COVID-19 Killings: Lawyers Flay Police, Task Buhari, Others

April 21, 2020
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COVID-19 KILLINGS: WE DEMAND A CORONER’S INQUEST

Otu Oka Iwu (Law Society) condemns in very strong terms the killing of two residents of Anambra State by operatives of the Nigerian Police Force while allegedly enforcing the lockdown order by the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Willie Obiano.

We are informed that the two youths were shot dead following argument with police operatives who ordered them to go indoors, notwithstanding that they were within the precincts of their house at Nkpor, near Onitsha, Anambra State. This incident is one of the many reported cases of gross human rights violations by law enforcement agencies on the heels of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

It is noteworthy that these incidences have become a recurring feature, given that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has particularly accused the police and other law enforcement agencies of trampling on the rights of citizens in the guise of enforcing the COVID-19 orders.

Equally instructive is the fact that the five South East States have once again been turned into a theatre of war, being among the top 10 States where the police operatives are especially trigger-happy in enforcing the coronavirus orders. Aside from Anambra State which has now joined this inglorious list, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo are among the States with the highest recorded cases of human rights violations linked to the enforcement of coronavirus directives. This is notwithstanding the fact that the States have very few cases of COVID-19.

Sadly, the security operatives have killed more citizens in the South East States than the dreaded coronavirus pandemic. In fact, while the South East States have not recorded any COVID-19 related case, the law enforcement agencies have killed no less than five South East residents. This is totally unacceptable.

It bears repeating that the NHRC has reported incidences of human rights violations in such areas as extra-judicial killings, violation of the right to freedom of movement, unlawful arrest and detention, seizure/confiscation of properties, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), discrimination, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and extortion.

As noted by NHRC, these violations arose as a result of excessive or disproportionate use of force, abuse of power, corruption, and non-adherence to international and national human rights laws and best practices. This cannot be allowed to continue.

While we encourage all citizens to remain law-abiding and obey all orders aimed at containing COVID-19 pandemic, we demand that a coroner’s inquest should immediately be set up by the Anambra State Government to unravel the circumstances leading to the death of these youths who have been cut down in their prime.

We ask the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu and the Minister of Police Affairs Muhammad Dingyadi to rein in their men to avoid a repeat of these human rights violations. These violations are a sad commentary on the operations of our law enforcement agencies, including the Army which has also been found culpable in these infractions.

While urging President Muhammadu Buhari to activate an effective framework to contain these grievous human rights violations, we also urge the National Assembly to be alert to its duty of safeguarding the rights of Nigerians.

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