Amnesty International accuses security operatives for abusing Nigerians amid COVID-19 lockdown

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Amnesty International (AI) said Nigerian authorities must adopt a rights-respecting approach and give clear instructions to its security agencies not to abuse their powers as the nation battles for the COVID-19 Pandemic.

On thursday the AI said the call became necessary following operatives’ attack on Nigerians amid the lockdown and inter-state government movement restrictions.

Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, in a statement, said the national response to COVID-19 must be inclusive, to ensure that prisoners, internally displaced persons and other marginalized and vulnerable communities are not left out at any stage of the fight against the virus.

“While acknowledging the size of the challenge and efforts made by authorities to fight COVID-19 across Nigeria, we are also concerned by reports and videos circulating on social media showing violations of human rights, which include beatings by law enforcement agencies tasked with ensuring compliance with the lockdown.

“As the nation observes the 14-day lockdown, the rights of citizens must be respected and protected, including the right to health care, security, and access to sufficient food and water. The lockdown must have a human face; enabling people to have access to vital needs and relief for those who can no longer earn a living since the majority of Nigerians are daily earners and live below the poverty line.”

AI called on the Nigerian government to implement transparent income support programs targeted at the most vulnerable populations.

It noted that millions of Nigerians who live in informal settlements without access to basic services are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection.

It urged the government to ensure that the rights to health, food, water, and sanitation are realized in such settlements.

“At this time of crisis, the Nigerian authorities have a human rights obligation to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalized sections of the population, such as persons living with disabilities and the homeless, have sufficient access to the services needed to give them the best chance of survival. This includes; access to health services and facilities and the provision of emergency shelter, especially where needed to allow homeless people, including children in street situations, to be protected.

“For women and children who are experiencing domestic violence, the lockdown exposes them to further dangers from their abusers. Domestic violence advocates and service providers are increasingly facing difficulties in providing support for victims of abuse, having not been granted exemption in the application of the 14-day lockdown.”

Ojigho said this must be reviewed as Nigeria is obliged to implement appropriate measures to ensure the protection of women and children from all forms of violence.

The statement urged the government to increase support for services and protection, including shelters, hotlines, online advice platforms and criminal justice processes during the period of lockdown.

AI added that the scale and deadly nature of the pandemic which has spread to over 201 countries and territories have made it necessary for governments to implement extraordinary measures.

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