The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers and other critical stakeholders have resolved to stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the state.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the stakeholders reached the agreement in Ado Ekiti on Monday during a one-day workshop organised by UNICEF in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Information on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The stakeholders, who included the market women, religious leaders, students and top government functionaries agreed that the practice had damaged the reproductive health of many Nigerian women, female children and destroyed marriages.
A South-West UNICEF Consultant on FGM, Mrs Oluronke Adetayo, in her presentation, urged the stakeholders to do everything possible to stop violence against children, especially the girl child.
Adetayo added that Ekiti had the highest prevalence rate in the South-West, having overtaken Osun that was leading in 2013, with Imo State rated highest in Nigeria.
“No force can come from Abuja and stop FGM in Ekiti except the locals themselves led by our traditional rulers, religious leaders, market men and women, women groups and students to stop this harmful practice.
“In 2013, Ekiti has 72 per cent prevalence rate, but in 2019 it has reduced to 57.9 per cent, which is not enough. We still have to work harder.”
She described the practice as a manifestation of gender inequality, abuse of human rights and a violation to women and girls, which she said could create instability in the system if not stopped.
The Executive Secretary, Ekiti State Bureau of Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr Adegboyega Morakinyo, revealed that Ekiti State had enacted anti-FGM law since 2011, which was amended in 2019.
He added that the statute stipulates a fine of N200,000 or one year imprisonment for offenders.
“The law is in place and we have put it in gazette it and we will make it available to all organisations.
“It prohibits both the parents and cutters from engaging in the act and whoever flouts it will have him/herself to blame,’’ he warned.
On high FGM in Ekiti, Oba Gabriel Adejuwon, the Onisan of Isan Ekiti and Chairman, Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, said the established myth that any girl who didn’t do it would be promiscuous had no scientific proof.
He added that the myth was meant to create fear in people’s minds.
“This is a very deadly and harmful practice. Some of the materials used for cutting by these practitioners are locally made and not sterilised.
“This led to some being infected with diseases, some bled to death, and some became barren from the act. So it is harmful and we have to stop it.”
Oba Adejuwon urged the government to reinforce action for prosecution of offenders, the way it has been fighting against those engaging in sexual abuse, particularly rape.
Also, the Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi, appealed to stakeholders to sensitise the people at the local level to the evils inherent in the harmful practice.
He said this was necessary as some people were still indulging in the pernicious act due to ignorance.
“After the sensitisation, we will go into enforcement and that is where the traditional rulers, government and market men and women will be useful.
“We must stop this practice at all cost. There is no gain in it.
“FGM is making some of the men to indulge in extra marital affairs once their wives are victims of FGM.
“Let it be known that there are consequences for whoever does that, because the law doesn’t allow that.’’
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Mr Akinjide Akinleye, commended UNICEF for its Initiative.
He emphasised that the stakeholders in Ekiti were greatly worried by the fact that the state was leading in the harmful practice in the South-West.
“We are worried because by our education, sophistication and social engineering, Ekiti shouldn’t be leading in the practice of genital mutilation prevalence.
“But I am confident that the high prevalence will be cut down soon.
“Even in the current budget under operation in Ekiti, there is a line for FGM campaign.
“We must save our girls from this embarrassing practice of their time. We can’t continue to subject them to this kind of traditional practice that is harmful to them.”
The Chief Imam of Ekiti and Southern Nigeria, Alhaji Jamiu Kewulere, represented by Alhaji Utzas Kolawole, said the campaign against FGM was highly beneficial and targeted to make life better for all populace.
Kewulere said the Holy Quoran and Islam were against FGM adding that all Muslim faithful must propagate against it in all the Mosques.
He also said they should inform the people about the dire consequences of such practice to dissuade the practitioners.
The Iyaloja of Ado Ekiti, Mrs Waye Oso, said the wife of the governor, Mrs Bisi Fayemi, had given empowerment to ex-FGM practitioners across the state after they surrendered their tools.
She said according to Mrs Fayemi there wasn’t any need for anyone to indulge in it in spite of the government’s efforts.