Seventy-two women’s organizations, activists, scholars, civil society and human rights organisations in Nigeria, on Tuesday, strongly condemned recent raids, alleged assault and sexual harassment of over 100 women in Abuja.
The operations were carried out by agents of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Joint Task Team, which is comprised of the Department of Development Control, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and the Social Development Secretariat (SDS).
In a joint statement made available to DAILY POST, by Isa Sanusi, the coalition said: “These agents raided the “Caramelo night club” and other clubs on two different occasions within one week in Abuja (17th and 26th April). During the raids, they arrested several women, who reported that they had been sexually assaulted and sexually harassed, some who were raped.
“The assaults left injuries in the vaginas of some of the arrested women and many were psychologically traumatised by the experience. It appears that the FCTA joint task team had unilaterally, and without respect for human rights, chose to contain any “environmental nuisance” the night club allegedly was causing to target and attack young women in the club, particularly dancers and strippers.
“The agents appeared to be specifically targeting women – while no male guests were arrested or harassed. In fact, several female guests in and around the night club were also targeted and harassed. Women were brutally dragged out by male officers who beat them, and some women were stripped naked.
“The violence inflicted on these women was vicious and targeted. They suffered this treatment because they were women and these officers were confident that they can get away with it.
“We were further shocked by the reports that a mobile court at the old parade ground in Area 10, Abuja on the afternoon of 29th April 2019, convicted many of these women in unfair trials and some of them were sentenced to prison or fined for an offence that is unknown to law.
“Nigeria is signatory to many international and regional human rights treaties including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), which protects the human rights of women to dignity, equality, liberty and freedom from violence.
“The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act applicable in the FCT also prohibits all forms of violence against all persons irrespective of gender, and regardless of whether it was committed in private or in public, while stipulating punishments for offenders and remedies for victims.
“The 1999 Nigerian Constitution equally provides for fundamental human rights including the rights to dignity (section 34); right to fair hearing (section 36), and right to freedom from discrimination (section 42).
“In October 2017, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in the Dorothy Njemanze & 3 Ors v. the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pronounced that the act of targeting women and harassing them by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other state security agents constituted gender based discriminatory treatment, torture, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment.
“The Court also recognised that Nigeria has a duty to investigate, discipline and prosecute persons responsible for violating these human rights therefore, the failure or refusal to do so in the cases reported to it amounted to a further violation of the State’s international obligations.
“These raids by the FCT Joint Task Force are in contravention of the laws and treaties which Nigeria is bound to uphold. We therefore demand, that the federal authorities particularly the Police and the FCT Minister, investigate all the allegations of abuse, ill-treatment and violence including rape and other forms of sexual assaults, to which these women were subjected, and where the agents are found culpable, they must be brought to justice before a competent court that meet international human rights standards without delay. The government should also provide psychosocial support and compensation for the victims.
“We call on the government to account for the wellbeing and bodily integrity of all the women for the period they have been held in detention by the state. We call on the government to release the women immediately and unconditionally from this unlawful and discriminatory detention and from the proposed “forced” three months arbitrary rehabilitation at the FCT rehabilitation centre in Lugbe, Abuja, which would further violate these women’s rights to equality, dignity and liberty.
“The continued harassment of women by the FCT joint task force should stop immediately as it constitutes gender discrimination, a violation of human rights, is unlawful, unconstitutional and carried out with total disregard for the rule of law.
“The undersigned will not hesitate to take legal actions to challenge the constitutionality of the raids, targeted against women, if the state does not take immediate action to stop these harassments.”
Reacting, the acting Secretary of the Social Development Secretariat, Hajiya Safiya Umar, told DAILY POST on Wednesday that the allegation of assault, theft and rape were untrue.
”This is a false statement… a matured mind will even know. A woman who was picked on the street will look for a defence mechanism to get something.
”How can government officials rape them? and I would allow that? everybody there would allow that? It is not true. This is a false alarm. I was there myself, I witnessed everything myself.
”If you [those arrested] are looking for compensation because you were embarrassed, say it out…don’t lie to gain any favour or any pity. This is what is killing Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the groups and individuals who formed the coalition that condemned the raids are as follows:
African Women Empowerment and Childcare Initiative (AWECI)
African Women’s Initiative
Alliances for Africa
Amnesty International Nigeria
Arise Nigerian Woman Foundation
Centre for Nonviolence and Gender Advocacy in Nigeria
Change Managers International Network
Country Associates Network (CANET)
Deaf Women Aloud Initiative
Deaf Women Association of Nigeria Abuja Nigeria
Devatop Centre For AFRICA Development
Development in Practice Gender and Entrepreneurial Initiative (DIPGEI)
Dorothy Njemanze Foundation
Echoes of Women in Africa Initiatives (ECOWA)
Education as a Vaccine
Gender Advocacy for Justice Initiative
Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)
Girl Child Africa
Girls’ Power Initiative
Haly Hope Foundation
HEIR Women Development
Josephine Effah Chukwuma
Juliana Itohan Oyegun
Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP)
Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN)
Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF)
Ovie Brume Foundation
Partners West Africa Nigeria
Partnership for Justice
Project Alert on Violence Against Women
Sesor Empowerment Foundation
Society of Media in Public Health
Spaces for Change
State of the Union Coalition (SOTU)
Transparency International Nigeria
Vision Spring Initiatives
Widows Development Organisation
Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC)
Women Aid Collective (WACOL)
Women Environmental Programme
Women for Peace and Gender Equality Initiative
Women Foundation Nigeria
Women In Politics Forum (WIPF)
Women Information Network (WINET)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Nigeria
Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA)
Women’s Rights and Health Project
Youth Hub Africa
Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)