Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has advocated stiffer penalties against rapists, paedophiles and anyone involved in child abuse to serve as deterrence to others.
He also urged the people of the state to stop giving alms to child beggars to discourage the rising trend of child beggars in the state.
Addressing the Chairman and members of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in the state, led by Mrs. Stella Ojemen, who paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, at the weekend, Oshiomhole said: “Edo State Government appreciates that you are addressing some of the challenges that government ought to have addressed like ensuring that we all mount campaigns against rape and defilement as well as ensure that when people have carried out these heinous crimes, that they are properly arrested and diligently prosecuted with a view to sending them to prison.
“We have discussed this time and again at our Executive Council Meetings and at a point, we asked the Attorney-General to review the laws such that the number of years a convict gets will commensurate with the severe nature of rape and defilement”.
Oshiomhole continued: “We are concerned, we have discussed this and we have a feeling that the number of reported cases are on the increase. We also know that because of the nature of our environment, there will be several others that may not even be reported at all.
“When you look at the sheer number of rape cases that are recorded, it is clear that across the country, both rape and defilement cases are increasing and therefore this calls for tougher measures on the part of those strengthening the law and providing for stiffer and harsher punishments than what is currently obtained but also ensure that the few cases that are reported are properly prosecuted with a view to securing conviction.
“Consistent with our commitment in this area, I would advise that whenever you have such cases, when you are likely to have much more information than even the Ministry of Justice or Police, and there might be cases where efforts are made to cover up cases reported in some quarters, you are an non-governmental organisation (NGO) and might wish to open up such cases. So I will advise you to liaise effectively with the Attorney-General and also encourage the Local Government chapters to ensure that all cases are reported.”
The governor however noted that the state has recorded a high level of victory in the fight against kidnapping and reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that kidnappers are completely put out of business in the state.
He said: “I appreciate the issues you raised about kidnapping and the peculiar challenges that female victims suffer but we are dealing with it globally and we have recorded a lot of achievements. We have presently up to 50 cases of kidnappers that have been arrested and so the era of impunity where the state appears helpless is over.
“The unfortunate thing though is that as we apprehend we still have more young people going into the business. We will sustain our effort at arresting and ensuring prosecution. We have amended the law to provide for death penalty for proven cases of kidnapping and also to demolish the houses of the kidnappers or any premises used for kidnapping because we feel that landlords are liable, they are supposed to verify the character and status of their tenants. These are some of the measures we have taken to ensure that we make the state a lot safer for our people.”
The governor called on the people of the state to join hands with government and other non-governmental organisations to ensure that incidents of child labour and street begging are completely wiped out of the state, adding that Edo people are not lazy and will never succumb to begging as an alternative to hard work.
He said, “on the issue of child labour, I am disturbed at the growing numbers of beggars and their children that I see along the streets and a lot of these people are people who have migrated to Edo these past few months and unless we take firm measures, Edo may become a haven for beggars that have been thrown out of their own states of origin where begging has been prohibited. I have directed the Commissioner for Women Affair to take firm measures to bring this incidence to an end.
“Edo cannot be a haven for beggars. We recognise the economic challenges, but begging is not and will not be the solution and exposing children to begging is unhealthy and I will even appeal to Edo people not to give alms to child beggars because it doesn’t help because women and their fathers push this children to the street, they use them in the manner they do hoping they will attract pity.
The more pity we show to those kids, the more they are subjected to these dehumanising practices. This is not a thing to be encouraged.”
Earlier, Chairperson of International Federation of Women Lawyers, Edo State branch, Mrs. Stella Ojemen said they were in Government House to promote the rights of women and children.
She said, “We are not profit making and not a religious organisation, non-political. Our duties are simple: to ensure that women and children who are confronted with all kinds of issues are protected. We are disturbed by the incidence of child labour and trafficking of women in the state and with the plight of widows who are being disturbed by the families of the husband.
“We are also worried by the incidence of female gender mutilation. We are also worried about the maltreatment of women and children in crisis zones and we are really disturbed by all of these issues.”