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VAPP Act Under Review

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The Senate on  27th April 2022, passed for Second Reading, a bill to repeal and re-enact the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) 2015. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Jibrin Isah (APC: Kogi) in his lead debate, stated that there is a need for a holistic reform of the law to bring its provisions in line with current realities.

VAPP was enacted to address the mounting problem of violence against persons, including domestic abuse, sexual offences, etc. It is a gender-neutral nature. However, being an Act of the National Assembly applicable only in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), states of the Federation would have to domesticate it in order to make it applicable within their respective jurisdictions. While several States have done this, some others are yet to do so and this has been the subject of advocacy by some civil society groups working towards the elimination of various forms of violence against persons.

The bill seeks to review some strict liability offences in the extant law, to introduce the element of intention (mental element or mens rea). It also seeks a review of imprisonment terms and fines provided as punishments to offences under the Act to create effective deterrence, as well as remove the option of crime as punishment for certain offences that are considered grievous. In addition to retribution, the bill introduces more adequate provisions for the compensation for victims of violence, including the establishment of a Victims’ Support Fund to cater for such persons.

The repeal and re-enactment bill also seeks to address drafting issues to clear ambiguities identified in some provisions of the Act, as well as replace some rather deprecating language with more appropriate expressions to reflect inclusivity and best practices acceptable to the community of persons with disabilities.