International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has advocated the establishment of a Family Court in Kaduna State to fast track the prosecution of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases. The state Chair of the association, Zainab Atoba, made the call yesterday when FIDA paid a courtesy call on Governor Nasir el-Rufai. She said the proposed court would promptly handle cases of rape, defilement, wife battery, child abuse, child labour and marriage issues. The FIDA chair disclosed that the regular courts were burdened with too many cases and ‘’they can hardly give us what we want and in good time”.
Atoba also suggested that Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) should be created in at least every Primary Health Centre in Kaduna State if possible, or in all the 23 local government areas. She said: “We also call for the establishment of more Sexual Assault Referral Centres in Kaduna State as this will allow for purposes of proximity. We have people who have cases of rape, defilement and other GBV crimes but have transport challenges to travel to any SARC centre that is closest to them.’’
Atoba also called for the appointment of more high court judges and amendment of some sections of the Child Welfare Protection Law and the Penal Code. FIDA also presented the Hausa translation of Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kaduna State (2017), which was done by the association, to the governor. Responding, el-Rufai thanked FIDA for the visit and promised the government would do whatever it could to support the association to make it more effective.
The governor lamented that rape and GBV had become an epidemic as the data was worrisome. He added that he recognised the role that FIDA had been playing to ameliorate the problem. El-Rufai said that his administration has been clamouring for both Family Courts and Small Disputes Courts, where minor disputes “can be easily resolved without recourse to legal procedures, so that the load on our justice system will be reduced”. He added: “We are also working to have more judges in the state.
I think that Kaduna State needs 20 more high court judges. We put in a request to the National Judicial Council (NJC) but we are not getting the appropriate response; we got approval for only four.” The governor said that Kaduna State even offered to pay the salaries of these judges that the government requested for because ‘’our high court judges are overworked”. According to el-Rufai, the average workload of a high court judge in Kaduna State is over 200 cases. He said: “No human being can handle that efficiently. It is delaying justice and also encouraging impunity.”
The governor disclosed that people who were taken to court for the violence which occurred in 2016 were yet to be convicted. He added: “That is why we had another outbreak recently. If people are being convicted, then it will send a lesson.”