By Benson Olugbuo, Ph.D
The Presidential Task Force on 29th June 2020 announced updated guidelines for the extension of the phase two of eased lockdown across Nigeria effective from June 30th to July 27th 2020. The extension of phase two of the eased lockdown will specifically involve:
- Maintaining the present nationwide curfew from 10:00 pm – 4:00 am;
- Mandatory use of non-medical facemasks by all citizens in public spaces with access to government and commercial premises to be denied for persons not wearing facemasks: ‘No mask, no entry. No mask, no service.’
- Maintaining the restrictions on mass gatherings (not more than 20 persons) and sporting/ recreational activities;
- Resumption of domestic aviation services from July 8th 2020;
- Resumption of interstate movement and travels outside curfew hours only;
- Schools to remain shut but pupils and students eligible for promotional classes (Primary/Basic 6, Junior Secondary School 3 & Senior Secondary School 3) to be allowed to resume school activities in preparation for the final examinations (National Common Entrance Examination, Junior West African Examination Council and Senior West African Examination Council);
- Federal and State Government offices to maintain present work hours of 9:00 am – 2:00 pm for senior officers from Grade level. 14 and above, and Essential Staff from Grade Level 13 and below; and
- Maintaining religious activities as it was under the phase two
- Banks/Financial Institutions continuing their operations as allowed under phase two
- Consideration to lock down eighteen (18) LGAs in Nigeria that account for 60% of the COVID-19 cases to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country
Prior to June 29th, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic and the Federal Government had maintained the second phase of easing the restriction of movement in the affected locations of Lagos, Ogun and FCT, Abuja initiated on Monday, June 1, 2020. The directives had included the nationwide curfew from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am; full opening of the financial sector; restricted opening of places of worship, (regular church & mosque services only) to be based on State Government protocols; restrictions on interstate travels except for goods and essential travel; restriction on gathering of not more than 20 persons outside of workplaces and religious services; closure of educational institutions until further evaluation.
As usual, many state governments followed suit to vary the lockdown and restrictions in their respective states. With the continued opening of economy as well as public and private activities, new cases of infections remain on the rise at an exponential rate. As at Wednesday 8th July 2020, Nigeria has recorded 30,249 confirmed cases, 12,373 patients discharged and 684 deaths in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The rise in the number of new infections is likely a combination of increased testing capacity by state governments and lifting of restriction of movements. The following report is based on incidents recorded by our observers from 16th June to 8th July 2020.
In continuation of CLEEN Foundation’s intervention, the Covid-19 Nigeria Security Support Group used a mixed method approach involving collection of primary and secondary data from reliable official sources of information and received a total of 6,794 primary data reports across the 774 LGAs across Nigeria disaggregated as follows:
- 3,838 reports on citizens’ compliance to government directives;
- 2,038 reports on conduct of security personnel enforcing government directives;
- 918 reports on human rights violations by security personnel enforcing government directives on the COVID19 pandemic.
These reports have been forwarded to Government agencies including the National Human Rights Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Nigeria Police Force (Complaints Response Unit and the Gender Desk Unit) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps.
3.0 Citizens’ Compliance with Government Directives
Reports and observations across the country indicate a general decline in citizens’ compliance with government directives which include the dusk to dawn curfew, use of facemasks, physical distancing, restrictions on public gatherings and inter-state movements.
- 1. Compliance with Dusk to Dawn Curfew
Reports from our observers across the six geo-political zones indicate a varied level of compliance by citizens to the dusk to dawn curfew imposed by the federal and respective state governments. In the South -South region, it was reported partial compliance by citizens to the curfew and sit at home restrictions by the various state Governments. For example, in Bayelsa state, it was observed that the dusk to dawn curfew is being flouted by citizens in all the Local Government Areas including Yenagoa, the state capital. However, in Delta State, our observers reported a high level of compliance to curfew directives in most parts of the state by citizens especially after the revision of the curfew hours from 10:00 pm – 4:00 am. Similarly, in Akwa Ibom state, most security agencies were observed enforcing the curfew hours imposed by the state government and not that of the Federal government thus, creating confusion amongst citizens on the applicable curfew hours. The situation is different in Cross River state, where our observers reported strict compliance to the curfew directive by citizens as the taskforce were observed monitoring and ensuring compliance. In Edo state a gradual decline in compliance to the curfew hours have been observed in the state as motorists still commute at extremely late hours without recourse to government directives.
In the North Central region, citizens are observed to be fully returning to their usual night lifestyle, and the percentage of people adhering to the curfew has drastically declined across board. However, reports from Kuje and Abuja Municipal Area Council of the FCT in the North Central region have shown a moderate level of compliance by citizens. Similarly, in Mariga, Suleja, Gbako and Shiroro LGAs of Niger state, residents are reportedly complying well to the curfew directives due to the heavy presence of law enforcement agents.
