engagement with town hall meetings on domestic and sexual violence; safeguarding and child protection day; as well as commendation night to celebrate officers and individuals who have distinguished themselves in the fight against sexual and gender based violence.