Human right activists have condemned the recent raid, alleged assault, and sexual harassment meted on over 100 women in some Abuja clubs by agents of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Joint Task Team.
The condemnation was highlighted in a statement signed by 36 civil society groups, non-governmental organisations, media organisations, and gender activists, including Amnesty International Nigeria, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, and Girl Child Africa.
They also threatened to take legal actions to challenge the legality of the raid.
About two weeks ago, PREMIUM TIMES reported how some officials of the FCTA, raided a popular night club, Caramelo, and arrested 34 female nude dancers.
Another 70 were arrested in different night clubs on Wednesday and Friday respectively.
The women were taken to Utako police station, Abuja and detained.
Some of the women were reportedly released after they were profiled, while others were charged for prostitution. A few others were allegedly sexually assaulted.
Although prostitution is illegal in the Nigerian capital, law enforcement officials have used it as an excuse to assault and harass innocent women who go out at night in the city.
When the officials raid night clubs, they usually molest women they believe are ‘scantily dressed’ and accuse them of prostitution.
Such women are sometimes sexually abused by the security officials. No culpable operative has been brought to justice.
The activists condemned the latest assault, expressing disgust in their joint statement.
“It appears that the FCTA joint task team had unilaterally, and without respect for the rule of law, chosen to contain any environmental nuisance the night club allegedly was causing.
“It targeted and violated young women in the club, particularly dancers and strippers. No attempts were made to question the club proprietors or arrest the male guests.
“Several female guests in or around the night club were also arrested and harassed. Mostly, young 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 could get away with it.”
The group urged the federal authorities to investigate all the allegations of abuse, ill-treatment and violence, including rape and other forms of sexual assaults against these women.
It also called for immediate persecution of agents found culpable.
It called for the immediate release of the women arrested from the proposed “forced three months arbitrary rehabilitation at the FCT rehabilitation centre in Lugbe.”
It urged the government to provide psychosocial support and compensation for the victims.
Nigerians react on Twitter
Meanwhile, some Nigerians have gone on Twitter to express their dissatisfaction.
A twitter user @fribone said: “If you’re going to arrest a woman for prostitution, why the man let go free? Why focus on supply rather than the demand? If we are concerned about morality, then we should ask ourselves why people go to prostitutes in the first place? #AbujaPoliceRaidonWomen”.
Another user @monakjnr said: “I imagine that a lady had planned to link up with a male friend for a few drinks; the guy is late by few minutes and by the time he shows up, police has picked up his friend and taken her to an unknown location. #AbujaPoliceRaidonWomen”.
Abayomi Shogunle, an assistant commissioner of police and the head of the police complaints unit, however, defended the arrests of the alleged prostitutes.
He wrote on his Twitter page @YomiShogunle: “ Those making noise on the clampdown on prostitutes in #Abuja; •Prostitution is a crime under the law •P is a sin under the 2 main religions of FCT residents •Medicine says P is spreading HIV & STD, P is lifeline of violent criminals, P doesn’t pay tax, Nigeria culture frowns at P.”