From Scholastica Onyeka, Makurdi

The Sexual and Gender Based Justice Network, (SJN), Cluster has called on the Benue state Government to expedite the commissioning of Sexual Assault Referral Centre, (SARC), already established at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, (BSUTH), Makurdi, to enable vulnerable women and girls approach the centre for justice.

SJN Cluster made this call at a press conference addressed by Precious Solumtochukwu, the Legal Officer of Lawyers Alert, in company of Victor Ebo, Reproductive Rights Officer of Lawyers Alert, and Laz Mon, BENGONENT Chairman, in Makurdi, the Benue state capital.

Ozoblu who appreciated the First Lady of Benue State, Mrs Eunice Ortom, for her efforts towards reducing SGBV cases in the state recommended that the government in collaboration with office of the State First Lady should commission the SARC centre and name it as a “One Stop Shop”, so that if victims of SGBV can step into the centre, access psychological support, health support, legal support and protection which includes shelter.

“We are calling on the Benue State Government and office of the First Lady to expedite action to commission this center to go a long way in ensuring that justice is provided for the vulnerable man on the street”.

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They appealed to the Government to ensure that the shelter at the SARC centre is spacious enough to accommodate the victims and survivors of SGBV.

SJN Cluster also called on relevant stakeholders to look into the reform of Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law (VAPP) and the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACL), pointing out that there were some sections in the VAPP and the ACL that needed to be amended to accommodate the present realities.

“VAPP for one, made mention that the police is responsible to pay the transportation of the victims and the survivors who have approached them over SGBV matters. While that is laudable, we know that does not suit our present reality and we are looking forward to have this law amended to accommodate that. 

“Most importantly as it relates to amendment of law, as it relates to jurisdiction, we are looking at the SJN to accommodate for the Magistrates to have jurisdiction over SGBV issues especially rape. This will go a long way to ensure that there is effective implementation of the law and there is effective justice delivery across the state”.

The Cluster also solicited for a monitoring committee for the implementation of VAPP, a budget from office of the Governor for SARC centre not just the “commissioning day paraphernalia” but consistent funding of the centre.