No fewer than 23 citizens have been killed, while several others have been brutalised and their human rights violated by security operatives in states where the lockdown order is being imposed by government.
The lockdown, which was a measure to halt the spread of the deadly Coronavirus Disease and keep Nigerians safe, has regrettably turned out to be deadly with the loss of several innocent lives, a report by the CLEEN Foundation has revealed.
The Federal Government of Nigeria had on March 30, 2020 began the enforcement of restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja for an initial 14 days period to tackle the disease in the country.
On April 13, the restriction of movement was extended for another 14 days due to the rising incidents of the pandemic.
Some governors also followed suit and imposed the Lockdown in their states.
But according to recent report signed by the Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Benson Olugbuo, and made available on Tuesday, there are 23 documented incidents of extra-judicial killing across the country.
Out of this number, 12 deaths were recorded in Kaduna State.
Abia State recorded five deaths, Anambra State two, while Delta, Niger, Ebonyi and Katsina States recorded one each.
Notably, 18 of the incidents have been confirmed by the National Human Rights Commission with the exception of those that occurred within the last few days.
CLEEN’s report on the South East region of the country revealed that the first incident happened on April 5, 2020 at Umuahia Road, Aba.
A Police Officer killed a petrol station attendant along popular New Umuahia road in Obingwa Local Government Area.
The Policeman, Stanley Azu, is reportedly serving in Azumini Police Division, Ukwa East LGA of Abia State.
Azu was said to have tried stopping a vehicle that violated the lockdown order occasioned by the coronavirus outbreak, but the driver defied the instruction.
Residents of the area said the police inspector chased the driver and reportedly fired at him.
The bullet hit Chibuisi, who was in his business centre.
Chibuisi was said to have been pronounced dead at Abia State Teaching Hospital, where he was rushed to for urgent medical attention.
Chibuisi until his death was a staff of Greenmac Energy Limited, a filling station owned by his in-law.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Ene Okon, who confirmed the incident, said the officer has been arrested, adding that the State Criminal Investigation Department has taken over the matter.
The second death, according to the report, happened on April 7, 2020 at Umuneeochi LGA in Abia State.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police, Abia State Command also confirmed the killing of an innocent young man identified as Ifeanyi Arunsi on April 17, 2020 in Ebem Ohafia by a Policeman.
Geoffrey Ogbonna, Public Relations Officer of the command, explained that the policeman was neither on duty nor on COVID-19 preventive assignment, but shot sporadically under the influence of alcohol until a bullet hit the deceased in the buttock.
The Abia State Government has since condemned in very strong terms the unwarranted shooting of some Abians and the consequent loss of their lives.
It said the breeding recklessness of some security men in the State must be nipped in the bud forthwith.
Dr. A. Agbazuere, Chief of Staff to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu reassured all Abians that anybody who takes the life of an Abian must definitely face justice.
He informed that the soldier who killed an Abian at Umuokereke Ngwa has been dismissed from the Army and is in prison awaiting final justice for murder.
CLEEN reports further revealed that there has been extortions and brutality in some states by the Army and Police.
It said there were pockets of human rights violations by the Army ranging from flogging of citizens and extorting money from commercial bus drivers at different locations in Owerri, particularly at Control Posts.
There was an earlier directive given by the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, to security agents to shoot at sight anyone that tries to run away from the State isolation centre.
Some Civil Society groups in the State have already issued public statements condemning the directive.
There was a video showing members of the lockdown enforcement team in Ebonyi State who approached villagers that gathered for their village meeting brutalised and looted their property.
“In Enugu, residents have lamented Police brutality, extortion amid lockdown, Extortion of citizens was recorded in Nnobi, Idemili Anambra State, victims bailed themselves with the sum of one thousand naira each,” the report read.
Illegal Arrest and Detention of Citizens by Security Operatives was also recorded by in the region, the report added.
It said two observers of CLEEN Foundation intervened in a case at Enugu State on April 13, 2020.
