The National Human Rights Commission says 11 persons were killed extrajudicially in Nigeria between April 13 and May 4 by security agencies enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown, as well as other non-state actors.
In a report on Tuesday, the commission said the police caused seven of the deaths, while the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSCDC), “Non-state Actors and the Abia State Task Force on Covid – 19 were responsible for 1 death each.”
The commission noted that an investigation was still on-going as of the time of the report to unravel the perpetrator of an extra-judicial killing in Jigawa State.
It said out of the 11 documented incidents of extra-judicial killing, four of them were recorded in Abia State alone.
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“Delta State recorded 2 deaths, while Niger, Jigawa, Lagos, Anambra and Rivers States recorded 1 death each,” the report stated.
According to the commission, out of 104 complaints/incidents of human rights violations received and documented within the period, 49 were received/documented within the first week of the extended lockdown period (i.e. from April 13 – 20); while 33 complaints were received in the second week (i.e. April 20 – 27). During the third week (i.e April 27– May 4), 23 complaints/incidents were received/documented by the Commission.
The report noted that the documented figures showed a weekly reduction in complaints received.
The report also found that the police accounted for 59.6 per cent of the total cases of violations; followed by non-state actors (i.e. mostly private individuals in sexual and gender-based violence-related cases) which accounted for 18.3 per cent of the total cases.
It also pointed out that the various task forces on enforcement of Covid-19 Regulations across the country accounted for 10.5 per cent of the cases; while the Nigeria Army and NSCDC accounted for 7.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.
NSCDC personnel used to illustrate the story
“The Department of State Services (DSS) also accounted for 1% of the total cases, while a perpetrator representing the other 1% was yet to be determined as at the time of this report,” it stated.
The report also indicated that 18 incidents of violations representing about 17.3 per cent of the complaints have been resolved by different security agencies and the Commission.
Enugu State, according to the report, recorded the highest number of cases with 13 incidents, unlike Lagos State that had the highest cases with 28 incidents in the earlier report released on April 14 by the Commission.
The record is followed by Imo State which had 12 incidents. Akwa Ibom and Nasarawa States recorded 10 incidents each, while Delta and Abia States recorded nine and seven incidents respectively.
Lagos State recorded five cases, while FCT Abuja and Benue State recorded four cases each.
The commission also recorded three cases each for Niger, Zamfara, Osun and Rivers States.
“Other states such as Anambra, Jigawa, Bayelsa and Edo states recorded 2 incidents each; while Ogun, Kogi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Kano, Cross River and Ekiti States recorded 1 incident each,” the report further noted.
The commission, however, observed that the current report showed an improvement of the state of human rights in the enforcement of COVID-19 Regulations by law enforcement officers, task forces on COVID-19 and other non-state actors.
“This improvement is attributed to the level of awareness created by the Commission following the release of its initial report of 14/4/2020 as well as efforts to ensure accountability and adherence to the rules of engagement on the part of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs),” the report indicated.
Torture sexual and gender-based violence
The complaints documented by the commission include extra-judicial killings, violation of right to freedom of movement, unlawful arrest and detention, seizure/confiscation of properties, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and extortion.
Other types of violation recorded within the period include 34 incidents of torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, 14 incidents of violation of right to freedom of movement, unlawful arrest and detention, 11 incidents of seizure/confiscation of properties, 19 incidents of extortion and 15 incidents of SGBV.
The commission also observed that the various human rights violations arose as a result of excessive “use of force, abuse of power, corruption and non-adherence to international and national human rights laws and best practices by law enforcement agents.”
“Accordingly, a protocol has been established between the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Commission to ensure accountability for the violations in line with the statement of the President that all alleged human rights violations will be investigated and accountability brought to bear for them,” the commission said.
Armed Nigerian Police Officer
“To date, all the alleged violations have been communicated to the oversight Ministries of the law enforcement agencies for full investigation and accountability. These are namely, Ministries of, Police Affairs, Defence and Interior. The accountability steps taken by each of the law enforcement agencies should be communicated to the Commission within one month of the release of this report, and subsequently on a monthly basis. The Commission will henceforth give monthly updates on the reports from the various Law Enforcement agencies of accountability steps taken as well report where no action is taken.”
In spite of the violations, the commission commended law enforcement officers who had shown restraint and professionalism in the face of provocation by members of the public during the lockdown, as the report also showed some restraint and regards for the human rights of citizens by law enforcement agents, citing a viral video where a DPO was being harassed by a woman.
“However, the woman should have been arrested gently and made to face the law,” the commission added.
Several local and international bodies have in recent past rated the country’s human rights records low, particularly due to extra-judicial killings by the police, torture and arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances and unlawful infringement on citizens privacy rights.
A 2019 report of the U.S. State Department on Nigeria’s human rights’ record noted “criminal libel, violence against and unjustified arrests of journalists,” as some of the rights abuses in the country.
Special anti robbery squad of the Nigerian police force used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: Pulse.ng]
Amnesty International, Nigeria, has also chronicled a myriad of abuses by agents of the government.
In its 2019 report, it noted that torture and other ill-treatment remain pervasive within the Nigerian criminal justice system.
“The Nigeria Police especially the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the military and the State Security Service (SSS) continue to subject detainees to torture and other ill-treatment,” it said.