4 women sue Nigerian army, others at ECOWAS court over harassment

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Four Nigerian women have sued the Abuja Environment Protection Board, AEPB, the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and other government security agencies working in Abuja at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS court.

The women: Dorothy Njemanze, Edu Oroko, Justina Etim and Amarachi Jessyford, are seeking compensation and challenging the gender-based violence as well as discrimination suffered at the hands of some members the security agencies between July 2012 and April 2013.

They contend that the gender-based violence and discrimination they suffered in the hands of these agents impacted negatively on their fundamental human rights.

The plaintiffs, were all residents of Abuja during the nine months period when they suffered these attacks, thus, base their claims on international law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR, the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Women’s Protocol).

They said the treatment they suffered at the hands of the government agencies constituted Gender-Based Violence, GBV; unequal and gender-based discrimination because they were specifically targeted as women.

In a statement, they said a favourable outcome would benefit hundreds of women who are subjected to similar treatment.

“It is hoped that this suit will generate change in Government policy and practice with regard to the gender- based violence and gender-based discrimination in Nigeria,” they stated.

According to the women, they were picked up at different times and different venues in Abuja, between the period of July 2012 and April 2013 by agents of the Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) supported by the Nigerian Police Force and Nigerian Army on claims of carrying out their function of keeping Abuja environment clean and by extension getting rid of prostitutes and destitute persons on the streets of Abuja.

The women said they were harassed physically, psychologically and sexually by AEPB officers as well as the police officers and soldiers because they were considered prostitutes.

Reports indicate women and girls, deemed prostitutes by security agents, are picked up daily on the streets of Abuja and these include innocent ones going about their legitimate businesses.

The applicants are represented by Alliances for Africa, AfA, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, IHRDA, and SPA Ajibade & Co, a leading Nigerian law firm. The legal team is assisted with advocacy by the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, NWTF. AfA is coordinating this action with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA.

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