The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, yesterday, decried the rising spate of sexual offences and other related crimes against women and children in the country, and called for stiff sanctions for offenders.

The CJN, who spoke at the opening ceremony of a two-day capacity-building workshop for the National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria, NAWJN, called for strict appliance of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) Act, 2015, which he said provided legislative and legal framework for the prevention of all forms of violence against vulnerable persons.

Justice Muhammad took the position on a day the Federal Government opened its case against the husband of late popular gospel artist, Osinachi, Mr. Peter Nwachukwu, whose wife allegedly died as a result of prolonged assault by him.

He said the workshop was organised to equip stakeholders in the justice sector with necessary skills to ensure that existing provisions of the laws are duly implemented to serve the purpose for which they were made.

He said: “Similarly, for stakeholders in criminal justice to be brought up to speed in their appreciation and importance of the law made to stem the tide of violence against vulnerable members of the society.

“As such, many laws, which include the VAPP Act, 2015, provides legislative and legal framework for the prevention of all forms of violence against vulnerable persons, expecially women and children, which I believe should be strictly applied in the course of your adjudicatory duties.

“This would help to curtail violence at the home front and indeed the larger society which is fast becoming a trend in the recent day Nigeria.

“Consequently, the theme for this year’s workshop: Inclusivity and Access to Justice: Sustaining Public Confidence in the Judiciary, could not have come at a better time than now in view of the prevalence of sexual offences and other related crimes against women and children in Nigeria.

“In this regard, this workshop is geared towards improvement in judicial response, access to justice and the sustenance of public confidence in the Judiciary. All these will further deepen our jurisprudence and engender speedy dispensation of justice.”

In her welcome address, President of NAWJN, Justice Jummai Hannatu Sankey, said the focus of the workshop was to enhance and seek out ways and means in which members of the society, “without any exemption, shall have ready access to our hallowed courts of justice with the confidence that they will always receive justice, and not merely judgement.”

She said the conference would enable participants to share experiences and address problems faced by Justice Sector Stakeholders in their roles as adjudicators, prosecutors and investigators in cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

Likewise, in his address, Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, NJI, Justice Salisu Abdullahi, said the workshop was timely, in view of what he termed as enormous challenges being experienced by stakeholders in curbing incremental rate of human trafficking, sexual violence and other gender-based offences.

“In today’s Nigeria, the number of cases reported is mind boggling and has resulted into a harvest of an unbelievable number of victims in our society; from the North to the East and from the West to the South, no place is immune to the menace of gender based violence and related crimes against women and children.

“These inhumane offences offences often undermine the victim’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It affects not only physical health but also mental health and may lead to self-harm, isolation, depression and suicide attempts.

“I understand that curbing these crimes requires a multifaceted approach and that’s why stakeholders have been brought under a roof to advance solutions to these lingering crisis of gender based violence”, Justice Abdullahi added.