The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called on security agencies to refrain from applying any form of torture in enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown directives issued by the government.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday evening announced the restriction of all movement in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT to curb the spread of the virus.
As of Tuesday, 139 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Nigeria, with two deaths.
Mr Buhari said the cessation of all movements in those areas is for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11 p.m. on Monday, March 30.
“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period,” Mr Buhari said.
The commission, however, said enforcement of the directives must be carried out without torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of Nigerians.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu, said an order from a public authority is not an excuse for any security personnel to perpetrate acts of torture or cruel treatment against innocent citizens.
“The Federal and State Governments have in an 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 and therefore should not in any way be abused by those charged with the responsibility of enforcing the directives.
“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,” Mr Ojukwu said.
He said arrest connected to the implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown directives must be treated in accordance with national and international best practices.
The commission said it has directed its staff to monitor and document all cases of human rights violations across the country for necessary action.
It also urges the public to report cases of violations through the following lines: 08037875427, 08179371339, 08034354537, 07033398657.
“Members of the public and bystanders and eyewitnesses who can get video coverage of any violations are encouraged to forward same to the said numbers by WhatsApp giving as much detail as possible to help locate and hold accountable violating law enforcement officials.”
The commission enjoined all citizens in the affected states to comply with the COVID-19 directives to protect their rights to health and that of others.
Mr Ojukwu urged 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.
He expressed the belief that the government will take measures that would stem the tide of the contagious disease to protect the right to health and life of the people.
He also commended 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.
Mr Ojukwu urged the presidential and state task forces on COVID-19 to ensure accountability, transparency and inclusiveness, making sure that no one is left behind.
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