Maryam Aiwasu: Nigerian security operatives need to help rape victims, not victimize them

Although she has been released, SARS operatives were wrong to arrest an activist battling the scourge of sexual offences.

Maryam Awaisu - #ArewaMeToo  campaigner

But through it all, one thing was a prevalent factor, an activist, feminist and author, Maryam Aiwasu, who tweets with the handle @Ice131queen, a vocal figure in the movement who helped women come out and speak against their abusers. She was arrested yesterday, February 19, 2019 and her privacy was reportedly heavily derogated upon by the infamous members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in her Kaduna office.

In a statement, requesting her release by Amnesty International, Director, Osai Ojigho, said, “Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Maryam Aiwasu who has done nothing more than speaking up for women’s rights. Her arrest appears to be an attempt to intimidate and harass both her and other women supporting #ArewaMeToo – a movement seeking justice for victims of sexual violence in Nigeria.

“While arresting Maryam, the police attempted to gain access to her laptop and mobile phone by force; this is clearly an effort to access the sensitive evidence she and other human rights defenders have been gathering to seek justice for victims of sexual violence.

“Maryam and the other brave human rights defenders working with the #ArewaMeToo movement must not be silenced or punished for the vital work they do. For too long, Nigeria’s women have been facing various kinds of sexual violence that seldom receives proper attention from the country’s law enforcement agencies.

“It is unacceptable that women working on behalf of these victims are subjected to such arrest and intimidation, and we fear that these actions may prevent victims of sexual violence from pursuing justice.”

While the issue of SARS being back to wreak havoc is in itself, a very disturbing reality after the much-heralded “restructuring” that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo ordered in third quarter 2018, the problem is how Nigerian Law enforcement keeps lending itself to oppress the people it should be protecting.

Why was Aiwasu arrested?

A frequently mentioned named in the #ArewaMeToo trend was the constantly accused A.S Aruwa, who runs the Twitter account @MusadiqZ. He is a digital influencer and reported Special Assistant to the Minister of Finance – a role from which reports also claim he has been fired from.

He was accused of several forms of sexual harassment by numerous women and Aiwasu being one of the people who voiced their voices against Aruwa, he allegedly filed a petition with SARS that his life was being threatened from the actions on and impact of #ArewaMeToo.

So, Aiwasu, being vocal figure in the movement was arrested by a supposed law enforcement agency in a democracy with Fundamental Human Rights of Citizens guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

A clear infringement of Fundamental Human Rights and an attempt to silence activism

First, we live in a country where journalists are impeded from performing their duties when men in high places are concerned.

Some have lost their livelihood and freedom of movement; others have simply lost more because they pursued the truth. If Aruwa’s life was so threatened, why not file a suit in a court of competent jurisdiction against his many accusers or respond to them, even via his Twitter account?

Asides that, why did a security agency, sworn to protect citizens allow itself to be used in such a petty matter that they came to arrest a citizen and activist in her Kaduna office. What rules do we live by in this country?

It is in this same country that members of the Nigerian Police and SARS allegedly bury evidence against victims of sexual harassment and even violent crimes.

These same people have decided to use themselves in non-discreet manners to silence the many voices speaking for and seeking justice when mental health is involved. Most victims of sexual offences never truly recover, but SARS members have decided to use their power to silence these people.

If they could stoop this low to a job against their primary assignment, one would expect members of SARS to burst out of their shells at the sound of multiple accusations of rape and sexual harassment. Instead, they aimed to protect a man in a high place, allegedly doing evil and committing multiple acts that demean women as human beings first.

Though Aiwasu was released after a much-publicized activist movement was quickly formed on Twitter yesterday, the damage had been done. Until security operatives start protecting citizens against oppression rather than being the oppressors themselves or aiding the oppressors, we have no hope.

I hope SARS understand the difference between necessary battles than fake battles. I probably waste my voice, but we must never stop.

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