One of the assigned key functions of the Legislative arm of government is to make Law that guarantees good governance, Law and Order in society, and such Laws must provide for sanctions to punish offenders so as to serve as deterrent to others.
At the state level, the House of Assembly consist of all elected law makers representing each constituency. They in turn elect a Speaker who becomes the head of the legislative arm of government, and in the state hierarchy stands out as the number three citizen, after the Governor and his deputy in that order.
In Delta State, the House of Assembly is under the leadership of Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, an astute politician, a trusted key player in our democratic process, well versed in party politics and legislative matters haven undergone series of training and retraining within and outside the shores of Nigeria.
The human capacity building programmes embarked upon by Mr. Speaker and his honourable colleagues in the House, is no doubt paying off substantially, judging from the series of quality Bills that have been signed into Law by the platinum governor of Delta State, His Excellency Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa. The synergy between the executive and the legislature, while sustaining their independent status, is highly commendable. It has enhanced quality delivery of dividends of democracy for all Deltans.
One of such star Bills was presented to the governor on Wednesday October 7, 2020; cited as Violence Against Persons Law , 2020; to tackle and eliminate violence in public and private Life; prohibit all forms of violence against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and for punishment of offenders; and other matters connected there with.
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Chief Oborevwori, while presenting the Bill for the Governor’s Ascent, enumerated the advantages of the Bill, saying that;
1. It provides for the Protection for victims of domestic violence and also seeks to punish the perpetrators of such crimes.
2. It provides for adequate programmes and care for victims of domestic violence, ensures the rehabilitation and recovery of such victims in the society.
3. It seeks to provide for necessary measures with a view to stopping persons from committing crimes related to domestic violence.
4. Makes provision for Law enforcement officers to effectively carry out their responsibilities in relation to domestic violence by letting victims know their rights.
5. Prohibits traditional harmful practices, widowhood maltreatment, female circumcision and genital mutilation.
6. It provides for enforcement of court orders by Law enforcement officers, state institutions and other relevant agencies in the State.
7. Prohibits Indecent dressing which is seen as one of the major cause of rape, and adequately addressed.
8. Seeks to reduce, if not totally, eradicate violence in Public and Private life, thereby providing maximum protection, cost-effective corrective measures/remedies for victims of violence and punishment for offenders, etcetera.
“Your Excellency, there are several other Clauses that deals with Violence against Persons with the attendant punishments such as forceful eviction from home, Economic abuse, stalking, emotional or verbal psychological abuse, abandonment of children, spouse and other dependents without means of sustenance. Attack with harmful substance and spousal battery.
“The Bill therefore covers a whole lot of issues that affects the human society today and geared toward creating an atmosphere for peaceful co-existence, harmonious and cordial relationship in the management of human life,” Mr Speaker assured.
Gov Okowa, said he was highly elated and satisfied with the overall intent of the Bill, especially that it seeks to promote peaceful coexistence, and prohibits all sorts of violence and indecent dressing modes and codes among women, girls and ladies in our social milieu. The governor subsequently signed the Bill into Law and made the following remarks;
“This law sought to eliminate violence in private and public life and to prohibit all forms of violence against persons and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment against offenders.
“The law is very important to all families and to the government because it would ensure the protection of women, girls, children and men.
“We realise that to have a decent society such laws must be in place and I believe that this will ensure greater peace and harmony in the home and in the public place.
“Beyond this, it will enable us to live in peace and live like human beings we were created to be, because many times the instincts in man tend to go against the laws of peace.
“By the grace of God, this law will provide enough punishment for all offenders. I read through it and I am quite pleased with the punishments that have been spelt out in the law for people who will be offenders and I urge all Deltans to find time to go through it so that they will be guided accordingly.
“The punishments are real and severe and I hope and pray that all Deltans and all those living in Delta State will conduct themselves in such a manner that will not go on the wrong side of the law,” he said.
Part I, of the Law listed offences to include the following; Rape, indecent assault, inflicting physical injury on another, wilfully placing a person in fear of injury, coercion, prohibition of female circumcision or genital mutilation, frustrating investigation, wilfully making false statements, forceful eviction from home, depriving a person of liberty, and damage to property with the intent to cause distress.
Other offences listed under Part 1 are; economic abuse, forced isolation or separation from family and friends, emotional or verbal or psychological abuse, abandonment of children, spouse and other dependants without means of sustenance, stalking, intimidation, spousal battery, harmful traditional practices, attack with harmful substance, administering a substance with intent, political violence, political violence by officials of government agencies, incest, indecent exposure and embarrassing or humiliating acts.
Part II of the Law deals with the jurisdiction of the Court, Accredited service providers in Part III and Part IV listed final provisions to include; Dangerous sex offenders, child offenders, compensation for victims, supervisory authority, savings, transitional provisions and supervision.
The Law defined “Circumcision or Genital Mutilation” to mean; the cutting off of all or part of the external genital organs of a girl or woman for non-medical reasons, which now constitute an offence in Delta State.
