…frown at persistent abuse of human rights by security agencies
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA – House of Representatives on Tuesday requested President Muhammad Buhari to direct that security agent implicated in the human rights abuses and killing of innocent Nigerians during the enforcement of COVID-19 lockdown order be immediately fished out for prosecution and punishment according to law.
The House also condemned in its entirety the abuse of the fundamental rights, especially brutalisation, extortion and the killing of innocent Nigerians by security operatives especially in Abia State.
The call for prosecution followed a motion brought under matters of urgent public importance by the deputy whip of the House, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejiocha considered by lawmakers at the plenary.
Moving the motion titled “Urgent Call for Immediate Stoppage of Human Rights Abuses and Extra-Judicial Killings of Innocent Nigerians by Security Operatives in the Enforcement of COVID-19 Lockdown”, Onyejiocha who represents Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency of Abia State stated that the unfortunate incident was recorded in several states of the federation.
According to her, the States included Abia, Rivers, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Katsina and Niger.
The lawmaker noted that over 18 deaths were recorded at the time.
She said: “The House recalls that on March 29, 2020, the Federal and some State Governments declared a 14-day lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun State to stem the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
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“Further recalls that security agencies including the Nigeria Police Force, the military and para-military agencies were saddled with the responsibility of enforcing compliance with the lockdown within the limits of their rules of engagement and in regards for human rights.
“Regrets that within the initial period of the lockdown, security operatives had, according to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), extra-judicially killed 18 innocent Nigerians in Abia, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Katsina, and Niger States.
“Further regrets that as of April 13, 2020, when the lockdown was extended for another two weeks, that figure was more than the total number of Nigerians killed by the virus.
“Informed that of the 18 deaths, the Nigeria Correctional Service was responsible for eight, Nigeria Police Force was responsible for seven, the Nigerian Army was responsible for two, while the Ebonyi State Task Force on COVID-19, Afikpo South LGA, was responsible for one.
“Notes that in the second phase of the lockdown, precisely between April 15 and 23, 2020, officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps killed seven more persons in Abia, Anambra and Rivers States”
Onyejiocha expressed worry that the case of Abia State has assumed a more worrisome dimension with the brutalisation of the people and the killing of five innocent persons; Onyemazu Chibueze of Isuochi Umunneochi LGA on April 4, 2020; a petrol station attendant in Ogbor Hill, Aba on Monday 6 April 2020; Amobi Igwe, a Commercial Motorist in Umuikea, Isiala Ngwa South LGA on Wednesday 15 April 2020; Ifeanyi Arunsi of Ebem Ohafia on Friday 17 April 2020; and one other person in Uratta Junction, Aba also on Friday 17 April 2020″.
She added that besides the killings, security operatives have also physically assaulted and brutalised innocent Nigerians in the name of enforcing COVID-19 lockdown directive, as evident in the case of one Ms. Tola Azeez who was physically assaulted and brutalised by Inspector Ikuesan Taiwo and Constable Abass Ibrahim in Iwo, Osun State in early April.
“Security operatives have also intimidated and extorted money from innocent Nigerians as in the case of Mrs. Nwabuabo Obiajulu and her son Chukwuweiki from whom officers of the Nigerian Police extorted the sum of N120,000 on Friday 17 April, 2020 for flouting the lockdown directive in Delta State”, she added.
The lawmakers submitted that the actions of the security agencies amounted to abuse of the rights of Nigerians and gross violations of the provisions of the Sections 34, 40, 41 and 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“While authorities of the Nigeria Police Force may have acted swiftly in some of the cases of abuse such as the trial and dismissal of Inspector Ikuesan Taiwo and Constable Abass Ibrahim for physically assaulting and brutalizing Ms. Tola Azeez, that has not been the case with the killings, especially in Abia and other States, despite several petitions to the heads of the security agencies.”
She expressed regrets that the response of the police authorities has neither been replicated by the other security agencies implicated in the killings nor is it severe enough to serve as deterrents in an environment of gross human rights abuse by security operatives.
She stated, “That the continued killing of innocent Nigerians by security operatives is undermining the genuine intentions and casting negative aspersions on the efforts of the Federal and State Governments in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Believing that the House of Representatives and indeed the National Assembly can do a lot to safeguard and enforce the protection of the fundamental rights of innocent Nigerians including their rights to life and the dignity of the human person from abuse by security institutions of the state, Onyejiocha asked the lawmakers to rise to the occasion.
Adopting the motion, the House mandated the various House Committees on the implicated security agencies including House Committee on Human Rights to investigate the abuses and killings.