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Minister laments growing violence against female politicians as lawyer seeks travel ban on governors

By Sodiq Omolaoye, Abuja
07 December 2022   |   4:53 pm
Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Sharon Ikeazor, has lamented the escalating violence against women in the political arena as the country prepares to hold elections next year.

Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Sharon Ikeazor, has lamented the escalating violence against women in the political arena as the country prepares to hold elections next year.

Similarly, a human rights lawyer, Frank Tietie, has urged the international community to place a travel ban on Nigerian leaders, especially state governors and other senior public officials who failed to prevent and prosecute those perpetrating violence against female politicians.

They expressed these views at a national dialogue with security and political stakeholders on violence against women in politics organised by the Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) in Abuja on Tuesday.

Ikeazor, who expressed concerns that most interventions in addressing Gender Based Violence do not look into the violence that happens in politics, said the menace is a deciding factor in women’s political participation in Nigeria.

Noting that she had also been a victim of grave violence in her years as a politician, the minister observed that the growing cases of violence against women in politics was due to a lack of dire consequences for such actions.

While making reference to the killing of the Women Leader of the Labour Party (LP) in Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Mrs Victoria Chintex by gunmen, the minister said: “When I experienced my first political violence, I was lucky that we had policemen around who were able to rescue me but after that, I never took chances. So every woman here, please never take chances when you go out there, have a second layer of clothing under your rapper. I learnt that as a tomboy, and he helped me in politics.

“Then at the end of my rapper, I tie my pepper spray. You have to defend yourself. I distributed pepper spray to our women when we were all active in politics. I remember the incident of a lady in Kaduna when she was attacked by her party chairman and some other men, it was the pepper spray she deployed. That was what saved her.

The minister while lamenting that the issue had been largely ignored, urged security agencies to ensure that perpetrators are caught security agencies to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of violence against female politicians, or “else, our women will continuously be at risk as their lives are offered at the altar of politics with no repercussions.

On his part, Tietie, who is also the executive director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) said the failure of state governors and other elected public officials to protect female politicians against violence makes them complicit in the act.

Also making reference to the assassination of the Labour party women leader in Kaduna, the legal practitioner urged governor Nasir El-Rufai to return from his trip in the United Kingdom (UK), and ensure that perpetrators of the dastardly acts are brought to book.

According to him, Nigerians must go beyond crime, and mourning but responsibility and accountability.

He said: “This issue is about those who are responsible for protecting women. Now, if those starting from the President, governors or local government chairmen or anybody who holds any form of authority or power and flair of influence over any area,l are unable to protect women, or protect female politicians, if they also are unable to determine the question as to who benefits from violence against women, then, they will be held responsible not only by the Nigerian state but by the international community.

“So it should now be the duty of a governor, for example, to ensure that nothing happens to a female politician because if anything happens to a female politician, he will have to explain who did it and who benefits from it.

“And if he’s unable to answer those questions, the first responsibility rests on him to now discharge the fact that he is not the one behind it. The principal expectation is that the political beneficiary of a form of violence perpetrated against a woman is either the status quo or the opposition.

“That is why I said there should be international sanctions. We now have a regime of international criminal law, even when that violence does not amount to a threshold of war and crimes against humanity, It should be recorded against that individual in the international community that he or she failed to protect the female politician, in his country, state, or local government. Such punitive sanctions should also extend to travel bans to that politician or government official and his entire family. We should begin to change the paradigm. People must be held responsible for every act of violence that is perpetrated against a female politician in this country and anywhere else in this world.”

Speaking, Commissioner of Women Affairs Kaduna State, Hafsat Baba
assured Nigerians that the Kaduna State government would ensure it arrests and prosecute the killers of the LP women leader in the state.

While sharing her experience on how she was locked up and detained at her party’s headquarters while fighting against an injustice melted on a female politician in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Baba said the idea of asking women politicians to relinquish their tickets for male counterparts was unfair.

She said: “For me, I think it’s an experience. I think it’s one of the hurdles one is expected to cross in politics, because I’ve contested twice, and I’ve tested the waters.

“There are going to be some hurdles along the way, but how you’re able to manage those hurdles is the most important question. That incident occurred when I was the national woman leader of ACN where a woman got her ticket, but the chairman of the party in my state wanted to take it by force to give it to a man.

“So I fought it. And then she was able to get that ticket, but she went through a lot. She was beaten, and she was hospitalized. Her documents were stolen away from her, and my name had to be used in INEC so that we could secure that space for her but I’m happy that even if she didn’t make it at the end of the day, we didn’t give up.

“Apart from physical violence, there is also emotional violence that women face. When you are asked to leave or to relinquish that position when you have gotten that ticket, I think it is wrong, and I think it is not advisable that the woman just stepped down for anybody. Let them learn to fight it because it is only when we fight and maintain it, then we’re being taken seriously, and then the party should not ask any woman to step down for any man or for anybody, whatsoever.”

President of WIPF, Barr. Ebere Ifendu, said incessant attacks on the facilities belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, might affect women’s participation in the 2023 general elections.

She said though men are also victims of violence, the menace affects women more.

“As we have the 16 days activism, it is just for us to bring up issues concerning violence against women, generally, and then we are taking it back to violence against women in elections. We know that a woman was killed in Kaduna state, and thank God the commissioner was there to speak on that. In the last election, a woman was killed in Kogi state. And most recently, almost every other day across Nigeria, INEC facilities are being vandalized, so we don’t really know the effects it will have on the voters and I pray that there won’t be voter apathy because we need to get things rights this time.

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