he United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) has commended the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) judiciary for designating particular judges to hear Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and related criminal cases.
Mrs Abimbola Adewumi, the UNODC Team Lead on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Portfolio, conveyed the commendation on Friday in Abuja at a forum organised to celebrate the first anniversary of the Roost Foundation.
The Roost Foundation is a counter-human trafficking, counter-SGBV organisation established to raise advocacy about the societal ills.
It would be recalled that Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), recently told stakeholders in the sector that the FCT judiciary had assigned four judges to handle SGBV.
Adewumi commended the development, saying that the lack of judges to handle SGBV cases was one of the factors that had impeded the prosecution of Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (TIP/SOM) cases in the past.
She said that the initiative would ensure speedy prosecution of offenders after proper investigations.
The UNODC official expressed optimism that with time and the success of the initiative, the policy would be replicated in other states.
“One of the things that UNODC has done is that we have a strong partnership with National Judicial Institute (NJI), and we know that the institute is the one that is also doing a lot of capacity building for judges.
“So, we are working with NJI, we are conducting different training for judges as well.
“And through our partnership with NJI and NAPTIP, we are pushing that we should have more of those specialised judges. This is a gradual process; it is not something we can achieved immediately.
“Even the ones for FCT, it has been a push for so many years; we will also get there for other states, we’ll get there gradually,’’ she stressed.
Mr Akinlolu Kehinde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who is also an adviser to Roost Foundation, welcomed the idea of having the special judges, adding that, SGBV and trafficking had now become a scourge in the society.
According to him, SGBV and trafficking have now become epidemic and must, therefore, be tackled with all available means, so as to serve as a deterrent to potential perpetrators.
Kehinde commended Roost Foundation for the giant strides it had made within the first year of its establishment, adding that the foundation was set up for those who could not afford the cost of justice.
He lawyer advised victims to avail themselves of the services of the foundation, which were free.
“I can tell you authoritatively that Roost Foundation is expecting judgment in some of the cases they have initiated in Jigawa, Kano and some other states.
“What we need to do is to encourage the media to spread the word about Roost Foundation, a foundation that has the commitment to put an end to the SGBV and human trafficking scourge,’’ he said.
Another lawyer, Mr James Agbonhese, called on Nigerian to help expose the evils of SGBV, trafficking and internet fraudsters, popularly known as Yahoo Yahoo.
He said that the evil acts had become prevalent in the society.
Agbonhese also called for more public sensitization efforts to discourage all these immoral acts in the society, while setting up institutions to stamp out the nefarious acts.
Mrs Julie Okah-Donli, the Executive Chairman of Roost Foundation, said that the foundation has done so much within the first year of its existence, particularly in efforts to pursue justice.
She said that some of the cases of SGBV and trafficking, which were reported to the foundation, had been referred to NAPTIP for more action
Okah-Donli, a former Director-General of NAPTIP, said that foundation had empowered some youths rescued from traffickers with skills training and formal schooling.
She disclosed that the foundation would partner with Bayelsa State Government to set up a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), where victims could access psycho-social and medical support.
She also urged states to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015 and Child Rights Act 2003.