COVID-19: Action Group on Free Civic Space Tackles Nigerian Government for Human Rights Abuses
The Action Group on Free Civic Space represents a loose network of organisations, student unions, social movements and active citizens in Nigeria, working on different issues but committed
to ensure that government regulation in the name of national security does not reduce civic space in Nigeria.
In a press release issued and jointly signed by:
Emmanuel Acha: Youth Forum for Social Change
FyneFace Dumnamene Fyneface: Youth and Environment Advocacy Center
Obioma Agoziem: Center for Corrections and Human Development
Victoria Ibezim Ohaeri: SPACES FOR CHANGE
Okechukwu Nwanguma: Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Center, stated that national and international law prohibits governments and law enforcement agents from using COVID-19 as an excuse to abrogate the right to life.
The Action Group on Free Civic Space is deeply concerned about the growing records of human rights abuses of citizens by law enforcement officers responsible for ensuring compliance with shelter-in-place and stay-at-home directives. by COVID-19 in various states of Nigeria.
Corroborated media reports are filled with stories of shootings, police/military brutality, destruction of cooked food and other necessary items, physical assaults, etc.
With the way the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the world, we recognize that these are not normal times.
We particularly commend the efforts of the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders who have doubled down to contain the further spread of the pandemic. While we recognize the need to adopt strict measures when necessary, we must, however, caution that the COVID-19 containment measures implemented throughout
The states emphasize respect for the rights to life and human dignity guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Just yesterday, trigger-happy soldiers allegedly shot and killed one Joseph Pessu in an unfortunate
show of force to maintain COVID-19 lockdown in Delta State. A week ago, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State ordered security officers to shoot on sight anyone trying to escape the quarantine and
isolation centers in the state. Similarly, in Rivers State, hasty lockdown directives, such as the unmitigated closure of markets and businesses to support the well-being of citizens, have precipitated inevitable
Situations that have seen the state task force in an attempt to enforce closure directives mistreat some residents trapped outside their homes trying to get food and supplies to survive. In other places such as Lagos and Abuja, eyewitness reports and video evidence have continued to emerge, showing that security
forces that brazenly use whips and guns to enforce discipline and compliance with lockdown directives. In light of the above worrying developments, it has become imperative to remind Nigerians
government that emergency situations and associated containment measures should be aligned with the country’s national, regional and international human rights obligations.
Sections 33 and 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, guarantee life
and human dignity, for all citizens. The sanctity and inviolability of the rights to life and human dignity are further protected by article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Also, article
4(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also reiterates that certain rights
such as the right to life, not to suffer cruel and inhuman treatment and punishment are non-derogable and cannot be suspended even in a state of emergency. As these provisions make clear, national standards and
International law prohibits governments and law enforcement officials from using COVID-19 as an excuse to abrogate the right to life.
Furthermore, we dare to say that low-income Nigerians have been most affected by the lockdown measures.
Millions of citizens living in informal communities, also called slums, have little or no access to proper sanitation, clean water, quality health care, electricity, food, housing, etc. Only citizens with a roof over their heads can comply with the government’s stay-at-home directive. Closed businesses not only mean lost revenue for companies, but also weaken the survival capacity of the self-employed and the poor.
ACTION GROUP ON FREE CIVIC SPACE
Most of the people working in the informal sector, depending on their daily income for their livelihood. Without daily income, they cannot provide themselves with the necessary food to maintain the confinement.
Consequently, the government must shoulder its responsibility to provide adequate relief packages for these households in need. The intervention plans and economic stimulus packages announced by both the
The federal and state governments must be backed by effective distribution machinery to ensure relief items reach those in critical need of food and medical supplies, especially in urban slums and rural areas.
The highly publicized billions received as donations from philanthropists and corporate entities supporting the fight against coronavirus should also be used to help those in need. To fill reported gaps in distribution, we recommend that the federal government urgently establish an inclusive body of aid administrators in all 36 states and the FCT. The relay managers
they should be duly selected from trade unions, civil society organizations, the private sector, community organizations, pro-popular associations and relevant government agencies. This democratic body
managers will not only develop a clear strategy for the distribution of stimulus packages to all Nigerians, but
also inform citizens daily spending accounts of how funds and relief items were distributed in a fair, equitable, timely and transparent manner. The Action Group on Free Civic Space makes the following demands on the Nigerian government to:
– Officially cancel the order to shoot on sight by Governor Umanyi of Ebonyi State and order the Inspector General of Police and his men to rescind the order.
– Adopt humane, responsive and legally binding measures to enforce public safety orders and correct members of the public who defy closure directives. – Investigate the murder of Mr. Pessu in Delta State and bring all other law enforcement officers who made mistakes to justice.
– Sensitize law enforcement officials to rights-respecting methods of carrying out their duties, including the establishment of
establish complaints offices and hotlines for the public to report incidents of abuse.
– Finally, we implore Nigerians to stay strong in these difficult times and abide by all public health directives and guidelines intended for the public health and general welfare of Nigerians.