A group of 72 Women’s Organizations, Activists, Scholars, Civil Society and Human Rights Organisations have strongly condemned the recent raids, public humiliation, assault and sexual harassment of over 100 women in Abuja by officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Joint Task Team.
The team consisting of staff of the Department of Development Control, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and the Social Development Secretariat (SDS) raided the “Caramelo night club” and other clubs on two different occasions within one week in Abuja (17th and 26th April) and arrested several women, who alleged that they were sexually assaulted and sexually harassed, and even raped.
Video of the raid captured by a TV station:
A statement from the group said the assaults left injuries in the private parts of some of the arrested women and many were psychologically traumatised by the experience.
The statement reads further: “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”.