Sharia, Abuja, and Nightclubs
By Leo Igwe
As I have earlier noted, raiding Caramelo nightclub was not about law enforcement. It was not a move to rectify an illegal use of a property or to combat noise pollution or traffic challenge in the city. The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) used these reasons to mask their more sinister motives, and to legitimize their illegal clamp down on the operation of nightclubs and women attendees in Abuja. Simply put, raiding Caramelo was a front to justify the execution of a religious and moral agenda that is stealthily being unveiled in the city.
As many anticipated, more raids have been carried out and more women, not men, have been arrested in Abuja. Over the weekend, at least 70 women were arrested following similar raids in the city. These women were detained at a local police station where they have allegedly been abused.
The FCDA must be taken to task in the light of these recent developments. The municipal authority must be called to order and compelled to adhere to its constitutional roles and duties. The agency must make it clear if it is enforcing the law or prosecuting some moral/sharia policing agenda.
This is because Abuja is the seat of the Federal government where federal laws apply. And FCDA could not execute such operations without the implicit knowledge and endorsement by the Buhari Administration. So the raids of nightclubs and arrests of female attendees are not only local municipal issues, they have federal, constitutional dimensions that need to be addressed.
First, the FCDA need to categorically respond to these concerns: is the operation of nightclubs against the law? If yes, which section of the Nigerian law prohibits such operations and what does the provision explicitly say? Are there guidelines for the operation of nightclubs including dress codes for men and women? If yes, what are these operational guides?
Another question that the FCDA needs to urgently address is this: Is it against the law for women to attend nightclubs in Abuja? If yes, which section of the law prohibits females attending nightclubs and what does the provision state?
Otherwise, the FCDA should put an end to these reckless and irresponsible raids. The agency should stop making itself a laughing stock locally and internationally and confirming that it is an extension of the sharia policing regime!Going by the latest reports, the arrested women would be accused of prostitution and charged to court. So for the FCDA, attending nightclub equals prostitution, right? By implication, nightclubs are brothels? I mean how will the FCDA prove in court that a woman who was arrested at the nightclub is a prostitute? Is attending or dancing at a nightclub an evidence of prostitution?So it is pertinent to highlight the twisted morality that underlies the raids on nightclubs in Abuja especially the fact that this clamp down reinforces existing power relations and privileges. These raids constitute mechanisms for witch hunting, settling scores, victimization and scapegoating the weak and vulnerable in the society, and the subjugation of women. Otherwise, how does one explain the fact that, in Abuja where many hotels operate nightclubs, the FCDA have chosen to raid some and not others? Why didn’t the FCDA first move against the nightclubs at Sheraton or at Nicon Hilton or the clubs at any other 5 star hotels in the city, which the rich and powerful attend? Why have they not arrested attendees at these places? Why did they choose to storm roadside clubs?
Now on the gender aspect. Both men and women do nightclubbing. So why arrest only women? Why create the impression that night clubbing is a female affair when in actual fact it is not? Why reinforce the gender prejudice and bias that have characterized sharia enforcement in muslim majority states? This is definitely an exemplification of what applies in sharia implementing states. Men freely go about night clubbing while women do so with fear, fear of being arrested, molested and abused by only-men sharia policing units. Is this the lunacy and farce that the FCDA wants to introduce in Abuja?
The FCDA should stop raiding nightclubs and focus on its constitutional roles and duties as stipulated by the law. It should stop being a tool for the prosecution of ethno-religious agenda. The Federal Government should not turn a blind eye on the raiding activities of the FCDA including the divisive, and polarizing undercurrents. It must ensure that the rule of law not religious codes apply in the city of Abuja. Abuja is a federal, not a sharia capital. All Nigerians are equal before the law. And the FCDA must ensure that all Nigerians are treated with dignity and respect.