No fewer than 72 groups comprised of women’s organizations, activists, scholars, civil society and Human Rights Organisations in Nigeria have threatened to take legal actions against the federal government and the Federal Capital Territory FCT administration if they fail to investigate and bring to book some agents of government who raided a nightclub and sexually molested scores of women found in the club.
The groups made the threat in a jointly signed statement titled “Cease and Desist! Stop Harassment of Women In Nigeria,” in which they said that the agents of government which carried out the action targeted only women for the assault while leaving out the men who were found in the “Caramelo night club”.
They accused the agents of publicly humiliating, assaulting and sexually harassing over 100 women in the club, noting that their actions contravened many international and regional human rights treaties including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which Nigeria is signatory to.
The groups called on the federal authorities, particularly, the police and FCT to investigate the allegations of rape, abuse, ill-treatment and violence against the women without delay bring the culprits to book in a competent court. They also demanded that the government should provide psychological support and compensation to the women.
Read the full statement below as well as the signatories:
Cease and Desist! Stop Harassment of Women in Nigeria
We the undersigned Women’s Organizations, Activists, Scholars, Civil Society and Human Rights Organisations in Nigeria, strongly condemn the recent raids, public humiliation, assault and sexual harassment and of over 100 women in Abuja by the 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).
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 courts 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.
- ActionAid Nigeria
- ACTS Generation
- Adaobi Egboka
- African Women Empowerment and Childcare Initiative (AWECI)
- African Women’s Initiative
- Alliances for Africa
- Amnesty International Nigeria
- Arise Nigerian Woman Foundation
- Ayisha Osori
- Betty Abah
- Bridget Osakwe
- CedarSeed Foundation
- CEE-HOPE Nigeria
- Centre for Nonviolence and Gender Advocacy in Nigeria
- Change Managers International Network
- Chidi Odinkalu
- CLEEN Foundation
- 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
- Dorothy Njemanze Foundation
- Echoes of Women in Africa Initiatives (ECOWA)
- Education as a Vaccine
- Equity Advocates
- FAME Foundation
- FIDA Nigeria
- Gender Advocacy for Justice Initiative
- Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)
- Girl Child Africa
- Girls’ Power Initiative
- Haly Hope Foundation
- HEIR Women Development
- Ier Jonathan-Ichaver
- Jenny Chisom
- Josephine Effah Chukwuma
- Juliana Itohan Oyegun
- Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP)
- Lillian Okenwa
- Martin Obono
- Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
- Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN)
- Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF)
- Olobiri Foundation
- Ovie Brume Foundation
- Partners West Africa Nigeria
- Partnership for Justice
- Peyi Soyinka-Airewele
- 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)