The governors of Nigeria’s 36 states have resolved to declare a state of emergency on rape following a spate of sexual violence against women, according to the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF).
Following its meeting this week, the Forum is calling on all states to set up a sex offenders register and to sign on to two federal laws which punish rape and violence against women and children.
The Forum has also invited the country’s police heads to brief the governors on efforts they are making to tackle sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria, NGF chair Kayode Fayemi said in the statement.
The forum exists to foster collaboration amongst the country’s Executive Governors on matters of public policy and to promote good governance, it says on its website.
The announcement comes amid outrage from women groups calling for justice following the brutal rape of two female students amid a string of violent incidents against several women in the country in recent weeks.
University student Uwaila Vera Omozuwa died a few days after she was attacked in a church in Benin city on May 27.
Her family told CNN she was raped and police said her attackers hit her with a fire extinguisher during the assault.
Another college student Barakat Bello was raped and killed during an robbery attack in her home in Ibadan on June 1, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
Across the country, Nigerians have taken to the streets to demand urgent action on rape and justice for victims while Amnesty called on the Nigerian government to declare a “national crisis” on rape.
‘Violence against women is a national crisis’
On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated his government’s commitment to fighting gender-based violence and assured citizens that the police were working to ensure justice in recent cases.
“I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape, especially of very young girls. The police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice,” Buhari said in a televised Democracy Day address to the nation on Friday.”
“I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender-Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation,” he added.
Violence against women is a daily reality in Nigeria, where 25% of girls have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18, compared with 10% of boys, according to a 2014 UNICEF study.
Amnesty’s Osai Ojigho told CNN that authorities need a zero-tolerance approach to end the violence targeted at women.
“Violence against women is a national crisis in Nigeria. There are cases from homes, schools, places of worship, police cells, displacement camps. Nowhere is safe or immune to this violent crime against women,” Ojigho said, adding that authorities need to strengthen law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases.
Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police Mohammadu Adamu held meetings with heads of the country’s Human Rights Commission and anti-trafficking agency on Thursday to map out a “common front” against rape, human trafficking, and sexual violence, he said.
Adamu described rape as a menace and said the force was examining its gender response unit to speed up investigations into those cases, including deploying more detectives to its gender desk.