Human Rights Commission cautions Buhari against harsh enforcement of lockdown order

The National Human Rights Commission  (NHRC) had enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure Law enforcement personnel do not apply torture or cruelty, inhuman or degrading actions, to enforce the restriction of movement order declared on Sunday night which took effect in Lagos and Ogun states, including the Federal capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

NHRC Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, in a statement in Abuja after President Buhari announced the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the FCT  on Sunday, March 29, cautioned: “Any arrest connected to implementation of the Covid-19 lockdown directives must be treated in accordance with national and international best practices.

“We appeal to law enforcement agencies across the country to ensure that they carry out their lawful duties in this regard without undue violation of the rights of Nigerians.”

Ojukwu cited that Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading or Punishment, which Nigeria is a State Party, prescribes:

“Each State party shall take effective, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war, a threat of war, international political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Ojukwu admonished that Nigeria legislated the Anti Torture Act in 2017, and, therefore, a criminal offence in Nigeria for any law enforcement agent to deploy torture in the performing law enforcement duties.

The NHRC Executive Secretary remarked: “It is imperative to note that an order from a superior officer or public authority cannot provide an excuse for any security personnel to perpetuate acts of torture or cruel treatment against innocent citizens.

“The Commission is conscious of the provisions of the Quarantine Act of 1929 as well as the provisions of Section 14(2) and 45 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“The NHRC, however, calls on the National Assembly and the Executive Arm of government to take immediate measures to operationalise the state of emergency provisions of Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution in the interest of public health and safety.”
The Commission boss acknowledged the professional and patriotic commitments of health workers to combat the spread of coronavirus to protect the lives of citizens.

“We also recognise the efforts of patriotic Nigerians and businesses who have risen to the challenge to contribute resources to fight the scourge.

“We however, urge the Presidential and State Task Forces on Covid-19 to ensure accountability, transparency and inclusiveness, making sure that no one is left behind, especially, vulnerable groups like IDPs, refugees, persons with disability, almajiris, orphaned children, the aged and single headed households etc.

“The Commission notes that the Federal and State Governments have in attempt to control the spread of this pandemic, employed some restrictive measures including total lockdown in some cases.

“These measures are directed at public safety and health,” Ojukwu had declared.

He cautioned that the process of achieving this during  the lockdown period must not be abused by the law enforcement personnel.