Recently, mobile courts in Abuja convicted a couple of slay queens of prostitution. The affected ladies were arrested by the police at odd hours in various hotels and club houses in Abuja. But some of the aggrieved convicts protested that the police officers who arrested them in scores actually freed majority of the suspects who agreed to offer them money and free sex. Ever since the allegation crawled to the social media, it has become a subject of hot debate. In this piece, KEHINDE OSASONA, tracks the development.
Few weeks ago, some suspected prostitutes were raided by the FCTA Joint Task Team comprising the Department of Development Control, Abuja Environment Protection Board and the Social Development Secretariat. They affected ladies were subjected to summary trial with some of them convicted.
But some of the aggrieved convicts had thereafter alleged that the policemen from Utako Police Station who arrested them actually freed majority of them who agreed to offer them money and free sex.
They alleged further that while some of the officers used pure water sachets in place of condom as ‘protection’ while carrying out the act, others slept with the slay queens without any form of protection.
The women, it would be recalled, were arrested for alleged engagement in prostitution at different hotels and night clubs in Abuja sometimes last month.
The Women activist angle
Recall that Dorothy Njemanze, an Abuja-based women’s rights activist took the allegation to social media.
Mrs Njemanze said she learnt from some of the women arrested and profiled as prostitutes that officers traded the women’s release for sex.
“We learnt that some of the women were raped with sachet water nylons because there were no condoms left,” Mrs Njemanze said.
While the hoopla generated by the arrest was yet to simmer, it was learnt that the police had summarily arraigned some of the women at an improvised courtroom, alleging that many were reportedly freed amidst unclear circumstances, while some of those convicted received up to six months’ imprisonment, while a few others were slammed with fines.
According to the Women rights activist, only 10 of about 70 women who were arrested last week were arraigned before a mobile court near the Federal Secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday.
“Police officers freed most of the women after they were given sex and money,” Mrs Njemanze alleged.
The activist has therefore demanded a review of the circumstances under which most of the women were released without charges including an interview of all the officers that took part in the arrests and some of the freed detainees.
CSOs, Human Rights Commission kicks
Alarmed by the alleged molestation and gross violation of the women’s rights, the National Human Rights Commission had stepped into the matter and had summoned the Director of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) over the rape allegation.
According to the Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, the AEPB director is billed to appear before the commission to brief it on the role its officers played in the raid on innocent citizens and attending allegations of rape.
In the same vein, a coalition of civil society groups last week staged a protest to the commission headquarters over what they described as continuous violation and molestation of women by officials of government.
While speaking during the protest, the leader of the delegation, Kemi Okenyodo of the Partners West Africa Nigeria, said that they were worried over the recent raids and gender-based violence against women by the Nigeria Police and agents of FCTA Joint Task Team.
Okenyodo noted that it was an aberration for officers of the law to molest citizens in the guise of protecting the law. She alleged that the state agents appear to be specifically targeting women with 71 women reportedly arrested, while no males were arrested.
She therefore called on the commission to set up an independent panel of inquiry into the events with a view to fishing out the culprits and punishing them appropriately.
Not only that, she equally urged the office of the Vice President to issue a directive calling on all government agencies to cease the raids, unlawful arrests and gender-based violence against women on suspicion of engaging in sex work.
Okenyodo further called on the Ministry of Women Affairs to ensure effective enforcement of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, (VAPP).
The coalition thereafter re-presented a formal demand for action to the commission where it stated that over 100 women in Abuja had been recently molested by the police and agents of the FCTA joint task team.
Speaking on the incident, Mrs Fatima Waziri-Adzer from the office of the Vice President was quoted as saying: “Those found culpable would be brought to justice to serve as deterrence to others”.
Assuring further, she said, “The current administration would not tolerate any act of abuse of office.”
Meanwhile, following the allegation, the police hierarchy has reacted, saying that the recent happenings were unfortunate as it was sad to see law enforcement agents molesting citizens.
Speaking on behalf of the police, DCP Usman Umar, said the police had opened investigations into the matter and that the findings would be made public just as those found culpable would face the full wrath of the law.
Also, the FCT Police Command’s Deputy Spokesman, ASP Gajere Tanimu, had in a statement in Abuja stated that the command had sent out invitations to some individuals that may assist in the investigation.
The statement reads: “The attention of FCT Police Command has been drawn to serious allegations of rape against some of its members on social, print and electronic media. This was said to have occurred on April 27, when some suspected commercial sex workers were raided by the FCTA Joint Task Team comprising of the Department of Development Control, Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) and the Social Development Secretariat at Caramelo Night Club, Utako, and also while they were kept at Utako Division.
“The command, as a responsible corporate citizen, views the allegations seriously. Consequently, a high-powered team was constituted to investigate the veracity of the allegation.
“In this regard, invitations were sent out to relevant individuals that may assist in getting to the root of the matter.
“The command wishes to assure members of the public of its zero tolerance for unprofessional disregard to human rights and stiff punishments will be meted out to erring officers.”
While reacting on the incident, a public commentator, Adeseun Oyemakin condemned indiscriminate raiding by men of the Nigerian police, saying that such exercise has suddenly become an avenue through which the bad eggs in their midst perpetuate their dastardly act.
He said, “The raiding exercise by men of the Nigerian police is becoming embarrassing as it has suddenly been turned to an avenue for perpetuating crimes by our so-called law officers.”