Violence against Persons[Prohibition] Act 2015: The Enforceability Impasse by Omo Stalina Ehi-Osifo


Abstract

The word “Violence” according to the English dictionary means (1) an action which causes destruction, pain or suffering, (2) it also means injustice, wrong, rape or violation1. According to Wikipedia, violence is the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse damage or destroy2. The World Health Organization defines violence as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened3 or actual, against oneself, another person or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal development or deprivation4.

There are different types of violence and they are;

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Psychological violence
  • Deprivation

Introduction

The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, (hereinafter referred to as the VAPP ACT) came into force on 25th May, 2015. The Act is comprised of 48 sections and 9th schedule consisting of six forms. The long title of the Act and the object of the VAPP Act is to eliminate violence in private and public life by providing maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders5.

However, the VAPP Act is restricted in its application to the Federal Capital Territory and 13 States, that have sensibly implemented the Act and passes it into law and made it enforceable in the States. The reason for the restriction to the States shall be discussed. It is hoped that very soon, the other States of the Federation will enact the Act into law as this has created an impasse in the country6.

Object

The object of this work is to show the following;

  1. The extent of protection conferred on persons by the VAPP Act,
  2. An attempt to expand the restricted jurisdiction created by the Act,
  3. The enforceability or otherwise of the VAPP Act and how it greatly affects the populace.

THE EXTENT OF THE VAPP ACT.

The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, was passed into law in 2015. The Act was a result of agitations for protection of persons against the different forms of violence. It was the need to protect citizens from violence such as those mentioned below that led to the enactment of the VAPP Act, 2015.

The extent of the VAPP Act is far reaching and wide, some of these prohibited acts include ; rape, female genital circumcision, acts of violence, offensive conduct, deprivation of liberty, damage to property with intent to cause distress, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, harmful widowhood practices, abandonment of spouse, children and other dependents without sustenance, stalking, intimidation, spousal battery, harmful traditional practices, attack with harmful substance, administering a substance with intent, political violence, indecent exposure, e.t.c7.

The Act affords access and better services for victims/survivors of violence, such as hotlines, shelters, legal advice, access to justice, counseling, police protection and comprehensive health services.

JURISDICTION AND ENFORCEABILITY OF THE VAPP ACT

Since 2015, only thirteen States and the FCT have adopted the VAPP Act out of Nigeria’s 36 States. The States are Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Benue, Cross River, Kaduna, FCT and Plateau States. The remaining 23 States have refused to adopt the Act. A common traend analysis of the Act showed that most States in the North-western States and North-eastern parts of the country are yet to legalize the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act. In response to the United Nations, the Federal Government claimed ignorance and lack of knowledge of emerging development within the sharia framework and jurisdiction that favor and support some of the issues the VAPP Act deals with.

The grey areas in the Penal Code are numerous and the Government has turned a blind eye to it. Gender based violence have had lots of setbacks due to loopholes in the laws that are supposed to protect victims. The enforceability of this law needs to be paramount due to the increased level of violence across the nation8.

Gender based violence and all other forms of violence cannot be tackled with laws that are unenforceable in 23 States in a Federation that has just 36 States. This trend by these States is appalling and abhorrent. If these States do not adopt the VAPP Act and make it a law in their States, the case of rape and other forms of violence would increase in their numbers in no distant time.

Although the country has opened a book on sexual offenders to shame and name rapists, this I must say is not enough. The Nigerian Governors under the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) declared a State of Emergency, on the 12th of June,2020 on gender based violence and any sexual form of violence, they called on all Government officials of all States to put in place a sex offenders register. The Nigerian Governors’ Forum also proposed that police authorities briefed Governors on the current efforts to curb rape and other gender based violence9.

The sex offenders book is a welcome development no doubt, but laws are the bedrock of any society, a society without laws would be nasty, brutish and short. If all states in Nigeria unanimously adopts the VAPP Act, violence in Nigeria would considerably drop and sex offenders and abusers would take a backseat if the measures is adequately meted out to offenders . Governors in the remaining 23 States that are yet to adopt the Acts should sit up and act fast before it’s too late.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The very first step to curb the menace of violence is domestication of enabling laws. Adequate laws will go a long way in reducing violence in all forms drastically.

The next step is the book on sexual offenders and predators, all States should take it seriously and make sure that their security agents, record each and every name of a violent sexual predator to bring the public into awareness and reduce the stigma on victims/survivors.

In 2007, Lagos State created a law to protect victims of domestic violence, the law was called Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law of Lagos State, Law No 15 2007, it was enacted as a response to the rising incidents of violence against women in Lagos State. I strongly recommend that other States follow suit and implement laws like that that can protect their people.

Another very important recommendation is to educate the populace on the VAPP Act and any other law that protect them against violent people, either violent emotionally, psychologically or physically. Rallies should be held by security agents and flyers should be shared to communities and individuals.

Rape and domestic abuse victims should not be stigmatized and made to feel like they are to blame, there should be an assurance by Governors and their legislatures by adopting the VAPP Act to make the victims more confident to report crimes done to them.

The adoption and enforceability of the VAPP Act by all the States of the federation would go a long way in fighting violent crime in Nigeria.

Footnotes

1 Wikitionary, Cc by – SA 3.0 licensed.

2 “ Violence”, Merriam Webster Dictionary (Retrieved 2019-01-31)

3 United States (1918).“US compiles Statutes (1918) Embracing the statuses of the United States of a general and permanent nature in force July 16 1918, with an Appendix covering Acts of June 14 to July 16,1918” Making of Modern Law: Primary sources,1763-1970: 1716

4 Knig et al “ World Report on violence and health Archived 2015-08-22 at the way back machine, World Health Organization,2002.

5 Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015

6 www.saferspaces.org.za, last accessed 5th, October 2020, 5:11pm

7 A critical Appraisal of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 by Prof. Anthony N. Nwazuoke (LL. B, LL.M, Ph. D) Faculty of Law, Ebonyi State University, Abakiliki.

8 IT’S NOT FREEDOM FOR WOMEN IN NIGERIA AS 23 STATES HOLD BACK SIGNING ON THE VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT 2015, by Aderemi Ojekunle, published June 15, 2020.

9 ALL NIGERIAN STATES DECLARE STATES OF EMERGENCY OVER RAPE AND GENDER- BASED VIOLENCE bay Akindare Okunola, June 16, 2020.




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Violence against Persons[Prohibition] Act 2015: The Enforceability Impasse by Omo Stalina Ehi-Osifo Violence against Persons[Prohibition] Act 2015: The Enforceability Impasse by Omo Stalina Ehi-Osifo Reviewed by Osigwe Omo-Ikirodah on October 12, 2020 Rating: 5

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