By Emmanuel Onwubiko
In section 147(1) of the 1999 constitution, the offices of ministers of the government of the federation are created by law as may be established by the president.
The entire section 147 provides that:” (1) There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President. (2) Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President. (3) Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this Constitution:- provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.
To further highlight the strategic place of a cabinet level minister that section of the grund norm further stated as follows: (4) Where a member of the National Assembly or of a House of Assembly is appointed as Minister of the Government of the Federation, he shall be deemed to have resigned his membership of the National Assembly or of the House of Assembly on his taking the oath of office as Minister. (5) No person shall be appointed as a Minister of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives. (6) An appointment to any of the offices aforesaid shall be deemed to have been made where no return has been received from the Senate within twenty-one working days of the receipt of nomination by the Senate.”
Then section 148(1) (2) states that: “(1) The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice-President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government. (2) The President shall hold regular meetings with the Vice-President and all the Ministers of the Government of the Federation for the purposes of – (a) determining the general direction of domestic and foreign policies of the Government of the Federation; (b) co-ordinating the activities of the President, the Vice-President and the Ministers of the Government of the Federation in the discharge of their executive responsibilities; and (c) advising the President generally in discharge of his executive functions other than those functions with respect to which he is required by this Constitution to seek the advice or act on the recommendation of any other person or body.”
The import of the above stated legal provisions is to highlight the imperative essence of the cabinet level offices of ministers of the federation of Nigeria. A nation with dead woods as ministers is as good as dead. A nation with ministers who got their jobs based on political patronage and not merits is a dysfunctional nation. The last scenario is playing out in virtually all facets of our political life. One ministerial level position has gained notoriety for crass incompetence and inertia. Incidentally, the ministry has a name that is anachronistic given that the concept behind the naming of the ministry is no longer tenable. I mean the ministry for Women affairs. What women affairs you may ask?
One of those ministries as stated earlier is that which is known as ministry of women affairs which as I write is headed by a politician of Plateau state origin who was once the deputy governor of her state by name Mrs. Pauline Tallen.
However, not much impacts have been made by that ministry in the area of mainstreaming of respect for the child right law in the governance structure of Nigeria just as there is a lacuna regarding the role of the ministry of women affairs to confront the demon of trafficking in children and girls and the rapidly expanding frontiers of sexual violations of children of all genders by adult predatory rapists. There are no milestones identifiable as a brand of the current ministry for Women affairs.
The minister of women affairs operate as if her position in government is ceremonial and not that created by law to assist the president to effectively implement policies and carry out projects to advance the human rights of women and children.
The general state of laxity on the part of that ministry has compelled the question of what is the place of affairs of girls in the context of a women affairs ministry.
Also, why is the ministry of women affairs not in the forefront of waging advocacy campaigns to improve the extant near moribund laws against rape which the male dominated National Assembly will rather hurriedly approve #37 billion to renovate their offices than to amend and unify all relevant laws to wage a determined war against rapists?
The near absence of any form of passion on the part of officials of the Federal ministry of Women Affairs to fashion out effective legal frameworks to battle the rising scourge of sexual violations of the Nigerian child, made me think that Nigeria needs a ministry for family values and family affairs and not this bogus name of women affairs which totally lacks the girl’s right contents.
Let us quote from the book of Michelle Obama titled “Becoming” in which she wrote thus: “AS SOON AS I ALLOWED MYSELF TO FEEL ANYTHING for Barack, the feelings came rushing – a toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder. Any worries I’d been harboring about my life and career and even about Barack himself seemed to fall away with that first kiss, replaced by a driving need to know him better, to explore and experience everything about him as fast as I could.”
“Maybe because he was due back at Harvard in a month, we wasted no time being casual. Not quite ready to have a boyfriend sleeping under the same roof as my parents, I began spending nights at Barack’s apartment, a cramped, second-floor walk-up above a storefront on a noisy section of Fifty-Third Street. The guy who normally lived there was a University of Chicago Law student and he’d furnished it like any good student would, with mismatched garage-sale finds. There was a small table, a couple of rickety chairs, and a queen-sized mattress on the floor. Piles of Barack’s books and newspapers covered the open surfaces and a good deal of the floor. He hung his suit jackets on the backs of the kitchen chairs and kept very little in the fridge. It wasn’t homey, but now that I viewed everything through the lens of our fast-moving romance, it felt like home.”
I am as passionate as she (Michelle Obama) is to demand that the ministry of women affairs embrace the issues of girl’s rights in a much more devoted way like a maiden who has just fallen in love with her would-be spouse as espoused in the Michelle Obama’s book.
Of course, the passion to demand accountability from the ministry of women affairs was sparked off by the regularity of the occurrences of the worst and most depraved kinds of sexual violations of Nigerian children to an extent that the only feasible panacea is to introduce chemical castration as a legal penalty for rapists.
Reading through the press daily, will present the grave degree of sexual violations and molestation of children by lawless adults who are emboldened by the presence of officials in the policing institution who are at home with impunity and are willing to compromise any investigative activity that treats the case of rape of children once the accused person can buy his way out. The snail speed justice system in Nigeria is another obstacle to tackling vicious cases of RAPE of children. The list of culprits of this crime against humanity is expanding but the lists of cases that are prosecuted in the courts of law are few and far between. Nevertheless, the pressrun overwhelming percentage of cases of sexual violations of children daily. Thousands of more cases are not usually brought to the media domain due to poverty of many families and many other inhibiting factors.
