Wife of Bayelsa State Governor, Dr. Rachael Dickson, has cautioned parents, guardians and traditional rulers against shielding rapists, paedophiles and other criminal elements in the state.
She expressed concerns over the abuse of women and girl-child in society, urging members of the public to always shame rapists and violators of girl-child in order to reduce the incidence of the menace.
Mrs. Dickson spoke during the visit of Commonwealth Women in Parliament (African Region), to St. Judes Girls Secondary School, Amarata, Yenagoa, on Friday, where executive members of CWP had an interaction with the students. The interaction was compered by Miss Mabel Obiriki, a Bayelsa scholarship beneficiary and female first-class student of the Lincoln University, United States of America.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Girl-Child Education: A Panacea for a Stable Society’, the Governor’s wife warned parents against encouraging their girl-child to indulge in street hawking instead of being at school.
She said the government had promulgated stringent law to prosecute guardians and parents who failed to avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the state government to educate their wards and children.
Worried about the rising wave of rape and violation of girl-child, Mrs. Dickson said the government had established the office of Public Complaints Commisssion to take care of every girl and woman that had been abused, violated or raped.
She said, “The government is doing so much about rape and street hawking. As you are aware, we have the office of Public Complaints in Bayelsa that takes care of every girl that has been violated.
“Now, the family cannot say they do not have the money to prosecute the matter. Now, I say to every mother and guardian, once your daughter is violated, it is not a cultural issue anymore; it is a criminal matter. Somebody has broken the law, the law should take its course.
“Do not go for settlement. Immediately you go for settlement and a token is paid, that culprit will violate another girl. So, let them (violators) face the law. It is not traditional. No traditional ruler should call for settlement. If the law sets him free, we accept, if the law does not set him free, let him face the punishment.
“On the issue of street hawking, actually, there is no reason for street hawking in Bayelsa. We have free education and I know that government has formulated legislation. Every guardian, every parent that their daughter and their son is of school age that are hawking while they should be in school, will not go unpunished. Education is the right of a child and in Bayelsa, we will enforce that right.”
In her submission, Chairperson, Commonwealth Women in Parliament, Lindiwe Maseko, urged the parents and society to stop giving preferential treatment to boy-child, insisting that the girl-child deserved equal attention as the boys.
Maseko said the government and legislature had done their best by promulgating a legislation to ensure that the perpetrators of violence and abuse against the girl child were brought.
She, however, said it was important for all to appreciate that this is a “challenge to our society, not just Bayelsa, not just Nigeria, not just Africa continent, but for society as a whole. It therefore behoves us all, in particular men and our boy children to stand and say no to abuse, rape and violation of the girl-child.
“The boy child should be taught to protect the girl child. Parents should appreciate that every child is important, not to protect the boys alone. We need a societal movement that forbids that practice of violating the girl child.”
In his remarks, the Commissioner for Education, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, said the government had spent over N70bn in the education sector since its inception in 2012.
He said the government took the education of girl-child seriously, saying that as part of the measures to reduce the incidence of street hawking, prostitution and other social vices, the government made education free and compulsory for both boy-child and girl-child.
He also said the government had sent most of the indigenes on scholarship abroad, noting that Bayelsa had moved away from educationally disadvantaged state to educationally-advantaged school culminating in its impressive performance in national examinations such as WAEC and NECO.
Also speaking, Mrs. Ebiowou Koku-Obiyai, a former lawmaker and former Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Bayelsa State, said the government had domesticated the child right law in the state.
She said, “We have domesticated the child right law in the state. It was domesticated last year, and in that law, there are a lot of things it has captured. Hawking and rape are part of it. Rape has become a problem in the society because most times when our children are raped, people do not want to talk about it because of stigmatisation.
“People will hide, family members will hide. We have a law that can protect them and that is the child right law. We have various organisations to assist them.
“The duties of these organisations is to track some of these vices against our children being the girl child or boy child. I also know that boys are being raped. All of them should be protected. Parents should be bold to report; we have not been making formal report and that is bad. This is so because once a girl is raped, you have destroyed the future of that child because the child will be withdrawn in life, some of them may even be afraid of getting married.
“I want to use this opportunity to tell our parents, our brothers and sisters that whenever they hear anybody that is raped, they should speak out and the law is there to protect them.”