By Leo Igwe
The recent raid at a nightclub in Abuja raises so many questions regarding the law as well as the social and moral trends in the country. Some days ago, some officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) stormed a popular nightclub in Abuja called Caramelo and arrested female strippers. From available reports, they apprehended only female, not male dancers. The officials claimed that the raid was carried out in response to security reports and complaints from residents in the area. From all indications, this was not the case. There was more to this operation than just a response to security reports.
Now let’s examine the complaints. They included “noise nuisance from loud party music, nude/strip dancing club activities, intractable traffic challenge”. The officials said that they raided the building after investigating and validating these complaints. In addition, a municipal officer who led the team, Umar Shuaibu, said that the club was raided because the property was approved for a health clinic but the clinic was later turned into a nightclub. And the operator of the Caramelo nightclub had been told severally to stop operations to no avail.
Now it is a welcome development that the FCTA authorities are trying to combat noise pollution in Abuja. This is a fantastic initiative. But it seems that they have made Caramelo a scapegoat. This is because there are many pubs in Abuja where they play loud music, very loud music, as they do in Caramelo. But these places are still operating. So, why have they not raided these clubs and pubs?
Again, if the FCTA authorities were mainly concerned about noise pollution, they should have provided regulations for loud party music that applied to all institutions including churches and mosques. These regulations would have helped to clearly see where Caramelo’s party music crossed the line. But they did not. In addition, the officials said that they had validated the complaints about strip dancing at this night club. Hey, what did they expect to be going on at a nightclub? If people are not dancing at a club, what would they be doing? Fasting and praying? Niqab dancing? Is this not like complaining about people’s modes of dressing at a venue for a fashion parade? Is strip dancing illegal in Nigeria?
Now if actually, the FCDA officials raided the Caramelo night club because the property was not being used according to plan and approval, this is understandable. But how does that justify the arrest, and manhandling of only female strip dancers? Were the dancers the owners of the property? Imagine the images of some of the dancers being forced into vans and trucks with only pants and bras, without allowing them to put on their clothes? In fact, the officer in charge of Social Development, Safiya Umar, said that the dancers would be taken to a center for rehabilitation. Really? So, why rehabilitate them? Is strip dancing a form of disease? What will be the content of this rehabilitation program? Teaching the women how to dance legally, with their clothes on?
The raid at Caramelo nightclub testifies to an incipient moral policing that is slowly being introduced in Abuja. This policing process is heavily biased against women and must be nipped in the bud. Feminists and human rights campaigners must call out this obnoxious trend because the law is being used to legitimize and mask what is patently a very oppressive and iniquitous process. Just take a look at the video and photos of the arrest, and you would be appalled at the way the dancers were treated as if they were criminals. The entire operation dripped with patriarchy, hypocrisy, gender bias and misogyny. The raid was all about arresting, humiliating and disgracing women. Meanwhile, men are the main patronizers of this nightclub. Strip dancers danced with men and for men, seldom for women in Caramelo. In fact, men were responsible for the heavy traffic in the area. Men also came and carried out the arrests. Meanwhile, no male person was arrested. No man was bundled into a truck for questioning. So, no man was involved in the dancing? No males needed rehabilitation? Right? I mean, this utterly disgusting show of shame must stop!