Press Release

2/May/2019

For Immediate Release

 

DESIST AND STOP HARASSMENT OF WOMEN IN NIGERIA:

Civil Society Organizations Demand Accountability Following Police Raids Targeting Women in Abuja

 

In a press briefing following recent arrests of over 100 women from public places in Abuja on suspicion of prostitution, Women’s Organizations, Activists, Scholars, Civil Society and Human Rights Organisations in Nigeria including Education as a Vaccine (EVA), Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), and Dorothy Njemanze Foundation called for end to sexual harassment and unlawful detention of women by the law enforcement agents in Nigeria.

 

They made this call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to curb the excesses of the officials from the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Joint Task Team, which is made up of the Department of Development Control, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and the Social Development Secretariat (SDS).

 

News and social media have been replete with reports of the FCTA officials going to bars, restaurants, and nightclubs around Abuja to arrest women on suspicion of being sex workers. Women who witnessed these arrests shared in media interviews, as well as on social media under the #AbujaPoliceRaidonWomen Twitter hashtag that the officials checked for wedding bands and only arrested women whom they presumed to be single.

 

It is unfortunate that women who were arrested reported assault and molestation at the hands of the police officers and other members of the joint task force led by AEPB. In addition, these women clearly stated that there was a blatant refusal by the police for them to access legal representation. Prior to their arraignment before a mobile court set up for the purpose of prosecuting these cases, the women were advised by the government officials to plead guilty or risk serving jail term up to six (6) months. Upon the guilt plea, they were sentenced to 3 months in jail with an option of fine

 

At the hearing, at least 3 of the survivors shared harrowing stories of their experiences of violence and cruelty at the hands of Nigerian police officers. They were among 70 women arrested between the 17th and 26th of April, many of whom are still in custody and have not been able to get access to a lawyer as granted by the Nigerian constitution.

 

International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) representatives affirmed that these AEPB arrests are a contravention of Nigerians’ constitutional rights under Sections 34, 35, 36, 41 and 42, which affirm Nigerians’ freedom from torture; right to free movement and fair hearing; innocence until proven guilty; and legal representation. 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 have been ratified by the Nigerian government also protect the human rights of women to dignity, equality, liberty and freedom from violence. Also applicable to the FCT, Violence against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 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.

 

This sort of actions have been successfully challenged in court. For example, in the Dorothy Njemanze vs Nigeria suit ECW/CJ/APP/17/14, the ECOWAS court ruled that there was an arbitrary arrest, leading to violation of plaintiffs rights to liberty contrary to international human rights law and Nigeria’s constitution. AEPB also lost the AEPB vs Ms. Ojo and Ms. Olufu case of 2011 at Environmental Sanitation Mobile Court in the Abuja Magistrate district due to inability to prove their allegations.

The level of impunity being exercised by the Nigeria law enforcement agents is despicable and unacceptable! The failure of the Nigeria government to investigate and punish state and non-state actors accused of human rights violations in the country has led to the entrenchment of abuses such as torture, illegal detention, and sexual exploitations of women. It is time we ended this widespread impunity by the security agents; the government investigated reports of abuses against women, and protected the bodily autonomy and the dignity of women

Civil Society groups therefore, urge the FCT to restrict the movements of AEPB against the picking up of women on the suspicion of prostitution, and to respect the rights of Nigerians to gather in public spaces free of fear of baseless arrests and intimidation.

 

For more information, do contact Education as a Vaccine (EVA) spokesperson Bayo Ewuola (communication@evanigeria.org) and PITCH Nigeria Country Focal Person, Anthony Nkwocha (anthony.cfp@pitchnigeria.org),

 

The undersigned:

  1. ActionAid Nigeria
  2. ACTS Generation
  3. Adaobi Egboka
  4. African Women Empowerment and Childcare Initiative (AWECI)
  5. African Women’s Initiative
  6. Alliances for Africa
  7. Amnesty International Nigeria
  8. Arise Nigerian Woman Foundation
  9. Ayisha Osori
  10. Betty Abah
  11. Bridget Osakwe
  12. CedarSeed Foundation
  13. CEE-HOPE Nigeria
  14. Centre for Nonviolence and Gender Advocacy in Nigeria
  15. Change Managers International Network
  16. Chidi Odinkalu
  17. CISLAC
  18. CLEEN Foundation
  19. Country Associates Network (CANET)
  20. Deaf Women Aloud Initiative
  21. Deaf Women Association of Nigeria Abuja Nigeria
  22. Devatop Centre For AFRICA Development
  23. Development in Practice Gender and Entrepreneurial Initiative (DIPGEI)
  24. Dorothy Njemanze
  25. Dorothy Njemanze Foundation
  26. Echoes of Women in Africa Initiatives (ECOWA)
  27. Education as a Vaccine
  28. Equity Advocates
  29. FAME Foundation
  30. FIDA Nigeria
  31. Gender Advocacy for Justice Initiative
  32. Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)
  33. Girl Child Africa
  34. Girls’ Power Initiative
  35. Haly Hope Foundation
  36. HEIR Women Development
  37. Ier Jonathan-Ichaver
  38. Jenny Chisom
  39. Josephine Effah Chukwuma
  40. Juliana Itohan Oyegun
  41. Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP)
  42. Lillian Okenwa
  43. Martin Obono
  44. Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
  45. Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN)
  46. Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF)
  47. Nigeria Sex Workers Association (NSWA)
  48. Olobiri Foundation
  49. Ovie Brume Foundation
  50. Partners West Africa Nigeria
  51. Partnership for Justice
  52. Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH)
  53. Peyi Soyinka-Airewele
  54. Politishean
  55. Project Alert on Violence Against Women
  56. Sesor Empowerment Foundation
  57. Society of Media in Public Health
  58. Spaces for Change
  59. State of the Union Coalition (SOTU)
  60. Transparency International Nigeria
  61. Vision Spring Initiatives
  62. Widows Development Organisation
  63. Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC)
  64. Women Aid Collective (WACOL)
  65. Women Environmental Programme
  66. Women for Peace and Gender Equality Initiative
  67. Women Foundation Nigeria
  68. Women In Politics Forum (WIPF)
  69. Women Information Network (WINET)
  70. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Nigeria
  71. Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA)
  72. Women’s Rights and Health Project
  73. Youth Hub Africa
  74. Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
  75. Jennifer Ogbogu