By Stephen Adeleye.
The Kogi State Government through the office of the Public Defender and Citizens’ Rights Commission (PDCRC) has vowed to ensure justice for a woman who was publicly harrased and ridiculed for allegedly causing her husband death.
The Director General of PDCRC, Abdullahi Zakari Esq, gave the assurance at a press briefing in Lokoja on Thursday in response to the allegations levelled against one Blessing Abbah, who was ridiculed, molested and exposed to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment in a video that went viral by a gang of youths in Ogugu community for allegedly causing her husband’s death.
“Today’s press conference is remarkable against the backdrop of the development in the media space in recent time.
“We all recalled of a video of a lady who was exposed to treatment that constitute an infringement on her rights as provided by the constitution.
“The viral video which has attracted interest all over the world, also goes to stress the rights and place of women in our society,” Zakari.
According to him, the victim, Blessing Abbah, got married to Goodnews Abbah sometimes in November 2020, and both of them are indigene of Ogugu Community in Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi State.
”Unfortunately, Goodnews Abbah died few months after marriage, and the members of the community alleged that it was the abominable conduct of Blessing (his wife) that led to the death of her deceased husband.
“As Blessing was mourning her late husband, a gang of youths invaded her family house, took her to a public square, accusing her of husband’s death, and exposed her to ridicule, inhumanity, and undermined her dignity of person protected under the Nigeria constitution”, Zakari said.
He added that Governor Yahaya Bello, who had remained resolutely committed to the welfare and rights of women and children, expressed great concern about the viral video on the violation of the human rights of Blessing Abah.
The governor, therefore, instructed the Kogi PDCRC and the Ministry of Women Affairs to collaborate with other relevant stakeholders, to immediately intervene on the matter and ensure that justice was done.
“In furtherance of its mandate and the instruction of the State Governor, the DG, PDCRC and other key actors, especially in the matter that affects women and children, such as the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and Kogi Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, immediately formed a coalition to investigate the matter and ensure that justice is done.
“As a follow up to that trending video, the coalition of PDCRC, Ministry of Women Affairs and FIDA made a visit to Ogugu community on Tuesday where the incident occurred for on the spot assessment and to obtain needed facts.
“We also visited the families of the late Goodnews Abbah, and that of his wife Blessing Abbah, whose right was violated on the viral video.
“We also interacted with various leaders of the community including the paramount Traditional Ruler of Ogugu, the Ochogu, youths leaders, some community leaders and security agencies in the area, among others.
“Our aim of visit is to ensure that the peace in that environment is sustained, because what led to the harassment of the girl could trigger reprisals and things may go out of control.
“We also went there for the purpose of rescuing the lady because it was obvious she was no longer safe and her life was under threat if she continue to stay in that environment which could have negative impact on her life.
“Our findings revealed clearly that there were cultural and traditional issues but they are not of concern to us. Our concern is the himan rights of Blessing Abah.
“This is also an opportunity for us to talk to the human rights community both nationally and globally that the state government has the necessary machinery in place to ensure that the rights of every resident of Kogi State is protected.
“The state government in its wisdom has established PDCRC to do all that should be done to ensure that the rights of the residents of this state are not only protected; violations are also meant to be enforced.
“So, it is important to clearly state that the government of Kogi State through its coalition are completely on top of the situation, and we are working hard to finding solutions to it”, Zakari said.
According to him, the solutions include ensuring that justice is done because what happened constitute a violation of the young girl’s rights.
“We also want to ensure that those who were involved in the dastard act, pay for it following due process of the law.
“As we speak the security agencies in the state has been instructed to ensure that those involved in the act are brought to book.
“They will be investigated and prosecuted accordingly, and that is what the PDCRC, FIDA, and Ministry of Women Affairs, stand squarely for”, he reiterated.
The DG further drawn the attention of any of the human rights organisations in the country, to reach out to Kogi PDCRC office at the State’s Sectariat incase they might want to know any development on the issue.
He assured that the State Government was doing everything possible to ensure that justice was done in order to forestall future occurrence of such act anywhere in the state.
“We are telling the world, Nigerians and residents of Kogi, that when there are issues tending to affect the rights of any citizen, the attention of PDCRC should be immediately drawn to it, and we will respond rapidly to resolve those issues.
“I wish to seize this opportunity to thank all the relevant stakeholders on human rights issues in Nigeria and internationally; we appreciate your concerns on the trending video which borders on the rights of a resident of Kogi.
“We will continue to seek collaborations with other NGOs, CSOs, and security agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensuring that the rights of every resident of Kogi is promoted, protected and enforced.
Also speaking, the State’s Chairperson of FIDA, Barr. Lilian Okolo, said that FIDA was always concerned with any issue regarding women and children.
Okolo noted that the harassed lady (Blessing Abbah) was safe and secured where she was at the moment, assuring that FIDA would ensure that the culprits were prosecuted and brought to book.
On his part, a Lawyer attached to Kogi Ministry of Women Affairs, Barr. Tina Ekele, said the ministry headed by the Commissioner, Mrs Fatima Buba, would ensure that the welfare of the victim was well taken care off.
“We are in touch with the lady as well as her family members, and they are cooperating with us”, Ekele said.