Deputy President of Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, on Tuesday in Abuja harped on the need for a strict implementation of the penalties prescribed for rape by relevant laws in the country.
The senator, however, cautioned against enacting more legislations to fight the scourge, noting that the penalties for rape in the country’s extant laws were enough to punish and deter offenders should they be enforced strictly.
He made the clarifications during the Senate plenary while contributing to the debate on a motion on incessant rape cases in Nigeria sponsored by Senator Rose Oko.
He also explaihed that, in the exercise of their statutory discretionary powers of granting mercy to prisoners, chief judges of the states sometimes treat rape cases as minor cases and end up releasing sex offenders.
These sex offenders, he said, often end up as threat to the society especially when they have not been purged of their past misdeeds.
A statement signed by the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Deputy President of the Senate, Yomi Odunuga, quoted the senator as saying that the penalties prescribed for rape are harsh and stringent enough if strictly administered on culprits without fear or favour.
He said: “The problem we have is not so much that we don’t have enough laws in our books. Indeed, we have so much. Most of those laws have been well articulated in this motion. I think the problem we have is that of enforcement and implementation, not creating new laws; not even strengthening or increasing penalties.
“It is very clear that even with the penalties we have in existing laws today when we are talking about statutory rape, the punishment is very harsh and stringent. I think what we should be focusing on today is the area of the sentencing guidelines; minimum sentencing guidelines. May be our judges have too much discretion in the punishment proposed. If we put a minimum sentencing guideline, that would tie their hands, then of course, that will help.
“In addition to that, we would also need to look at statutes regulating the granting of mercy. Year in, year out, we have chief judges of states who perform this constitutional function of visiting and setting free some prisoners who committed minor crimes. Unfortunately, some of these judges treat some cases of rape as minor crimes and we need to strengthen that area so that their own discretion to recommend and exercising the powers of granting of mercy is also curtailed.”
At the end of the deliberations on the motion, the Senate resolved to direct its committees on police and women affairs to, among others things, engage with relevant authorities with a view to stemming the incidences of rape and also to provide stiffer penalty for sex offences.
The Senate also resolved to urge relevant authorities to provide mandatory training for personnel handling sex offences cases and the victims and called on the courts to always impose the heaviest statutory sentences on convicted sex offenders to act as deterrent to others.