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In Defence of Abuja Women; http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/08/in-defence-of-abuja-women/

In defence of Abuja women

on AUGUST 5, 2012 · in PERISCOPE
12:07 am

BY BEN AGANDE

Reprieve may be on the way for Abuja women who have been at  the receiving end of alleged harassment by men of the Nigeria Police and Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), as a non-governmental organisation, Lawyers Alert Association, has dragged the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation, among others, to court to enforce the fundamental human rights of women in the FCT.

It would be recalled that following the announcement by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board that prostitution is illegal in the Federal Capital Territory, scores of women, some of them innocent, have been arrested on the grounds that they were ‘soliciting’ for men, especially when found in the evening unaccompanied by men.

In one particular incident that provoked outrage in the Federal Capital Territory, a banker had parked her car and went into a shopping mall to pick a few things. As she came out of the car, she was ‘arrested’ by men of the AEPB and the police; bundled into their pick- up van and was detained for two days before her employers intervened and got her released. Victims have been made to suffer untold indignities, including alleged rape by police men who arrest them for the mere fact that they venture to go out at night unaccompanied by men!

Worried by the harassment of the women folk because of the mere fact of their feminity, Lawyers Alert Association, led by Barrister Rommy Mom, instituted a case at the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking an “order of perpetual injunction against the defendants to restrain them from the act of arrest of women in Abuja at night on suspicion of prostitution, as such action is without legal basis, unconstitutional, discriminatory and a violation of the human rights of women in Abuja”.

In an interview with Sunday Vanguard,  Mom noted that, apart from challenge faced by women generally, African women have suffered several cultural and social violation and inequality which  hampered their development. He appealed to the court to “send a clear signal that men in authority should not further seek to institutionalise this by passage of arbitrary orders and laws that will entrench these practices”, that have kept women in perpetual oppression.

In an originating summon, the plaintiff noted that the issues for determination was “whether the incessant harassment, intimidation and arrest of women in Abuja at night on suspicion of prostitution is not only unconstitutional but also a violation of women’s human rights”.

Quoting relevant sections of the constitution to buttress his point, Mom posited: “Movement is closely tied to liberty as women can constitutionally move freely in Nigeria whether in the day time or night time. Nothing differentiates the day and night for a particular set of citizens to be targeted at nights for arrest on being sighted. This is discriminatory and violates section 42(1) of the 1999 constitution”.

He argued further: “For women in Abuja to be subjected to arrest, purely on the grounds of their sex/gender at night in Abuja is discriminatory as men can and do move about without any molestation or harassment. We implore the court to note that these restrictions are pursuant to the executive orders of the 1st Defendant (Hon. Minister of the Federal Capital Territory).

“It is clearly  therefore without any basis for the directive of the 1st defendant, a male, to subject women to domination  by men, where men can conduct their businesses and other chores at nights without any fear of molestation, but women cannot, owing to fears of arrest and intimidation by agents of the 2nd  and 3rd defendants (Commissioner of Police FCT and the Inspector General of Police respectively)”.

On the argument that women being arrested is based on the war against prostitution in the FCT, the plaintiff noted: “Prostitution involves very direct act of soliciting. It is our submission that whatever law the defendants are premising their actions on violates the supremacy of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999′.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHT ENFORCEMENT; LAWYER’S ALERT AND EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS IN NIGERIA

LAWYERS ALERT AND EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS IN NIGERIA

In its simplest form, Extra-Judicial killing connote executions outside the parameters of judicial procedure. Any killing outside of judicial pronouncement of the killing is deemed to be summary execution.

The act of extra-judicial killing is about the highest human rights violations, as the victim(s) is/are denied the right to fair hearing, defense and life.

In it report to mark the 63rd anniversary of the United Nations Human Rights day recently, the international Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law Nigeria released a report in which it stated that “over 54,000 Nigerians have died in extra-judicial killings since 1999. Some of these include extra-judicial killings by security forces, summary executions, vigilante killings, and abductions by militant groups’

Of the 54,000 estimated deaths, the Nigeria Police Force is estimated to have executed over 15,000 Nigerians in extra-judicial killings between 1999 and 2009 that is an average of 1,500 deaths per annum or 5 deaths per day, across police formations in Nigeria. Most of these deaths in police formation according to human rights groups are carried out by the deadly Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) found in all the police State headquarters across the country.

Lawyers Alert have often sought redress for the victims and/or their families where we can or when these complaints are made to us.

In Benue and Nassarawa States and North Central Nigeria Lawyers Alert is presently in Court over 2 of such executions by men of the Nigeria Police. The two cases are that of Bem Akaaza and Peter Ityukembe (both deceased).

Bem Akaaza wrongfully died in the custody of the Nigerian Police Force in 2006. He was arrested in lieu of his Brother who was wanted by the police. Bem died under mysterious and questionable circumstances which inform the litigation.

