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Sanwo-Olu, Alogba, Vivour-Adeniyi chart new path to stem sexual violence cases

By Isioma chidera

An urgent provision of a more responsive, effective and survivor-centered justice system towards stemming the tide of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) has been highlighted as workable panacea to address the scourge in Nigeria especially across Lagos State.

With this survivor-centered justice system, perpetrators of this crime would be compelled to serve appropriate punishment that commensurate with their conduct, thereby preventing other individuals planning to embark on the act to shelve their plans indefinitely.

The first lady of Lagos State, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the Chief Judge of Lagos, Justice Kazeem Alogba, and the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, as well as other advocates emphasized this yesterday at a one-day stakeholders forum put together by DSVA on improving access to legal justice for survivors of sexual and SGBV which was held in Ikeja.

Addressing stakeholders at the forum, Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant, (Special Duties), Scholastica Oyeniyi-Abas, noted that despite the awareness and support of these government agencies, offenders still continue to perpetuate SGBV,
saying, we are soliciting support of the judiciary in ensuring that both the survivors and perpetrators leave the court without getting what they deserve.
According to her, we discourage the culture of silence and on this premise; I have embarked on certain activities to further propagate the state’s mandate of zero tolerance to SGBV, for instance by inspecting the SGBV center in an effort to scale up the fight against this crime.

“Our society must develop a strong system and structure not only to continually speak up and speak out loud but we must also “walk the talk” in ensuring that perpetrators are made to face appropriate punishment for such evil conduct.

“No Girl Child, I repeat, No Girl Child or woman should be subjected to the harrowing experience of defilement, rape, domestic violence, and other associated crimes.

“This is our stand and we must also not encourage a culture of silence. The interests of survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence should come first and above any other considerations”, she added.

Alogba, on his part, stated that the country including Lagos, requires a justice system that treats SGBV survivors with dignity, respect and sensitivity rather than the current trend.

He added: “The system should provide them with required support and resources they need to heal and rebuild their lives. This means providing access to legal aid and representation, offering comprehensive support services and ensuring survivors know their rights and legal process. It also means creating a safe and supportive environment in our courts where survivors feel heard, believe and protected.

“In today’s digital age, we must use technology to enhance access to justice for SGBV survivors. Remote hearing can help overcome many of the barriers that survivors face, mainly when they cannot attend court physically.

While noting that Lagos judiciary had already embarked on adopting these new trends into its judicial system, the Chief judge stressed: “However, we must continue to explore new and innovative ways to harness technology to support SGBV survivors and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our judicial system”.

To achieve this, Alogba stated that State’s judiciary is committed to working with all stakeholders to create a more responsive, effective and survivor-centred justice system.

Alogba, who was represented by the Lagos High Court judge, Justice Rahman Oshodi, said the Judiciary need the support and partnership of law enforcement agencies, civil society organisations and healthcare providers to create a holistic and integrated approach to justice.

Vivour-Adeniyi, who leads the DSVA, stated that the need for all stakeholders to concentrate their advocacy on promoting survivor-centered approaches to justice and support systems.

She noted that this formed the purpose of the engagement, to identify and tackle challenges, review laws and probe processes, she urged participants to share their experiences which will help to increase the effectiveness of the processes in place.

The DSVA boss restated the agency’s commitment to ensure that legal system was accessible and upholds the dignity of every survivor of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV.

The Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Petitions, Human Rights and LASIEC, Ladi Ajomale, gave his goodwill message and urged partners to a call for action and for stakeholders to be ambassadors against SGBV.

He stated that participants should look for ways to be effective in the system by creating awareness, educating and advocacy for survivors reintegration into the society.

While delivering her good will message, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Titilayo ShittaBey-Jeje, who represented the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Lawal Pedro, commended the Agency for putting together the program. She noted the collaborative efforts of the Lagos DSVA with other MDAs which had ensured resourcefulness, which she stressed was quite commendable.

She also highlighted the increase in the number of cases and convictions and said there was a need to keep improving the laws, processes, identify challenges and see to tackling the challenges.

The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, CP Adegoke Fayode whilst delivering the first presentation on Challenges, Gaps and opportunities from the Police perspective encouraged proactive efforts to put protective measures in place.

He stated that SGBV extends beyond victims and addressing this issue can lead to healthier and more equitable communities.

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