Ordinarily, the announcement by Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, that his office is exploring modalities for the establishment of a specialised court for rape, child defilement and gender-based violence should be cheering news.
Malami who made this known on Thursday last week at a press conference in Abuja, said he was consulting with the Heads of Courts towards the review of existing laws and policy instruments to enable his office propose holistic legislative upgrades for speedy trial of sex crimes.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, during his June 12 Democracy Day 2020 national broadcast, reacted to the waves of protests over a rage of rape cases around the country by promising to get tough.
Even though the 36 state governors have also undertaken to impose stronger measures against rape, we hope they will keep their promises even after the hoopla has faded.
Our doubt is based on the fact that 17 years after the Child Rights Act was signed into law by President Olusegun Obasanjo, 11 states in the North have not domesticated it. These are Bauchi, Yobe, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Borno, Gombe, Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi and Jigawa states.
Strong and up-to-date legal frameworks are needed to tackle this menace which preys on our women and vulnerable people of all ages.
We must, as a country, demonstrate our capacity and willpower to protect our citizens, especially the more vulnerable ones. Otherwise we will continue to exist in Thomas Hobbes' state of nature where life is "nasty, brutish and short".
Deploying a special court to bring sexual predators to swift justice is a welcome idea. It is a strategy that has worked in several countries, especially the United States.
It may not prevent the crime, but it ensures the criminal does not get away with it as often happens in Nigeria due to societal factors and our slow and unresponsive judicial system.
The call for the special court system in Nigeria has been a long-standing one, but no action has been taken so far. Former Economic and Financial Crimes commission, EFCC, boss, Farida Waziri, had called for a special court to try corruption cases in 2009. Also, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, had called for a special court for electoral offences. None of these has been established.
Yet, these are areas of our national life that require special judicial intervention and insulation from the mainstream courts for quicker results. We call on the media, lawyers and the same social advocacy groups that recently staged the #WeAreTired protests against rape to keep politicians on their toes. Otherwise, the proposal for a special court for rape cases will go the way of those for corruption and electoral offences.