The court declared their arrest as arbitrary and unconstitutional, noting that the security operatives failed to prove that the plaintiffs were commercial sex workers. Justice Nwoke who led a three-man panel of Judges of the court, held that the Nigerian government was liable for the illegal conduct of the joint security team that abused the fundamental human rights of the plaintiffs.
More so, the court held that FG’s action by declaring the three ladies as prostitutes, amounted to gross violation of their rights to dignity since they were only arrested for being outside in the late hours. The ECOWAS Court agreed with counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Bolaji Gabari that there was no law in the Nigerian statute book prohibiting women from being outside in the late hours.
It held that the defendant acted in bad faith and in gross violation of the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs to freedom of movement, by arresting and detaining them at the Gwarimpa Police Station in Abuja without informing them of the reason for the arrest and without charging them to court for any known offence.
According to the court, action of the security operatives was cruel, inhuman, degrading, discriminatory, unlawful and condemnable, adding that the plaintiffs’ rights to human dignity were violated in breach of all known human rights laws. Justice Nwoke maintained that from the totality of evidence that were presented before the court during the hearing of the matter, and from claims of the plaintiffs, he said it was clear that the action of the defendant was targeted at women in very discriminatory ways and manners.
He held that the fact that a woman was seen on the streets at late hours was not enough ground to tag her a prostitute. The court faulted FG for not conducting any form of background check with a view to determining identities of the plaintiffs before it declared them as prostitutes and dumped them in police cell. “The right to human dignity is the most fundamental human rights and unless legislation permits, no one must be deprived of the right to human dignity. “In the instant case, the action of the defendant runs contrary to all laws on human rights because the arbitrary arrest, detention and declaration of the plaintiffs as a class of prostitute was not premised on any known law.