– Berates critics

The member representing Njaba state constituency in the Imo State legislature and sponsor of the bill for a law to eliminate violence in private, domestic and public life, prohibit all forms of gender based violence, harmful traditional practices, discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders: and other related matters, Hon. Uju Onwudiwe, has said that, contrary to speculations and vague insinuations in some quarters, Bill Gates is not the sponsor of the bill which she and her colleagues are pushing forward in good faith to take care of the interests of the vulnerable ones.

Hon. Onwudiwe who gave this explanation in an interview with News men,yesterday, stated that most of the people criticizing the bill which is aimed at addressing some obnoxious happenings in the society, have not taken time to study and be acquainted with its noble contents.

She cited Dr. Philip Njemanze, Imo State chairman of Catholic Medical practitioners and state coordinator of Prolife Groups, who has been championing the crusade against the bill as one of such people.

According to her, “Dr. Njemanze was vehemently criticizing the bill in its entirety. But when he got a copy of the bill and went through it, he realized that it was not an abortion bill. He changed his stance and started picking holes in other sections of the bill that tend to protect the lives of the vulnerable ones.

She stated that most states in the country have passed the bill into law, stressing that it remains Imo in the South East. “My colleagues and I, intend to domesticate the bill, which has already been passed by the national assembly”. She challenged critics of the bill to cite the particular sections of the bill that they are not comfortable with instead of generalizing their argument and condemnation.

She further posited that, there wouldn’t have been need to organize public hearings if there were ulterior motives for sponsoring the bill. “The essence of the public hearings, is to give people opportunity to go through the bill, make recommendations and inputs where necessary”.

When asked if the issues the bills she is  sponsoring tends to address, have not been addressed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, the criminal code and other extent laws, she said, “the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and other extant laws of the country, no doubt addressed some of the issues in the bill. But the bill we are sponsoring is more indepth, more comprehensive and tends to deepen the penalty, in addition to addressing other legal loopholes that were not previously addressed, in line with the peculiarities of our state and environment”.

Also speaking, the lawmaker for Isu state constituency, in the state legislature, Chief Mrs Ngozi Obiefule, spoke glowingly about the bill, which she said is good and aimed at protecting the vulnerable ones in the society.

She recalled the experience she had in her constituency, where a minor was raped by an adult. Thereafter, the perpetrator of the despicable act walked around freely, without hindrance.

She regretted that some religious bigots, out of ignorance and naivety are trying to frustrate passage of the bill which will in the long run, be acclaimed as a noble idea that will, aside addressing the needs of a target audience, serve as a deterrent to perpetrators of domestic violence, and other heinous and despicable practices, thereby making the society a better place for all.

Some of the issues addressed by the bill, for which penalties were prescribed, as outlined in a draft copy made available to Nigeria Watchdog Newspaper, include, inflicting physical injury on a person, willfully placing a person in fear of physical injury, offensive conduct, coercion, taking undue advantage of persons living with disability, prohibition of female circumcision or genital mutilation, frustrating investigation, forceful ejection from home, depriving a person of his/her liberty, damage to property with intent to cause distress, deprivation of right of inheritance, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, forced isolation or separation from family and friends, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, harmful widowhood practices, abandonment of spouse, children and other dependants without sustenance, sexual intimidation, spouse battery, harmful traditional practices,  attack with harmful substance, administering a substance with intent  to commit  sexual offence, incest, indecent exposure, posting of picture of a person or victim of sexual violence, sexual blackmail, political violence, violence by state actors, among others.

The bill, also makes clear and unambiguous provisions for protection orders, investigation and prosecution of offenders, jurisdiction of courts and interpretation of the relevant sections.