The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, says the Armed Forces of Nigeria have adopted stringent measures against sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in its determination to support the ongoing fight against the menace in the country.
Irabor disclosed this at a One-Day sensitization and awareness campaign on human right, gender based violence and human trafficking, organised by the Defence Headquarters on Thursday in Abuja.
Newsmen report that he was represented on the occasion by the Chief of Defence Policy and Plans, Air Vice Marshal Dahiru Sanda.
He said the creation of the human right office and Gender Adviser in the armed forces had provided the necessary avenue to watch out for perpetrators and ensure that they are sanctioned.
Irabor said cases of rape in the armed forces are never handled with glove hands, as perpetrators are Court Marshaled, and if found guilty, the culprits are usually dismissed from the service and made to serve various jail terms as stipulated in relevant laws.
According to him, this deliberate effort by the military hierarchy in guiding against sexual misconducts and human right abuse, was to ensure that the nation’s barracks remained safe for everyone.
“I make bold to intimate this gathering that there have been limited and isolated cases of gender based violence within our barracks which the military authorities are able to handle with utmost professionalism.
“The need to sustain our efforts in combating trafficking and the menace of gender based violence among other human right violations within our barracks has further necessitated the hosting of this awareness campaign for members of the Armed Forces and their families within our barracks in Abuja.
“This effort would be sustained beyond Abuja to other part of the country where our personnel and their families are serving.
“In the light of the foregoing, I wish to reinstate the commitment and willingness of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in supporting the Federal and State governments’ efforts towards fostering human right and gender based violence free nation,” he said.
The CDS disclosed that the campaign was aimed at increasing awareness on the growing trend of human right abuses, SGBV and human trafficking in the society, with a view to fashioning out workable solutions that would effectively prevent the scourge within the barracks community.
According to him, the effects of these debasing vices are better imagined than experienced.
The President, Defence and Police Officers Wives Association (DEPOWA), Mrs Victoria Irabor, said that abuse was a topical issue that had continued to attract attention globally, saying everything possible should be done to discourage it.
Mrs Irabor was represented by the Wife of the Commandant, National Defence College, Dr Feyisayo Daji at the event.
She said that the dehumanising nature of human trafficking had made it something that should be stopped with no stone left unturned in the effort to ensuring that it was eliminated in all forms.
Mrs Irabor said the global outcry on gender based violence resulted to the United Nations’ declaration on the elimination of violence against women in 1993.
She said that the increased global, sub-regional and the national measures in preventing and ending violence against women and the girl child was an indication of the widespread impunity on sexual and physical harassment .
“Furthermore, just as we acknowledge that women and girl child are usually victims of gender based violence and human trafficking, we must also be conscious of the reality that anybody could be a victim of this menace, which could take place anywhere.
“At his juncture, permit me to state that the DEPOWA is championing the campaign to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls with emphasis on matters of rape, which is harmful to this vulnerable group of persons whether in peaceful environment or in conflict areas.
“We are also against any form of human rights abuse and trafficking and there are ongoing efforts of support national endeavours at ending these unwelcomed abuses and trafficking.
The DEPOWA president also solicited support from the, federal, States and local governments to ensure zero tolerance on gender based violence.
She added that the association would continue to collaborate with the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders in ensuring that perpetrators of human rights abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking were convicted by the competent court of law.
The Gender Adviser, Defence Headquarters, Brig.-Gen. Christiana Thomas, said the event was organised to create awareness among the members of the armed forces and barracks community on issues of SGBV.
Thomas said that the sensitisation campaign was to also educate the barracks women and children to know the implication of sexual abuse, child molestation, trafficking and other vices.
She said the military had adopted the law that would protect the vulnerable groups from such abuses by encouraging them to speak out.
She disclosed that the military now had desk offices in all formations and units where the victims can go and report such cases.
“We have rules and laws guiding everything in the armed forces and we have policy that ensure that nobody involved in such vices would go free,” she said.