The report said: “A man was arrested for walking on the street in the state but through prompt intervention of two volunteers of CLEEN Foundation, he was released. Also, Toll gate Police station Ogbunike illegally arrested the siblings of Ms Nzube Chukwu of Amawa village Ogbunike for a fight she had with a relative but when the Police came for the arrest, they didn’t see Ms Nzube Chukwu, however against the rules of engagement of the Nigeria Police Force, they arrested her mother Mrs. Christiana and brother Peter Chukwubunna aged 14 years.
“They were detained at the station and paid a total of twenty-six thousand naira for bail and instructed to report to the station today 13th April, 2020 with Ms Nzube.”
In Akwa Ibom State, a health professional and staff of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital on essential duty was brutally assaulted by a police officer.
In Lagos State, CLEEN said its observers reported instances where officers of the Nigerian Army subjected some persons to untoward physical exercise for flouting the stay-at-home order.
Certain areas in the Federal Capital Territory witnessed intimidation by security personnel as the officials resorted to the use of force to send people back to their houses along the Airport Road.
Furthermore, in Ekiti State, observers of CLEEN Foundation reported acts of brutality by Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps officials and officials of the state’s task forces involved in rights violations.
Extortion of citizens by security operatives was another major highlight of the reports.
CLEEN observers in the Ifako-Ijaiye axis of Lagos State confirmed the activities of police in extortion of citizens who were asked to pay between N50,000 to N100,000 for violation of restriction order.
In Nnobi, Idemili Anambra State, some police personnel extorted monies from citizens who violated the stay at home order.
On compliance to the lockdown, the report revealed that the stay-at-home-order has been partially observed by the citizens with movement restriction obeyed to an extent.
It said: “In Imo State the sit at home order is active to some extent, however, people have been freely moving around for their daily businesses.
“In Enugu State, it was something else at the poultry market in Nsukka, as many people boycotted the stay at home order from the government to shop for Easter chicken. Abia residents also flouted the stay at home order. (COVID-19 Lockdown: Aba residents flout stay-at-home order.”
The reports found further that majority of the security personnel did not use force at all according to 57 per cent of observers to enforce the lockdown.
Also, 34 per cent reported the use of force by few of the security personnel, while 6 per cent and 3 per cent noted that all/most of the security personnel used force during the COVID-19 enforcement duty.
Read the full statement:
The Federal Government of Nigeria on Monday 31st March 2020 enforced a restriction of movement in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja (FCT), for an initial 14 days period while directing citizens in these states to stay at home because of the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country. On Tuesday 13th of April 2020, the restriction of movement was extended for another 14 days due to the rising incidents of the pandemic in the two affected States and FCT. This measure is coupled with the various emergency orders issued by Rivers, Osun, Kano, Kaduna, Delta states among others in a bid to limit the spread of the pandemic. Since the first index case of the COVID-19 was detected in Nigeria on February 24th 2020, CLEEN Foundation has been observing and documenting public responses to the pandemic particularly the response of law enforcement personnel of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies in enforcing emergency orders and government’s response to curb the spread of the virus.
CLEEN Foundation established a COVID-19 Nigeria Security Support Group (CNSSG) which includes state coordinators and volunteers in all the 36 states and the FCT. The state coordinators and volunteers observe the activities of security agents deployed to monitor the restriction of movement within their localities through Tella, an online data capturing application. CLEEN also adopted a triangulation approach by tracking developments across the states from reliable secondary sources of information. It generated 269 observation reports collated across the six geo-political zones and these are disaggregated as follows:
◇154 reports on citizens compliance to government directives;
◇ 82 reports on conduct of security personnel enforcing government directives;
◇ 33 reports on human rights violations by Security Personnel enforcing government directives on COVID 19.
3.0 Citizens Compliance to Government Directives
1 Stay at home order
Findings on the public compliance to the stay at home directives indicated a general low/moderate compliance by the public as 70% of volunteers reported that there were low/moderate compliance to stay-at-home directives. 18% indicated no compliance, while 8% and 4% indicated total compliance and not applicable respectively. Furthermore, observers cited various reasons such as lack of access to means of livelihood as the reasons for these compliance levels.
Observers also reported total compliance of market closure followed by moderate compliance, low compliance, no compliance and not applicable in some sections of the country.
