Alleged Sexual Abuse, Illegal Arrests: Groups Demand Authorities to Act on Abuja Nightclub Raids

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The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, WANEP-Nigeria, and Nigerian Feminist Forum have noted with grave concern what they describe as the arbitrary arrests and detention of women and allegations of sexual assault and rape by security agents in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

According to the statement made available to Sundiata Post by Bridget Osakwe, the National Coordinator, WANEP-Nigeria, they are calling on relevant authorities to act on these allegations as soon as possible.

The statement read:

“In April 2019, over 100 women were arrested and detained in different police stations after series of raids carried out at nightclubs in the metropolis. Security operatives who made the arrests claimed it was an order to arrest prostitutes. Allegedly, many of those arrested were threatened to plead guilty and those who declined were charged to court. Many of the women either bribed their way or succumbed to sexual abuse in order to gain their freedom.

“WANEP-Nigeria has been monitoring the situation in Abuja which is by far the most horrendous, to say the least, and is fast turning into a targeted violence against women by security agents who are supposed to be protecting the women. The activity of the security agents by targeting a particular sex for arrest where both sexes are culpable and the legality of their actions give credence to gender discrimination and requires urgent action. The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 criminalizes intimidation (S18) or threat in any form and totally condemns any assault on any person based on their sex alone.

“Already, civil society organisations in Abuja are calling on authorities to call the security agents to order so as to prevent the possibility of further targeted arrests, rape and molestation of women without evidence.

“While WANEP-Nigeria condemns in strong terms the abuse of women’s rights, it urges:

The Nigeria Police Force

● To respect the rule of law and human rights of the citizens they are supposed to protect when carrying out their duties.
● To stop targeted arrests of women and young girls when both men and women are found at the location of the arrest
● To conduct investigations into the alleged rape, molestation and violence against the victims
To allow the arrested women to have access to legal counsel promptly to assert their innocence before being proven guilty.

“WANEP-Nigeria therefore makes the following recommendations;

● The Police authority should carry out a thorough investigation into these allegations and ensure that the officers involved in sexual exploitation of detainees face the full wrath of the law. This will prevent future occurrence of taking laws into their hands.

● Government should ensure prompt implementation of the VAPP act (2015) and passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill to law.

The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) is a regional non-profit organization with a head office in Accra, Ghana. WANEP is a member of the Peace and Security Cluster of the Africa Union Economic and Social Council, representing West Africa and also have a Special Consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. WANEP has a Memorandum of Understanding with ECOWAS as its implementing partner for the operationalization of the ECOWAS conflict early warning mechanism (ECOWARN) and the African Reporter of the African Union.

In a similar statement signed by Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF), they condemn the incidence and demand that among other things, there should be an independent body of enquiry into the matter.

Their statement read:

“The Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) condemns the inequitable, discriminatory raids and arrests by agents of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) on the 22nd of April, 2019 which took place at the “Caramelo” nightclub in Utako, Abuja and that targeted only women. Further raids on several other nightclubs took place on the 28th of April. Roughly 70 women were illegally arrested because they were out after working hours. These women experienced a range of violations: illegal abduction, physical assault, mental anguish and sexual assault. Women facing their monthly period were not spared humiliation. The arrested women either paid money to be granted bail or were coerced into sex for bail.

“The NFF observes that State officials’ violence against women rests on the assumption that it is appropriate to divide women into two groups: “good women” – married, caregivers, sexually chaste and therefore worthy of respect – and “free women”, women whose bodies and sexualities are not under the control of men (husbands) and therefore “not deserving of respect. By asserting that policing women’s bodies will advance public morality, state agencies justify their acts of extortion, sexual assault and rape by casting them as efforts to control crime and “promiscuity”. Yet none of the men present at nightclubs with the women were profiled as criminals and arrested.

“The NFF points out that the state sponsored violence against women in Abuja is an assault on women’s bodies, physical integrity, and freedom of movement. The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in October 2017 in the case of Dorothy Njemanze and 3 Others vs. the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pronounced that the act of arresting and harassing women by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other state security agents amounts to gender based violence and a violation of human rights. It is time Nigeria lives up to her obligations to protect human rights, without excluding women’s human rights.

“Sexual and gender based violence against women limits our ability to make choices about our lives.

“The NFF therefore demands:

“An end to the raids, arrests and sexual violations of women and girls in Nigeria;

“An independent public enquiry into the latest spate of state sponsored violence against women, with substantive representation of women’s rights groups on the panel of enquiry;

“The specific allegations of rape and sexual assault on the part of security and state officials should be investigated and prosecuted;

“The systemic transformation of all institutions involved in the state sponsored violence – particularly the police and the AEPB;

“We insist that state agencies should actively respect the constitutional provision that the primary purpose of government is to provide for the security and welfare of all people (S.14 (2b)) without excluding women and that government should respect women’s constitutional rights to freedom from discrimination and freedom of movement.”

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