Nigerian Court Rules Against Arrest of Sex Workers

19 December 2019

A Nigerian court has voided the arrest of commercial sex workers in Abuja by law enforcement officials.

The Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Binta Nyako on Wednesday declared that officials of a security task force acted outside the law when they broke into apartments in Abuja suburbs around 11 p.m, February 2017, to arrest women accused of being prostitutes.

The task force comprised of officials of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Nigeria Police, and Nigerian Army.

The court judgment followed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed by a non-governmental organisation, Lawyers Alert, on behalf of the arrested women.

One Constance Nkwocha and 15 others were the applicants in the suit, while the Nigeria police, the army, Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, and the Abuja Environmental Protection Board were among the respondents.

"I find and hold that the breaking in and arrest of the applicants by the respondents is an infringement of the applicants' right to privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution," the court declared.

"The law has laid down process and procedure for effective arrest, law enforcement agents and agencies should ensure at all times to follow the laid down guidelines by the law."

The court ordered the respondents to pay N100,000 compensation to each of the applicants.

The officials of the task force indecently searched the women and disposed them of their money when they raided their apartments, Lawyers Alert said.

The NGO said the women were tortured and detained while waiting for a mobile court judge "who will try them for a criminal offence they did not know about".

"It is worth recalling that this is not the first time the Joint Task Force had come to arrest, detain and release them. It has always been the practice.

"The women were informed that their arrest owed to their commercial sex work. The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory had a few days before the particular raid promised to rid the Nigeria capital city of sex workers," the organisation said on its website.

It said 52 women were arrested in this particular raid.

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