Nigeria has a sexual offenders register. I know that sounds ridiculous considering everything that has happened on Nigerian twitter this last week. Several high profile celebrities have been accused of rape and sexual assault, from Peruzzi, Comedian Ebiye, Uti Nwachukwu. The accusations have run the spectrum down to rising social media influencers who allegedly abused their influence to sexually assault women, to students who coerced other students into sexual acts. Even a high profile pastor was accused of sexual impropriety that goes back years. All spurred by the brutal rape and beating of Uwa, the University of Benin undergraduate who was attacked while she read in a church. With these rising accusations, most of which have not been reported to law enforcement because in the few instances where they were involved, they only sought to exploit the victims. A independently run sexual offender register seems the only way we can truly shame these perpetrators and gain some measure of justice for victims.
There are many people working to make this happen. Stand to End Rape, in partnership with Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, leveraging support from 15 non-governmental organisations, supported by the British Council, launched a sexual offenders register in November 25, 2019, the first of its kind in the country to monitor reported cases of sexual abuse, providing monthly updates to the online register. The online national Sexual Offender Register (different from the active registers in Kaduna and Ekiti states) will help members of the public and security agencies conduct background checks and identify sex offenders. Of course there are many circumstances that prevent potential victims from using the register and legal requirements of conviction before a person can be officially added to the register, but at least having this resource is the start of tangible reform.
However, this initiative will only work if Nigerians use it. We must report cases of assault and follow up to ensure we get convictions, we must use the register regularly and publicly shame people rightfully convicted of rape and assault so the stigma prevents casual opportunists who form the majority of rapists and rape apologists from feeling entitled to the bodies of women, and other vulnerable communities.
The work ahead of us is dire, but we must put in the effort.