During the 12th anniversary of Ms Funmi Iyanda’s “Change A Life Programme,”which held at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Network centre on Victoria Island; Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola stated that domestic violence needs more attention. He further explained the need for state police to shift focus from typical social vices such as kidnapping and armed robbery, to tackling grievous issues like domestic violence on women and children. Fashola also highlighted that rape cases are not usually reported by victims, as police lack adequate investigative mechanisms and legal provisions to apprehend/prosecute rapists. This and many more he said his administration will focus on for the new year. Read more after the cut.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola has restated the need for state police.
Fashola spoke during the January 1st live television show and 12th anniversary of Ms Funmi Iyanda’s Change-A-Life programme at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Network Centre on Victoria Island, Lagos.
He said the police are too busy fighting violent crimes, such as kidnapping, armed robbery and assassinations, to tackle domestic violence and the abuse of women and children, which are regarded as lesser crimes, but are actually grievous crimes.
Fashola said the capacity to enforce laws protecting the vulnerable was lacking, adding: “The truth is that the capacity of our law enforcement agents is overstretched. If the police, who should ordinarily be in charge of apprehending, investigating and giving evidence are busy chasing kidnappers and more violent crime situations, where lies the capacity to deal with the processes of prosecution.
“This is one of the arguments I have made that if we really want to protect women, we must look again at the prospect of state police. Even if the only responsibility we give the state police is the protection of women and dealing with domestic violence, and we leave the federal police to deal with other violent crimes, it would be a huge step forward.”
The governor said although Lagos State has made laws against domestic violence and criminalised certain acts, the problem remained the enforcement of the laws.
He said: “One of the responsibilities the police have in the law protecting women against domestic violence is to file a complaint on behalf of the victim before a court and to seek a restraining order against the respondent, who is the aggressor, but how many of those cases really get to court?”
Fashola said rape and domestic violence are not peculiar to Nigeria, adding that there are many impediments to the prosecution of rape cases. He said often times, rape victims are reluctant to report the crime to the police because of the stigmatisation it may expose them to.
Fashola said: “Rape has been traditionally a very difficult case to prove, often because of the indignity the rape victim suffers. Sometimes they are not reported and oftentimes when they are to give evidence, they are subjected to all kinds of questions from very skillful defense lawyers suggesting that, perhaps, at one time there was consent and all of that.”
He said other hindrances include the fact that a suspect, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, is entitled to some legal provisions, adding that the burden is on the prosecution to prove its case.
Fashola said: “So you need semen samples and medical records. We have no DNA labs and forensic labs.”
To assuage the pain of domestic violence/abuse victims, he said the government had built a transit home for them.
The governor said: “We know that oftentimes, men are the aggressors, although we have seen some female aggressors. Oftentimes, the traditional story is that the women and children are thrown into the streets. So we built a transit home that I describe as a port of safety for the vehicle of life. So when women fall victim of such situation, we have the capacity in Alimosho to take them in. We provide bed and board; medical facilities and teachers. So while we are trying to resettle them, the children’s education goes on unhindered, medical issues are dealt with and so on.
“We have also built a home in Ketu for children with special needs. We have finished the first phase and are on the second. So children with Down’s Syndrome and all of that are being managed in that home.”
Pointing out that the government can only address reported cases of domestic violence and abuse, Fashola thanked his deputy, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, who supervises the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation; the Director-General of the Office of the Public Defender and volunteer lawyers “for their selfless work”.
He said: “At the end of the day, what matters are the value choices we make as a people. If our value choices, our moral and ethical choices are reviewed for the better, there would be a reduction in the disposition to defile and abuse women and children.”
On his administration’s focus in the New Year, Fashola said: “Our commitment to improve the life of the people, who are our employers, remains at an all-time high and we will focus on the foundation for service delivery, which is security.
“It is when citizens are safe that we can embark on capital-intensive development. We are building a massive water works at Adiyan. It will be ready next year and will add 70 million gallons of water to the reservoir.”
Highlight of the programme was the presentation of the Remi Lagos Award of Academic Excellence to two outstanding students of the Funmi Iyanda Change-A-Life Foundation, Miss Olatunji Fumilayo and Miss Umoh Victoria Uwana.
Also at the occasion were Commissioner for Information and Strategy Lateef Ibirogba; the Executive Director of the foundation, Mrs. Jumoke Giwa; Mrs. Susan Eyo-Honest, board members and beneficiaries of the foundation.