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ActionAid, WACOL condemn human rights activist, Prof Abiola over alleged assault on police woman

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TWO human rights frontline organizations, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, and Women’s Aid Collective, WACOL, Friday, condemned Prof Zainab Abiola over alleged assault on a police woman, Teju Moses, for refusal to carry out house chore duties.

The two organisations held a joint media conference over the alleged action by Abiola, where they called on the Nigeria Police Force to as a matter of urgency review and clearly define duties of police orderlies and also for better welfare package.

The Country Director, AAN, Ene Obi, commended the effort of the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Babafor for acting quickly in the arrest of Abiola, alleged to have ordered the assault of her police orderly, Inspector Teju Moses, through her domestic staff.

Obi said: “You may recall that in 2020, ActionAid Nigeria, in solidarity with the Nigerian Youths, called for an end to police brutality across Nigeria. 

“However, with the same energy, we have been following with keen interest the continued rise in citizens’ brutality against security officers across Nigeria. 

“The immediate is the alleged assault of a Police Orderly by Prof. Zainab Duke Abiola and her domestic staff in Abuja. 

“Although, it is saddening that the perpetrator is a Lawyer and a human right Activist who should be advocating against all forms of abuses. 

“Therefore, ActionAid Nigeria applauds the Inspector General of Police for acting promptly in responding to right violations and her immediate arrest.  

“This will serve as a deterrent to all those abusing the rights of both male and female officers attached to them, that the eyes of the law are very active, and justice will be served. 

“ActionAid stands firmly against all forms of violence against women in the workplace, and we condemn in strong terms, the use of violence irrespective of any provocation by any gender as there are alternatives to resolving disagreements. 

She maintained that one of AAN’s objectives is focus on protecting women and girls from violence and create opportunities for economic independence and decision making. 

She (Obi) concluded by calling on the Inspector General of Police to: “Review, as a matter of urgency, the welfare of the officers assigned on special duties as well as other police officers to avert future occurrences. 

“State in clear terms the roles as Orderlies and Special Duty officers assigned to private citizens including Celebrities and High-Net worth Executives.Set up a panel to conduct a survey or assessment on how Officers assigned to private citizens are being treated. 

“It is important to hear feedbacks from these Officers to aid decision making.

“Ensure the Nigerian Police Force support the development and implementation of workplace policy with special reference to the recent ILOC190 that seeks to address GBV at the workplace. 

“This will ensure that the rights of all persons within the workplace are promoted and protected in Nigeria. 

“The Nigerian Security Officers are toiling day and night to protect the citizenry and it is time to protect them too.”

Also, the Founding Director, Women’s Aid Collective, WACOL, Prof Joy Ezeilo, in an address asserted that the plight of Nigerians who are recruited by military and para-military organisations are attached to elites in the country including foreigners who do not only abuse them physically and psychologically, but use them in manners inconsistent with their line of official duty. 

Ezeilo said: “The reported ugly and nefarious act of brutality is despicable and condemnable without equivocation. And to have been perpetrated by supposed civil society actor makes it far more reprehensible and exposes both the legal profession, the academia and the human right family to odium and embarrassment, considering the peculiar background of the suspect, Prof Zainab as a supposed trained and commissioned defender of human rights in the society. Prof. Zainab, was allegedly reported to have assaulted her police orderly on Tuesday, 20th day of September 2022, at her residence in Garki, Abuja, following refusal by her said orderly to carry out menial and domestic chores at her residence.

“The trending and viral audio clip available all over the social media showed the orderly, Inspector Teju Moses, bleeding profusely on her face, and which the media reported to crystalize ‘overwhelming evidence of culpability on the part of Zainab’. 

“The plight of these service men and women is further compounded by the ‘command and control’ formation of the force units which makes it a rule for these force employees to obey the orders of the superior without any form of hesitation. 

“Akin to the above postulations is that these employees do not have choice in deciding the person of the VIP, who they are attached to. This anathema inherent in both the legal and administrative frameworks of the various force formations remains in effect, despite the availability of preponderance of statutory provision safeguarding human rights in our laws. 

“The laws applicable in Nigeria ranging from the 1999 Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Police Act, the Penal Code, Criminal Code, have made copious provisions that protect human rights, including that of serving police officers. 

“The Constitution of Nigeria under Section 34 provides for the dignity of every person, while the Penal Code applicable in the Northern Nigeria, and Criminal Code in the South respectively provide against human assault. In fact, assaulting a police officer in the course of carrying out official duty is a serious felony (section 365 of the Criminal Code Act). 

“WACOL as a frontline human rights defender in Nigeria and beyond, in concert with ActionAid Nigeria, other women groups condemn with utmost dismay and huge disappointment, the fact that a human rights activist who is supposed to be an ambassador for human rights protection, and who should be at the forefront of the promotion of women’s rights in the country could conversely perpetrate such crime against humanity and against her fellow woman.”

She also maintained that WACOL in partnership with ActionAid remains committed to ensuring that human rights are safeguarded in Nigeria.

As part of their demands, she tasked the Nigeria Police Force on  accountability in investigating the case under watch. 

“We call for both a thorough and expeditious investigation of the case in view, with the ultimate aim of bringing the perpetrators of these inhuman act to book in the overall interest of justice. 

“We maintain at all times that torture, inhuman acts, degrading treatment and punishments constitute violations of constitutionally enshrined rights and there is state responsibility to protect, prevent and remedy such violations whether committed by state or non-state actors(as in this case).  

“The full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the perpetrators who abuse their authority and privilege with impunity. We urge Nigerians to respect human dignity and the human rights of one another and refrain from inhuman acts. 

“Finally, we must bear in mind that an inhuman act to one remains inhuman treatment to humanity and to all”, she stated.

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