A Federal High Court in Abuja has stopped the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other law enforcement agencies from conducting raids that target women perceived to be sex workers in clubs and hotels.
The order came after some civil society organisations, with support from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA) and Amnesty International Nigeria, convened several meetings to end what they described as a discriminatory practice.
On April 26, 2019, several women were arrested in hotels and clubs of Abuja by the AEPB and police under the guise of targeting sex workers.
A statement released by the organisation on April 30, 2019, stated that such deliberate action targeting women contravenes Nigerian laws, violates the rights of the women and was against the international charters to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The organisations agreed to file public interest litigation to get judicial intervention on behalf of the victims.
They then filed fundamental rights enforcement suits at the Federal High Court in Abuja on behalf of eight raid victims.
On Aug. 5, 2021, the Federal High Court handed its judgement favouring the survivors. The Court made held thus:
“That the arrest of the applicants without cause and based on their sexes, beating, molestation and dehumanising treatment, the detention of the applicants and the barring of the applicants from accessing legal representation was a violation of the applicants’ rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“That the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) acted ultra vires its powers conferred under its establishing Act when it purports to arrest persons/ prostitutes in the FCT.”
“The Court struck out the names of the 8 and 12 Respondents (The prosecutor and Magistrate), as they were acting in their judicial capacities and are protected from civil suits for actions taken in the course of discharging their official functions.”
In its judgment, the court “awarded damages ranging between ₦2 million to ₦4 million in damages, against The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Mr. Hassan Abubakar (the Head of Department, AEPB), The Inspector General of Police and Inspector Thomas Nzemekwe AKA ‘Yellow’ in favour of the six applicants for breach of their fundamental rights.”
It then ordered an injunction prohibiting the respondents from detaining the applicants and women in such circumstances and in such a way that discriminates based on their gender.
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