Four Nigerian women who sued the Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB), the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and other government security agencies working for AEPB at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice, have asked the court to give judgment in their favour.
The women – Dorothy Njemanze, Edu Oroko, Justina Etim and Amarachi Jessyford – are seeking a N100 million compensation for the harassment and discrimination they suffered in the hands of security agents between July 2012 and April 2013.
Their lawyer, Dr B.A.M. Ajibade (SAN), is asking the court to enter judgment in favour of the plaintiffs for failure or refusal of the federal government to file any defence.
When the case came up on Tuesday, the court noted that the case was filed in September 2014 and that despite the fact that the federal government had been served, it had failed to enter appearance.
In adjourning the case to March 11, the court said justice demanded that a further adjournment be granted to enable the defendant enter appearance and file its defence.
The women said they were picked up at different times and venues in Abuja, between July 2012 and April 2013 by agents of the AEPB supported by the police and Nigerian army on claims of carrying out their function of keeping Abuja environment clean and by extension, getting rid of prostitutes and destitute in the streets of Abuja.
They contended that the gender-based violence and discrimination they suffered in the hands of the 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.
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 that women and girls, deemed prostitutes by security agents, are picked up daily in 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 and Co, a leading Nigerian law firm. The legal team is assisted with advocacy by the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF). AfA is coordinating the action with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).