Henceforth any traditional or religious leader protecting suspected Gender based Violence (GBV) offenders in Ekiti state would be legally challenged.
The International Federation of Women Lawyers(FIDA) gave the warning at the weekend during a Ford Foundation funded community action plan progress review and preventive plan.
The event which came up at Erinmope and Ilawe Ekiti, Moba/Ekiti Southwest Local Governments was organized to address violence against women and girls.
FIDA’s Chairperson in Ekiti Barrister Oyinade Olatunbosun, who at the program highlighted the efforts being made to combat oppression against women and girls, Olatunbosun stated that 60 surveillance team and 20 para legal advocates, had been trained in the two towns, to canvass against GBV, for Ekiti to be crime-free.
She decried the reported cases of some traditional , religious leaders and influential people allegedly using their influences to sweep under the carpet issues bordering on rape and molestations of women and girl child in the state.
The FIDA boss said: “Whoever does that had committed an offence. Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice will take such individual to court, because it is an offence against the state and only court can free offenders, not individuals, no matter how influential or highly placed.
“I charge our traditional rulers, Pastors, Imams and people of means and influence in our communities to stop pleading, suppressing, shielding or interceding for those apprehended or reported for GBV offence .
“The position of FIDA is very clear, it is an offence against the state, negotiation is impossible, suspects must appear before the court. If you beat your wife, rape or traffick any girl child or used them for slavery, you will be charged to court in line with the law”.
On her own part,the Programme Manager, FIDA Nigeria, Mr. Fikih Obaro, added that the Ford foundation was committed to eliminating all forms of societal ills against female gender in six communities in Nigeria, using Plateau, Lagos and Ekiti, as pilots.
Obaro said the swift intervention of reputable bodies like FIDA and other international organisations in the scourge, had helped in the reduction of oppressive actions against female gender in the country.
“This training confirmed that we are going to the grassroots to put up community owned intervention programmes to fight GBV.
“Avalanche of gatekeepers are being trained in these localities in partnership with stakeholders. The interventions have been successful in reducing patriarchy and created enabling platform for women to advance to leadership positions .
“So far in Ekiti State, we have witnessed reduced rate in spike of GBV in the communities. We also have strong and effective referral system between the communities and state actors, for prompt report, arrest and prosecution of GBV offenders”.