COVID19: CLEEN Foundation Demands Effective Enforcement of Ban on Interstate Travels; Urges Compliance with Preventive Measures
On Monday 27th April 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a one-week extension of the lockdown order and restriction of movements in Lagos, Ogun and FCT Abuja which elapsed on Sunday 3rd May 2020 thereby introducing new measures across states in a phased process of easing the restriction of movement through the following:
a. Introduction of overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am. This means all movements will be prohibited during this period except for essential services;
b. A ban on non-essential inter-state passenger travel until further notice;
c. Partial and controlled interstate movement of goods and services to be allowed from producers to consumers; and
d. Strict and mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene. Restrictions on social and religious gatherings still remain in place. State governments, corporate organizations and philanthropists encouraged to support the production of cloth masks for citizens.
As a Wednesday 7th May 2020, Nigeria has recorded 3145 cases, 103 deaths and 534 discharged. With the gradual easing of the lockdown order across the affected states, there is apprehension and anxiety of an increase in the number of new infections across the locations which have attracted criticisms regarding the decision of the federal government. However, several Nigerians supported the decision arguing that hunger and starvation had become a serious threat to majority of Nigerians. Despite the announcement by the President, some states are still under total lockdown with some other states have adopted some of the measures as proposed by the President.
Below are our findings across the six geopolitical zones from Tuesday 28th April 2020 to Wednesday 6th May 2020.
As a follow up on the report released on Tuesday 28th April 2020, CLEEN Foundation adopted a triangulation approach involving collection of primary data by our state coordinators and volunteers and tracking developments across the states from reliable secondary sources of information. CLEEN Foundation has received a total of 992 reports collated across the six geo-political zones and these are disaggregated as follows:
” 584 reports on citizens’ compliance to government directives;
” 277 reports on conduct of security personnel enforcing government directives;
” 131 reports on human rights violations by security personnel enforcing government directives on COVID19 Pandemic.
3.0 Citizens’ Compliance with Government Directives
3. 1 Stay at Home Order
Public compliance with the stay at home order by the government before the ease of restriction maintained low/moderate compliance rate according to 69% of our observer reports. The compliance to the government’s stay-at- home order considerably reduced in some regions such as the South West particularly in Lagos and Ogun states. Reports received from our volunteers indicates that the low and/or lack of compliance with the stay-at-order were attributed to frustration, hunger and poverty as the higher percentage of perceived violators are the poor and daily income earners whose source of livelihood were adversely affected due to the stay-at-home order. The situation was further compounded by the inequitable distribution of palliatives promised by the federal and state governments for the poor and vulnerable across the states.
In Gwagwalada, Abuja Municipal Area Council, Bwari and Abaji Area Councils of the FCT Abuja, it was observed that it was business as usual as citizens went about their normal activities unhindered and motorists were seen conveying people conveniently within these areas. Movement of travelers along the Abuja-Lokoja Highway continued despite the lockdown order.
In Lagos state, South-West Nigeria, it was observed that the COVID19 Task Force arrested more than 50 fun seekers at Abule Egba area on Wednesday 29th April 2020 for violating the lockdown order.
In South-East Nigeria, our volunteers observed that citizens both in rural communities and city centres still go about their normal businesses notwithstanding the imposed curfew and lockdown orders across the South Eastern states. Specifically, in Abia State, it was reported that over 1,000 youths who were jogging clashed with security agencies as they defied the lockdown order at Opobo Junction along Ikot Ekpene Road, Ogbor Hill Aba.
In the South-South region, it was observed by our volunteers in Bayelsa state that some riverine communities like Kolokuma failed to adhere to the state government-imposed restriction which seemed only effective in the state capital, Yenagoa.
Across the North West region, feedback from our observers indicated varying degrees of compliance across the seven states in the region. For instance, in Zamfara, Sokoto, and Kebbi states, there were no lockdown directive from the state governments. Katsina and Jigawa states are under partial lockdown as only LGAs with infected persons are under lockdown. Kaduna state, however, is under total lockdown with a high level of compliance.
