Written by Austine ELEMUE

Alleged sexual harassment: NHRC commences public hearing

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, on Thursday commenced hearing on the alleged harassment of vulnerable women during a recent raid of night clubs operating within undesignated places in Abuja, the nation's capital.

It was learnt that both officials of FCT Administration and representatives of a coalition of Human Rights groups were present at the commencement of public hearing presided over by the Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu. 

NHRC Executive Secretary while declaring the hearing open, disclosed that the Commission received several complaints over alleged unlawful arrests and maltreatment, which seemed to be targeted at women in the territory. 

In particular, Ojukwu informed the stakeholders that civil rights groups had stormed the NHRC building, to protest alleged abuse of women in FCT and other parts of the country, resulting in detention of women by FCTA officials. 

Ojukwu, however commended the FCTA officials for showing seriousness about its consideration of the issue of contention and for honouring the commission's invitation. 

He stressed the need to mainstream human rights into the operations of the FCTA in pursuit of overriding public interest, 

While urging the FCTA through its agencies to ensure its officials act within the law especially while handling issues pertaining to women, he disclosed that there is arrangement for training of relevant FCTA officials on human rights while carrying out their duties. 

In her presentation on behalf over 72 civil society organizations, Country Director, Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, stressed that the petition specifically raised the issue of the disturbing report of unlawful arrest, assaults, sexual violence and verbal abuse against women in Abuja. 

The complaints alleged that over a period of two weeks, about hundred women were arrested by representatives of agents of FCTA taskforce team. 

They further alleged that the allegation was that the women were arrested on suspicion of being sex workers as a result of their presence on the streets. 

However, in her presentation, the Acting Secretary of FCT Social Development Secretariat, Hajia Safiya Umar, insisted that officials of the FCT authorities did not abuse commercial sex workers during the operation, stressing that those arrested were granted bail by the Mobile Court. 

Speaking in the same vein, Coordinator of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, AMMC, Umar Shaibu, who led other officials of relevant departments and secretariat for the hearing, assured the commission of the council's respect for its existence and functions. 

Umar stressed that officials of the council, as the nation's capital city managers are not after the trampling of the rights of anybody living in the city.       



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