Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, says it is imperative to train investigators and prosecutors who handle Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases.

Malami said this at the `First Moot Court Trial’ organised by the Ministry, FCT High Court in collaboration with the EU through the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) Program in Abuja on Monday.

“It is imperative to train these first responders in the access to justice spectrum on evidence collection and storage, intelligence gathering and reporting, evidence analysis and chain of custody preservation.

“The above highlighted are critical to a successful prosecution and conviction of (SGBV) offenders’’.

The minister, who was represented by Mr Abdulrahim Shuaibu, Director in the Public Prosecution Department, also stressed the need for the establishment of more Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) in the country.

“This is a holistic vehicle that provides an all-inclusive integrated service amongst MDAs to the survivors of SGBV.

“It is, therefore, critical, fundamental and essential in-service delivery to Survivors.

“The absence of SARC is akin to retraumising the survivors of SGBV, this is at the very core of my ministerial pursuit and I am seriously working on an Access to Justice based SARC which will evolve in due course,” he said.

He said the access to justice based SARC will include an improve health care services that would address the medical, physical, mental and psychosocial consequences of SGBV to Survivors.

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“There is also a need to train our Judges on the handling of SGBV cases especially in relation to victim and witness protection and the management of evidences gathered due to the sensitive nature of these cases.

“I will like to thank all the Judges, lawyers and stakeholders who took out time to participate and I assure everyone present of my dedication in the fight against SGBV’’.

Prof. Joy Ezeilo, the Chairperson of SARCs, that since its establishment in 2013, SARC has continued to provide free immediate emergency medical treatment, counselling and follow up support to survivors of rape and sexual assault.

“In addition to support for their engagement with the legal system.

“In just eight years, the SARC Network has grown from a single SARC in Lagos to 32 SARCS across 19 states in Nigeria assisting over 22,000 survivors of sexual assault combined.

“Even with the remarkable expansion spread of the SARC initiative in Nigeria and the stronger focus nationwide on comprehensive medical and counselling services for survivors there is strong evidence that the number of SGBV cases reported to SARCs is still a poor representation of the scale of sexual assault in Nigeria and the number of cases that are prosecuted, are very few compared to the number of incidents,” he said.

Ezeilo noted that the inauguration of the President of an Inter-Ministerial Management Committee on Eradication of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is a demonstration of the government’s renewed commitment to comprehensively address SGBV and protect the victims.

“The Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) programme would like to support the call and effort to establish specialised courts for SGBV by holding this mock specialised SGBV courts.

“This will model what survivor centred SGBV court processes and proceedings would look like in the context of Nigeria’s legislative social policy environment.

“It will provide the opportunity to model police investigation and prosecution scenarios that support or compromise justice for survivors.

She said that the lessons gather from the mock trials will assist law enforcement, the judiciary and the criminal justice system to fast track the justice process on similar existing cases.

“It will also encourage justice service providers to employ the right attitudes and tools in their interactions with victims and perpetrators of SGBV’’.

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