The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has ordered the Nigerian government to pay N18m as compensation to three women in a case of violation of their rights.
The presiding judge, Justice Friday Nwoke, in his verdict on Thursday, ordered the federal government to pay Mrs Dorothy Njemanze, Ms Justina Etim and Ms Amarachi Jessyford for the violation of their rights by security agents of the government.
The plaintiffs, in a case filed before the court in September 2014, alleged that they were abducted and unlawfully detained by officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, the police and the military.
They also alleged failure on the part of the Federal Government to investigate their complaints on violation of their rights and offer them the required protection.
They further claimed that they were sexually assaulted, physically and verbally abused and threatened at different times between Jan. 2010 and March 2013.
The plaintiffs stated that the violation of their rights showed a “systemic and institutionalised discrimination against women” because they were seen outside their homes in Abuja at night.
They noted that the men were not subjected to similar treatment by the officials.
The court held that the defendant presented no evidence to show that the plaintiffs were sex workers as the officials of the law enforcement agencies claimed.
The presiding judge, Justice Friday said, “No evidence led to show that the said ladies were prostitutes; the use of the word “prostitute” is derogatory and a violation of the plaintiffs’ rights.
“The systemic sting operation was targeted at gender discrimination. The law ought to apply to all persons, having arrested and detained the plaintiffs, the officials have violated their rights.”
He added that under international laws of human rights, the state was responsible for the acts of its agents undertaken in an official capacity.
He further ruled that the failure and refusal of the defendant to investigate the matter and prosecute accordingly constituted a breach of its obligation under international laws.
The court, in its decision, also said that the failure of the defendants to protect the rights of the plaintiffs constituted multiple violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The court ordered that the plaintiffs be paid N6m each as damages for the violation of their rights.
Speaking with journalists, Counsel for the plaintiff, Mrs Bolaji Gabari said the judgement of the court would enable the government put its agents in check.
She said, “We are pleased by the pronouncement of the court which has validated the stance of women in Nigeria, being discriminated against because we are women.
“We appreciate the court for this judgement that has shown that women are first human beings before being women, mothers or sisters; we deserve to be treated with dignity.”
One of the plaintiffs, Njemanze expressed satisfaction in the ruling of the court and urged women whose rights had been violated to seek justice.
“Words fail because since 2012 that we started, I have got assassination threats just because we spoke out.
“I have lost a lot of things but so many years down the road, justice at last.
“I am happy and I hope every woman will see herself as human enough to seek justice every time there is an infringement,” she said.