Abuja Police Officers Allegedly Arrested 70 Women For ‘Immoral Behaviour’

Four years ago, Nigerian journalist, Dorothy Njemanze and three other women took the federal government to court after they were forcefully arrested and wrongfully charged with prostitution by police officers in Abuja.

The harrowing details of the sexual assault and violence these women faced were re-enacted in Ishaya Bako’s 2016 documentary, Silent Tears. Unfortunately, history repeated itself over the weekend when members of the police force and civil defense officers allegedly raided lounges and bars across Abuja, singling out and arresting over 70 women, on the orders of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB). Safiya Umar, the leader of the Abuja Social Development Secretariat task force told BBC that the arrests were made to curb prostitution and ‘immoral behavior’ in the city. She also claimed that the task force targeted women because they wore ‘skimpy clothing’.

Martin Obono, the lawyer who broke the news on Twitter also reported disturbing news of possible sexual violence and rape perpetrated by the officers.

According to a witness at was at Ketchup with her husband, a popular lounge in Wuse II when the raids started, the officers came in touts, prison officers and a videographer who recorded the arrests. The touts harassed her and all the women present, and one of them grabbed her breasts, she told ZUMI Nigeria. The officers who initially ignored her husband’s protests eventually let her go after seeing a wedding band on her finger. Sadly, the other female loungers at Ketchup were not that fortunate.

BBC Pidgin also reports that some of the women claimed to have been forced to pledge guilty before the mobile court magistrate earlier today.

Responding to the outrage from women who demanded justice for the women, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Yomi Shogunle had nothing to say about the rape allegations against the police officers. On the contrary, he defended the arrests claiming that prostitution “spreads HIV and STDs”.

Nigerian women deserve to be safe at any hour of the day and should not be harassed by those who should be in charge of enforcing safety. This is a manifestation of how the Nigerian system enables sexual violence on women regardless of their class or profession. Women on social media have continued to raise their voices to fight for the arrested women. Here are some of the things they are saying:

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