Groups caution FG on abuse of citizens’ rights under guise of enforcing COVID19 lockdown


A coalition of non-governmental organisations, Action Group on Free Civic Space, has denounced the wide scale abuse of citizens rights by law enforcement agents under the pretext of ensuring compliance with COVID-19 lockdown.

A statement jointly signed by leaders of the coalition said that the media are replete with substantiated reports of police/military brutality, destruction of cooked food and other necessary wares and physical assault of citizens.

“While we acknowledge the need to adopt stringent measures where necessary, we, however, must caution that COVID-19 containment measures implemented across states emphasize respect for the rights to life and human dignity guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Only yesterday (April 3), trigger-happy soldiers allegedly gunned down one Mr. Joseph Pessu in an unfortunate show of force to maintain COVID-19 lockdown in Delta State.

“A week ago, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State ordered security operatives to shoot-at-sight, any person that tries to escape from quarantine and isolation centers in the state.

“Similarly, in Rivers State, hasty lockdown directives like the shutdown of markets and businesses without palliatives to support citizens’ welfare, have precipitated unavoidable situations that have seen the state’s taskforce in a bid to enforce lockdown directives, ill-treat some residents caught outside their homes trying to source food and provisions for survival.

“In other places like Lagos and Abuja, eyewitness reports and video evidence have continued to emerge, showing security forces brazenly using horsewhips and weapons to enforce discipline and compliance with lockdown directives,” the coalition observed.

It said the worrying developments have become necessary to remind the Nigerian government that emergency situations and associated containment measures must align with the country’s national, regional and international human rights obligations.

“Section 33 and 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, guarantees life and human dignity, for all citizens. The sanctity and inviolability of the rights to life and human dignity are further protected under Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Likewise, Article 4(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also reiterates that certain rights such as the right to life, freedom from cruel, inhumane treatment and punishments are non-derogable and cannot be suspended even in a state of emergency,” the statement said.

The group said that Nigerians on low-incomes are worse hit by the shutdown measures, and that  millions of citizens living in informal communities, also called slums, have little or no access to proper sanitation, clean water, qualitative healthcare, electricity, food and shelter.

“Only citizens with roof above their heads can comply with the government’s stay-at-home directive. Closed businesses not only mean loss of income for enterprises, but also weakens the survivability of the self-employed and poor majority working in the informal sector, depending on their daily earnings for sustenance. Without daily income, are unable to stock up food supplies needed to sustain a lockdown.

The coalition said the government must rise to its responsibility of providing adequate relief packages for these households in want and that Intervention schemes and economic stimulus packages announced by both the Federal and State governments should be backed by effective distribution machineries to ensure that relief items reach those in critical need of food and medical supplies, especially in urban slums and rural areas.

“The much-publicized billions received as donations from philanthropists and corporate bodies supporting the fight against coronavirus, should also be deployed to assist those in need.

‘To fill the reported gaps in distribution, we advise the federal government to as a matter of urgency, constitute an inclusive body of relief managers across the 36 states and the FCT. The relief managers should be duly selected from trade unions, civil society bodies, the private sector, community-based organisations, pro-people associations and relevant government bodies. This democratic body of managers will not only develop a clear cut strategy for distribution of stimulus packages to all Nigerians, but also report daily to citizens the expenditure accounts of how relief funds and items were distributed fairly, equitably, timely and transparently,” the statement said.

The groups also demanded that the Nigerian government should immediately call off the shoot-at-sight order of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, and investigate the killing of Pessu in Delta State, and for all other erring law enforcement officers to be brought to book.

– Apr. 5, 2020 @ 16:59 GMT |