Nigerian security forces have killed 18 people in their enforcement of measures to curb coronavirus, a figure higher than the documented toll inflicted by the disease, the country’s human rights body said on Wednesday.
The country’s National Human Rights Commission said it had received and documented “105 complaints of incidents of human rights violations perpetuated by security forces” in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states and Abuja.
Of these complaints, “there were eight documented incidents of extrajudicial killings leading to 18 deaths,” it said.
Africa’s most populous nation has imposed a total lockdown in megacity Lagos and the capital Abuja and set restrictions in other regions in a bid to contain the virus.
Nigeria, which has a population of about 200 million people, has reported 407 cases of coronavirus of whom 12 have died, raising fears it could spread quickly in overcrowded parts of the country.
Security forces, including police and army, have been deployed to enforce the restrictions, sparking deadly confrontations in some states.
Nigerian security forces already have a reputation for brutality as local and international rights bodies have long accused it of abuses against civilians, but they typically deny the charges.
At least 1,476 people were killed by state actors in the country over the past year, says the Council on Foreign Relations.
Segun Awosanya, who heads influential civil group, Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation, said his organisation had also documented 18 deaths nationwide.
“It could be more. Those are only the ones we know of,” Awosanya said.
He said that on Wednesday, two people were killed in the state of Anambra and a truck driver was killed in Abia state after apparently refusing to give a bribe to security officials.
“There’s been so many complaints since the beginning of the lockdown, every evening we get alerted on many people being detained. It’s very tense everywhere,” he said.
“The police and the security agencies are not even safe themselves. They have no safety equipment to protect themselves from the virus, no logistics to defend themselves against rampant crime, and they see citizens in a way to extort money.”
There have been growing fears of a rise in crime and unrest due to the virus restrictions, especially in Lagos, as millions of people living in poverty have been cut off from vital sources of income. (Source: BBC)