By Barr. Emperor Nnabuihe Iwuala (Ksc.)
As part of the activities marking the one year in office of Governor Rochas Okorocha in Imo State, the Governor among other things, precisely on the 29th May 2012, signed the Imo State Law No 12 of 2012 named Imo State of Nigeria, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law. This law was sponsored by the Majority Leader and Member Representing Ahiazu Mbaise State Constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly Hon (Mrs) Adaku Ihuoma.
Interestingly, Section 40 (G) and (1) of the above law among other things, provides that ‘ Every woman shall have the right to enjoy reproductive rightd including the right to medical abortion in case of sexual assault, rape, incest or where the continued pregnancy endangers the life or the physical, mental, psychological or emotional health of the mother’.
However, it was after more than a year this law had been in operation that the attention of the public was drawn to the above controversial section.
As a follow-up, churches and the general public were ready for a show down with the Okorocha-Led Administration claiming that the above enactment legalized the procurement of abortion.
In an initial reaction, Governor Okorocha said that the law did not legalize abortion but would prohibit all forms of violence against women. He also said the law made provision for right to medical abortion to the female victims of rape, sexual assault and where pregnancy endangers the life, physical, mental, psychological or emotional health of a woman in Imo State.
The Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Uwajumogu also denied passing any law legalising abortion in the state and decried the misunderstanding of the bill, explaining that it was for prevention of violence and protection of women’s rights. He also said the bill, which made provision for the termination of a foetus in cases of incest or rape, did not legalize abortion.
However, the above explanations of the various government officials did not go down well with many sections of the Imo public especially the churches. Consequently, the churches were ready for a show down with the Okorocha Government.
Subsequently, on Tuesday the 3rd of September 2013, the Governor, addressed members of the State House of Assembly and appealed to the state lawmakers to immediately commence the processes of expunging the offending sections of the law. He among other things said that his reason for the appeal was that his political opponents were taking advantage of the situation. He had this to say, “…I make this appeal because my political opponents are waiting patiently for the outcome of this unfortunate abortion saga. It is no worth the trouble to keep this law longer than necessary”….
The governor who used the occasion to reel out his achievements in office also claimed ignorant of the implication of the controversial section of the law saying that he signed the enactment because of his passion for children and the safeguard of women.
Responding, the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Donates Ozoemena, who also superintended over the day’s sitting, promised that the state legislature would commence the process of repealing the controversial legal provision.
Incidentally, this controversial enactment came up for the first time in Imo State during the Udenwa Regime but the bill was killed during public hearing.
Life of a human being starts at conception. It is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with Him. God alone is the owner and Lord of life from its beginning until its end. Therefore, it is an overstatement to say that abortion is the killing of human life.
The 5th biblical commandment says, 'You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgement'. Therefore, no matter the reason, no one can under any circumstance claim the right directly to destroy an innocent human being whom he/she cannot create.
Culturally, abortion is also an abomination in the Igbo culture and not just a religious issue alone.
Incidentally, the above legal provision on procurement of abortion in Imo State is unambiguous and unequivocal. It provides that women can legally procure abortion in the state if they got pregnant from incestuous relationship, raped, sexually assaulted or in any way not comfortable with the pregnancy.
The posers now are, whose responsibility will it be to determine who was really raped or who got pregnant for a blood relation? Is it the Doctor procuring the abortion or the pregnant girl? What stops any pregnant girl from making such claims? It means that even a married woman can procure abortion legally out of selfish reasons without the consent of her husband.
However, it is very unfortunate and highly regrettable that Governor Okorocha could claim ignorance of the implication of the abortion law he signed into law. It is also a show of recklessness for a state Governor to still claim that he did not legalize abortion when he really did. Even till the time of this write-up, the Governor or the Government of Imo State has never admitted that the controversial law legalized abortion.
Respectfully therefore, the claim by Imo Government that it did not legalize abortion is totally false and its failure to admit this is high level of treachery, recklessness and irresponsibility. Also for the Governor to put his signature on the law made him a vile person. A murderer. What if the signature was an authorisation for the execution of a suspect not yet tried and proved guilty and the hang man rushed out and executes his order? Would he come out to say that he signed the death warrant was in error? Who knows how many babies that have been unjustly killed since 29th may 2013 the law was signed? Does the Governor and members of the Imo Legislature that passed this law appreciate that the children who run out to hug them today to say welcome when they come home were once foetuses in women’s wombs? Perhaps they should take a look at their children today and pick the one to kill.
