A Death or Death Situation: Covid-19 v. Extra-Judicial Killings by Daphne Onoja
It is no news that the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic has taken a great toll on humanity. The right to freedom of movement, right to peaceful assembly, right to dignity of human person and most of all, right to life has been put to great threat.
The virus has affected a lot of nations of the world – even the world power nations have been brought to stoop by this virus. For months, most countries have restricted the movement of citizens while countries greatly affected are seemingly at a standstill. Italy for instance took over from China to be the most affected country with 165,155 cases and 21,645 deaths. Recently, the Prime Minister of Japan declared a state of emergency due to the increasing rate of affected persons in the country. Most nations of the world have instructed its citizens to work from home except essential staff and Nigeria is no exception.
For about three weeks, Nigeria’s federal capital, Abuja along with Lagos and Ogun states, has had to observe a compulsory lockdown and restriction of movement to the barest minimum following a declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari. The only set of people allowed to move freely are the medical practitioners, food vendors, press officials and security personnel.
The lockdown was imposed because the mentioned locations are the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria, with Lagos State topping the chart. Without doubt, these directives have greatly affected many and sent them into penury with little or no assistance from the Federal Government. A lot of families that depend on the menial jobs they do for their daily bread are at the receiving end of this command and as such some people are faced with the dilemma of either sitting at home and waiting for hunger to kill them or going outside to fend for food and other basic amenities whilst damning the fear of the deadly virus.
Due to the fact that the Covid-19 Regulations issued by the President is cloaked with punitive measures and legal force, the security agents which have been charged with the responsibility of ensuring compliance and enforcement seem to have taken law into their own hands. In a recent press release by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), series of observations were made as to the extent of the violation of human rights by the security agents in the enforcement of their duties while enforcing the COVID-19 Regulations. Given its mandate for the promotion and protection of human rights, the National Human Rights Commission on 30th March, issued Advisory to security agencies to respect human rights in the enforcement of Covid-19 Regulations.
This was followed by a Directive to staff of the Commission, CSOs and members of the Public on 31st March to document and report to the commission, any security agents violating human rights in their law enforcement duties while enforcing Covid -19 regulations. Hotlines were also circulated by the Commission to put this into effect. Security agencies were reminded to carry out the enforcement exercise in line with national human rights laws as well as international best practices to ensure that the rights of Nigerians are not unduly violated in the course of carrying out their law enforcement mandate.
The NHRC has done its bid to document the various incidents of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by security agencies and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) by other actors during the initial lockdown period commencing from 30th March, 2020 to 13th April, 2020. It also documents the various thematic areas in which the violations occurred, the nature of the violations, the disaggregated data on states where violations were reported, the agencies of Government responsible for the violations as well as the response/action taken to remedy the violations. 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. This is followed by the FCT, Abuja which has 10 recorded cases. Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Kaduna and Ebonyi States recorded 3 incidents each; while Kwara, Osun, Benue and Niger States recorded 2 incidents each. Edo, Adamawa, Ogun, Cross River, Kogi, Bayelsa, Katsina and Plateau States recorded 1 incident each.
There were 8 documented incidents of extra-judicial killing leading to 18 deaths. Out of this number, 12 deaths were recorded in Kaduna State. Abia State also recorded 2 deaths arising from 2 incidents; while Delta, Niger, Ebonyi and Katsina States recorded 1 death each. Whereas covid-19 has led to the death of about 12 patients to date, law enforcement agents have extrajudicially executed 18 persons to enforce the regulations. This speaks volumes of the protocols and rules of engagement for our law enforcement as well the efficiency level and capacity of law enforcement agents to deal with civil population. It’s a sheer display of impunity and reckless disregard for human life in law enforcement by security personnel.
It has become trite to say that our law enforcement agencies lack regard and respect for human rights and the protection of these which is the actual duty and responsibility they are charged with. On the contrary, instead of safeguarding the lives of citizens in this trying time, they are in fact responsible for more deaths than the virus they intend to protect people from.
Without doubt, Nigeria has a long way to go in ensuring respect for human rights and compliance with the rule of law by agents of the government as well as instilling in them the importance of performing their constitutional duties within the limits of the law.
Daphne Onoja is a 500 level law student of university of Lagos. She loves creative writing and has great interest in Model United Nations, Revenue Law and Arbitration. She joined the Lawyard team in the year 2018 and has since then grown and developed her writing and research skills.