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Court fines police N1.5m over unlawful arrest of sex workers in Abuja

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A federal high court in Abuja has condemned the arrest of women alleged to be sex workers in Abuja by law enforcement agents.

Binta Nyako, the judge, on Wednesday said security agents violated the rights of the women as enshrined in section 37 of the constitution when they broke into their homes to arrest them.

She also ruled that sex work is not a crime.

Babatunde Jacob, a counsel working with Lawyers Alert, a non-governmental organisation, had instituted a fundamental human rights enforcement suit on behalf of the arrested women.

The Nigeria police, the army, ministry of the federal capital territory (FCT), and the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) were the respondents in the suit.

The judge said: “I find and hold that the breaking in and arrest of the applicants by the respondents is an infringement of the applicants’ right to privacy as guaranteed by the constitution.”

“The law has laid down process and procedure for effective arrest. Law enforcement agents and agencies should ensure at all times to follow the laid down guidelines by the law,” she added.

She ordered the respondents to pay N1.6 million as damage cost to the affected women.

In April, security agents arrested over 100 women at Caramelo, a night club in Abuja, and other highbrow areas in the FCT, and alleged that they were strippers and sex workers.

A controversy was sparked off when some of those arrested accused male police officers of sexually assaulting them.

The women said they had to either bribe their way to freedom or allow themselves to be sexually abused by the officers.

After widespread agitation by activists and civil society organisations, the FCT police command announced that a “high-powered team” had been set up to investigate the alleged assault of women by its officers.

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