A group of human rights activists, women organisations and residents of the Federal Capital Territory has called for an end to the unlawful arrest of women in Abuja.
The group made the call in Abuja on Friday during a protest to demand justice for women that were detained and allegedly sexually harassed by some police officers.
The protest kicked off from the Eagle Square with some Nigerians wearing black shirts and bearing placards with various inscriptions.
"Sex for bail is rape", "It's her today, it could be me tomorrow", "To be a woman is not a crime", "Women's rights are human rights", "Don't rape us, protect us", they chorused while marching to the building of the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA).
The arrest of women in Abuja
Last month, PREMIUM TIMES reported how some officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), raided a popular night club, Caramelo, and arrested 34 female nude dancers.
Two weeks after, about 70 women were arrested from different clubs in Abuja and detained at Utako police station.
The acting Abuja police spokesperson, Danjuma Tanimu, said they were arrested for "hanging around nightclubs" in Abuja.
Some of the women arrested were later bailed while 32 others were charged to a mobile court sitting in the FCT.
Out of the 32 women presented before the court, 27 of them were convicted and sentenced to one month in prison for prostitution, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Some of the arrested women also accused police officers of raping them in exchange for their freedom.
Violation Of Women's Rights
An activist, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, described the arrests and detention of the ladies as an attempt to profile and debase women in Nigerian society.
"What is going on in our society is trashy and it is unacceptable.
"The attempt to continue to rape women on the account that they go to clubs and are prostitutes. How were the policemen able to prove that these girls were prostitutes? They are raped and extorted.
"There is nothing in the law that gives the Task Force power to harass women because our constitution is supreme.
"Therefore this is a violation of the rights of women and it must stop," he said.
Dorothy Njemanze, an Abuja-based women's rights activist, said she is a victim of the unfair war on women and it has to stop.
"A woman outside her house at night is not enough to label her a prostitute. Prostitution does not exist with one person, so they should tell us their definition.
"We want justice and accountability. Stop criminalizing us, that is all we ask," She said
Adebayo Raphael, an activist, said "the act of arresting women is a blatant abuse of the right of women.
"What is going on is a very fundamental attack against the dignity of Nigeria women.
"It is inhumane for anybody to rape another person and it is more inhumane to carry out such act with nylon as a form of protection.
"It is a complete degradation of every value of humanity and this must be put to an end," he said.
Rachael Adejo, the chairperson of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Nigeria, said no law has been broken by the women.
"They went to the club and picked women up but left the men. They picked women, took them to police station and then they started doing lots of things with them.
"The women were not alone by themselves so why were the men not picked. It shows the discrimination against women. It is wrong and unacceptable," she said
Martin Obono, a lawyer and activist, said the protest is to demand a stop to the harassment of women on the streets and even in clubs and bars.
No Men Arrested
Mr Atoye said "It takes two to tango. Why arrest the women and you leave out the men? A woman alone cannot be a prostitute. She cannot commit a sexual act on the street alone. If you cannot arrest the men, don't arrest the women. If there is no man standing with a woman and they're having sex, you cannot call her a prostitute. Even at that, they are not prostitutes.
"If animals can work freely on the streets on Abuja, our women and girls have every right to work freely on the streets of this town," he said.
An Abuja resident, Edem Egbeyoung, said it is wrong to arrest the seller and leave buyer.
"It takes two strike a deal, you cannot arrest the seller and leave the buyer. I love the sex workers and they have their own right," he said.
Sex Workers Speak
The National Coordinator of Nigerian Sex Workers Association, Amaka Enemo, said the arrest of women in Abuja is unlawful.
"How can you go to the club and arrest someone for loitering? And the problem is why taking only women from the club? If there is a need to arrest people, then arrest both men and women.
"Stop intimidating women. We sex workers also have our rights because sex work is not criminalised," she said
"We are waiting for police to define what prostitution means. If you think someone is a prostitute, take them to the court. You have no right to hold a Nigeria citizen for 48 hours, it is a violation of our rights," Ngozi Nwosu said
"I have the right as a citizen to go the club and have fun. The police officer has no right to arrest women at the club
Another sex worker identified as Susan said, "When it comes to issue of stigmatisation and arrest by the police, enough is enough.
"They fail to understand that we have our rights as human being before I became a sex worker," she said.
Minister Should Act
Ms Njemanze called on the Minister of FCT, Mohammed Bello, to discuss with the attorney general on the appropriateness of the Abuja agency's actions.
"The minister is in Abuja and I was violated in Abuja. We are here to interact with him as humans.
"There is a court judgment, so we need him to swing into action, liase with the attorney general and ensure it is upheld," she said.
Mrs Adejo said "We hope the minister will listen to us and call his officers to order."