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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Lagos state govt opposes Sexual Offences bill 2014

Lagos state government yesterday added it's voice to the growing opposition to the controversial Sexual Offences Bill 2014 now awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The controversial bill is among the 46 bills hurriedly passed by the last Senate house and forwarded to the President for his assent.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos Wednesday alongside members state Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT)‎, the Solicitor General, Lawal Pedro (SAN) said there are certain provisions in the bill which are considered "offensive, obnoxious, inconsistent and likely to increase the incidences of sexual abuse in Nigeria".

According to him, the state which has been championing the fight against sexual violence opposed the bill because "it seeks to introduce a strange defence based on the innocent act of a child (referred to as deceit) and belief of the perpetrator that a child is above 18 years when he committed the act of defiling the child".

He contended that given this scenario , the National Assembly is incompetent to legislate on general laws such as sexual offences in a federation save for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja

Pedro said the state government would soon forward a memorandum containing "our thoughts and suggested amendments that should be considered before assent is given to the Sexual Offences Bill, 2014".

He said government would not hesitate to seek legal redress if the President goes ahead to assent to the bill without first considering the amendments suggested.

Pedro stated for instance that Section 7(5) and other sub-sections  of the proposed bill, which  listed when child defilement can be considered an offence and chargeable,  are inconsistent with the interest and welfare of children contrary to provisions of the Child Rights Act.

He noted that while Section 277 of the Child's Right Act 2003 described a child as a person under 18 years contrary to the proposed bill which stipulated 11 years.

He argued that  the distinction in Section 7 of the proposed bill is irrelevant and should be expunged "because the‎ distinction can lead to an ambiguity and unnecessary uncertainty, especially having regard to the fact that this particular bill, if assented to, will be keenly enforced by communities, civil society organisations and non-govermental organisations".

While acknowledge the reasons advanced for the offence of gang rape in the new bill, he submitted that the section may become problematic at the prosecution stage in view of the rules for drafting of charges stipulated in the Criminal Procedure Act.

"The offence of rape is like murder cannot be charged jointly because of the difficulty in proving that each individual person committed the act and must therefore be charged separately in different courts but on the same charge sheet. Consequently, it is there suggested that this section be expunged from bill.

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