Peter Ityukembe was shot and killed by a cop who was his co-suitor in contention for a hand of a lady in marriage. Peter was tag a criminal by the police officers who carried out this act.

These matters have been heard and reserved for judgments within the month of June 2012. The full text of the judgments will be uploaded here as delivered by the Federal High Courts in Abuja and Makurdi respectively.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Governanace

 

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LAWYERS ALERT SUES THE FCT MINISTER, AND THE POLICE OVER CONTINOUS ARREST OF WOMEN AT NIGHTS IN ABUJA

LAWYERS ALERT SUES THE FCT MINISTER, AND THE POLICE OVER CONTINOUS ARREST OF WOMEN AT NIGHTS IN ABUJA

 

Lately the Nigeria Police and the Authorities in Abuja the Federal Capital territory have resorted to the practice of arresting women seen outside of their homes at night and prosecuting them on the obsolete law of wandering (read prostitution). The prosecution under the law of wandering, which itself is obsolete, because no law prohibits sex workers. The intention is however to intimidate perceived sex workers, but in the process, hundreds of women are affected and traumatized by arbitrary and dragnet arrests.

Commercial sex even though very high in major cities like Lagos and Abuja is highly frowned at by the Authorities.

Seeking to gain political mileage and also wanting to appear to fight crimes, the Politicians and the Police have lately resorted to intense harassment of commercial sex workers in Abuja. The practice is for the Police officers to swoop on them at nights and arrests dozens. A lot of women who are on other ventures have suffered a lot from this, as the mere appearance of a woman without a male escort at night can lead to arrest without questions. Several women have suffered this indignation. A female Banker was recently arrested when she parked her car and strolled across the street for Toiletries. It took the intervention of her employers next day for her to regain freedom.

As earlier espoused because the Police have no law to charge these women, they are charged under the obsolete law of wandering at night. Women are now being detained and imprisoned on this account. Curiously men “wandering” at night are not arrested.

Women arrested are sometimes raped by the arresting officers and let to go home. Their only offence, at least by the constitution of Nigeria is that they are females who dare to come out at night. Prostitution is stritu sensu not an offence in Nigeria.

The practice of arrest, detention and imprisonment of women on this account is now gaining popularity as women are increasingly coming under some sort of siege in cities like Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Ibadan. Women rights to freedom and liberty is now gradually being eroded and marginalized on account of suspicion of sex hawking. Recently an Abuja court sentenced to jail several women on this account. Daily Trust of Friday, June 3, 2011 page 63, www.dailytrust.com.

As earlier stated, these actions are as illegal as they contravene the constitution. The need is now urgent to legally challenge the constitutionality or otherwise of these actions to put an end to it.

The Police normally charge these women in the lower courts and not the High Courts where their actions cannot be legally closely scrutinized. The lower courts are courts of summary trials.

Lawyers Alert has now approached the Abuja High Court to have the court make a declaration that this is constitutionally illegal.  Thousands of women will be the beneficiaries and the court decision will no doubt be an Authority or Locus Classicus on women rights in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. A favorable decision of Court will be a reference for lower courts and also the police to desist forthwith from these acts.

This proposed Action is urgent, because women are continually been sent to prison on almost weekly basis. Freedom and liberty is by far one of the most precious rights and the continuous illegal denial and abuse of this makes this matter very urgent in being addressed. Left to the authorities and time to rectify this situation might take years alongside the spillover effect in its spread across other regions in Nigeria.

 

Law and Advocacy are two key strategies presently being put to use by Lawyers Alert in advancing women rights in several spheres be it political, economic or social.

The present case fits into Lawyers Alert broader strategy in terms of advancing the rights of women to move freely and not be subject to any restraint, abuse or harassment so long as they are within the laws of the land.

Find below our Argument in Abuja High Court

IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

HOLDEN IN ABUJA

SUIT NO ……………………………          

 

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF WOMEN RIGHTS OF MOVEMENT IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

IN THE MATTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES 2009

 

BETWEEN:

LAWYERS ALERT ASSOCIATION

 

AND

 

1        HON. MINISTER OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

2        COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

3        INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE

4        NIGERIA POLICE FORCE

5        ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

ORIGINATING SUMMONS TAKEN OUT PURSUANT TO SECTIONS 35, 41 AND 42 OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION AND ORDER 2 OF THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES 2009 AND ARTICLES 2 AND 19 OF THE AFRICAN CHARTER OF HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS

PLAINTIFFS WRITTEN ADDRESS/ARGUMENT IN SUPORT OF ORIGINATING SUMMONS

FACTS

Following the pronouncement of the 1st Defendant to rid Abuja of prostitutes, the 2nd and 3rd Defendants, through members of the Nigeria Police Force commenced the mass arrests and harassment of women seen at nights in Abuja. The sole reason for these arrests is that these women are seen at night as the arrests do not occur in the afternoons.

