By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – A coalition of over sixty Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, has urged the National Assembly to repeal section 55 of the Penal Code which they said permits a man to beat his wife.
The group which made the call at an interactive session with both the Senate Committee on Diaspora & Non-Governmental Organisations and the House of Representatives Committee on Civil Society & Development Partners, in Abuja, decried that the law, provided that a man could beat his wife, so far it does not result to ”grievous bodily harm”.
Specifically, section 55 states that, “Nothing is an offence which does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt upon any person and which is done- (a) by a parent or guardian for the purpose of correcting his child or ward such child or ward being under eighteen years of age;
“(b) by a schoolmaster for the purpose of correcting his child under eighteen years of age entrusted to his charge; or (c) by a master for the purpose of correcting a child servant or apprentice such servant or apprentice being under eighteen years of age; or (d) by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife such husband and wife being subject to any native law or custom in which such correction is recognised as lawful”.
Speaking on behalf of the CSOs, the Executive Director of Centre LSD, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, insisted that there are many laws in Nigeriathat needs to be changed.
He regretted that under the aforementioned section, bodily harm was defined as a harm that could lead to someone being hospitalised for at least 21 days.
“The ugly implication here is that when the victim is hospitalised for 20 days; the law does not regard the case as one that resulted to grievous bodily harm. Besides, what happens to those that were not taken to the hospital?
“We as CSOs are therefore using this platform to beg that you people must not leave the parliament and allow that law to remain”.
Besides, Igbuzor, tasked the 8th session of the NASS to handle their oversight functions with sincerity, saying “If the legislature were doing there oversight properly, these monumental corruption we are discovering today would not have taken place”.
In her opening address, the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Rose Oko, said she would relate the demand of the CSOs to the NASS.
”This meeting is fundamental in many ways. It intrinsically offers the legislature and the CSOs a critical opportunity to come together and share ideas towards fashioning out a functional working relationship for the greater good of national development.
“This is germane because the legislature and CSOs pursue a common goal that borders on good governance and development. In context and perspective, civil society organisations are generally known as non-state actors that voluntarily mediate between the individual and the state.
“It is ideally development-driven, promoting through advocacy; human rights. Civil liberties, transparency, effectiveness, openness, responsiveness and accountability in government- all ingredients of good governance of the country”, she added.
On his part, Chairman of the Reps Committee, Hon. Peter Akpatason, said there was need for CSOs in the country to be classified according to their thematic areas of intervention, to make it easier for the legislative committees to know who to relate with on any subject matter.
Earlier, the leader of the group and Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, insisted that there are many laws in the country that ought to be reviewed by the National Asembly.