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Outrage over killings during lockdowns

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A Nigerian police officer flags down an on coming vehicle at a checkpoint to enforce the extended lockdown as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus in Lagos, on April 12, 2020. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

• Omo-Agege, Ekweremadu, others demand prosecution of culprits
• WHO unveils plan to save lives, lessen impact of pandemic

Nigerians yesterday condemned the killings by security agents during the lockdown in some parts of the country.

For Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege the arrest and prosecution of the personnel involved would serve as a deterrent to other trigger-happy security men.

He referred to the case of a youth who was reportedly killed during the lockdown in Sapele, Delta State. He urged the citizens to remain calm, even as he admitted that the lockdown had caused a lot of hardship. He also stressed that the stay-at-home order was meant to protect people from the virus.

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In a statement by his media aide, Yomi Odunuga, Omo-Agege said: “No doubt, the lockdown has caused difficulties and inconveniences for many citizens. But in these trying times, it takes courage for our elected leaders to adopt global best practices by extending the lockdown, to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease and save lives.

“As President Buhari and governors, including Governor Okowa of Delta State have said, our common objective is to contain the spread of the coronavirus and provide space, time and resources for an aggressive and collective action.We will ensure ongoing comprehensive public health measures including case identification, testing, isolation and contact tracing.

“No doubt, the lockdown has caused many inconveniences for millions, especially for our daily wage earners and many others in the informal sector.But for a disease that ravages with no guarantee of cure, and given the fact that life has no duplicate, staying at home to curb its spread is a most reasonable imperative.”

Omo-Agege noted further: “Too many lives are being lost and far too many families are going through deep grief caused by COVID-19.While the Delta State government weighs possibilities of making things better, we should all strive to appreciate the deep seriousness of the issue.

“Nonetheless, warnings about social distancing, hand-washing and other preventive measures given by relevant state and federal authorities deserve our adherence.”

Also, former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu condemned the highhandedness of security agencies enforcing the lockdown in parts of the country.

He expressed sadness over a report by the National Human Rights Commission, which claimed that 18 Nigerians have already lost their lives.

“This is most unfortunate and condemnable, especially when we consider that the number of coronavirus fatalities in the country, stands at 12, as at today. I call on President Muhammadu Buhari and the relevant security and government agencies to ensure that the reprehensible acts are thoroughly investigated and the culprits brought to book. We must ensure that law enforcement agents do not turn their weapons against the very citizens they are supposed to protect,” Ekweremadu said in a statement by his media adviser, Uche Anichukwu, in Abuja yesterday.

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He added: “While the lockdowns and other precautionary measures are very necessary for containing the pandemic, they must be enforced with every sense of professionalism, discipline, restraint, empathy, and above all, with utmost respect for human life, which the lockdowns were put in place to protect in the first place.”

Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) appealed to the international community to prevail on the Buhari administration to stop the killing of impoverished citizens under the guise of enforcing lockdowns.

“We condemn all these atrocious state-sponsored killings by the police, the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Army. The killing of Nigerians hungry and desperate to buy food for the starving members of their families who are locked up without much-needed food relief is a crime against humanity,” said HURIWA in a statement by National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Zainab Yusuf.

“The police operatives responsible for these attacks in Anambra, Abia, and the soldiers and Civil Defence Corps personnel that deployed lethal weapons to kill unarmed citizens in Aba, Warri and Sapele in Delta State must be arrested, prosecuted and punished severely.Otherwise, they would be sent to the International Criminal court in The Hague Netherlands for crimes against humanity.

“The policemen who killed five traders in Kaduna while seeking to enforce the draconian COVID-19 curfew ordered by Governor Nasir El-Rufai have still not been caught, prosecuted and sanctioned in accordance with the principle of the rule of law.”

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The group said further: “This show of official impunity and reckless disregard for the rights of Nigerians is the reason we are appealing to world leaders to speak out and put President Buhari under pressure to name, shame and dismiss and punish the killer security operatives responsible.”

This came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) unveiled how to save lives and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.

Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made this known in a foreword to the ‘Strategic Preparedness And Response Plan For The New Coronavirus’ inaugurated yesterday.

The plan outlines the public health measures that the international community stands ready to provide to support all countries to prepare for and respond to COVID-19. The document takes what have been learned so far about the virus and translates that knowledge into strategic action that can guide the efforts of all national and international partners when developing context-specific national and regional operational plans.

It is also a draft operational planning guidance for United Nations (UN) country teams (UNCTs) to support national preparedness and response for COVID-19. The purpose of the document is to provide a practical guide for the UNCTs and partners to develop a country level operational plan to support national governments to prepare for and respond to COVID‑19 in line with the strategic preparedness and response plan.

“One of the main things we’ve learned is that the faster all cases are found, tested and isolated, the harder we make it for this virus to spread. This principle will save lives and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.

“This document guides the public health response to COVID-19 at national and subnational levels, including practical guidance for strategic action, tailored to the local context,” said Ghebreyesus.

Also, medical doctors under the aegis of Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN), Lagos chapter,yesterday unveiled other considerations to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

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Its chairman, Dr. Tolu Olufunlayo, said the best approaches to flatten the curve must be tailored to the peculiarities within the country. Olufunlayo said direct country comparisons and total adoption of strategies from other countries might not be in Nigeria’s own interest.

She said the curve showed a gradual increase in confirmed cases rather than an exponential rise and this might be explained by a largely asymptomatic pattern of the disease here in Nigeria coupled with the effect of suboptimal testing.

The WHO, meanwhile, has been urged to condemn the alleged rights violations of Africans in the Guangzhou region of China.

The Convener for the Centre for Liberty (CFL), Ariyo-Dare Atoye, made the demand in a letter addressed to the WHO Director General, copying the United Nations Secretary-General and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Atoye said more dangerous than COVID-19 is the rising cases of xenophobia and stigmatisation of black Africans.

“This repugnant act has put the entire African community in Guangzhou on the edge, and considering the dimension it has assumed, we fear a continent-wide reprisal if nothing is done quickly to address it. We are equally worried that the Chinese authorities have done little or nothing to stop this dangerous pattern of violations in China,” said Atoye.

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