How enforcement of lockdown order is killing more Nigerians than COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic may be forcing nations across the world to lockdown cities and socio-economic activities in order to forestall spread of the virus and protect their citizens, but a 'monster' in Nigeria is killing more people in the country than the deadly virus itself.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 13 people have so far died of COVID-19 in Nigeria, but security operatives deployed to the streets to enforce the lockdown order imposed by the Federal and States government have wreaked more havoc on the citizens than COVID-19 keeping people away from the streets.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said law enforcement agencies have killed 18 people in Nigeria since the lockdown began on Monday March 30.

In his first statewide broadcast on COVID-19, President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday March 29 2020, had ordered a cessation of movements in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus. Many Governors also introduced similar restrictions in their States and deployed security operatives to the streets to enforce the lockdown. The President extended the lockdown for another 14 days in his broadcast on Monday.

Before Buhari's second broadcast last Monday, there have been reports of pockets of violence, unrest and extra-judicial killings in different parts of the country where lockdown is in place. Several disturbing videos and photos of security operatives brutalising citizens have also been making the rounds on social media since the lockdown started.

Following the reports, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said it directed its staff, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and members of the public on Tuesday March 31 to document and report to the commission, any security agent violating human rights in their law duties while enforcing COVID-19 regulations.

NHRC, the government agency established to promote and protect human rights, investigate alleged violation of human rights and enforcement of decisions, said it received a total of 105 complaints from 24 out of the 36 States of the federation including the FCT.

"Out of 105 complaints/incidents of human rights violation received and documented within the initial lock down period, Lagos State has the highest recorded cases with 28 incidents, followed by the FCT with  10 cases. There were eight documented incidents of extra-judicial killing leading to 18 deaths," Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu said in a statement.

"The report finds that the Nigeria Police Force accounted for about 90% of the total cases of violations followed by the Nigeria Army and Nigeria Correctional Service and other non-state actors. The report further finds that the various human rights violations recorded during the period arose as a result of excessive or disproportionate use of force."

It turned out the monster the people are scared of has wreaked less havoc than state actors empowered to ensure citizens comply with measures to stay safe and avoid being killed by the monster.

The first casualty was one Joseph Pessu who was shot dead in Warri, Delta State on Thursday April 2 by a soldier for allegedly flouting the order restricting movements in the state.

In Katsina State where the President hails from, a police station was set ablaze by irate youths protesting the detention of their leader who was arrested by Police for hosting juma'at prayer against the order banning large gatherings in the state. The faceoff between the police and the youths killed one person.

President Buhari and his media handlers have kept mum and failed to address the reports of killings by security operatives. In his address on Monday, Buhari commended the security operatives for rising to the challenge of the lockdown.

"The Security Agencies have risen to the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation with gallantry and I commend them. I urge them to continue to maintain utmost vigilance, firmness as well as restraint in enforcing the restriction orders while not neglecting statutory security responsibilities," he said.

The Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army whose men have been fingered as the perpetrators of the extra-judicial killings while enforcing lockdown order have encouraged citizens to report officers who violate rules.

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