By Johnpaul Anih, 13-10-2020
Rt. Hon. Chima Obieze explains what the law is 👇
It is not in doubt that some of the provisions of the laws relating to the administration of our criminal justice system are not in tune with modern realties and practicability. These Laws require necessary amendments, to make them more practicable and to avoid defeating the aims for which they were originally enacted.
The Law in question is Section 200 of the criminal code Cap 30 Laws of Enugu State of Nigeria 2004. Permit me to reproduce herein the provisions of the said section. Section 200 of the Criminal Code provides thus:
*”Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of eleven years is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for life.
Any person who attempts to have unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of eleven years is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
A prosecution for either of the offences defined in this section must begin within two months after the offence is committed.
A person cannot be convicted of either of the offences defined in this section upon the uncorroborated testimony of one witness.”
Without doubt, the aforementioned section deals with one of the sexual offences in Enugu State. However, the third paragraph of that section calls for concern. This paragraph provides that prosecution for either offences, that is, the substantive offence or its attempt, MUST begin within two months after the offence is committed.
The question that comes to mind here is: how practicable is this? To answer this question practically, permit me to unravel the process from the commission of the offence to the commencement of prosecution and allow you determine how practicable the two months time bar imposed by our law is especially considering the peculiarity of our society.
When the offence in Section 200 of the Law is allegedly committed, the first step is to make a formal report to the police, whose responsibility is to investigate the allegation. After the matter is reported, a medical form is issued to the victim to undergo medical examination. Depending on the health status of the victim at the material time, her statement will be recorded immediately or postponed to a later date to allow for adequate medical attention. In this period, the suspect is arrested. However, we must also consider the possibility that the suspect may be at large immediately the alleged commission of the offence, as it is in very many cases. I humbly believe that this possibilities are not put into consideration by drafters of this Law.
Still in the investigation, the stage takes considerable time as errors in or doubts not resolved or probabilities not properly checked out will all go in favour of the suspect during trial. It is worthy of note, that the standard of proof in criminal cases is proof beyond reasonable doubt. In view of this, the police spend time during investigation.
At the end of investigation and a prima facie case is established against the suspect, the practice in this state is that the suspect is first arraigned before a magistrate court. The sole purpose of this is for the magistrate to make an order remanding the suspect in prison custody (correctional service) and the casefile to be transmitted to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for his legal advice.
At the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, there are certain processes to go through before Information can be filed in the High Court in respect of the matter. Even the Law (Enugu State Administration of Criminal Law 2017) allows the State a period of time within which to prepare a legal opinion and file Information at the High Court or discharge the Defendant.
These are the processes that will be followed before prosecution can commence at the High Court. The question again is – can all these be done within two months after the alleged offence was committed, as stipulated in the law? My humble answer is that it is highly improbable. This is basically the reasons I called for the amendment of Section 200 of the Criminal Code Law.
Furthermore, I have read the provisions of our law in respect of the offence of rape. Permit me to reproduce the said law herein.
Section 308 of the Law provides thus:
“Any person who has unlawfully carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.”
Section 309 of the Law provides thus:
“Any person who commits the offence of rape is liable to imprisonment for life.”
In otherwords, while Section 308 defines the offence of rape, Section 309 provides for the punishment for the offence of rape.
A careful reading of the aforementioned provisions of the Law clearly shows that there is no requirement that the prosecution must commence within two months after the commission of the offence. The question here is what mischief does the insertion of the stringent condition in Section 200, which deals with children and much younger victims intend to cure that Sections 308 and 309 that deal with much older victims totally ignored?
With greatest respect, I saw none. In fact, it is my humble view that Section 200 of the Criminal Code Law appeared to be in favour of suspects given the harsh reality that it is very difficult to commence within two months after the commission of the alleged offence.
It is also noteworthy to see that paragraph one of the said section mentioned 11years. It is my view that the age bar has to be raised to 13 years.
Again, it is now a sad reality that not only the girl-child can be abused but also the boy child. We therefore amended further to hold that the section deals with both the boy-child & the girlchild.
I have said earlier but let me reiterated, we owe our daughters, sisters, wives, sons, and mothers to be; a duty to ensure they grow into an uninitimidated, unbroken and whole women and men. To become the ideal Nigerian man/woman in the future.
We can achieve if we put Laws and structures that protect them from birth till they get to the age of consent and choices.
I thank Mr Speaker, Rt. Hon. Uchenna Edward Ubosi and the Leader of the House, Rt. Hon. Ikechukwu Mellitus Ezeugwu, my Honourable Colleagues, the Clerk of the House & Clerks at the table for their physical and technical Support.
I dedicate this New Law to every girl child out there who is making efforts amidst all challenges, difficulties & ugly situations to turn out a better woman.
Rt. Hon. Chima E. Obieze
Member Representating Ezeagu Constituency