When Cynthia (name has been changed) went out with a group of her friends in Abuja on April 26, 2019, she probably envisaged a nice Friday night out with the girls after a hard week at work. Like many other single women living in Abuja, Cynthia was attracted to the relatively dynamic economy and vibrant, cosmopolitan lifestyle available in the federal capital. Unlike many other places in Nigeria where simply coming out at night is an extreme sport, the seat of Nigeria’s federal government offered a semblance of normalcy.
The group of friends settled for a club called ‘Cloud 9’ at the Nadrem Emporium on 3rd Avenue, Gwarimpa. Suddenly the party was broken up by a large group of men who barged in, demanding that Cynthia and her friends stand up and follow them outside immediately. When they naturally resisted this unwanted intrusion on their evening outing, they were dragged outside along with the other women in the club. Outside they saw a convoy of law enforcement and armed forces vehicles including police, NSCDC, army, immigration and even the prisons service.
Cynthia didn’t know it yet, but this would be the start of a 4-day ordeal in the hands of the police at the behest of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), a hitherto little-known agency which has since gained a fearsome reputation in the city, for its singular commitment to rape, extortion and harassment of young women. Over the ensuing 96 hours, she and at least 70 other young female detainees were tear gassed in a locked police cell, denied food, water or sanitary provisions and raped by police officers if they could not pay for their freedom.
Apparently existing while female in Abuja.