• December 6, 2021

RoLAC establishes Sexual Assault Centre in Anambra

By O’star Eze

In its resolve to curb the rising incidences of sexual and gender-based violence, the European Union Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme, Tuesday, September 17, commissioned a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) as a one-stop facility to provide integrated services to victims of sexual offences. The centre, located in Enugwu-Ukwu General Hospital, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State and christened, ‘Ntasi Centre’ would make it the 12th of its kind in Nigeria supported by the RoLAC. RoLAC also trained 45 individuals consisting Medical Doctors, Nurses, Counsellors, Sign Language Interpreters and Lawyers as personnel for the centre and sister centres.

Speaking during the commissioning ceremony which held, Tuesday, the National Programme Manager of RoLAC, Mr Danladi Plang,  said that SARC or Ntasi centre, Enugwu-ukwu was established because of “the need to provide a safe space for victims of sexual abuse to be counselled, treated and also help the police and prosecuting agencies get evidence.” He noted that the Ntasi centre addressed one of the issues RoLAC works on, namely, providing support for the issue of sexual and gender-based violence.

He also appreciated the state government for providing the legal framework (Violence Against Persons Prohibition law (VAPP) that would aid in dealing with the issues around redress for victims. He equally talked about the support RoLAC is providing in setting up Family Support Units in police stations as a model for dealing with sexual violence and encouraged the Police to replicate the model RoLAC has brought

 “Many times, we live in denial as if it is not happening. But we need to encourage victims to begin to speak out, because it is by doing so that we start to find solutions to the problem.”

He encouraged the personnel trained to work in the centre to deal with the issues that are brought to them with utmost confidentiality.

In a keynote address, Governor Willie Obiano represented by Anambra State commissioner for health, Dr Vincent Okpala, noted that the centre was an outcome of series of meetings initiated by RoLAC and held with the government across the nation to address the rising incidence of sexual abuse in Nigerian society. He appreciated RoLAC for setting up the centre, reiterating that “it would provide succour for citizens who unfortunately might become victims of sexual abuse or assault.”

“Sexual abuse or assault leaves a lifelong stigma on its victims and it is something that the society has to really take seriously.

“When EU decided to establish this centre through the British Council, Governor Willie Obiano was very pleased with it. We believe that if we handle this centre well, RoLAC might consider providing additional centres in other parts of Anambra State.

“Sometimes victims do not speak out because we do not have a support system. Now we have a support system, victims need to start speaking up so they can receive help and perpetrators brought to book,” he said.

Anambra State chief judge, Justice Onochie Anyachebelu represented by Vivian Odeleke, Deputy Chief Registrar, Inspectorate shared her good wishes to RoLAC, noting that it had been working with the judiciary in several areas. He also thanked the British Council for their work in the state, and pledged her support to the centre, which, she said attended to an issue she was passionate about.

“It is a good thing that people who suffer from rape have a place they can go and be taken care of. The judiciary is going to cooperate with this centre in ensuring that the aims and objectives of RoLAC in building the centre are achieved,” she added.

The attorney general and honourable commissioner for Justice in the state, Dr Uju Nwogu represented by Chinelo Onyeka also reiterated her passion for the cause of rape victims. She noted that “sexual assault destroys everybody spiritually and physically. She welcomed the idea of the centre and pledged readiness to support the victims legally with the training her team had received from RoLAC.

The commissioner for women and children affairs, Lady Ndidi Mezue, stated that the centre would help her handle series of rape cases that come to her table. In her words, “I want to thank RoLAC for what they are doing in Anambra State. I have about 1001 cases of rape. Worthy of mention is one involving a man and his biological daughter, and another is between a househelp and her uncle. I will now pack these files and forward to this centre which has such wonderful facilities.”

Anambra State commissioner of police, Mr John Bassey Abang, said that the police were going to be working together with the centre to ensure that the assailants were arrested and prosecuted. In his words, “Nigeria police force will be a big beneficiary because we are involved in the investigation of rape cases both medically and criminally. To that end, you can never lack support from us.”

Appreciating RoLAC, the chairman of Judiciary Reform Committee, Justice Pete Obiorah observed with dismay that minors seem to be greater targets. He said his committee would recommend life imprisonment for defilement.

In his words, “The law prescribes 14 years imprisonment, but the judge may give the convicted one year. Our job will be to make the court understand that defilement is life imprisonment. If this is spread across the media, anyone toying with the idea would be cautioned,” he said.

RoLAC Project Coordinator in Anambra, Josephine Onah and her Team were commended for their tenacity and hard work in ensuring that the centre was realised. Two Managers of RoLAC, Priscilla Ankut and Toyosi Giwa as well as the commissioner for science and tertiary education, Prof. Theresa Obiekezie and executive director, INTACOM, Africa, Hope Okoye all contributed in highlighting the spate of sexual violence in the country as well as the next steps for the centre.

Ostar Eze

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