NHRC COMMENDS GOVT ON COVID-19, CAUTIONS AGAINST IMPUNITY BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) stands in solidarity with the Government and people of Nigeria over this COVID-19 pandemic which has posed serious public health challenges all over the world.

2. The Commission believes that government should take measures to stem the tide of this contagious disease to protect the right to health and life of the people.

3. We commend the efforts of the various health workers who have exhibited professional and patriotic zeal to contain the virus and ensure the safety of all Nigerians. 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.

4. 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.

5. These measures are directed at public safety and health and therefore should not in any way be abused by those charged with the responsibility of enforcing the directives.

6. 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.

7. In particular, any act of torture, cruel inhuman and other degrading treatments should not be employed in enforcing compliance. Any arrest connected to implementation of the Covid-19 lockdown directives must be treated in accordance with national and international best practices.

8. For the purposes of clarity, Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading or Punishment which Nigeria is a signatory, states that “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”.

9. Accordingly, Nigeria in 2017 passed the Anti Torture Act which makes it a criminal offence in Nigeria for any law enforcement agent to deploy torture in the discharge of law enforcement duties. The Commission therefore calls on the security agencies to refrain from applying any form of torture or punishment that will further inflict pains on the already traumatised members of the public. Enforcement of Covid-19 lookdown directives must be carried out without torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of Nigerians.

10. 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.

11. 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.

TONY OJUKWU, Esq

Executive Secretary

30th March, 2020