The Senate has ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, to prosecute Cpl. Anthony Onoja, for allegedly raping a two-year-old girl in Mararaba, Nasarawa State.
The Senate condemned the act of paedophilia and sexual abuse in its entirety, and mandated the Senate Committee on Police Affairs to investigate it and report back within one week.
The Senate’s order followed a motion entitled, “Cruelty to Infants’”, brought by Sen. Helen Esuene (PDP-Akwa Ibom), on Thursday.
Mrs. Esuene said the Nigeria Police Force had refused to charge the suspect to court for the alleged sexual assault of the minor.
She noted that under the Child Rights Act, sexual assault was a criminal offence which attracted life or 14 years imprisonment.
Mrs. Esuene said: “this is not the first time it has been reported in this hallowed chamber of a police officer sexually abusing an infant girl and offenders often go unpunished.”
She called for urgent action to stem this evil.
Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP-Bauchi) attributed increasing spate of sexual abuse to the neglect of the people’s cultural values.
“For it to be done by a law enforcement officer, it speaks volumes of the negative changes we are having in Africa.
“As long as we don’t go back to appreciate our culture and history, we will continue to witness these abnormalities which now place us half way between humans and animals,’’ Ningi said.
Senator Chris Anyanwu (APGA-Imo) said the police had a tradition of covering up for offenders reported for prosecution, while Sen. Bello Tukur (PDP-Adamawa) wanted police compelled to investigate the matter.
In his contribution, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (PDP-Delta), called on government agencies to intensify awareness on the Child Rights Act to encourage Nigerians to take precaution.
Mr. Okowa said it was the responsibility of government to ensure that the dignity of the children was secured and protected to guide against any abuses.
“We are responsible for protection of the dignity of every child. We must begin to rethink and find our way back to our God,’’ Okowa said.
Senator Ahmed Lawan (APC-Yobe) said it was “disappointing’’ that 11 days after the incident was reported, the police was yet to provide any information as to the action it had taken.
Also speaking, Senator Magnus Abe (PDP-Rivers) advocated the creation of a register for sexual offenders and paedophilia to restrain them from having any contact with children.
Mr. Abe decried the impunity with which sexual offences were committed, adding that it was a reflection of the absence of effective law enforcement in the country.
“The problem we are facing has to do with law enforcement as offenders carry on with impunity because the state is weak and ineffective to control this thing.
“We need to tackle the enforcement structure because this is where the problem lies,” Abe added.
Senator Barnabas Gemade (PDP-Benue) said “it is only the implementation and enforcement of the law that keeps an organisation running.
“Due to the absence of law enforcement, a policeman can afford to do this kind of thing. There is more protection for a criminal in Nigeria than the innocent,’’ Gemade said.
The Senate President, Senator David Mark, cautioned against dismissing the issue as a mental case, saying “even if we tie him to a stake and kill him, it is not enough punishment.
“Crimes are committed all over the world, it is not only in Nigeria.
“The difference is that when our own is committed, we don’t get the people who commit them and when we eventually find the people, we don’t punish them.
“We should begin to punish people who commit crimes no matter how small or big, irrespective of whom they are.
“I believe that this particular case must attract maximum punishment whatever way we look at it,’’ Mark said.
Mr. Mark also expressed disappointment over the failure of the police to provide information on the cause of action it took since the incident was reported.