The House of Representatives has passed for second reading a bill for an act to make provision for the prohibition of stigmatization of persons who are victims of insurgency or militancy from integration with the community and to provide for the prosecution and punishment of any person or group of persons who stigmatizes such victims, with a view to uphold and Protect their Fundamental Rights to Dignity and Free Association as Provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
Leading the debate, Sponsor of the bill Representative Rolland Igbakpa, stated that the Bill makes for the protection of the victims of insurgency from stigmatization in the society that may hinder them from functioning optimally or enjoying their basic and rightful due in the community.
He stated, ” Some people would go to the extent of calling victims derogatory names. The children of victims are not left out too, as they equally suffer name calling and shaming even at school, for what is no fault of theirs.
“Victims even suffer exclusion from social places like churches, meetings, as well as avoidance at public functions and gatherings. Victims soon become topic of small talk in town and looked upon as less human.
“They are usually discriminated against on account only of being victims of insurgency or militancy as the case maybe. Whilst some of them suffer in silence, a few of them attempt to fight it off”.
He further explained that before long, such victims begin to suffer the physical and psychological consequences of social stigmatization.
“The implications of stigmatization are dire: public embarrassment, social disorientation, solitude, compromised sense of identity, and sometimes suicide”, he added.
But some lawmakers did jot speak in favour of the bill as Rep. Nkem Abonta said that the lead debate is confusing as it seems as if the Bill also asks Nigerians not to stigmatize the insurgents. He further noted that the Bill seeks to contravene its backing section of the constitution and called for the Bill to save parliamentary time.
While Rep. Toby Okechukwu asserted that though the constitution is clear on what is covered but there is the need to avoid repetition of laws that are already in the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
While some members supported the bill with Rep. Ahmad Jaha adding that the intentions of the Bill have been misunderstood as the sponsor was referring to victims of insurgency and not the insurgents.
The Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, cleared the air that if there are any inconsistent parts, the Committee would fix it at the point of the public hearing and as long as the victims are being stigmatized, then the Bill is in line.
When put to a voice vote by the speaker, the passed for second reading and was referred to the House Committee on Displaced Persons and Refugees.