COVID-19: Action Group on Free Civic Space Addresses Nigerian Government on Human Rights Abuses

Action Group on Free Civic Space represents a flexible network of organizations, student unions, social movements and citizens active in Nigeria, working on different thematic 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: Center for the defense of the environment and youth

Obioma Agoziem: Center for Corrections and Human Development

Victoria Ibezim Ohaeri: SPACES FOR CHANGE

Okechukwu Nwanguma: Center for the Defense of the Rule of Law and Accountability, stated that national and international law prohibits governments and law enforcement officials from using COVID-19 as an excuse to repeal the right to life.

The Action Group on Free Civic Space is deeply concerned by the growing records of human rights abuses of citizens by law enforcement officials responsible for ensuring compliance with COVID lockdown and stay-at-home directives -19 in various states of Nigeria.

Media reports are replete 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.

In particular, we commend the efforts of the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders that have doubled down to contain the further spread of the pandemic. While we recognize the need to adopt strict measures when necessary, however, we must warn that the COVID-19 containment measures implemented in

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 dead one Joseph Pessu in an unfortunate

show of force to maintain the closure of COVID-19 in the state of Delta. A week ago, Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi ordered security officers to shoot on sight, anyone attempting to escape quarantine and

isolation centers in the state. Similarly, in Rivers State, hasty closure directives, such as market and business closures unremittingly to support the well-being of citizens, have inevitably precipitated

situations that have seen the state task force in an attempt to enforce the closure directives, mistreat some residents trapped outside their homes trying to obtain food and supplies to survive. In other places such as Lagos and Abuja, eyewitness reports and video evidence have continued to appear, showing security.

forces that blatantly use whips and weapons to enforce discipline and compliance with lockdown directives. In light of the disturbing events mentioned above, 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.

Articles 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, the 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 be subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment and punishment, are non-derogable and cannot be suspended even in a state of emergency. As these provisions make clear,

International law prohibits governments and law enforcement officials from using COVID-19 as an excuse to derogate from the right to life.

Furthermore, we dare to say that low-income Nigerians have been most affected by the closure measures.

Millions of citizens living in informal communities, also called slums, have little or no access to adequate sanitation, clean water, quality health care, electricity, food, shelter, etc. Only citizens with a roof over their heads can comply with the government’s stay-at-home directive. Closed businesses not only mean a loss of income for companies, but also undermine the survival of the self-employed and the poor.


Most people work in the informal sector, depending on their daily income for their livelihood. Without daily income, they cannot stock up on the food needed to maintain a closure.

Consequently, the government must assume its responsibility to provide adequate aid packages for these needy households. The intervention plans and economic stimulus packages announced by both the

Federal and state governments must be supported by effective distribution mechanisms to ensure that 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 that support the fight against coronavirus must also be deployed to help those in need. To fill reported gaps in distribution, we advise the federal government, as a matter of urgency, to constitute an inclusive body of relief administrators in all 36 states and the FCT. Relief managers

They must be duly selected from trade unions, civil society bodies, the private sector, community organizations, associations in favor of the people, and relevant government bodies. This democratic body of

Managers will not only develop a clear strategy for the distribution of stimulus packages to all Nigerians, but

also report daily spending accounts to citizens 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 rescind the order to shoot in sight of Governor Umanyi of Ebonyi State, and order the Inspector General of Police and his men to disapprove of the directive.

– Adopt humanitarian, responsive, and legally binding measures to enforce public safety orders and correct members of the public who defy lockdown directives. – Investigate the murder of Mr. Pessu in Delta State, and have all other law enforcement officers who have made mistakes be held accountable.

– Sensitize law enforcement officials on rights-respecting methods to carry out their duties, including establishing

set up complaint desks and hotlines for members of the public to report incidents of abuse.

– Lastly, we implore Nigerians to stay strong in these difficult times and to abide by all public health directives and guidelines intended for the public health and well-being of Nigerians in general.

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