Extrajudicial killing and violations of human rights: reviewing imminent unrest amid coronavirus pandemic outbreak in Nigeria

Category: Opinion | Posted date: 2020-05-19 23:27:27 | Posted by: Mark Patrick

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Violation of these rights by security operatives amidst the ravaging coronavirus pandemic lockdown that already has had adverse impacts on the people can lead to a state of anarchy if not checked

Extrajudicial killing and violations of human rights: reviewing imminent unrest amid coronavirus pandemic outbreak in Nigeria

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, total and partial lockdowns have been globally adopted and safe precautions introduced to limit the spread of the killer virus. Basically, the alarming surge in global, regional and national fatality rate resulting from the spread of Covid-19 warrants the necessity of the lockdowns as foremost precautionary measure. The importance of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic cannot be overemphasized as, up till this moment, no vaccines have been officially announced as cure for the infectious disease.


In prioritizing human security amid pestilences, lockdown precautionary measure requires people staying at home, ban on all forms of social gathering and closure of all land borders. Ensuring these regulations are strictly adhered to, security operatives are deployed to enforce and ensure the regulations are not flouted.


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Critically evaluating the fundamental human rights in line with the imposed restrictive regulations, poignantly, this describes lockdown regulations as structural violation of fundamental human rights. Violating some basic rights amid the ravaging pandemic consequently generates new forms of violence against human security. Though, this is understandable as it is obvious to all actors and subjects the reason for the necessary violation.


Human rights and human security are very sensitive issues that require adequate attention in the compulsory lockdown to containing coronavirus pandemic. Thus the need to protect human rights and prioritize human security has attracted plethora of narratives among legal practitioners, academia and human rights activists. The fundamental basis of reiterations on human rights and security amid the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic underlines the surge in extrajudicial killing and abuses of human rights by security operatives.


Recent extrajudicial killings and violations of human rights were mostly reported in countries with high rates of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, crimes, corruption, poor governance, and poor security operatives. These factors severely compound the negative effects of the restrictive order the more on the poor masses, making it difficult for them to obey Covid-19 pandemic regulatory orders as expected.


Sporadic global spread of the novel virus offers good intellectual position in establishing and harmonizing causal relationship between Covid-19 precautionary measure, human security and human rights for safety and developmental purposes. Therefore, prioritizing the need to protect human security as well as human rights amid the ravaging virus warrants the national lockdown as an essential tool to prevent the propensity of the latent war from crippling national stability.


Explaining Pandemic Lockdown 

Pandemic lockdown is a temporal precautionary measure ordered by government to limit or contain the spread of contagious diseases. Lockdown explicitly involves a temporary ban on social gathering, closure of land borders, social distancing, suspension of trade and businesses. Due to the globalization of migration and trade, lockdown is thus a collective measure to contain coronavirus.


Lockdown, as a regulatory measure, is an early move to contain Covid-19. Presently, countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain and France which are hard hit by the virus have spent more than two months of national lockdown since the pandemic outbreak. Coronavirus is fast spreading, disrupting socioeconomic and political activities globally. It has brought about global recession, unemployment, food insecurity and inflation. Since the outbreak, global crude oil price has significantly dropped, negatively affecting countries with monocultural economy.


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As the virus continues to spread around the globe through community transmission, over 318,000 deaths have been recorded globally. Presently, statistical records provide that the fatality rate is on the fast increase in the United States of America, recording the highest infection and death rate per day in the world. Just in April 20, 2020 more than 29,000 people tested positive in 24 hours, while on April 23, 2020 about 3,175 deaths were recorded.


Total or partial lockdown to stem the spread of the virus can be viewed as an ideal short-run strategy to combat the virus. Through the lockdown initiative as well as salient catalysts that could fuel escalation of the virus infection have been transformed into effective pandemic policies in the form of effective contact tracing, creation of isolation centers, provision of more ventilators, and massive testing of people for the virus. These emergency pandemic policies have proved successful most especially in the developed countries, while its implementation continues to lag behind in many African countries.


Situations of pandemic lockdown in Nigeria

Imposed lockdown in Nigeria has explicitly exposed the highest degree of gross misconduct, corruption, poor governance and vicious arbitrary use of power by security operatives in the country. In the course of enforcing the lockdown regulations, Nigeria security operatives have been accused of extreme violations of human rights and as well as involving in extrajudicial killing of citizens. Within the first four weeks of the lockdown, more than 23 persons were reported killed by the Nigerian security forces, while several others have been severely brutalized.


Extrajudicial killing and gross violations of human rights are not new issues in Nigeria. There are hundreds of reported cases of extrajudicial killing indicting the Nigerian security forces by the Amnesty International, United Nations Special Rapporteur and the National Human Rights Commission. Specifically, the Nigerian youths have been the most vulnerable of this form of violence. Prior the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, there had been numerous cases of the Nigerian Police involving in unjustifiable killing and brutalizing the Nigerian youths. Earlier this year, a young football rising star known as Tiamiyu Kazeem was reported killed in February 24, 2020 by some members of the Special Anti-Robbery squad in Ogun State. Amid the lockdown, extrajudicial killings and abuses of human rights by security operatives were another battle pressing to stir unrest in the country. The view of the lockdown was to ensure the citizens were safe, but the people that died in the hands of their brothers who were employed to protect them outnumbered those that died of the virus within the first four weeks.


