The Nigerian Bar Association has warned that the emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic must not be a cover for security personnel to violate citizens’ rights.
It called for “more drastic sanctions to be meted to officers” who trample on citizens’ rights with impunity.
The association, through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, on Wednesday, gave the warning in response to The PUNCH’s request for the association’s assessment of compliance with human rights standards in the enforcement of the COVID-19 restrictions, which have lasted over one month.
Responding, Edun noted that the NBA had “reported cases of rights abuse from different parts of the country by security personnel.”
These incidents, according to him, included an alleged assault on a lawyer in Abuja, the shooting of a young man by a soldier in Warri, Delta State and the killing of a law student by a policeman in Nsukka in Enugu State.
The National Human Rights Commission had in its preliminary report released on April 14 that 18 persons were extra-judicially murdered during the initial lockdown period, which commenced on March 30 and ended on April 13, 2020.
The commission has yet to release the report covering the remaining period of the restrictions.
The NBA told The PUNCH on Wednesday, “Recently there was the case of a legal practitioner with special needs who was assaulted by policemen in Abuja while he was distributing foodstuff to the needy.
“Recently in Warri a soldier was alleged to have shot a young man, one Mr Pessu, who died on the spot.
“There were allegedly shot and killed in Sapele by policemen in Delta State.
“Also a young law student was allegedly to shot and killed by policemen in Nsukka.
“We have seen incidents of policemen flogging or frog-jumping Nigerians for violations of the lockdown. The stories are not different from other parts of the country.”
But the NBA warned, “The fact that we are facing a public health emergency should not be a license for security personnel to trample upon the rights of Nigerians with impunity.”
It commended, “the efforts of the Inspector General of Police in disciplining some of the erring officer” and called for “more drastic sanctions to be meted to officers found wanting as a deterrent to others.”