Rights Group: Security Forces Used Excessive Force during EndSARS Protests, COVID-19 Lockdown

171 views | Akanimo Sampson | January 16, 2021

In its 2021 World Report, Human Rights Watch, a global rights group says EndSARS protesters were harassed and attacked by security forces and armed thugs in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, and some states.

According to the group, on October 20, social media footage showing men identified as military officers shooting at peaceful protesters in Lagos sparked global outrage. Several people were allegedly killed but the death toll remains uncertain.

However, the nationwide protests calling on authorities to end police brutality and abolish an abusive police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) received global attention and led to the dissolution of the unit.

Authorities also took some action toward justice and accountability for police abuses.

COVID-19 pandemic, according to it, rattled Nigeria’s socio-economic landscape and highlighted serious gaps in the country’s social protection system.

‘’COVID-19 also exacerbated challenges in the humanitarian response in Nigeria’s North-East region, where the government’s armed conflict with the Islamist extremist armed group Boko Haram, now in its 11th year, has left over 7.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

‘’Insecurity in the region persisted as Boko Haram and its splinter faction, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), continued to launch attacks against civilian, humanitarian, and military targets. At least 363 civilians were killed by the Islamist insurgents between January and September.

‘’In August, authorities in Borno State announced plans to send 1,860,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees back to their communities despite ongoing safety concerns.

‘’Sixteen days after IDPs were returned to Kukawa Local Government Area on August 18, Boko Haram insurgents attacked the community and abducted at least 100 people. The government continued to participate in forced returns of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon.

‘’In the North-West and parts of the South, inter-communal violence continued as herder-allied armed groups, vigilantes, and criminal gangs killed hundreds of civilians, kidnapped people for ransom, and raided cattle’’ Human Rights Watch says.

Continuing, the rights group says widespread sexual violence against women and girls, including an attack that led to the death of a student in May, spurred a national outcry and prompted the authorities to declare a national emergency over rape and sexual violence.

‘’Thousands of people with mental health conditions remain chained and locked up in various facilities, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities. In February, the Senate Committee on Health held a public hearing on a draft mental health bill’’, the group adds.

COVID-19

Since Nigeria recorded its first case of Covid-19 in February, authorities have taken various steps to curb the spread of the virus, including “lockdowns” in most states, requiring residents to stay indoors and for businesses to close, except certain essential services. By August, Nigeria’s economy had shrunk by 6 percent.

The economic assistance announced in response to the pandemic failed to adequately target and provide for those left struggling to afford food and other basic necessities. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, over 90 million Nigerians lived in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day; the World Bank projected in June that the economic shock from Covid-19 will push 5 million more into poverty.

The pandemic also brought into focus the country’s inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which created inequitable access to Covid-19 testing and treatment for the poor and vulnerable.

According to the group, ‘’the lockdown in Lagos had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the livelihoods of the poor, many of whom rely on daily wages for subsistence and did not receive any economic relief from the government. Barriers to access to testing and treatment and inadequate COVID-19 education campaigns targeting those living in poor communities have also denied them equal access to healthcare.

‘’Security forces used excessive force when enforcing stay at home orders, killing at least 18 people between March 30 and April 13, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

‘’Schools were closed for at least six months due to the pandemic, affecting about 37 million children. In September, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) announced that it had uncovered payments totaling N2.67 billion (about $6.9 million) made to federal colleges for school meals during the lockdown, when children were not in school, which ended up in personal accounts.’’

 

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