3.2 Closure of schools
Observers reported 100% compliance of school following the government’s initial directives for all schools to be closed.
3.3 Ban on public gatherings
58% of our observers indicated total/moderate compliance, 37% indicated low/no compliance while 5% indicated that is not applicable in their states.
3.4 Provision of palliatives for the vulnerable groups
31% of our observers indicated it was not applicable in their states, 30% indicated no provision of palliatives by government, 18% noted they don’t know, 18% indicated low/moderate provision of palliatives by the government while 3% indicated full provision of palliatives by government.
3.5 Non-compliance of citizens with the stay at home order and social distancing guidelines
We have observed in several parts of the country, the refusal of citizens to adhere to the stay at home order and observation of guidelines of social and physical distancing. In certain areas of the Federal Capital Territory especially within the Abuja Municipal Area Council, there was a high level of compliance with the restriction of movement order.
However, places like Abaji, Kwali had minimal compliance level as travellers continue to ply the Abuja-Lokoja highway. In Jikwoyi, some drinking bars still operate in the night and while street football still takes place during the day. In Kogi state, motorists and tricycle operators were observed operating normally without observing the social distancing policy. In Nasarawa state, citizens were observed carrying out normal daily activities in parts of the state with little restrictions and no observation of social distancing.
Oyo and Ondo states in South West Nigeria did not impose a total restriction of movement as transporters, markets carried out their normal activities. However, there are bans on political, social and religious gatherings and closure of boundaries with neighbouring states.
Movements within the states were observed not to be restricted. Feedback from our observers in Ogun state indicated that markets were overcrowded thereby breaching the social distancing guidelines. In Lagos state, our observers stated that people were seen engaging in different sporting activities including early morning joggling and street football.
In South South Nigeria, commercial transporters in Edo state especially at the state capital Benin City were observed carrying four persons on each row (4-4-2) of their buses contrary to the Government directives of (2-2-1) and law enforcement agents were seen not to be stringent with enforcement. Social distancing was also seen to be less prioritized in the newly relocated markets in the state. In Rivers state, most transporters especially in the Obio-Akpor Local Government Area were seen transporting the regular number of commuters despite the restriction in movements. In Delta state, we observed that some in Warri resisted the state Taskforce enforcing the restriction of movement directives.
In South East, reports from our volunteers in the five states in the region show that the stay-at-home-order was partially observed by the citizens with movement restriction observed to an extent. For an example, in Imo State, the sit at home order is active to some extent. However, people were seen moving around freely for their daily businesses. In Enugu State, our observer noted that many people boycotted the stay at home order from the government to shop for Easter at a poultry market in Nsukka.
4.0 Conduct of Security Personnel on enforcement of government directives on Covid- 19
4.1 Presence of security personnel
The presence of security personnel was adequate according to 42% of the observers, somewhat adequate by 22% of observers, very adequate by 5% of observers and not adequate by 31% observers respectively. It was observed that some areas where there was no compliance can be attributed to absence of security personnel and in some cases non enforcement of the directives by security personnel.
4.2 Identification of Security Personnel
Majority of the security personnel can be identified as observed by 54% of CLEEN observers, 38% noted that the security personnel cannot be easily identified while 8% noted that they were unsure with identification of the security personnel. The security personnel that could not be identified were observed to be in mufti t-shirts without tags.
4.3 Wearing of Personal Protective Equipment
The findings reveal that majority of the security personnel were not wearing basic protective materials to curb the spread of the pandemic such as face mask and hand gloves according to 60% of observers while 20% of the security personnel were observed to be wearing protective kits.
4.4 Use of Force by the Security Personnel on Covid-19 Enforcement Duty
The findings indicate that majority of the security personnel did not use force at all according to 57% of observers. 34% reported the use of force by few of the security personnel while 6% and 3% noted that all/most of the security personnel used force while on Covid-19 enforcement duty.
4.5 Overall Conduct of Security personnel
The findings indicates the overall conduct of the security personnel to be good by majority of the observers 43%, followed by 29% who rated the overall conduct of the security personnel to be poor and 28% who rated the overall conduct to be fair.