In the North East region, it was reported by our observers that there was high level of compliance with the stay-at-home order in Adamawa, Bauchi and Borno states. However, in Yobe state, it was business as usual. Taraba has high level of compliance in some LGAs while others are not complying at all.
3.2 Non-Compliance with Social Distancing Guidelines
In several parts of the country, we observed the refusal of citizens to adhere with the guidelines on social and physical distancing. In FCT, Abuja, this was observed in Gwagwalada, AMAC, Bwari and Abaji Area Councils, with economic and social activities going on as usual with little or no compliance by citizens with the required precautionary and safety measures. Commercial banks and other private businesses contributed to the problem by not providing enough branches for operation thereby limiting the options available to citizens.
In Akwanga and Lafia LGAs of Nasarawa State, it was reported that activities such as wedding ceremonies were being organized. In addition, intra-state movements without compliance to the social distancing directives were observed. In Benue state, markets were operating on the sidelines despite closure by the state government and clusters of people were seen at drinking bars and other social joints.
In Edo State, it was reported that commuters, transporters and even security operatives failed to comply with the physical and social distancing guidelines. In Sokoto, Kebbi, and Zamfara states, markets and motor parks were operating at full capacity. Generally, across all the geopolitical regions, there were similar reports of overcrowded banks markets with little or no attention and compliance to the social distancing guidelines.
3.3 Ban on Public Gatherings and Citizens Compliance
CLEEN Foundation findings indicates that public compliance to the governments ban on public gathering in the last two weeks and last week did not change as the compliance rate remains the same at 60% total/moderate compliance level despite the increase in the number of observation reports. However, observers noted that some citizens are tired of government measures due to hunger and lack of palliatives hence, the eagerness to return back to work and business ventures.
It was reported by our volunteers that mosques and churches in states such as Adamawa and Yobe are fully operational, despite the ban on large gatherings. In Delta State, some citizens violated government stay-at-home directives by attending a Jumat service in a mosque in Ekpaparame in Ughelli South area of the state. In some of the South West states particularly Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Osun states, it was reported that most of the mosques and churches have not been complying with the government ban on large gatherings. In Ado and Ikere LGAs of Ekiti state, some pastors and members were apprehended holding services. Three Christ Apostolic Churches (CAC) were sealed off in Ado for disobeying the social distancing directives. In Cross River state, it is observed that some churches held services between 5:00 am – 7:00 am against government directives on ban of public gatherings.
3.4 Inter-State Movements
As already noted, our observers reported the movement of travelers along the Abuja-Lokoja Highway. In Bayelsa state, it was observed that there was complicity on the part of the security personnel manning border posts and tollgates into the state. There were reported incidences of extortion by security personnel to enable transporters and commuters enter the state. The situation is not different in Delta state where there are regular entry and exits into the state through the Asaba-Onitsha and Patani-Bayelsa axis due to the compromising nature of security personnel.
In the South Eastern region particularly borders between Imo & Abia States (Owerrinta/Okpala), our volunteer from Ngor Okpala LGA observed that the porosity of the borders between the two states made it possible for citizens to move freely with no hinderance. Transporters in Imo State have devised various means of moving commuters in and out of the state. It was further observed that the Abia State COVID-19 Task Force intercepted a lorry carrying youths from the northern parts of the country into the state against government regulation.
In South Western states, there have been reported cases of influx of youths allegedly from Zamfara state into Osun and Oyo states. The Governor of Oyo recently stated that the challenges with noncompliance with restrictions on interstate movement was majorly between Lagos- Ibadan and Ibadan-Ife Highway roads.
In Yobe state, North East Nigeria, traders were reported to have traveled to Kano for business despite knowing the high level of COVID-19 pandemic in the state. Kaduna state was observed to have strictly restricted inter-state movements.
