By Sola Ogundipe
The Feminist Womanifesto and the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, have charged the Ogun state government to thoroughly investigate an alleged case of sexual harassment by Miss Barakat Melojuekun, against the state’s Commissioner of Environment, Mr. Saheed Abudu Balogun,
In separate open letters, the two organisations called for justice even as they acknowledged the intervention of the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who has suspended the Commissioner and ordered the Police to probe the allegation.
In its own letter signed by the Executive Director of Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, the Feminist Womanifesto – a collection of more than 500 women organisations and individuals working across Nigeria to attain gender justice and gender equality, threatened to initiate a case against the accused if appropriate action isn’t taken.
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“If appropriate action is not taken by the State Government in response to this scandal, the inaction will be counterproductive and an own goal by the Government in light of the measures already taken to end sexual violence.
“If that happens, the Feminist Womanifesto will have no choice but to initiate its own sexual harassment, intimidation, and coercion case against the accused.
“The Ogun State Government, therefore, should give credence to its zero-tolerance commitment to sexual violence by handling these allegations against its Commissioner appropriately.
“This will send a clear message that no one is above the law and also serve as a deterrent to potential defaulters no matter how highly placed, while at the same time, encouraging other victims to report incidents of sexual abuse.”
The Womanifesto charged the state government to employ mechanisms already in place to bring sexual predators to book and protect Barakat and others like her to set a precedent.
On its own part, the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, informed that as advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights, they were concerned by the development and called justice
In its letter signed by Roland Ogbonnaya and Mrs. Yinka Shokunbi, President and National Secretary respectively, the Network stated: “We urge the Governor to use his good office and to ensure that this incident is thoroughly investigated to a logical conclusion and ensure that justice prevails.
“We also appeal to the Wife of the Governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun to ensure that justice and truth prevail in the investigation.”
The Network charged the Ogun State Commissioner of Police to leave no stone unturned in the investigation and ensure there is no cover-up.
Noting that as one of the 25 states of the federation that has domesticated the CRA as far back as 2003, Ogun State.
Quoting Section 11. of the Act, the Network said: “Every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no child shall be – (a) Subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse”.
According to the Network: “Barakat is by the Child’s Right Act (CRA) a minor, and has a right to be so protected. Under the CRA as well as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, Barakat deserves the protection of her parents from abuse, intimidation, and assault.
“As an advocacy group, we stand for the protection and promotion of the sexual wellbeing of women, girls and the vulnerable which Barakat Melojuekun is one, we shall continue to follow the story with the full expectation that it is not swept under the carpet,” the Network remarked.