The Social Development Integrated Centre (SOCIAL ACTION) and Civil rights Council (CRC) wish to draw the attention of the Nigerian government and the public, to the increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) involving some unscrupulous security operatives in Nigeria. There have been allegations of rape, sexual harassment and other acts of gender-based violence meted out against women and girls by law enforcement agents. There also appears to be a conspiracy of silence whereby, security agents found complicit, are neither suspended from office immediately for their unprofessional conduct, nor made to face judicial sanction. Women’s rights have been flagrantly violated and the law enforcement agents saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the enforcement of these rights are now increasingly indicted in the physical and sexual abuse of women and girls.Cases of gender-based abuse perpetrated by some security officers are rife in the Nigerian media space, especially social media. Videos and recorded tapes of women being humiliated by these officers, who pose condescending questions at them about their sexuality, have made the rounds on various social media platforms. This uncivilised culture has gradually become a norm, with security officers going as far as soliciting for sex outright, or asking suggestive questions that could be indicative of sexual perversion. Indeed, security officers have been seen and heard on record, requesting for physical hugs from women and girls during interrogation, negotiating to help them avoid justice if they offered sex in exchange, and asking inappropriate questions about their virginity, the identity of the person who deflowered them, the names of the persons they have been intimate with, and all manner of debasing and dehumanising questions, whilst supposedly investigating totally unrelated matters.
Many of such embarrassing videos – some recorded by the security officers – have been circulated and viewed by several persons, on and off social media. But the Nigerian government and the leadership of the country’s security apparatus seems unperturbed by the ugly trend. Occasionally when these videos go viral on social media, press statements are issued by the authorities pledging to investigate the allegations and bring the suspected offenders to book. Most times, regrettably, nothing is heard about the incident thereafter, and the pattern is repeated shamefully, with no accused officer dismissed or prosecuted for acts constituting a clear breach of women’s rights to dignity of person and freedom from gender-based abuse.
It must be emphasised that the negative impact of sexual and gender-based violence is often long-lasting. Many women and girls who have been subjected to such abuse never fully recover from the traumatic effects. Some experience serious mental health issues, such as persistent depression, anxiety disorders and suicidal feelings.
SOCIAL ACTION and CRC jointly stand in condemnation of the sexually abusive, unethical and unprofessional conduct which some officers of the law either engage in, or choose to turn a blind eye to, when their counterparts perpetrate such behaviour.
As members of the Civil Society and citizens of Nigeria, we have observed the rising number of cases of sexual violence involving security agents across the country, and we demand for justice for the vulnerable women and girls who have been abused. Officers of the law are now being rampantly accused of using their office to prey on and sexually molest women. In the face of these allegations, the Nigerian government and the leadership of these security agencies charged with the prevention of crime, have chosen to remain silent. The ‘deafening’ silence of the leaders in authority over the incessant acts of sexual violence carried out by security officers in the discharge of their duties, is alarming and totally unacceptable. Such indifference demonstrated by the authorities, gives the public the impression that sexually predatory behaviour is condoned by the security agencies, which is absolutely wrong, unjust and barbaric.
We therefore call for an immediate dismissal and prosecution of officers in the Nigerian Security Forces who have been found complicit in cases of sexual and gender-based violence. Allegations made against these officers should not be swept under the carpet, but thoroughly investigated to ensure justice takes its course. Law enforcement officers must be made to uphold their constitutional mandate of protecting lives and defending human rights. Sexual violence constitutes a crime against humanity, and any officer found culpable must be made to face appropriate sanctions.
We also call for the regular training of security officers, as a way of instilling in them the values of excellent conduct, self-discipline and professionalism which should be demonstrated in the discharge of their duties at all times. The security agencies are revered organisations charged with protecting the public. Sexual predators should not be recruited into the rank and file of the respective security outfits in Nigeria; neither should security officers who have taken to sexual perversion, be allowed to remain and dent the image of the security agencies which they represent.
Lillian I. Akhigbe – – – – – – – – – -Social Development Integrated Centre (SOCIAL ACTION)
Mercy Tochukwu Christopher – – – – – – -Civil Rights Council (CRC)
Prince Edegbuo – – – – – – – – – – – Social Development Integrated Centre (SOCIAL ACTION)
Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna – – – – – – – – – Civil Rights Council (CRC)
For further enquiries, kindly contact the Communications Team Lead, SOCIAL ACTION on: lillian[at]saction.org