By Bidon Mibzar, Abuja
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed concern over the recent amendment of the Kaduna State Penal Code Law No.5 of 2017, providing stiffer penalties to the offence of rape, including castration of offenders.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq. Who stated this in Abuja while reacting to new Kaduna State House of Assembly legislation on rape and other Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) observed that the said amendments violates Section 2(ix) of Anti-Torture Act of 2017, which outlaws “mutilation such as amputation of essential parts of the body such as the genitalia, ears or tongue and any other part of the body”.
In a press statement signed by the Assistant Director Public Affairs, NHRC, Fatimah Agwai Mohammed, Ojukwu stressed that castration in this regard negates human rights standards and principles and therefore should be jettisoned.
While calling on the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai to withhold his assent to the amended Penal Code Law until the State Assembly expunges the aspect of the law that stipulates castration of culprits the human rights boss emphasized:
“This amendment violates principal corpus of international human rights norms, including article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. “Which means there can be no justification for torture, no exceptional circumstance whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as justification for torture”, he said.
Ojukwu therefore restated that torture cannot be justified even with criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law such as the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State, otherwise it will be tantamount to legislating torture.
The Chief Human Rights Officer in Nigeria cited the 2017 Penal Code Law, wherein the offence of rape carried a sentence of 21 years imprisonment for the rape of an adult and life imprisonment for the rape of a minor, and “the Commission considers these provisions to be comprehensive in line with international best practices, whereas the new amendment is capable of undermining the progress Nigeria is making in the protection of human rights and advancement of the rule of law.
He stated the readiness of the Commission to work together with Kaduna State and relevant stakeholders to implement a state-wide strategy of combating rape and other sexual and gender-based violence(SGBV) which will be focused on social mobilisation and communication, enhance reporting of rape and SGBV cases, effective investigations and prosecution based on the pre-existing legal regime.