VAPP Act 2015: Abuja Gets Sex Offenders Register

By Akanimo Sampson        

Sex offenders register has been developed in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, aimed at containing violence against persons in the federal capital.

This is sequel to a meeting organized by the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), a programme of the British Council, and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) last November for service providers in the FCT to advance the implementation of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP Act) 2015.

It was however, passed into law in May, 2015. The Act came as a result of agitations for protection of persons against the different forms of violence. Violence, both at the home front and the larger society, was a fast and still becoming a trend in the country.

Daily, citizens hear of someone killing or maiming their spouse; or a scorned lover pouring acid on an ex lover; or someone being forcefully taken away from their family and loved ones. It was the need to protect citizens from violence such as these that led to the enactment of the VAPP Act, 2015.

The Act is an improvement on the penal and criminal code in relation to violence; it also makes provision for compensation to victims as well as the protection of their rights.

In the mean time, over 60 stakeholders, 40 of them women participated in the meeting, including representatives from civil society, NAPTIP, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the Federal Ministry of Education, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Legal Aid Council, and others.

The aim was to develop three key documents: Sexual Offender Register, a list of registered offenders – an important public safety tool to help prevent re-offending, Service Providers Register, a list of approved and registered organisations that deliver services to victims of violence, and Associated Guidelines to Standardise the Operations of service providers – as provided by Sections 1(4) and 40 of the VAPP Act 2015.

‘’The secretariat will be critical in the prosecution of offences under the Act and serve as a tool for apprehending offenders’’, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, Director General, NAPTIP said.

‘’This intervention is very timely. We need to ensure the proper coordination and documentation of cases of sexual violence’’, Agnes Hart, Director Gender, Social Development Secretariat

In another development, the Disability Rights Bill has been passed into law in Anambra State. The aim of the law is to promote the full integration of persons with disabilities into society, prohibit all forms of discrimination, and ensure equal opportunities. The law also establishes a Disability Rights Commission to oversee implementation of the Bill.

‘’History been made in Anambra State with the passage of the Disability Rights Bill. With the support of RoLAC, the five-year journey has ended. The disability community is grateful to RoLAC. We look forward to more assistance to support the sensitisation of the bill’’, President, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities said

The bill was first presented to the state House of Assembly in 2013 (during the 5th Assembly) but was stalled and could not be passed. It was re-presented in 2015 (during the 6th Assembly). With RoLAC support, the Joint National Association of Persons with Disability (Anambra State Chapter) and the Office of the Governor on Disability Matters made concerted efforts to promote the passage of the legislation.

Discussions led to meetings with the leadership of the State House of Assembly and eventually the passage of the Bill on September 13, 2018. Over 50 persons from the disability community were present at the State Assembly to witness the passage of the Bill. Anambra State is the first in the South East to pass a Disability Law.

The Anambra news came as the secretariat for the Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) response team in FCT is now fully functional, largely due to RoLAC support. The response team is a group of government and non-government bodies that collaborate on SGBV issues.

The secretariat now operates a helpline to counsel survivors of gender-based violence. Furthermore, a data management template was developed to support record keeping and tracking of referrals.

Sex offenders between January and September 2018, the secretariat attended to 47 clients, provided counselling to 23 clients, and referred 15 clients to other agencies including the police, NAPTIP and health care institutions. The secretariat has the potential to play a pivotal role in the prosecution of offenders.