The Federal Government of Nigeria Thursday commenced investigations into allegations of women harassed and some allegedly assaulted by some officials of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, after this NewsWireNGR Investigations revealed the series of abuse carried out by the officials on female residents.
The special investigative panel on Sexual and Gender Based Violence for North Central Zone is starting in Abuja, the nations capital, is to review extant laws and regulations applicable to joint task forces in the country and the FCT in particular especially the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB.
The probe carried out by the National Human rights commission, NHRC, is also to hear complainants and investigate alleged acts of violation of human rights under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Investigate matters of conduct and discipline of the Joint Task Forces including the AEPB, the Police and other law enforcement agents during the raids especially as it affects women and girls within the past 10 years.
Tony Ojukwu, Esq, the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Thursday at the start of the hearing said, the panel is to identify individuals directly responsible for any violations and abuses and make recommendations for further actions including but not limited to prosecutions, disciplinary proceedings and damages, amongst others.
The Panel is to also to “develop clear guidelines for inspections and raids in the country by task forces that can serve as good practises against the backdrop of reported cases of abuse and overreach state agents,” Ojukwu added during his address.
He also noted that the panel is to identify victims of violation and abuse and ensure adequate remedy to these victims and accountability for the violations.
The Panel was constituted as a result of the complaint received where armed security personally led by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, under the auspices of the FCT Joint Task Force Raided night clubs and the streets of Abuja. The personnel had claimed that the raids were intended to arrests prostitutes – but during the raids, about 71 women were arrested, including women with babies. Victims of the raids have made serious allegations of rape, sexual harassment; and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Osai Ojigho, country director, Amnesty International Nigeria, in an interview with NewsWireNGR earlier today, said the Nigerian government needs to move from policy statements on SDG5, the Maputo Protocol and CEDAW to real positive change in the lives of women and girls in Nigeria. Addressing systematic discrimination and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) through the ongoing review by the NHRC.
She said the probe “is a step in the right direction to finding long lasting solutions to violations of women’s human rights”.
“The government must put resources in place to support a people-centred and human rights approach in all relevant state institutions to ending SGBV in Nigeria”. Osai added.
She concluded, that, “At the end of the review, the findings and recommendations of the SGBV panel must of necessity be made public”.
The members of the panel were carefully selected to represent diverse interests in society; the Commission as the chair and the secretariat, the Academia, Gender experts, Civil Society and Professional groups.
The Panel will also work closely with consultants who bring professional expertise in the field of SGBV to bear on the proceedings and the report of the panel.
The office of the Vice President, Professor, Yemi Osibanjo had mandated NHRC to investigate SGBV cases by Joint Task Forces across the country as well as in tertiary institutions and religious houses and made policy recommendations to the Federal Government, and the committee tasked with the following;
- The Special Investigative Panel (SIP) is heterogeneous in composition. It has members from different societal divides.
- Public hearings on SGBV issues by SIP will grant “victims” and “perpetrators” the opportunity for fair hearing.
- 91 memoranda on SGBV issues have been submitted to NHRC. 41 of these are from the South East, 13 from the North Central, 12 from the North West, 11 from the South South, 10 from the South West, and 4 from the North East.
- SIP will investigate the raids, arrests, and detention of women in Abuja.
- Specific objectives of the Special Investigative Panel on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence are:
i. To review extant laws and regulations for Joint Task Forces (JTF) across the country especially the Abuja Joint task Force
ii. To investigate the operation of JTF and security agencies particularly against women in the past 10 years
iii. To set up reporting structures for sexual violations in Nigeria
iv. To initiate litigation processes against perpetrators and ensure that perpetrators are punished and damage are awarded to victims
v. To investigate SGBV in tertiary institutions
vi. To receive and investigate complaints
vii. To develop policies applicable to SGBV in Nigeria