Men are however not arrested.  The practice has continued throwing fear into women of going out at nights for fear of arrest and molestation by the police.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

Whether the incessant harassment, intimidation, and arrest of women in Abuja at nights on suspicion of prostitution is  not only unconstitutional but also  a violation of women’s human rights.

ARGUMENT

Every Citizen is guaranteed the right of movement without restrictions at ALL times of the day by the Constitution of the Federal Republic. This is especially stated in 35(1) of the Constitution  which expressly provides thus

“Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.”

The exceptions as provided by the Constitution for the denial of these rights are limited to instances of compliance with a sentence of a court, failure to comply with order of Court, or at other instances which certainly do not extend to arrest of women to rid a town of prostitution or arrest of women when seen at nights.

Furthermore, Section 41 (1) of Constitution provides that:

“Every Citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.” Emphasis provided.

It is submitted that movement here is closely tied to right of liberty as women can constitutionally move freely in Nigeria whether in the daytime or nighttime. Nothing differentiates the day and night for a particular sect of citizens to be targeted at nights for arrest on being sighted. This is discriminatory and violates Section 42(1) of the Constitution which provides

“A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person –

(a)   Be subjected either expressly by, or in the application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government , to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of religion, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject, or

The above section clearly prohibits any restriction or enjoyment of any rights ordinarily accorded to citizens like liberty, movement etc in the implementation of any law, executive or administrative act based on grounds like sex .i.e. gender.

For women in Abuja to be subjected to arrest, purely on the ground of their sex at nights in Abuja we submit is discriminatory as men can and do move about without any molestation or  harassment. We implore the court to note that these restrictions are pursuant to the executive orders of the 1st Defendant.

The Courts have been enjoined by the Preamble of the Fundamental Rights( Enforcement Procedure) Rules , 2009   under 3 as Follows:

“3.The overriding objectives of these rules as follows:

(a)   The constitution, especially Chapter IV, as well as the African charter, shall be expansively and purposely interpreted and applied, with a view to advancing and realizing the rights and freedoms contained in them and affording the protection intended by them.”

We therefore implore the Court to expansively interpret the above sections of the law in advancing the rights of women in Nigeria and protect women from abuses and discrimination owing solely to the fact that they are women.

The relevant sections of the constitution as quoted finds amplification in Articles 2 and 19 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which adumbrates the sanctity of  equality and equal treatment without discrimination where it is stated thereof:

Article 2

“Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without discrimination of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status”

Article 19

“All peoples shall be equal; they shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the same rights. Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by another”

The rights and freedoms as provided for in the African Charter falls on same grounds with the relevant ones as guaranteed by the Constitution, only in this instance its amplified.

It is clearly therefore without any basis for the directive of the 1st Defendant , a male, to subject women to domination by men, where men can conduct their businesses and other chores at nights without fear of molestation, but women cannot, owing to fears of arrests and intimidation by Agents of the 2nd and 3rd Defendants.

For women to be indiscriminately harassed and arrested in Abuja because they are seen exercising their rights of movement is therefore a breach of the Constitution and the African Charter.

We concede the Constitution does not make these rights absolute, but it expressly provides the instances and circumstances where these rights can be restricted as quoted under the exceptions under Section 35 of the constitution.

Where therefore the Defendants are contravening these rights outside these accepted instances it is submitted this amounts to violation of women rights in Abuja.

The Defendants may make the arguments that the women arrested at the directives of the 1st Defendant are premised on his war against prostitution in Abuja. However nowhere are women going out or seen at night is interpreted as prostitution. Prostitution involves very direct act of soliciting, in this instance all that is required for an arrest is for the women to be seen at nights.

It is therefore submitted that the actions of the Defendants is simpliciter  to harass women by denying them freedom of movement, liberty and discriminatory solely on ground that they are women  thereby occasioning inequality before the law and subjecting women to men.

CONCLUSION

Over the years women have suffered several cultural and social violation and inequality which has hampered the development of our women, sisters and mothers in especially Africa. We urge the court to send a very clear signal that men in Authority should not further reason l to institutionalize this by the passage of arbitrary orders and laws that will continue this practice.

We urge the court be swayed by the preamble of the Fundamental Rights( Enforcement Procedure) Rules , 2009   which enjoins the courts to expansively and purposely interpret and apply Chapter IV of the Constitution with a view to advancing and realizing the rights and freedoms contained in them and affording the protection intended by them.

Women need this protection and they should be treated in like and equal manner as their male counterparts for after all we are all Human beings.

Dated  this 18th day of  June 2012

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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