Sexual Offences Bill: Anyawu laments Soyinka’s ignorance, pleads for Buhari’s assent

By Amako Nneji June 20, 2015 15:34

Sexual Offences Bill: Anyawu laments Soyinka’s ignorance, pleads for Buhari’s assent

Senator Chris Anyanwu has said that the Sexual Offences Bill passed by the 8th National Assembly has been misunderstood by many, stressing that she would lobby the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari to pressurize her husband to assent to the Bill to become law.

She emphasized that it was the ignorant and the ill-informed that were kicking against the passage of the Bill.

Anyanwu who stated this during an interview with journalists disclosed that there has been a misconception in some quarters that the Bill tried to encourage defilement of minors, adding that she was misquoted and would put everything in the right perspective.

    “In the third reading document, there is a column for clauses, for the provisions of the bill – what was initially proposed, a column for what the committee recommends and then, the remarks.

    “If you change what was proposed and you say what you want, you will state the reason you change it.

    “My thinking is that someone who was not familiar with the document came to clause six. The opening paragraph reads in Clause Six:

    ‘Sub-section One: The person who commits an act that causes penetration with a child is guilty of an offense called Defilement. That is the definition of defilement. The punishments are:

    ‘Sub-section Two: A person who commits an offense of Defilement with a child age 11 years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

    ‘Sub-section Three: A person who commits an offense of Defilement with a child between ages of 12 and 15 is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.

    ‘Sub-section Four: A person who commits an offense of Defilement with a child between the ages of 16 and 18 years of age is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.’

    “What the committee handling the bill said was that the punishment is the same life imprisonment and as such, there was no need to stagger the ages because whether it is zero to 11 or 18, the punishment is for life.

    “Therefore, you need just one sentence covering all the ages and when they lifted the first one, which deals with 11 years or less, they did it to cover the whole and we found out that if you leave it as ‘a person who commits an offence of Defilement with a child of 11 years or less shall upon conviction, be sentenced to imprisonment for life,’ it would be as if you are approving going to bed with children, 11 years.

    “That was the reason, if you look at the line across that sentence – that is the law making process, what you do not like, you rule it out and we have ruled it out. Then, they stated clearly that sub-sections three and four were deleted because the punishment is the same irrespective of age difference.

    “So, somebody looked at it, saw that it was ruled out and still went out to say I encourage defilement of minors, is it not a mischief? What was ruled out was “with a child age 11 years or less.

    “Automatically, what is then approved in the Votes and Proceedings for that day is the definition of Defilement and then, ‘the person who commits an offence of defilement shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.’”

Professor Wole Soyinka had earlier urged President Buhari to withhold his assent to the Bill, noting that a nation should not be founded on the sexual exploitation of the fragile and innocent.

    “President Buhari, I make my first imposition on his presidency, should never place his assent on such a nefarious distraction.

    “Its implications doom the victim to afflictions that churn the stomach even to think of the human toll. Perhaps those legislators think that vaginal fistula is something thought up by arm-chair critics with nothing better to occupy their minds. No matter, let those who profess a genuine concern declare their stand on this.”

Anyawu pledged that she would ensure that the bill be domesticated in the 36 States of the federation.

    “I will want to say that if nobody wants to do the advocacy, I would be ready to carry on. I will visit the state assemblies,State governors and first ladies.

    “I will even start with the current national first lady and encourage her to adopt it as one of the plans for the change they want to bring about because it is change that touches everybody in this society.”