In the same vein, Governor Okorocha claimed that his reason for asking the Imo legislature to amend the abortion law was because his political opponents were waiting patiently for the outcome of ‘… this unfortunate abortion saga…’. This is another blunder. Asking that the abortion law be repealed because 'my political opponents are waiting patiently for the outcome of this unfortunate abortion saga' means that the Governor only conceded to the pressure to repeal the law so as not to give his political opponents advantage and not that the law is obnoxious. Therefore, I join the public to say that the Governor changed his mind because of political reasons.
In line with the above, the Governor doesn't want to lose out to his opponents. He is only afraid of falling out of place with the Catholic Church just like his predecessor did which cost him his re-election. Therefore, he wants to be re-elected and not because of the just reason of preserving the lives of the un-born children.
Respectfully, therefore, the above reason is a selfish and an irresponsible excuse; quest for political relevance, not really love for the life of children and sanctity of life. I see this retraction only as the usual desperation of Nigerian politicians to remain in power. How are we sure that if voted for a second term, the law would not resurrect again?According to William Shakespeare, ‘There is no art to know the minds construction in the face’.
Governor Okorocha has failed to realize how sophisticated and enlightened Imo people are.
Many at times, he takes them for granted. He misinterprets the exit of Ohakim to mean absolute love for him. He has failed to realize that what happened in 2011 was out of quest to confront bad leadership which the he is not guiltless of.
When Governor Okorocha requested to be voted into power, he claimed that he was stooped low to accept being a governor. This to me means that he is too big to be a governor and only doing the state a favour. May be that is why he taught that addressing a parliament on a serious issue like the killing of children was a political gathering to reel out achievements in office so as to score political points.
Therefore with the level of executive recklessness and rascality, I feel it is high time the Governor becomes a democrat and not ‘eze onyeagwalam’.
For me, that Law-maker who saw nothing else to propose as a bill to be signed into Law for her constituency and the State, except abortion bill is a wicked person. It is even a very big irony that a Catholic woman-legislator, a Christian mother sponsored the said law. Habba!
On the other hand, it also baffles us how a serious law like the one legalizing abortion under-went legislative process as the Imo law-makers claim without public awareness. It is also my belief that members of the Imo State House of Assembly never went through the forty-page law before it was read at the floor of the state legislature. It is also possible that the bill did not undergo the normal process of lawmaking before it was passed.
I have always said it that the present legislators in Imo State are the worst the state is having. I think I am now being justified on daily basis. These law-makers are confused. They have been completely hoodwinked by the executive to the extent that they no longer have initiative and conscience of their own. They do not see themselves as representatives of the people but only puppets to the Chief Executive. They do not care about the people they represent and their interest. They only care about how to impress the Governor and themselves and that is why a law could be stealthily passed, signed and enforced for more than a year without public notice. Rumour also has it that unimaginable shocking huge sum of money exchanged hands between some foreign groups and the state executive/legislature before the law was passed.
However, it is a big shame that up to the time of this write-up, the so called members of the Imo legislature have refused to tender apology to the public like the Governor has done for passing this law from the pit of hell.
On the contrary, God is the only giver of life and I treasure life in whatever form God gives it. I love all babies. I have good looking children and I love them so much. Children give joy and they are blessings to us. Some people undergo hell to have them. I was once a foetus and I was lucky not to be aborted.
On the other hand, no baby dictates or determines the circumstances of his or her birth. For me, all children are 'made' the same way. What on earth makes a child borne out of rape different from one born within wedlock. Was the rape or incest the fault of the child? Therefore circumstances of conception should not determine which foetus is 'saved' and which foetus is killed.
I want the children of rape, incest, adultery, fornication, mad women, etc to be given the very opportunity to come into this world and be the best that they can be just like children of unions that have been celebrated in Church and at the Registry and at Traditional marriage events. It is only perpetrators of the crime that should face the wrath of God and the law and not innocent babies.
I have to commend all stakeholders who have been at the vanguard of seeing that this obnoxious law is repealed. I also commend Governor Okorocha for appreciating the ‘need’ to repeal the law.
However, it is now left for Imo law-makers to repeal this controversial legislative provision as abortion is not only evil but man’s inhumanity to man.
Nevertheless, may the souls of the innocent children that have died through this act of executive and legislative recklessness, rascality and acclaimed naivety rest in perfect peace. Amen.
(Iwuala, an Owerri-Based Private Legal Practitioner and Public Affairs Analyst can be reached on: 08037247295, 08158706257, firstname.lastname@example.org)