30 April 2019

Nigeria: Controversy Trails Arrests of Women At Abuja Night Clubs

Photo: New Zimbabwe
(file photo).

The raids of night clubs and arrests of women in the past few weeks have continued to raise concerns over the legality of the action by the Nigerian security agencies.

About two weeks ago, Premium Times reported how some officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), raided a popular night club, Caramelo, and arrested 34 female strip dancers.

Another set of 70 women was arrested on Friday night at different locations within the Federal Capital Territory.

Martin Obono, a lawyer and activist, first shared the news of the arrests on Twitter.

He said the women were brought to a police station in Utako, Abuja, on Saturday night.

He said some of the women were accused of prostitution. He also suggested some had been sexually abused by the security officials.

The Nigeria police confirmed the arrest of the women in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

The acting Abuja police spokesperson, Danjuma Tanimu, said that 65 women were arrested by members of the Joint Task Force on Wednesday and Friday.

He said they were arrested for hanging around nightclubs in Abuja.

"34 women were arrested on Wednesday and 31 on Friday, that is 65 women in total.

"They were arrested in Aminu Kano Crescent, Gwarimpa, and Katampe extension. And they are being charged to court. It was the Joint Task Force that arrested them. They were hanging around night clubs. This is the only information I got," he said.

Criteria for arrest

During a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday Shaka, the Public Relations Officer of the Social Development Secretariat of the FCTA, said there are certain criteria considered before raiding a club.

He said some of the clubs raided are located in residential areas while others are hangouts for prostitutes and consumers of hard drugs.

"As I said earlier, the enforcement team consists of other agency under the FCTA who are saddled with different responsibilities," Mr Shaka said.

"These agencies know areas that are strictly residential areas. Like Caramelo, night club is located in a residential area. A clubbing activity should not be in such an area.

"So first and foremost, they already breached the FCT code."

Mr Shaka said the night club flouted the design of where clubs should be located within the FCT.

"We are working in line with complaints and petitions from people who live around those areas where clubbing takes place. That is one criterion we used in raiding some of these places."

'Provocative Dressing'

Mr Shaka said another criterion for the raids and arrests is the way some women dress.

"Some of them dress provocatively, that is half nude. Some of these ladies do not have anything that is covering them. We have graduated to such western life where pornography kind of behaviour will be seen to be roaming the street of the FCT. That is not allowed because people that are dressed like that attracts people from the underworld to begin to invade such environments.

"Such areas are opened to attack. So when people complain about getting attacked in such areas, such place is raided.

"Another criterion that leads to the raiding of some areas is illegal consumption and intake of hard drugs. The ladies smoke indiscriminately, they smoke Indian hemp, they abuse alcohol and drugs. And while at this, they attract people of the opposite sex to flock around such areas.

"And in the process, they engage in illegal consumption of drugs and abuse substances which affect innocent residents going about their normal businesses," the official said.

Legality of night clubs

Although night clubs are allowed in Abuja, many of them are constantly raided by the police and other agencies.

This has led many residents of the city to question what is legal or illegal in the Nigerian capital.

"Clubbing is not illegal in Abuja because there are designated areas where clubbing activities are supposed to take place," said Mr Shaka.

"We have more than 800 clubs or so within the FCT and so we are just talking about less than 10 facilities that have been raided. Those places that have legal paper and genuine permits to operate as clubs are not being raided."

Activists react

A human rights activist, Chioma Chuka, said the arrest is an act of discrimination against women because only women are been arrested.

"I also heard one of the women was arrested while she was standing with her husband.

"So why were the men not arrested? Shouldn't they be focusing on the increased criminality going on in Abuja?

"I don't think this is an issue of prostitution. You go into a night club to arrest women and there is no proof they were prostituting. If prostitution is a crime in Nigeria, you have to catch the person in the act before arresting.

"I am bearing in mind that prostitution exists both for male and female. Of course, we have male prostitute too. So why are only the women getting arrested? So it's not a question of legalisation of prostitution. It should be a straight up call for the government and the Abuja Environmental Bureau to desist from victimising and criminally discriminating against women in Abuja."

Ms Chuka also frowned at the alleged abuse of the arrested women by the enforcement agents. "There are also reports that these women who have been arrested are violently assaulted by men who should be protecting them. This is wrong," she said.

Chika Offor, also a human right activist, said "Nobody has the right to arrest anybody without investigating what the person has done. As an adult, you are allowed to go to night clubs and anywhere you want to go to.

"Such arrest is an infringement of the women's fundamental human right and the women have the right to sue them to court," she said

Mrs Offor called for an investigation into the alleged assault on the women.

She said anybody found guilty of an assault should be arrested and prosecuted according to the law.

Nigerians react on Twitter

Some Nigerians have gone on Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with the raids and arrests.

A twitter user @fribone said "If you're going to arrest a woman for prostitution, why let the man go free? Why focus on supply rather than the ostensible 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 have picked up his friend and taken her to an unknown location. #AbujaPoliceRaidonWomen

The Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abayomi Shogunle 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 don't pay tax, Nigeria culture frowns at P."

The alleged assault by security officials

Although prostitution is illegal in the Nigerian capital, law enforcement officials have used it as an excuse to assault and harass women who go out at night in the city.

When the officials raid the night clubs, they hardly arrest any men, but arrest women they believe are 'scantily dressed' and accuse them of prostitution.

Mr Shaka denied the allegations against the law enforcement officials.

"The Social Development Secretariat and the FCTA is a responsible administration that looks into the welfare of the residents of the FCT.

"That somebody is compromising the law does not give advantage to an enforcement agent to begin to abuse them.

"This accusation is already being investigated. Our team is well trained and they have been warned against such an act. They are all aware that if any of them is been caught to have abused these persons, such a person will be dismissed and persecuted," he said.

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