By Nike Adebowale (PREMIUM TIMES)
Some of the women arrested at the different nightclubs in Abuja for alleged prostitution have narrated to PREMIUM TIMES how police officers raped and assaulted them.
The ladies said they were also teargassed by the officers while in detention.
The women were taken before a mobile court in Abuja, where they were convicted and sentenced to one-month imprisonment with an option N3,000 fine.
“We were arrested on Friday and detained for several days,” one of the women said.
“Some people were bailed the next day, while the rest of us were left behind.
“The officers picked us and slept with us one after the other because we did not have money to give them.
“They picked us from Banex and took us to Utako police station. When we got there, the police station was empty.
“We were told to pull off and then when we obeyed, they raped us,” one of those arrested said.
Another woman said, “They beat us well, abused us sexually and also collected money from us before they released us.
“They beat us up after they arrested us at Gwarimpa. And when we questioned them about what we have done, the officers used pepper spray on us.
“The more you question them about your offence, the more beatings you receive,” she said.
The ladies spoke at a media briefing by activist Dorothy Njemanze, in Abuja on Thursday.
They said many of the rapists were policemen attached to Utako, Life Camp and Gwarimpa police stations.
The police high command has promised to investigate the allegations. On Friday, police said they had set up a team and invited relevant parties for the investigation.
Multiple arrests of women in Abuja clubs
About three weeks ago, Premium Times reported how some officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), raided a popular night club, Caramelo, and arrested 34 female nude dancers.
Last week, another 70 women were reportedly arrested from different clubs in Abuja and detained at Utako police station.
The acting Abuja police spokesperson, Danjuma Tanimu, confirmed the arrest of 65 women by members of the Joint Task Force on Wednesday and Friday.
He said they were arrested for “hanging around nightclubs” in Abuja.
“They were arrested in Aminu Kano Crescent, Gwarimpa, and Katampe extension. And they are being charged to court. It was the Joint Task Force that arrested them. They were hanging around night clubs. This is the only information I got,” he said.
27 women convicted, they were forced to plead guilty
Out of the 32 women presented before the mobile court sitting in FCT, 27 of them were convicted and sentenced to one month in prison for prostitution, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
The women were sentenced after pleading guilty to the charges read against them.
However, the lawyer representing the women, Jennifer Ogbogu, said the women were forced by officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to plead guilty.
“By the time I got to the court, the sitting had already started. After reading the first information report, I saw some of the ladies pleading guilty and I asked them why they are pleading guilty to the charges?
“They said officials of the AEPB told them to plead guilty to avoid prison time of 6 months and they were scared because their families don’t even know where they were at the moment,” she said.
The ladies also said they were not told the consequences of pleading guilty.
According to Ms Ogbogu, only about four out of 32 ladies did not plead guilty and the matter was adjourned to Tuesday last week.
“Those that pleaded guilty were sentenced to one month imprisonment with a fine option of N3,000.
“We paid the fine and all of them have been released from custody,” she said.
Authorities aware of allegations
The Social Development Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) acknowledged the allegation against the police officers,” a spokesperson said.
“The Social Development Secretariat and the FCTA is a responsible administration that looks into the welfare of the residents of the FCT.
“That somebody is compromising the law does not give the advantage to an enforcement agent to begin to abuse them.
“This accusation is already being investigated. Our team is well trained and they have been warned against such an act. They are all aware that if any of them is been caught to have abused these persons, such a person will be dismissed and persecuted,” he said.
The FCT command deputy spokesperson, Gajere Tanimu, said a team has been set up to probe the allegations against its officers.
Human right activists within and outside the country have continued to express their dissatisfaction over the arrests of women in nights clubs.
A coalition of human right activists had earlier threatened to take legal action against the state to challenge the legality of the raid.
A human rights activist, Chioma Chuka, said the arrest is an act of discrimination against women because only women are being arrested.
“I also heard one of the women was arrested while she was standing with her husband.
“So why were the men not arrested? Shouldn’t they be focusing on the increased criminality going on in Abuja?
“I don’t think this is an issue of prostitution. You go into a night club to arrest women and there is no proof they were prostituting. If prostitution is a crime in Nigeria, you have to catch the person in the act before arresting.
“I am bearing in mind that prostitution exists both for male and female. Of course, we have male prostitute too. So why are only the women getting arrested? So it’s not a question of legalisation of prostitution. It should be a straight up call for the government and the Abuja Environmental Bureau to desist from victimising and criminally discriminating against women in Abuja.”
Ms Chuka also frowned at the alleged abuse of the arrested women by the enforcement agents. “There are also reports that these women who have been arrested are violently assaulted by men who should be protecting them. This is wrong,” she said.
Chika Offor, also a human right activist, said “Nobody has the right to arrest anybody without investigating what the person has done. As an adult, you are allowed to go to night clubs and anywhere you want to go to.
“Such arrest is an infringement of the women’s fundamental human right and the women have the right to sue them to court,” she said
Mrs Offor called for an investigation into the alleged assault on the women.
She said anybody found guilty of an assault should be arrested and prosecuted according to the law