4.0 Conduct of Security Personnel on Enforcement of Government Directives on COVID-19 Pandemic
In terms of the general conduct of security personnel, CLEEN Foundation findings indicate a general poor/fair conduct of security personnel as reported by 59% of our observers on the COVID-19 enforcement duty. The findings corroborate the increase in human rights violations by security agencies. Only 30% observers reported that the security personnel were of good conduct.
4.1 Extra-Judicial Killings by Security Personnel and State Actors
Our observers have recorded a total number of 31 deaths since the restriction of movement started. On Sunday the 3rd of May, four (4) persons were shot dead in Jen community in Karim LGA of Taraba state as military officials tried to enforce lockdown in the area. The security agents were reported to have fled the scene at the time of the incident. There was no report of extra judicial killing in other regions in the country. In addition, the Nasarawa State Agency for Youth Empowerment Scheme (NAYES) in trying to enforce the state government’s directives banning commercial motorcyclists used sticks to flag down a motorist carrying a passenger and a gallon of petrol which led to an explosion and the death of both the rider and his passenger who were burnt beyond recognition.
4.2 Brutality on Citizens by Security Operatives and Vice Versa
In Edo state, there were reports of residents being subjected to molestation and inhuman treatments by security personnel even when arraigned by the mobile courts for allegedly violating government order on the use of face masks. In Ekiti state, it was reported that the Ekiti State security outfit have been overzealous in the discharge of their duties. A case was reported of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Internal Security and a member of the security arm of COVID-19 Taskforce in Ekiti State, who brutalized a nurse on her way to the office and destroyed her phone in the process.
In Katsina state, it was reported that policemen are harassing and beating citizens including women and teenagers every day and stopping media personnel from reporting such incidents of police misconduct. In Abia state, it was reported that there has been widespread reports of accusations of harassment and intimidation by the Abia COVID-19 Taskforce. Our volunteers from Enugu State reported that there was a clash between the Neighbourhood Watch (one of the security outfits charged to work with the state government to enforce the lockdown) and traders of Coal Camp Motor Spare Parts Market in Enugu North LGA which resulted in both parties sustaining minor injuries. Sixteen (16) persons were injured in Jen community in Karim LGA of Taraba state as the military tried to enforce lockdown during a community festival.
It was also reported that personnel of the Nigeria Police Force have had a fair share of brutality from citizens. In Ekiti State, it was reported that Police Officers were physically abused by citizens while enforcing the lockdown directive at Ikoye community in Ikole LGA. In addition, in Okeola area of Eruwa Ibarapa, Oyo State, a woman assaulted a Police Officer on duty who did not take any action. She was reported to have resisted arrest and assaulted two officers in the process. We condemn the action against security personnel and request for thorough investigation of what happened. Appropriate sanctions should be meted to those found guilty to serve as a deterrent to others.
5.0 Gaps Identified
o Commercial banks provided inadequate banking facilities for citizens thereby forcing citizens to use only available branches in operation resulting in chaos in different bank premises.
o Lack of harmonized guidelines or information to citizens on the timelines and procedures for easing the lockdown.
o Inadequate training of security agents on policing the pandemic at the different levels or phases.
o Lack of compliance by citizens to guidelines and precautionary measures stipulated by Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
o Increasing interstate movements which has led to the rise in community infections
o Extortion of money from citizens by security personnel deployed to enforce restriction of movement
6.1 Commercial banks and other private businesses should priortise the welfare and safety of customers as they reopen and ensure they do not add to the suffering of Nigerians through their policies.
6.2 State governments should as a matter of urgency beef up security at the entry points into their states across the country to help checkmate continued inter-state movement and spread of COVID19 through community transmissions.
6.3 There is the need for community sensitization for citizens to b law abiding and comply with government directives implemented by law enforcement agents.
6.4 The National Orientation Agency should adopt different strategies to communicate to citizens on COVID-19 and policies of the government especially in the communities and rural areas of the state.
6.5 Law enforcement agents should be proactive in enforcing social distancing rules, the use of face masks in public and the ban on large gatherings especially in worship centers. In addition, they should be mindful of the fundamental rights of citizens.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and heal our land.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD
Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation