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Rights body, Yoruba elders deplore alleged insecurity in South East, South West amid lockdown

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SouthEast Human Rights Situation Room (HumanRights4SouthEast) has raised concern over the “escalating cases of human rights abuses and violation of extant laws on human rights by security agencies in the country enforcing the coronavirus lockdown order, particularly in the South-East states.”

It observed the “rise in extra-judicial killings, extortion, maiming, unlawful arrests, torture and incessant intimidation of Nigerian citizens by security agents”, claiming that no fewer than 18 persons had been killed extra-judicially in the “guise of enforcing the lockdown order.”

Explaining that the figure was double the number killed by the pandemic for which Nigerian citizens are being protected, the organisation regretted that “certain Nigerians have been killed in some states that have not recorded any death from the virus by security officials.”

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In a statement issued in Enugu yesterday by its coordinator, Prof Joy Ezeilo, the coalition particularly regretted the “killings of a middle-aged man in Ebem Ohafia; another at Uratta axis in Aba; one in Afikpo, Ebonyi State; 12 in Kaduna, among others”, stating that the development was unacceptable in modern times.

It called for thorough investigation into the alleged killings and adequate compensation for families of the victims.

Lamenting that the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown had created hardship in the country leading to increasing panic and agitation, the organisation bemoaned: “Nigerians and indeed South East are currently battling the pandemic with attendant lack of food, medicare and other services.

“It would be inhuman, callous and insensitive to further dehumanise them. It should be noted that untold hardship pervades the land, prices of food items such as rice, garri and oil have increased considerably in this period.”

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The group added: Homes are witnessing increasing violence, including domestic violence, rape, defilements, assaults and wife battery. The least they expect is another pandemic such as we are witnessing from the security agencies.”

Decrying the alleged marginalisation of the geopolitical in the Federal Government palliatives to indigent families, the organisation asked the governors of the zone to engage with the President Muhammadu Buhari regime to “determine the reasons behind the exclusion of their people from the palliatives.”

It went on: “Additionally, we advise governments across the zone to step up awareness campaign on the prevention and avoidance of total lockdown given the precarious socio-economic status of our people, the informal economy, and the large population eking out a living on daily basis.

“We also recommend that governments in the zone should continue to maintain boundary closure and restrict interstate movement except for vehicles/personnel carrying essential goods, including food and medical supplies.

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“Farmers should be encouraged to continue farm work while maintaining social distance .We appeal to governors in Igboland to scale up state palliatives and involve civil society organisations in the task force for implementation and monitoring.”

In a similar vein, the Senior Elders’ Forum of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) yesterday expressed worry over the spate of robbery attacks across the length and breadth of Yorubaland resulting from the lockdown ordered by government to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In a statement issued by former president of the YCE, Col. Ade Agbede (rtd), the forum lamented that the ugly development had turned “virtually everybody to vigilante who engages in burning of tyres every night to ensure the security of lives and property.”

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The body pointed out that had the Operation Amotekun, the Western Nigeria Security Network launched with fanfare in January begun operation, the generality of the people of the South West would not have been subjected to the excruciating experience.

It therefore called on the governors of the six states in the region to expedite action in making the ‘Amotekun’ project functional.

According to the elders, “whatever may be the bottlenecks must have been done with by now. Even, those in Abuja expressing misgivings about the project must have been dazed by the reality of the moment.”

They continued: “That our people had to resolve to helping themselves is a glaring indication that our police force lacks both the manpower and equipment to adequately police the country.

“That is the more reason why the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, must not see the security outfit as a rival group, but a complementing arm to ensure safety of lives and property.”

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