About 50 women allegedly arrested by the Nigerian Army during the crisis in Obigbo, Rivers State, last October, were forced to wear the same set of underwear for four months in military detention, a civil rights group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, has said.
The Intersociety noted on Tuesday that there were fears that some of the ladies, who were recently freed after a prolonged legal intervention, could have infections such as sexually transmitted diseases as some of them claimed to have been serially raped.
SaharaReporters had on February 16 reported that going by the accounts of two of the girls, they were routinely raped by soldiers during the months they spent at the detention facility in Mogadishu Barracks, Asokoro.
The victims said they were arrested around a market in Obigbo while on their way home from work between 7 pm and 7.30 pm in November 2020 and were initially taken to the Nigerian Army base in Obinze Army Barracks, Owerri, Imo State, and then to Abuja.
The Intersociety noted on Tuesday that its findings revealed that the abducted Obigbo women were made to wear the same set of underwear for months, while the army also acted “unconstitutionally, inhumanly, hatefully and abominably by holding the victims incommunicado and outside access to their families, physicians and lawyers”.
The Intersociety release was signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chinwe Umeche, Obianuju Igboeli, and Chidimma Udegbunam.
The civil rights group said, “Going by our findings, including oral interviews from the two freed Obigbo girls and insider sources at army and DSS (Department of State Services) dungeons, the over 60 abducted Obigbo girls and young women were made to wear one set of underwear – pants and a brassiere– from October and November 2020 till date.
“In other words, the victims have been made to wear the same set of pants and brassieres worn when they were abducted by soldiers of the Nigerian Army in October and November 2020 at various points in Obigbo. This is more so when the Nigerian Army and the Department of State Services totally blocked the victims’ access to their loved ones, including physicians, families, and friends, and declined to make their abduction and captivity public knowledge.
“We also doubt if COVID-19 protocols were observed where they were held for four months. Apart from serious suspicion of routine sexual harassment, the women are most likely to have been exposed to a litany of health dangers including sexually transmitted diseases and other health challenges as well as mental and menstrual discomforts.
“The victims only got freed when their names were stressfully and painfully traced by activists and bail applications filed and successfully granted and served on the army authorities, after which the army authorities got them out from different secret locations where they were kept. The totality of these is abominable and unknown to Sections 35 and 36 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, particularly subsection 4 of Section 35 and subsections 8 and 12 of Section 36.”