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Law society demands coroner’s inquest over COVID-19 killings

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Obiagwu

LEDAP tasks attorneys-general on indiscriminate arrest, detention

Law Society of Igbo extraction, Otu Oka Iwu has condemned in very strong terms the killing of two residents of Anambra State by operatives of the Nigerian Police Force, while allegedly enforcing the lockdown order by the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Willie Obiano.
 
“We are informed that the two youths were shot dead following an argument with police operatives who ordered them to go indoors, notwithstanding that they were within the precincts of their house at Nkpor, near Onitsha, Anambra State.

“This incident is one of the many reported cases of gross human rights violations by law enforcement agencies on the heels of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic,” the group said in a statement signed by its president, Chief Chuks Ikokwu.

According to them, it is noteworthy that these incidences have become a recurring feature, given that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has particularly accused the police and other law enforcement agencies of trampling on the rights of citizens in the guise of enforcing the COVID-19 orders.

Equally instructive, they said, is the fact that the five South-East States have once again been turned into a theatre of war, is among the top 10 States where the police operatives are especially trigger-happy in enforcing the coronavirus orders.

“Aside from Anambra State, which has now joined this inglorious list, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo are among the States with the highest recorded cases of human rights violations linked to the enforcement of coronavirus directives. This is notwithstanding the fact that the States have very few cases of COVID-19.

 
“Sadly, the security operatives have killed more citizens in the South East States than the dreaded coronavirus pandemic. In fact, while the South East States have not recorded any COVID-19 related case, the law enforcement agencies have killed no less than five South-East residents. This is totally unacceptable,” the group stressed.

The group, therefore, called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu and the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Dingyadi to rein in their men to avoid a repeat of these human rights violations.

These violations are a sad commentary on the operations of our law enforcement agencies, including the Army, which has also been found culpable in these infractions, they said, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to activate an effective framework to contain those grievous human rights violations.

“We also urge the National Assembly to be alert to its duty of safeguarding the rights of Nigerians,” they said.

 
Similarly, the Legal Defence Assistance Project (LEDAP) has called on the attorneys general and commissioners for justice in all the states of the federation to urgently stop the indiscriminate arrests and detention of citizens.

They rather urged them to ensure that they decongest custody centres to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We wish to draw your attention to the vulnerable situation of places of detention including Correctional Services centers, police stations, and detention cells of environment sanitation agency, Covid-19 Task Force, civil defence corps, vigilante services, etc. These places are reportedly filled with criminal suspects and are grossly over congested.

“Many over-zealous law enforcement officials have relied on the Covid-19 lockdown to harass citizens, extort money from them, indiscriminately arrest and detain suspects and charge money for their bail. It is commonplace that securing bail in police and other agencies cost a lot of bribery money, sometime between N10, 000 and N50, 000 for simple offences and much more for felonies, yet the police authorities continue to tell Nigerians that bail is free,” the group said in a letter signed by its national coordinator, Mr. Chino Obiagwu (SAN) and programme director, Pamela Okoroigwe.

Consequently, the group urged the chief law officers to issue further directives or regulations on managing and handling criminal matters during Covid-19 lockdown in order to ensure that no arrested person is unduly kept in detention, and where such detention occurs, that bail is granted free of charge as soon as any surety whatsoever is presented.

It said: “That you direct that no one should be arrested and detained on account of violating the lockdown. Most Nigerians live on daily earnings, and therefore the lockdown regulations and their enforcement must be carried out with a human face, recognizing the constitutional rights of citizens.

“Liaise with the Chief Judge of your State to call out all the Magistrates in the State to perform their statutory functions under section 34 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.”


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