Two outspoken and intelligent Nigerians have condemned the recently passed Sexual Offences bill.
Both Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana SAN accused the bill of permitting rape and defilement of people over age 11.
“Messrs. Falana and Soyinka raise eyebrows on the age limit set for potential victims by the bill. The bill stipulates a life imprisonment for any individual found guilty of rape or sexual intercourse with children under 11 years; 10 years for incest; 10 years for child pornography or a fine of N2 million; and 14 years for sexual abuse, among others. With the provision, the bill appears to stipulate those incidents will not be considered crimes if the victims are older than 11; with Mr. Falana saying those age limits were inserted wrongly into the original bill.”
However, from the bill it appears they are wrong. The bill did not remove the lines to cover other ages up to 18 years.
We are not sure whether these two respected persons were in haste and did not take time to read through the Bill carefully.
Senator Chris Anyanwu who put forth the bill defends:
“In the 47 page document, there is no where it states that 11 years is “the age of consent”. Infact, the bill passed by Senate, makes no mention of 11 years. The whole noise and fury is a clear case of someone reading a legal document up-side down; choosing to retain a phrase in the draft which had been rejected and cancelled out during the final reading and then reading it totally out of context.
“It was a classical case of mischief or ignorance but here’s what Senate passed in reference to the Defilement of Children in clause 6 (2): “A Person Who Commits An Offence Of Defilement Shall Upon Conviction Be Sentenced To Imprisonment For Life”. No age. No 11 years as age of consent. If that had happened, many of us would not have been party to that kind of law.
“Mercifully, The Sexual Offences Bill, as passed, does not deal with the definition of who is a child. That has already been done by established laws . However, in clause 6(3) it makes allusion to the age of 18 years as the terminal point of childhood when it talks of deception as defense. This conforms with section 29 of the constitution and the Child Rights Act. Given these facts, all the fire and brimstone rained by the online mob was about nothing and came to nothing. People were merely making vacuous noises without attempting to get the true facts. Had some reporters who were quoting the social media taken the trouble to get and read through the Votes and Proceedings of Senate for that day, they would have been able to educate the public on what actually transpired.”
Since the passing of the bill there has been a controversy over the part that says “A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment”.
Many have misinterpreted this to mean that the bill makes it lawful for children between between the ages of 11 and 18 to be defiled. What they do not know is that the bill states the same punishment for defilement of children up to eighteen years old.
Below is a screenshot from the bill, you can read the full document at nass.gov.ng/nass/legislation.php?id=2040