Human Rights Violations During COVID-19 Lockdown In Nigeria

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Members of Rivers State taskforce enforcing market closure crammed in an open van without any form of protection
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The measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 is taking a toll on Nigerians. Exacerbating the impacts is the attitude of security agencies enforcing social distancing measures. Social Action supported Civil Rights Councils (CRCs) documents cases of violation of the rights of the people and even outright killing of innocent citizens by security personnel.

Impunity of COVID-19 Taskforce as Police Officer kills colleague in Rivers State

A female Police Officer met her untimely death on Thursday 23rd, April 2020, after she was shot dead by a colleague, Sergeant Bitrus Osaiah while on duty. Lavender Elekwachi before her death was attached to Eneka Division in Obio/Akpora Area of Rivers State and was posted to Eneka roundabout on traffic duties.

Bitrus Osaiah who also serves in the Operations Department of the Command was attached to the Rivers State Task Force on Decongestion. He shot his colleague while trying to enforce movement restriction put in place by the Rivers State government to curb the spread of COVID-19. His attitude is a blatant display of how reckless and unprofessional some uniformed men have become in a bid to enforce obedience.

The incident occurred when the policewoman, a nursing mother with an 18-month-old baby at home, tried to prevent her colleague and members of the taskforce from destroying the goods, wares and properties of some traders who have created makeshift markets in the area.

Confirming the death of the Sergeant, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Makunsaid the matter is under investigation and that justice will take its full course. Meanwhile, the Toyota Hilux vehicle belonging to the Task Force has been impounded, and the corpse of the slain Sergeant deposited in the mortuary.

Meanwhile, residents of Port Harcourt and other parts of Rivers State continue to complain about the manner the Rivers State Taskforce conducts their activities. A report by a Social Action team member under the COVID-19 Situation Room shows that the Taskforce members do not even observe any form of social distancing in the course of discharging their duties. They employ all forms of violence and force in order to achieve their aim and cause havoc in a disorderly manner. Incidents of Taskforce members beating up commercial drivers, engaging in street fights, impounding vehicles even without notifying the owners of the vehicle has become a norm.

The Death of Praise God John at the Police Station

On Wednesday, the 15th of April 2020, a tricycle (Keke) driver, PraiseGod John died within the premises of Estate Police Station, Woji, Obi/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. The cause of his death has been linked to Police torture and brutality, but the Police denied having any involvement with his death. According to the deceased sister, the deceased Praise God had told her before his death on a hospital bed that he was arrested on Friday, the 10th of April, 2020 and was detained till Monday, the 13th of April, 2020 when the Police released him on the condition that he returns with N30,000 to secure the release of his Keke. She further explained that the deceased told her that he was tortured and starved while in detention. The Police have however noted that what caused the death of the deceased was a fight between him and the vulcanizer who had pumped the tyres of the deceased Keke that the Police had deflated on his arrest. The vulcaniser works within the Police premises. According to the Police, an argument had ensued between the vulcaniser and the deceased on his release from detention, and that degenerated into a fight that killed the deceased.

Intimidation and extortion from Mrs Nwabuabo Obiajulu and her son

On Friday, the 17th of April 2020, officers of the Nigerian Police extorted the sum of N120,000 from Mrs Nwabuabo Obiajulu and her son Chukwuweiki for flouting the lockdown directive in Delta state. The state has been on lockdown since the 1st of April, 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic. Chukwuweiki had driven out on the said day in his mother’s car to buy fuel and was spotted by a police patrol van. The patrol van chased him to his house and arrested him and his mother. They were taken to Asagba Police Station and thrown in the cell. The Police demanded N300,000 to release them and later accepted N120,000 which was transferred to a bank account from which the police officers later withdrew.

Killing of Amobi Igwe by an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps

On Wednesday, the 15th of April 2020, a commercial vehicle driver, Amobi Igwe, was killed by an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Eke Richard. The incident happened at the tollgate area of the Umuahia-Aba Expressway in Umuikea, Isialangwa South Local Government Area of Abia State around 7.10am. The victim was conveying food items to Aba when the NSCDC officer stopped him and demanded a bribe to allow him passage since the roads were blocked due to the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19. The driver refused to pay the bribe, and that led to his harassment and subsequent murder by the officer. The state Commandant of the NSCDC, A. C. Nwannukwu confirmed the incident in a statement but denied the reason given above for the driver’s death. He claimed that the driver was not conveying foodstuffs butrefused to stop at the instance of the police officer and got killed accidentally by a bullet the officer sprayed in the air in an attempt to get him to halt.

 

Killing of Ifeanyi Arunsi by an Assistant Superintendent of Police in Abia State.

On Friday, the 17th of April 2020, drunken police officers, not on official duty, led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police killed a young man identified as Ifeanyi Arunsi in Ebem Ohafia area of Abia State. The victim was in the company of his colleague discharging goods from a truck when the police officers, who were neither on duty nor COVID-19 preventive assignment, ran their car into the truck off-loading goods. An argument ensued, and one of the officers brought out his police rifle and shot sporadically under the influence of alcohol. This unfortunate rascally action of the police officer led to the death of the victim. The youth were angered and reacted, setting some police patrol vans ablaze, burnt DPO quarters, freed suspects in the police cell and damaged some parts of the court building in the area on Saturday.

Shooting of two persons by a Police Officer in Anambra State

On Tuesday, the 14th of April 2020, the Police in Anambra State killed two persons, while enforcing the lockdown order in the state. The incident happened at the New Tyre Market Area of Nkpor in the Idemili North Local Government Area of the state. It was alleged that the two young men were killed outside their residence in an attempt by the police officer to enforce the stay at home order. They had insisted that since they were in front of their residences, the Police could not force them into their rooms. That created tension between the Police and the people present and led to the Police shooting at the two young men. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Haruna Mohammed, however, noted that the shooting was as a result of an unprovoked attack on the police patrol team with substances suspected to be acid by some miscreants in the area.

 

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