By Francis Ezediuno
The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, WANEP-Nigeria has noted with grave concern the arbitrary arrests and detention of women and allegations of sexual assault and rape by security agents in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
In a press release signed by Nigeria Co-ordinator, Bridget Osakwe, it noted that 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 disclosed that it has been monitoring the situation in Abuja which they described is by far the most horrendous 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 condemned in strong terms the abuse of women’s rights, it urged 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, conduct investigations into the alleged rape, molestation and violence against the victims and allow the arrested women to have access to legal counsel promptly to assert their innocence before being proven guilty.
For such ugly trend not to occur 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 it maintained will prevent future occurrence of taking laws into their hands and government should ensure prompt implementation of the VAPP act (2015) and passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill to law.