On June 26, 2019, it was reported that a 65 year-old man, Bayo Akinwete, was dragged before an Ado Ekiti Magistrate’s Court for allegedly raping his 5-year-old daughter (name withheld) severally.
The court, presided over by Mrs. Kehinde Awosika, also heard that Akinwete gave the small girl alcoholic drink to intoxicate her and perpetrate the crime.
Police prosecutor, Insp. Monica Ikebuilo, told the court that Akinwete allegedly committed the offence on June 18, 2019 in Olorunsogo area of Ado-Ekiti within the Magisterial District.
According to the prosecutor, the victim told the police that she and her 9-year-old sister were living with their father, while their mother had abandoned them with him.
The prosecutor disclosed that the victim said that there was a day, her father gave her an alcoholic drink to drink, saying when she woke up, she saw her father on top of her.
Ikebuilo added that the victim told her interrogators that it was not the first time her father would sexually assault her, saying “he has been doing the act for some time”.
She said that the victim stated that their father would tell her younger sister to hold and massage his manhood.
The prosecutor said the victim reported her father to their neighbour who promptly reported the case to the police.
Ikebuilo said the offence contravened Section 31 of the Child Right Law of Ekiti State, 2012.
The plea of the accused was not taken.
On July 19th this year, came another damaging report that a 37-year-old guard, Wasiu Orilonise, has publicly confessed that he raped his 15-year-old daughter for verification of her virginity and protection.
Wasiu, who appeared in Oyo State Magistrates’ Court sitting in Ibadan, however, appealed to the court to forgive him as he did that only to confirm if her daughter was still a virgin.
The prosecutor, Mr Sunday Ogunremi, told the court that the accused had, sometime in December 2018 at Omo village, Agbofieti, Ibadan, in the Ibadan Magisterial District, raped the victim without her consent.
Ogunremi said the offence was contrary to and punishable under Section 34, sub-sections 1 and 2 of the Child Rights Law of Oyo State of Nigeria, 2006.
The plea of the accused was, however, not taken during the arraignment.
When the Chief Magistrate, Mr Taiwo Olaniran, sought to know what pushed him into defiling his biological daughter, Orilonise said since he lost his wife a few years ago, he had been taking care of the victim and her siblings.
Around September of this year, the news has it that Justice Muslim Hassan of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday sentenced a 58-year old farmer, Yesiru Onajobi, to a jail term of 10 years for rape and defilement of his teenage daughter.
The Judge, who noted the rising wave of rape in the society, ordered that the convict would serve 10 years imprisonment without option of fine.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the convict, a resident of Bogije St., Ibeju, in Lekki Lagos, was charged to court in 2011 on a two-count charge of having carnal knowledge of his 13-year-old daughter.
He was prosecuted by The National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP).
The Prosecutor, (NAPTIP), had told the court that after the death of Onaboji’s wife, he took custody of his only daughter who is a twin, while her brother was with relatives.
The convict was said to have engaged in repeated sexual adventures with his daughter, with whom he shared the same bed and restrained her movement or interaction with neighbors.
Moses Okechukwu a 28-year-old man, was arraigned before a Badagry Chief Magistrates’ Court in Lagos State for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl around July of this year.
Okechukwu, whose address was not disclosed, is facing a three-count charge of rape, sexual assault and trying to escape arrest, to which he pleaded not guilty.
ASP. Akpan Nkem, the Prosecutor, told the court that the defendant committed the offences on July 15, at No. 2, Chukwuma Close, Jakande, Ajangbadi, Lagos.
According to Nkem, Okechukwu forcefully had sexual intercourse with the girl without her consent.
“The defendant forcefully penetrated the girl’s private part without her consent.
“He also assaulted one Chukwuemeka Okereke while trying to escape arrest,” the prosecutor said.
Ikem said that the offences contravened Sections 168, 258 and 170 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.
Mr Patrick Adekomiya, the Chief Magistrate, admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N500,000 with two sureties in like sum.
Then came yet another story in the same year that an Ikeja High Court, sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment, a 22-year-old baker, Lawal Kamoru, who led a four-man gang that defiled a 14-year-old girl.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Raliatu Adebiyi found Kamoru guilty and convicted him on a one-count charge of defilement, contrary to Section 137 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.
Adebiyi held that the age of the victim and the psychological trauma she experienced were considered while sentencing the baker.
“The defendant is hereby sentenced to 13 years’ in prison custody,” she said.
State counsel, Mrs O. R. Ahmed Muili, had told the court that the convict and three others (now at large) took turns to defile the teenager in an uncompleted building on Feb. 1, 2014, on Oluwanisola Street, Ilaje, Bariga, Lagos State.
NAN reports that the victim while giving evidence during the trial, said that she and her younger sister (name withheld), were on their way home from a church vigil at 5.00a.m when the crime occurred.
She said they were accosted by the convict and his accomplices who commanded them to kneel down, adding that the four men took turns to rape her inside an uncompleted building.
The teenager identified the convict as the leader of the gang.
“I was returning from church with my younger sister at about 5.00a.m when they stopped us and ordered us to kneel down.
“On sighting some people coming on our direction, they ordered us to get up and go,” she said.
Can I call on the Women Affairs Minister to set up a DOMESTIC AND GENDER VIOLENCE DEPARTMENT so early warning system is put in place to capture data of cases of sexual violations of children. The idea by NAPTIP to set up a national data bank of sex offenders should be sustained and the Federal and state offices of women affairs should embrace the scheme and support it.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.huriwanigeria.com;www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.thenigerianinsidernews.com; www.emmanuelonwubiko.com.