By Bukar Bolori
The Nigeria Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has commended the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja which ruled in favour of six women harassed and abused during raids in the capital city by Environmental Protection Board (AEPB).
Abuja Environmental Protection Board, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and Inspector Thomas Nzemekwe popularly called Yellow were dragged before the Justice Evelyn Maha’s Federal High Court in Abuja by a legal team led by Sterling Law Centre over allegation of denying six women their fundamental human rights.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu who was represented by a Director in the Commission, Harry Obe said the verdict of the court was landmark in the history of human rights struggle in the nation.
He said that the case will go a long way to reinforcing the rights and confidence of women in the country.
He said: “The judgment is significant as it asserts the human rights of every person against gender-based violence, especially by state actors, which is a persisting, well-documented fact. The judgment regarding the discriminatory arrest of people based on their gender, particularly the arrest of women in the streets and other places, becomes a reference point for protecting women’s rights now and in the future.”
According to Ojukwu, “History has been made in Abuja in the landmark court judgments on the notorious raids of women and girls in the streets of Abuja by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board and other law enforcement agents.”
He said the landmark judgments have vindicated the position of civil society groups and the NHRC.
He said it is however hoped that the judgment will serve as a wake up call for law enforcement agents to desist from further inhuman raids and activities in such way that violates the human rights of citizens as such will be resisted and challenged in the courts of the land.
Speaking on the outcome of the case, the Executive Director, Partners West Africa- Nigeria and member, Governing Council, NHRC, Kemi Okenyodo said after over two years of trial, Justice Evelyn Maya of the Federal High Court in her judgment on August 5th, 2021 held that the arrest of the applicants without cause, the 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 Nigeria.
The judge awarded between N2 million to N4 million in damages against the AEPB, the NSCDC, Inspector General of Police and Inspector Thomas Nzemekwe in favour of the six applicants.
Justice Maha also issued an injunction restraining the Police, NSCDC and other listed respondents from arresting women in such circumstances and in a manner that discriminates on the basis of gender.