…offenders to pay N500,000 or get one-year imprisonment; institutions to pay N2,000,000
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
A Bill seeking to criminalize the stigmatization of victims of insurgency or militancy has passed for second reading at the House of Representatives.
The Bill specifically aims at protecting the rights of dignity and association of victims of insurgency or militancy and also ensure equal opportunity and reintegration of such victims into their communities of origin.
Titled: “A Bill for an Act to Make Provision for the Prohibition of Stigmatization of Persons who are Victims of Insurgency or Militancy from Integration with the Community and to Provide for the Prosecution and Punishment of Any Person or Group of Persons who Stigmatises such Victims”, the bill is being sponsored by Hon. Ben Igbakpa from Delta State.
A copy of the bill sighted by our correspondent stated that “No person, community or institution shall stigmatise directly or indirectly any person in the society on the basis of such person being a victim of insurgency or militancy and a child born as a result of insurgency “.
It added that “it is an offence to stigmatise any person on the basis of being victims of insurgency or militancy by nicknaming; failure to do anything or take any steps to enable such person has smooth reintegration in the community; failure to remove, eliminate or ameliorate any obstacle that unfairly deter such a person from enjoying equal opportunities; refusal or denial of access to communal places, worship areas, residential spaces, social facilities and any other place of human endeavour; instigating any person to refuse to marry such person on the basis of either born as a result of Insurgency or a victim of insurgency or militancy”.
Offences to this bill will attract a conviction or fine of N500,000 for an individual or imprisonment for a period of not less than one year or both and N2,000,000 for an institution.
Leading the debate earlier on Wednesday plenary, Hon. Igbakpa said “There are basically two categories of victims of insurgency or militancy: Direct casualties e.g raped women, molested men and women, traumatized children and ransomed abductees, and Internally displaced persons
“For the first category of victims, especially raped and molested women, most of them suffer different forms of stigmatization amongst members of society. Victims of insurgency, shortly after the short-lived empathy from neighbours, almost always begin to get shunned by the same people. Neighbourhood gossips become rife.
“Instead of getting embraced and fully integrated back to society, the victims further get estranged from same.
“Some people would go to the extent of calling victims derogatory names. The children of victims are not left out too, as they equally suffer name-calling and shaming even at school, for what is no fault of theirs.
“With about 1.7 million people displaced in Borno state alone, the IDPs are only meant to provide makeshift and temporary accommodation for victims of insurgency. They must at some point return back to their real homes and neighbourhood”.
The bill, however, met stiff resistance from some lawmakers included Hons Nkem Abonta from Abia State, Obinna Chidoka from Anambra State who argued that the extant laws in 1999 constitution (as amended ) have already taken care of stigmatization of against Nigerians with circumstantial backgrounds or history.
The submitted that the bill lacked merits to stand on its own as a bill when passed.
But when subjected to vote by Speaker Femi Gbajabimaila, the voices of “yea” and “nay” sayers appeared equal. But the Speaker ruled in the support of the passage of the bill to second reading.