By Jethro Ibileke
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state has called for improved prosecution of sexual offenders with a view to secure more convictions.
He stated this on Wednesday in Benin, at the launching of the Sexual Offender Database and Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), set up by his government to curb rising cases of rape and other violence against women.
The centre was named after Vivian Ugu, who was murdered by her attackers about 10 years ago, for refusing to be raped.
The governor noted that it would be difficult to reduce crime rate in the society, without appropriate punishment, adding that securing more convictions would serve as deterrent to other would-be violators in the state.
According to him, “History is being made today as we launch the first sexual assault referral centre to immortalise Vivian Ugu who lost her life over a decade.
“About 70 percent of sexual offence cases are ongoing or under investigation. We would like to have more convictions so that we send a very strong message and signal that we would not tolerate sexual offenders in Edo, particularly rape.
“To achieve this, we will commit resources in forensic and ensure that we will not only apprehend but get conviction, especially for Uwaila Omozuwa who was raped and murdered.”
Obaseki urged other stakeholders to support the government in ensuring that the centre is properly manage and sustained.
Earlier in her speech, the programme coordinator of Rule of Law and Anti-corruption Programme, (ROLAC), Melissa Omene, noted that with the launching of the centre, there would be no hiding place for sexual offenders with the naming and shaming of perpetrators.
Omene disclosed that ROLAC has helped government of several states across the country to establish or support 22 SARC to take care of 13,075 clients as at June, 2020, which she said has resulted in increased convictions.
Also speaking, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, described the centre as a one-stop, free clinic for victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and are given necessary care and support.
She said said the centre is a repository of offences containing names and information about all persons convicted or charged with and other sexual offenders, among others.
On his part, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, disclosed that they have registered 127 victims of sexual offender, about 80 percent of them below 18 years.