The Federal Capital Territory Development Authority (FCDA) through its agencies, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Department of Development Control (DDC), Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), and Social Development Secretariat have stated the demolition of nightclubs – notably Caramelo Lounge – and the arrest of multiple ladies were as a result of city violations on the part of the victims.
The authorities made this known on Thursday while honouring the invitation of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at their office in Abuja to defend their actions.
The FCT Authority was petitioned at NHRC by a coalition of civil societies led by Amnesty International.
According to the Civil Societies Representative, Miss Ossai, they decided to petition FCTA because of what they described as cases of unlawful arrests and detention, sexual abuse and physical violence, gender discrimination and violation of fundamental human rights.
In his reaction, Umar Shuaibu, the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) Coordinator stood in firm defence of their actions because of the contravention of FCT land use regulations by the affected clubs.
Umar said that in spite of serving quit notice and contravention letters to the operators of the club since 2016, they failed to revert activities on the plot located at N0 630, TOS Benson Crescent, Utako District Abuja.
He noted that the plot was originally approved for building of a clinic to provide healthcare services for residents of the territory.
He said activities of the club contravened the provisions of Clause no. 10 of Certificate of Occupancy and Clause 10 of the conveyance letter of building plan.
Umar said there were complaints of noise pollution, insecurity and social disturbances written to AMMC by those in the neighbourhood and DSS on the negative impacts from the premises.
“The issue assumed a critical relevance not only because change of use is inimical to provisions of the Abuja Master Plan, but it has equally generated externalities.
“This culminates into noise pollution, on-street parking, insecurity, social vices and many others.
“These nuisances compromise the safety, comfort and convenience of the residents of the residential precinct”, he said.
He noted that For the purpose of clarity, the land use provision designated to accommodate lounge/night club activities is within a hotel plot.
“As most of us are already aware, we have night clubs operating in hotels like Hilton, Sheraton and other notable hotels within the city, who have abided by the law and run their clubs in a sound-proof room”, he said.
Also speaking on the issue of rape and abuse, Hajia Tani Umar, the Acting Head of Social Development Secretariat stated that there were no issues of such.
‘’I was with the task force team that went for the arrests, and I can assure that nobody was molested or sexually abused. I also made sure that the ladies were not only handed to the police but ordered their bail once someone came to surety them,’’ she said.
She also stated that the ladies who were arrested also violated city laws that regulate against prostitution, indecent dressing, crime and drugs.
‘’Some of the ladies confessed to prostitution, and some were even married women. We arrested a total of 72 persons including a male. Some of the ladies even came from rich homes, and some were students. Abuja is not a free zone for prostitution, drug and crime. This is why we are enforcing the laws that guide against such behaviours.’’
She added that the ladies have been taken to the city’s rehabilitation centre in Lugbe, where they would be rehabilitated, trained in skills and will be handed starter packs in whatever training they got in order to begin a new life where they can survive without resorting to prostitution, crime and drug.
The hearing was then moved into a closed door session by the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojokwu.
In his closing remarks, Ojukwu stated that in line with the complaints that were made against the city authorities, especially gender discrimination and human right violations, it is important that in the future, the authorities should try to mainstream human rights into governance.
By Ojonugwa Felix Ugboja