“Victim” is defined in the Law to mean any person or persons, who, individually or collectively, has or have suffered harm, including; physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss, or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of this Law or the criminal Laws of Nigeria or f a State in Nigeria.
“Violence” is defined in the Law to mean any act or attempted act, which causes or may cause any person physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional or economic harm whether this occurs in private or public life, in peace time or in conflict situations.
“Political violence” as stated in the Law means any act or attempted act of violence perpetuated in the course of political activities, such as elections, and includes any of the following acts; thuggery, mugging, use of force to disrupt meetings, or the use of dangerous weapons that may cause bodily harm or injury.
“Spouse” in the Law means husband or wife as recognized under the Matrimonial Causes Act, MCA, Islamic Law and Customary Law.
“Court” means the High Court or Magistrate Courts in Delta State, while trials under the Law shall be by summary trials at the High Court and the Magistrates’ Courts. The High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction with respect to the offence of rape. Sanctions or punishments for all offences contained in the Law shall attract terms of imprisonments or fine, or both.
Section 35 (1) of the Law, listed the “Duties and powers of Police Officer relating to incidents of violence” and it stated that a police officer at the scene of an incident of violence or to whom a report of violence has been made, shall have the duty to, and as soon as is reasonably possible: (a) assist a victim to file a complaint regarding the violence; (b) provide or arrange safe transport for the victim to an alternative residence, safe place or shelter where such is required; (c) provide or arrange transportation for the victim to the nearest hospital or medical facility for treatment of injuries where such treatment is needed; (d) explain to the victim his or her rights to protection against violence and the remedies available to him or her under this Law; (e) explain to the victim that he or she has the right to lodge a criminal complaint in addition to any remedy provided under this Law; and (f) accompany the victim to victim’s residence to collect his or her personal belongings.
(2) A Police Officer may, without an order from the Court or a Warrant of Arrest, arrest any person; (a) whom he or she suspects upon reasonable grounds to have committed any of the offences under Part I of this Law.
(3) A Police Officer in carrying out his or her duties under this Law shall have the powers to: (a) remove or supervise the removal of a person excluded from a shared residence where the court has issued such an order under this Law; (b) remove or supervise the removal of any dangerous weapon used to commit an act of violence as contemplated in this Law; (c) collect and store fingerprints including the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) of accused and convicted offenders; and (d) perform any other act considered necessary in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the victim.
Thus, it is now an offence against the state for any citizen, not withstanding his or her status in society to deploy act of violence, be it political violence or domestic violence
against spouse or any citizen in public and private life; house maid, against girl friend or woman friend, boy friend or man friend, against employees or employers, against child, children or against parents or against students or teachers; encompassing the totality of all categories of persons in Delta State.
The Law is a positive response by the legislature to eliminate all sorts of violence and to guarantee peaceful coexistence in public and private life in the state; eliminate indecent dressing in women and girls identified as one of the key reasons for increasing rates of rape in our states and country.
It follows that the law enforcement agents are by this Law empowered to arrest girls, ladies and women who knowingly and intentionally dress to seduce or attract unmerited attention, calculated to cause social nuisance in any part of the state, across the three senatorial districts and in the entire twenty five (25) local government areas in the state.
By the provisions of the Law, it is now an offence against the state for parents to subject their girl child to circumcision and genital mutilation; all of these are classified as violence against citizens of this state. Maltreatment of Widows, the aged and persons in public and private life is now highly prohibited under this Law.
By this Law, citizens are to report cases of violence to the nearest police station across the state, law enforcement agents on special or general duty, law officers and Justice of the Peace in their communities; for profiling, issuance of Warrants of Arrest, Application and Issuance of Protection Orders by the Courts (Magistrate and High Courts), arrest and prosecution of offenders, irrespective of status and position in public and private sectors, and such case or cases shall be pursued until justice is served in the right dose and measures.
This is certainly a strong signal and wake up call for wife beaters, husband beaters, political thugs, violent law enforcement agents who undermine the integrity and dignity of the human person in the discharge of their assigned responsibilities.
It is the law that no law enforcement agent is permitted to assault or inflict inhuman treatment on any suspect or accused persons. Police brutality is again prohibited under this Law, and deviants, recalcitrants and violators shall face severe punishments, ranging from fine to imprisonment or both with hard labour depending on the degree of offence so committed as may be handed down by the Courts after adjudication.
Any citizen or law enforcement agent caught violating any section or provisions of this Law shall be apprehended and/or arrested and made to face lawful prosecution in a Court of competent jurisdiction.
It is hoped that this Law will restore sanity and promote peaceful coexistence as intended.
One must not fail to commend the patriotic spirit of the governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, for signing the Bill into Law without reservation.
Bravo to Mr. Speaker, Chief Sheriff Oborwvwori, the House Leadership and honourable members for their frantic efforts to restore sanity to our state and society, through this all important Law.