In a case of gender based violence against women in the federal capital city of Nigeria Abuja FCT by agents of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Military, four young women by name Dorothy Chioma Njemanze , Edu Ene Oroko, Justina Etim and Amarachi Jessyford were assaulted sexually, physically, verbally, threatened and unlawfully detained at different times between January 2011 and March 2013 by the aforementioned agents of the Nigerian Government.
Dorothy Njemanze the 1st plaintiff in response to widespread reports about random abductions and gross violations of women in Abuja FCT by AEPB and law enforcement agents and due to her personal experiences set up an NGO, the Dorothy Njemanze Foundation to advocate for injustice for the victims of these violations.
Before proceeding to the Community Court of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in September 2014 the first Plaintiff Dorothy Chioma Njemanze took appropriate steps to get justice by petitioning the Minister for Justice/ Attorney General of the Federation, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Commissioner of Police, Public Complaints Commission, the National Human Right Commission, the Chief of Army Staff, the Army Head Quarters, Secretary for Federal Government, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the Legal Aid Council, Inspector General of Police, National Committee Against Torture of the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Assembly and the Attorney General amongst others but her petitions yielded no response.
On the 12th October 2017 at the ECOWAS court suit ECW/CJ/APP/17/14 judgement was delivered in favor of the plaintiffs apart from one of the plaintiffs whose claim was statue-barred. Structural and monetary remedies which were sought by the applicants were granted.
In the Judgement, the Nigerian State:
- Failed to protect the rights of the 1st, 3rd and 4th plaintiffs as there were multiple violations of Articles 1,2,3,5,18(3) of the African Charter , Articles 2,3,4(1), 4(2),5,8 and 25 of the Maputo Protocol; Articles 2,3,5 (a), and 15 (1) CEDAW: Articles 2(1), 2(3), 3,7 and 26 of ICCPR; Articles 10,11,12,13 and 16(1) CAT; Articles 1,2,5,7 and 8 UDHR.
- Failed to investigate and prosecute the allegations of mistreatment meted out to the plaintiffs.
- Treated the plaintiffs in ways that amounted to gender discrimination and sexual and gender based violence.
- Treatment of plaintiffs by the security agents amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT).
The Court found that there was arbitrary arrest, leading to violation of plaintiff’s rights to liberty contrary to international human rights law and Nigeria’s constitution. That while there was no concrete evidence of the physical abuse experienced, there was sufficient evidence of the verbal abuse meted to the plaintiffs which was humiliating and degrading especially calling them prostitutes that amounted to gender based violence.
The court also found that there was no basis for the defendants agents to conclude that “every woman seen outside at late hours at night was a prostitute” and even if the crime of prostitution was alleged, “This is a crime involving two persons- a man and a woman whereas the agents only picked women”. Therefore this was a targeted and systematic attack against women because of their gender and amounted to gender- based discrimination”.
The judgement was read by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke of the three- man panel, after over 30 minutes, the landmark forty eight page judgement. It is the first judgement from a regional court to pronounce on the protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).
There was no lawyer from the Nigerian Government side at the court on this day which in itself shows their complete disregard to the matter.
It has been a difficult journey but we are elated with the judgement and we are eternally grateful to Open Society Initiatives for West Africa (OSIWA), Alliances for Africa (AfA), Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Amateur Heads Production and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the media houses that reported the entire process.
This is a monumental victory for the rights of women in all of Africa and Dorothy Njemanze Foundation is glad to have been party to setting this pace. We artistically use the entertainment media for grassroots reorientation to improve access to social justice, social inclusivity and victim support. Majority of the beneficiaries of our work are children/youths, women and people with disabilities. We remain committed to creating safer spaces for ALL.
To support our work or know more about us, visit www.dnf.org.ng
Dorothy Njemanze Foundation