Governors across Nigeria have declared a state of emergency over rape and other gender-based violence against women and children as officials said rapes have tripled during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
The commitment by governors of all 36 states to impose tougher measures against sex offenders was announced late Thursday after several days of nationwide protests by women’s rights activists and others with the social media hashtag #WeAreTired.
“I know we have always had rape in this country, but with the lockdown of people in homes because of COVID-19, women and children are locked down with their abusers,” said the minister of women’s affairs, Pauline Tallen.
Officials did not say how many rapes have occurred during the lockdown that was declared in late March for major cities and has since begun to loosen.
Nigeria’s justice minister, Abubakar Malami, said an inter-ministerial committee will be inaugurated immediately to propose legislative changes to ensure that sexual violence is dealt with in line with international best practices.
In an address to the nation on Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari said he is “upset at recent incidents of rape, especially of very young girls” and assured Nigerian women of his administration’s determination to fight gender-based violence.
Nigerians were shocked when a university student in Benin city, was raped and killed in a church where she had gone to read last month.
On Thursday in Benue state, police announced the arrest of four men accused of raping minors aged between 6 and 15. One of the suspects was accused of raping a 7-year-old inside a church.