4.6 Interstate movements and allegations of corrupt practices by security personnel manning state borders
We observed that in spite of the restriction of movement, there were reported interstate travels despite the closure of borders by some state governments such Rivers, Delta, Osun States. Observers stated that financially compromised security personnel allowed travelers to enter the states despite government orders.
5.0 Human Rights Incident Reports
5.1 Extra-judicial Killings by Security Personnel
There are 23 documented incidents of extra-judicial killing across the country. Out of this number, 12 deaths were recorded in Kaduna State. Abia State recorded 5 deaths, Anambra State 2 deaths, while Delta, Niger, Ebonyi and Katsina states recorded 1 death each. Notably, 18 of the incidents have been confirmed by the National Human Rights Commission with the exception of those that occurred within the last few days.
5.2 Brutality of Citizens by Security Operatives
In Akwa Ibom state, a health professional and staff of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital on essential duty was brutally assaulted by a police officer. In Lagos state, our observers reported instances where officers of the Nigerian Army subjected some persons to untoward physical exercise for flouting the stay-at-home order. Certain areas in the Federal Capital Territory witnessed intimidation by security personnel as the officials resorted to the use of force to send people back to their houses along the Airport road. Furthermore, in Ekiti state, our observers reported acts of brutality by NSCDC officials and officials of the state taskforces involved in rights violations. In Ebonyi State, the Governor allegedly directed security agents to shoot at sight anyone that tries to run away from the State isolation center. CLEEN Foundation condemns this statement.
5.3 Extortion of Citizens by Security Operatives
Report from one of our observers in the Ifako-Ijaiye axis of Lagos state confirms the activities of police in extortion of citizens who were asked to pay between 50,000 to 100,000 Naira for violation of restriction order. In Nnobi, Idemili Anambra State, some police personnel extorted monies from citizens who violated the stay at home order.
6.0 Gaps Identified
6.1 No Coordinated Strategy between the Federal and State Governments
There is no coordinated and centralized synergy between the Federal and State governments in tackling the pandemic. The Federal Government enforced a total lockdown in Lagos and Ogun states and the Federal Capital Territory which are highly prone to the COVID-19 pandemic. We observed that Osun State with a high number of confirmed cases was not listed by the Federal Government. However, the state government has taken proactive measures by declaring a total lockdown. In Ogun state, we have observed that the state government delayed the lock down for five days contrarily to the Presidential Order. In Edo state, despite increasing incidents of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the state government has not declared a total lockdown. In Cross River State, the state government directed all civil servants to resume work on the 14th of April and enforced a “No Mask No Movement Policy” in the state. Most states in the Northern parts of the country are not enforcing any restriction of movement due to the impact it will have on agriculture and economy.
6.2 Increased insecurity of citizens due to the lock down
In the last few days, we have observed an increase in incidents of cultism and armed robbery in Lagos and Ogun states respectively. Hoodlums took advantage of the restriction of movement to rob innocent citizens in some neighbourhoods such as Abule Egba, Agege, Iju, Iyana Ipaja during the Easter holidays.
Groups of youths were observed blocking the roads and extorting money from commuters. Some community members have mobilized vigilante groups to keep their communities safe. This poses another security threat in relation to jungle justice and mob action which is frequent in Nigeria.
7.1 There is the need for improved synergy between the Federal and the State Governments on the coordination of COVID-19 responses across the nation. The Nigerian Governors’ Forum should support and complement the efforts of the Presidential Task Force across the states.
7.2 Security agents must embrace rights based approach to enforce the restriction of movement directives. Furthermore, officers of security agencies indicted for human rights abuses should face the full weight of the law.
7.3 Government should provide personal protective equipment and codes of conduct for all security agents deployed to enforce the restriction of movement. Their welfare should also be made a priority.
7.4 We advocate for complete transparency in the distribution of palliatives to vulnerable Nigerians and ensure they reach the poor and vulnerable to avoid the potential security implication of perceived imbalance.
7.5 We appeal to the general public to embrace the public health advisory of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and comply with directives of the Federal and State Governments on the COVID-19 pandemic.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and heal our land.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD
Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation.