Immediate Press Statement
A joint statement issued by Alliances for Africa (AfA) in collaboration with the Imo State Committee on Ending Violence against Women and Girls (ISCEVAWG); a multisectoral committee comprising of state and non-state actors, including the Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable group, mandated to improve survivors access to essential services through the enactment of the Imo State VAPP Bill.
Background and Journey So Far:
The drive to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) in Imo State has been a long struggle that has been fought and won.
Before the adoption of the VAPP legislation as a National Act in 2015, Imo, under the administration of His Excellency, Rochas Okorocha had in 2012 signed the VAPP Bill into law, under the 7th House of the State House of Assembly. However, the law was repealed by the state legislature due to controversies trailing its passage into law. Divergent reactions and uproar from the church and opposition created an impression that the Bill was to induce abortion law into the system.
The crux of the matter that promoted antagonists to kick against the law, according to a sector was the alleged provision for abortion of pregnancies emanating from rape and incest. Due to the public outcry and its attendant implications on his political career, the law was halted.
The bill was later re-introduced into the 9th House after the controversial part of the bill was removed, by the Chairman House Committee on Gender, and Member Representing, Njaba State Constituency, Amb. Uju Onwudiwe in 2019 and was publicly heard, December 7, 2020, despite bottlenecks and resistance. Cross learning program was conducted for a consultant to review provisions of the VAPP bill, using Lagos and Ekiti gender-based violence framework.
Also, Alliances for Africa, (AfA) in partnership with the Imo state Committee on Ending Violence against Women and Girls (ISCEVAWG) and the Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable group, was at the fore, demanding the speedy enactment and enforcement of the VAPP bill in Imo state through advocacies, awareness creation, multi-stakeholder engagements, media sensitizations and briefings and engaged several organizations including, Civil society organizations, Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies to mobilize support for the adoption and domestication of the VAPP.
As with every legislation, the bill was debated, adopted, amendments made and subsequently passed third reading in the State House of Assembly on the 7th July, 2021 awaiting the governor’s assent, which eventually became a reality on the 15th of December, 2021.
What the VAPP Seeks to achieve and Enforcement
The Violence Against Persons’ Prohibition (VAPP) Act, is the widely accepted piece of law that transcends the penal and criminal code in guaranteeing safety for survivors of violence, due to its expansion of the definition of rape and provisions for access to essential services including, legal, medical and pyscho-social support.
The Imo state VAPP Act having been reviewed to integrate current trends and patterns of violence as well as provisions for access to essential services for survivors, timeline for administration of justice, a regulatory agency and the roles of same, amongst others is currently noted to be the most comprehensive of all in Nigeria.
When fully implemented, the VAPP Act will address all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, physical violence, emotional violence, domestic violence and harmful cultural practices perpetrated by state and non-state actors, and provide full legal protection, adequate remedies and maximum punishment for offenders.
The Act will also ensure accountability on its stakeholders when fully enforced, including implementing agency, other ministries, departments and agencies, law enforcement agencies, civil society organizations and all citizens.
Immediate Call for Action:
We implore the state Governor to urgently:
- Create and allocate budget towards the full enforcement and implementation of the VAPP Act.
- Establish the Violence Against Person’s Agency, led by an active multi-sectoral action committee that will monitor and supervise the full implementation of the provisions of the VAPP, including a Sexual Assault Referral Center (SARC), that will render services to aid the reintegration of survivors into the society.
- Leverage on the existing unutilized state structures to establish a Shelter for safeguarding survivors from abusers.
- To create an active state GBV rapid response team that will see to the provision of immediate survivor centered services.
We call on the Imo State Government to consider the aforementioned recommendations as a step towards creating a violence-free Imo for all her citizens.
We are elated about this major milestone and appreciate in no small measure our partners including Education as Vaccine (EVA), the United Nations Trust Fund on Ending Violence Against Women, (UNTF-EVAWG), and other partners for their relentless efforts and remarkable contributions towards the passage and assent of the Imo State VAPP Bill. This is a win for us all.
We thank the Executive Governor of Imo State, His Excellency, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, and his amiable wife, Her Excellency, Chioma Uzodinma.
We also appreciate immensely, the Honorable member representing, Njaba State constituency, and Chief sponsor of the bill, Hon. Amb. Uju Onwudiwe who has not relented in following it up to the latter. To civil society organizations that has been on the fore, this feat is our win!
Executive Director, Alliances for Africa
Imo state Committee on Ending Violence against Women and Girls