In the SouthEast region, reports from our observers indicated that adherence to the curfew directive has been effective in some areas and ineffective in other areas within the region. Specifically, in Anambra state, the curfew is observed in areas such as Abagana, Nimo, Enugwu-ukwu, Abba, Enugwu-agidi and Nawfia towns. However, as a result of the non-compliance and increase in Covid-19 cases in Awka South LGA of Anambra state, the curfew period was revised from 8:00 pm – 6:00 am daily until further notice. The same cannot be said for the situation in Imo state as it was reported that low level adherence was reported as bars and hotels have resumed their usual night operations in some parts of the state.
3.2 Non-Compliance with the Use of Facemasks and Physical Distancing Guidelines.
In the South-South region, observations across the six states indicate a partial compliance by citizens on the use of facemasks and physical distancing in public places. Reports from our observers in Edo state indicated that there was moderate compliance within the reporting period. A large crowd accompanied the state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki when he defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) did not adhere to physical distancing and the use of facemasks rules. There was a moderate level of compliance during the primaries of the two major political parties in the state which took place on 22nd June 2020 for the All Progressive Congress (APC) and 25th June 2020 for the PDP. It was further observed during the primaries, that all the physical distancing measures put in place at the Sam Ogbemudia stadium venue of the PDP primaries were later discarded by party faithfuls as they were observed clustering in numbers while voting for their preferred candidate.
In Akwa Ibom state, compliance level was reported to be high amongst transporters but low in worship centres/churches in the state. Reports from Local Government Areas namely Udung, Okobo, Urue Offong and Mbo indicated that many worshippers are not complying with the use of face masks. The state capital Uyo and Ibiono Ibom communities also recorded minimal compliance to the use of facemasks. Similarly, in Bayelsa state, our observers reported low compliance on the use of face masks and physical distancing in both rural and urban areas of the state. Reports received indicate that four (4) big churches were shut down in Yenagoa due to lack of compliance to government directives. Furthermore, there were reports of a youth election held by the Apex body of Epie Atissa National Congress in Yenagoa town at Bay Bridge Yenezuegene which had in attendance hundreds of youths on 20th June 2020 without any recourse to physical/social distance nor use of face masks. Also, a big football tournament was held between Nembe City Football Club and Shining Stars of Bayelsa State on 21st of June 2020 with no adherence to physical/social distancing and the use of face masks by spectators.
In the North Central region, reports across the states indicated little or no compliance to the use of facemasks and physical distancing. It was observed within the period that a high level of compliance to the use of facemask was recorded in worship centers, (amongst the Christian and Muslim faithful) in FCT, Abuja. Also banks and some other governmental agencies around the FCT insist on the use of facemasks before entry into the premises. Similarly, the situation is also not much different in the North East region where our observers reported mixed compliance by citizens across the states in the region especially in the use of face masks and observing physical distancing. It was reported that citizens carry out their normal activities as if there is no COVID-19 pandemic.
In the SouthEast region, reports received indicated low compliance to the use of facemasks and physical distancing directives across the states. It was recorded that marketers, worshippers and transporters across the states paid little or no attention to these government directives. As a result of this low compliance level in Abia State, it was reported that the Abia COVID-19 taskforce sealed two churches and one market in Aba for non-compliance to government directives. Also, in Anambra state, the government shut down the Eke Awka market in Awka South LGA of the state due to non-compliance with the directives. In Imo state, especially in Owerri town, football viewing centers are observed to have resumed their operations without adherence to the use of facemasks and social/physical distancing guidelines and provision of other health advisories measures such recreational centres are to have in place. These viewing centers are characterized by large crowds who are closely seated. The situation was observed to be different with some churches in the state that have shown reasonable improvement in adhering to physical distancing directives by splitting their number of services to reduce over population.
3.3 Ban on Public Gatherings and Citizens Compliance
CLEEN Foundation observed a decline in public compliance level to government directives on the ban on public gathering. It was noted that 53% of the observers noted that there were gatherings of more than 20 persons against government directives across the 36 states and FCT against the government directives of public gathering not to exceed 20 persons.
In the South-South region, it was observed that in Bayelsa state that citizens in Nembe, Sagbama, Kolokuma, and Brass Local Government Areas of the state were observed to be holding funerals and marriage ceremonies without compliance to the ban on public gathering. In Delta State, our observers reported low compliance as citizens congregated in large numbers in most clubs, bars and marriage ceremonies in Uvwie, Ughelli North, Sapele, Udu, and Warri South Local Government areas. In Rivers state, the government issued guidelines on the conduct of marriage ceremonies in their state. In accordance with the guidelines, prospective couples are mandated to secure approval from the Commissioner of Social Welfare, and such ceremonies must have an attendance limit of 50 persons with each attendee providing detailed contact information. Furthermore, citizens are directed to obtain an approval from the state government before conducting burial ceremonies in the state, and a fine of N10 million imposed for defaulters.
