In Nigeria, more people were killed through brutality by police enforcing the lockdown rules than by coronavirus in the early weeks of government’s response. Since the lockdown began on March 30, 18 people have been killed by the police, according to the National Human Rights Commission in a report.
Amnesty International has reacted by calling on the government to uphold human rights during the efforts to curb COVID-19.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the West African region. As of June 19, there were 19,147 confirmed cases with 6,581 recoveries and 487 deaths, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Speaking up on growing brutality
In the wake of these killings during the lockdown and reports of police brutality, Nigerian priests are speaking up and condemning the use of force by the police.
It shows the character and attitude of the policing towards civilians across the country,” Father Aniedi Okure said. “In other countries, the police are trained to protect the people and keep law and order, and not to kill them like we have in Nigeria and other African countries. And this was happening even before coronavirus.”
Okure is the executive director of the Africa Faith and Justice Network, (AFJN), a non-profit Catholic organization which acts as a voice to inform and motivate people across Africa to take action in their local communities.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the culture of police brutality and human rights violation in the country. Nigerian police have a notorious record of human rights abuses, brutality, and extrajudicial killings. In some cases, citizens are arrested, tortured, and killed for the slightest of offenses, such as driving fancy cars, having an expensive phone, or paying bribes.
Okure said the police in Africa were created along with colonial enterprise and trained to suppress the people.
After independence, that culture has not been changed. The state still uses the police to suppress people while the politicians use the police to supress the people and their opponents.”
It is a big problem, not just in Nigeria but across the world,” said Father Martin Anusi, who is the communications director at the Catholic diocese in Awka, Nigeria’s southeast region. “There were cases of police brutality during the lockdown and this shows the level of violence on harmless citizens.”
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