Abuja - The Sexual Offences Bill, which prescribes life imprisonment for paedophiles (persons sexually attracted to children), on Wednesday in Abuja passed through second reading at the floor of the Senate.
The bill also seeks to make sexual assault an offence punishable by imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years, which could be extended to life imprisonment.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Sexual Offences Bill was first introduced by the 6th Senate but work on the legislation could not be concluded before the end of its tenure.
In a lead debate, Sen. Chris Anyanwu (APGA- Imo), the sponsor of the bill, decried the increasing incidence of sexual crimes against women, children and men in the country.
Anyanwu said that the bill became imperative because some sexual abuses, currently committed in the country, were not provided for in the existing criminal laws.
She said that credible reports had shown that sexual crimes in the country were ``under- reported, under-investigated and insufficiently addressed.
“Hardly any day passes without reports in the media of one form of abhorrent sexual crime or the other, ranging from rape, defilement of children and animism.”
“The children and young people of this country, both male and female, today face a growing danger as they are being routinely targeted by sexual predators and paedophiles,’’ she said.
Anyanwu bemoaned the disturbing trend of new dimensions of sexual crimes, which included “a gang of boys lacing a girl's drink with drug, then raping and strangling her to death.”
“This is something that belonged to the realm of theory, but now it is happening," she said.
The senator stressed the urgent need to review the extant laws on sexual offences in the Criminal Code Act and the Penal Code Act, which were enacted in 1916 and 1960 respectively.
“The provisions of these laws have become obsolete and out of touch with prevailing realities.”
“This is why the past Senate passed laws setting up the EFCC, ICPC, NAPTIP and others to be in tune with the evolving trends in crime fighting and control,’’ she said.
Anyanwu said that the bill had provision for the creation of a register of paedophiles and sexual offenders, compulsory documentation and supervision of sexual offenders as well as medical treatment for victims.
According to her, the bill is also aimed at strengthening the weak protection offered to victims and witnesses in the trials of sexual offences.
The Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, urged the senators to support the speedy passage of the bill.
“We should give the bill the necessary support for it to get a quick passage, considering the fact that it will save us from the virus which is widely spreading in the society,” he said.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative action, while the committee is expected to report back in two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday named Sen. Ahmed Makarfi as the head of the team that would represent it on the Senate/House of Representatives Conference Committee, which is scheduled to harmonise the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
The other members are Senators Ayo Akinyelure, Ita Enang, Bello Tukur, Smart Adeyemi and Enyinnaya Abaribe.