A coalition of over 100 women organizations has called on the Nasarawa State Government to perfect the freedom of 30 women arrested for protesting against perceived injustice during the 2023 governorship election.
The organizations said the prosecution of the 30 women shows the failure of the Nigerian Police Force and the Government of Nasarawa State in Nigeria to uphold the rights of citizens under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to protest, assemble and freely express themselves.
The governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Nasarawa State, David Umbugadu had challenged the victory of Governor Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to the Supreme Court.
The Apex Court nullified the decision of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal and declared Sule winner, a decision that led to mass protest by Nasarawa women.
The over 100 women organizations in a statement believed the maltreatment of the 30 constitutes political persecution.
Among the signatories to the statement are Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili; Prof. Eki Yemisi Omorogbe (International Law and Policy in Africa Network); Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo SAN (Women Aid Collective (WACOL); Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo (Gender and Development Action-GADA); Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu (Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA); Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi (Womanifesto); Yemi Adamolekun (Enough is Enough); Yiaga Africa; 100 Women Lobby Group (100WLG) and Baobab for Women’s Rights.
The statement reads, “Nigerians are unhappy to hear of the arrest, prosecution and persecution of 30 women in Nasarawa, among others, for exercising their rights to protest against an INEC instigated miscarriage of justice in the Nasarawa governorship election of 2023, and the decision of the Supreme Court which upheld the results as declared.
“The prosecution of these 30 women shows the failure of the Nigerian Police Force and the Government of Nasarawa State in Nigeria to uphold the right of citizens under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to protest, assemble and freely express themselves.
“These women were nude, demonstrating clearly that they were both committed to peaceable protest and unarmed. It is a travesty to then accuse them of being violent when in fact, they were the people violated by the attack from the uniformed personnel, including with projectiles. Security agents, nearly all of them male, assaulted, beat up, shot at, and seriously injured some of these women in clear violation of the Constitution and in full public view. Locking them up in indefinite pre-trial detention at the instance of those whom they were protesting against constitutes political persecution.
“The misuse of security services and the abuse through the judiciary to promote partisan propaganda and political agenda should be rejected by all and it is upon this ideological and ethical basis that ‘Project – Free Nasarawa 30’ is rallying its regional and international network to ensure that the further violation of the rights of these women stops with a call on the government of Nasarawa State to end the abusive use of state power
“Project- Free Nasarawa 30 is a national and non-partisan coalition comprising of civil right activists, citizens’ journalists, rights’ organisations and international advocacy and solidarity groups demanding the immediate release of the Nasarawa 30, a group of women currently in jail over no crime they committed even as contained in the unacceptable charges filed by the current Nasarawa State government against these women for exercising their rights to assemble and express themselves.
“Project – Free Nasarawa 30 rejects in totally the tactics and aggression against these women, and calls for the immediate review of their bail conditions to grant them freedom without the culture of punitive bail terms that have been unethically and wrongly adopted by the current judicial bench to justify empty allegations against the Nasarawa 30.
“An attack on the Nasarawa 30 is an attack on all women across the globe. End the persecution now! Free Nasarawa 30 unconditionally today!”