Abuja raids: NHRC, CSOs applaud judgment in favour of 6 women

FCT Minister Malam Muahammad Bello

By Edith Nwapi

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Civil Society Organisations on Wednesday applauded the judgment of a court in Abuja in favour of six women.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Evelyn Maha of the Federal High Court in her judgment on Aug. 5, held that the arrest of the six women without cause, the beating, molestation and dehumanising treatment and detention was a violation of the applicants’ rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

NAN reports that the women are Deji Ajare, Moji Ogunlana-Nkanga, Bamidele Jacobs, Jennifer Ogbogu, Miriam Orika, Chigoziem Onugha and Augusta Yaakugh.

The judge also awarded between N2million to N4million in damages against the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Inspector General of Police and Inspector Thomas Nzemekwe AKA ‘Yellow’ in favour of the six applicants.

Reacting to the judgment while addressing newsmen, the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, expressed happiness over the judgment.

Represented by Mr Harry Obe, director, women and children, Ojukwu applauded the judgment of Justice Maha.

“Recall that before the judgment, a coalition of NGOs in Nigeria had approached the Commission with a petition on behalf of the victims of the raid, who are mostly women, seeking to enforce their fundamental rights in line with the Constitution and other national, regional and International instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.

“The Commission, as usual intervened and invited all the necessary parties to a parley wherein the AEPB agreed to stay action pending mainstreaming of human rights principles into its operations, even as the Commission declared that right to freedom of movement, association, leisure, recreation and privacy are necessary entitlements of the people.

” There is now a court judgment which found that the applicants’ (victims’) rights were violated (Right to Personal Liberty, Freedom of Movement, Freedom from Torture and Discrimination)” he said.

Also speaking, Mrs Kemi Okenyodo, Executive Director, Partners West Africa -Nigeria, member, governing board, NHRC expressed joy over the judgment.

“On April 26, 2019, a mob of over 100 male state actors invaded clubs, hotels, supermarkets and other centres of business in Abuja to round up women under the guise of arresting sex workers.

“It was alleged that the invasion was commissioned by Hajiya Safiya Umar, the Acting Secretary, Social Development Secretariat of the FCT, a woman saddled with protecting persons within the FCT, particularly women and children.

“This unfortunate event, a recurring decimal for women in the FCT, became known as the ‘Abuja Raids.’

“These women, targeted because of their gender, suffered sexual violations, physical and mental torture while in detention at Utako Police Station,” she said.

She said the women were denied bail and legal representation between the April 26 and April 29, 2019, infringing on their human rights.

“In this vein and in line with the mandate of the NHRC, a Special Investigative Panel on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria on the incidents in Abuja and other parts of the country was constituted” she said.