In April 2, 2020, violent protest erupted in Warri, Delta State, following the gruesome killing of a young man identified as Joseph Pessu by the members of the Nigerian Army deployed to enforce the stay-at-home regulation. According to CLEEN Foundation, 12 deaths were recorded in Kaduna State, 5 deaths in Abia State, 2 deaths in Anambra while Ebonyi, Delta and Kastina States recorded 1 extrajudicial death each. In April 19, 2020 two policemen were caught on camera assaulting and brutalizing a young woman in Osun state for flouting the lockdown order. In April 29, 2020 a nurse known as Mrs. Modupe Ajama on duty was severely injured by policemen in Ondo State.


Corrupt practices, lack of transparency and poor governance are also among issues breeding the sudden eruption of violence in Nigeria. In support of the fight against the coronavirus in Nigeria, 22 donors donated a sum of ₦40,771,000,000 to manage the situation and support the poor masses of the Giant of Africa during the stay-at-home order. Unfortunately, this huge amount of money went down the trench without identifiable beneficiaries or account on how the money was spent. Heavy corruption and massive mismanagement of public funds epitomize the kind of irresponsive and poor governance in Nigeria.


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Prior the imposed lockdown, a sum of $22.74billion was borrowed in March, 2020 from regional and international financial institutions to fund infrastructural projects in Nigeria. Unfortunately, traces of this huge loan are not yet reflecting on the ongoing capital projects in the country. Recently, another sum of $3.4 billion loan from the IMF Rapid Financing Instrument was approved to support the FG in addressing the adverse effects of Covid-19 on the economy. These excessive loans are increasing Nigeria foreign debt by the day, causing unbearable economic condition for the poor masses. With no sufficient ventilators and testing kits, the Nigerian House of Representatives unscrupulously secured 400 exotic Toyota Camry 2020 Model which findings say it cost about $30,000 each amid the ravaging pandemic.


With the huge flow of foreign and local funds, the Federal Government still heavily relies on International financial institutions, foreign countries, and private individuals for test kits, face masks and ventilators. This evidently indicates irresponsive and poor governance at the highest order, clamping down on human security. The cumulative implications of these are definitely the result to sudden violence, unrest and increase in criminal activities in the nation as the poor masses are at the receiving end of it.


Lockdown precautionary measure is witnessing heavy criticism in regions and countries around the world. Presently, there have been uproars and protests in the United States, Germany, Brazil, Lebanon and some parts of Nigeria against the government lockdown regulations.  These are significant trends that need to be taken into account in order to prevent against national and regional instability. Eruption of social unrest can make the ravaging COVID-19 gets out of hand totally destabilizing the nations or globe as a whole.


As poverty and unemployment rates increase in Nigeria, abiding by pandemic precautionary measure has appeared to be a structural annihilation. With the increasing rate of hunger and food insecurity, notorious criminal gangs in their hundreds have taken it to the streets of Lagos and other states to rob residents of their food stuffs and money. As global hunger looms, several hungry Indians were live broadcasted on France24 finding and picking decomposed food stuffs from dung hills to eat.


Critically evaluating the operations of the Nigerian security forces during this pandemic, abuses of human rights and endangering of human security are obvious. Therefore, the constitutional mandate of the Nigeria security forces is rapidly growing unpopular; heavily losing confidence in the general public. The roles the Nigeria Police and Army play in violations of human rights and abuses of human security raise serious national concern.


The implication of violating human rights cannot be overemphasized as such degenerates national peace, stability and development. It is the duty of the government to protect Nigerians even during this trying time and not to use security forces as a weapon of oppression, subjugation and killing of the helpless masses particularly the youths. It is very important for the Nigerian government to avoid clamping down on national stability through her security forces. 


Importance of human security and human rights          

Without human rights, human security is unachievable. Human security and human rights are closely related issues crucial to state development and stability. Essentially, these interrelated fundamental issues are objectives of the international organization and governmental actors to codify the norms guiding and ruling national and global affairs in order to make the world a safer habitation. Nations of the world do converge regularly to deliberate issues affecting these two elements of peace and tackle matters affecting them with utmost priority. The most popular among international norms capturing the sensitivity of human rights and human security is the 1948 Universal Declarations of Human Rights.



As a matter of growing concern, article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 provided that, “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Similarly in the subsequent international norms, article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1996 provided that, “every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. Regional norms also come to fore in this pivotal regards. Article 4 of The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights equally averred that, “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life” (ACHPR, 1981).


In the contemporary political system, human rights and security underline the whole essence of democracy. Thus, it is important to note that human security and human rights are symbolic indicators of national peace and developmental index. In fact, the Institute for Economics and Peace heavily rely on these indicators to measure regional and international peace and development.


Human rights and human security are a nonnegotiable statehood right of the people. Violation of these rights by security operatives amidst the ravaging coronavirus pandemic lockdown that already has had adverse impacts on the people can lead to a state of anarchy if not checked. Therefore, with the cases of protest hitting some developed countries, it is imperative for Nigerian government to note that an imminent protest in Nigeria can erupt unexpected violence if a stop is not put to the lawless and barbaric killing practice  and abuses of human rights by security operatives.


Mark Patrick is a Political Scientist and member of the Nigeria Youth for Peace Initiative (NYPI)


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