The Nigerian security forces have arbitrarily arrested and detained over 150 women in Southeast Nigeria since 2020, human rights group Intersociety said on Tuesday.
In a report released in Onitsha, Anambra state, the group said over 150 “defenseless” women have been arrested in the last two years after they were accused of being “ Biafra members or associates of IPOB members” and subjected to enforced disappearance.
The group accused the security agencies of failing to prosecute most of the women but instead subjecting them to indefinite detention and torture. “It is on record that no single conviction has been secured against any of the defenseless women wrongly arrested and spuriously accused of “Biafra Membership,” Intersociety said in the report
It cited the case of several women who were arrested and detained in Imo state since 2021 as well as over 53 named women who were arrested in Obigbo Rivers state in October 2020.
According to the group Ifeyinwa Egolewas, a maternity nurse was arrested with her husband by the police from the IRT Tiger Base in Owerri, Imo state on 13th Feb 2021. The police accused the couple of being “ the parents of an IPOB member”. The police officers after her arrest, threw petrol bombs on her maternity home, her husband’s church, and their family home, burning it down. Her husband’s younger brother was also arrested and has since, not been found.
According to Intersociety, the Police also labeled the “IPOB family” and their Sabbath Church as an “IPOB training camp”. Madam Ifeyinwa Egole remained in Police IRT custody in Abuja till June 2022 when she was granted court bail after spending 16 months in detention.
Another victim identified as Maria Ezediaru, a nurse was arrested by the Police IRT team in Owerri on 25th Feb 2021 for “taking food and medicine to detained “IPOB members”. She was subjected to various forms of torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment during her one-year and three months detention at the police “Abattoir” detention facility and the Force Intelligence Bureau, Abuja.
Also stated in the report were the cases of Melody Anyanwu and Oluchi Mmadumere who were both 22 years when the police arrested them in Owerri, Imo State on 21st and 25th May 2021 for being in a romantic relationship with suspected “IPOB members” Both were arbitrarily detained and subjected to torture during their detention.
Intersociety said it documented the arrest of 53 women in Rivers state in October 2020. It said the women were abducted from their homes by soldiers at night in Obigbo, Rivers State, and taken to secret Army detention facilities in Abuja where they were tortured and sexually assaulted for several months. Their release followed advocacy by human rights groups after the discovery of the secret detention facilities where they were held. Some of the women named in the report are; Ijeoma Francisca, Pauline Anyanwu, Grace Samson, Rebecca Ibeanusi, Ebere Uchechi, and Emmanuella Oluchukwu, among others
The Nigerian authorities have not responded to the report but the Nigerian military had in the past dismissed Intersociety reports as propaganda. In September 2020, the Nigerian army in a statement signed by Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations described Intersociety as “paid jobbers” who are “covertly sponsored by IPOB/ESN”.