In the North Central region, it was observed that in Karu and Akwanga LGAs of Nassarawa state, there is large patronage of bars and event centres in the area. In Benue state, social activities including parties for the newly sworn in Local Government Areas Chairmen in Oju, Makurdi, Obi and Logo Local Government Areas of the state without any recourse to adhere to the relevant health advisory guidelines. Similarly, in Mashegu, Agaie Local Government Area of Niger state and Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau state respectively, clusters of people were reportedly seen watching football matches at viewing centres. Also, in the Kanam Local Government Area of Plateau state, a coronation ceremony was reported to have been held where more than 50 persons attended. In Dekina/Bassa, Koton-Karfe and Idah Local Government Areas of Kogi state, various activities such as traditional festivals, social and religious gatherings were observed to be ongoing as normal. Specifically, in Dekina/Bassa LGA a burial ceremony was organized for the father of a former House of Representative member which witnessed large attendance of citizens. At all of these events, it was observed that there was no regard to the relevant health advisory guidelines particularly on restrictions of public gatherings.
In the South Eastern and South Western regions respectively, the reports on citizen compliance varied. In the South East, reports from our observers in Abia state indicated that there is reasonable compliance to the state government’s directives on public gatherings as LGA Chairmen have been directed to enforce the directives in their respective domains. Also, citizens in the state are now mandated to obtain permits from the state government before holding any events like burials ceremonies. However, there were reports of social clubs and market union meetings being held. In Ebonyi state, the government recently allowed a two-week grace period for burial ceremonies to be held up to June 16, 2020. In Imo State it was reported that several burial ceremonies and other public gatherings took place at different locations without adhering to the ban on public gatherings and use of personal protective equipment (PPE). In the South West, reports from Ondo East LGA in Ondo state indicated low compliance to the ban on public gathering as people were seriously involved in political party meetings in preparation toward the upcoming gubernatorial election in the state.
3.4 Inter-State Movements
Before the restrictions on interstate movements were lifted on the 29th of June 2020, the following violations were observed to have been committed across the six geopolitical zones by citizens and security personnel alike.
In the South- South region, our observers reported that the Ughelli -Bayelsa expressway, Koko-Benin express road and Asaba -Onitsha head bridge have become a bazaar for security personnel manning those checkpoints who delight in extorting transporters and commuters alike. It was reported that security personnel collect between N500- N3000 thousand naira at each checkpoint in Delta State. In Bayelsa state, commercial motorists were observed to move passengers from Yenagoa to Port Harcourt (Rivers state) and to Ughelli (Delta State) with the compromise of security personnel. In Rivers state, it was observed that security agents and the State Task Force now collect N1000 from drivers to let them cross the borders.
In the North Central region, the situation was not different as it was reported by our observers that the Lokoja-Abuja Highway remained a busy route as people were travelling despite the restrictions in place. Similar reports were received from Abaji Area Council where people moved freely to nearby towns/villages in Nasarawa and Kogi states unhindered. Reports from Benue state also showed no compliance to the restrictions as vehicles were seen moving in and out of the state unhindered especially at the border communities between Agatu LGA and Nasarawa state where people came into the state to purchase food items. Vehicles were also seen moving into the state from Enugu and Cross River states.
Similarly, our observers in the South-East region indicated that there were free movements of people across the various states borders in the South-East. In Abia state, it was reported by our observers that the closure of Abattoirs in neighbouring states like Cross River had resulted in meat sellers from the other states coming into Abia state on a daily basis. Similar reports from Umunneochi, Ukwa West and other border communities in the state indicated that interstate movements persisted though on a low key. It was therefore not surprising that Nigerians celebrated the lifting of the ban on inter-state travel as the Federal and State Governments created opportunities for security agencies to collect money from travellers.
4.0 Reports on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
We observe the spike in sexual and gender-based violence crimes – rape and defilement of minors – across the country. Within the period under review, our observers documented twenty-three (23) cases across the six geopolitical zones. A breakdown includes South-South – Rivers state (1), Delta state (1), North Central – FCT Abuja (1), Benue state (5), South-West – Lagos state (2), Ogun state (2), and Osun State (1). Reports indicate that some of these cases are undergoing investigation and prosecution.
5.0 Conduct of Security Personnel on Enforcement of Government Directives on Covid-19 Pandemic
The conduct of security personnel deployed to enforce public compliance on government directive has remained of good conduct as reported by 54% of CLEEN Foundation observers deployed across the 774 LGAs in Nigeria. 34% of the observers reported the conduct of the security personnel to be fair while 12% noted that the conduct of security personnel on COVID 19 duty is poor.
Within the period, our observers in FCT Abuja reported issues of sharp practices carried out by private security personnel stationed at Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) located at Area 3, Garki, Abuja. The private security personnel at the bank were observed taking bribes from customers in order to let them go out of turn and gain entrance into the bank. It has been a recurring decimal as a lot of customers were observed complaining of the activities of private security personnel stationed at the Bank.
5.1 Human Rights Violations
Human rights violations recorded include, public safety and security issues arising from ongoing banditry in some states of the North Western region, Boko haram reprisal attacks in the Borno state of the North East and communal clashes in the South East. In Jigawa state of the North West region, there were reported killings following a serious clash between farmers and herdsmen at Garki Local Government Area of the state. A similar situation occurred in Danmusa Local Government Area of Katsina State where one security personnel alongside six villagers were killed on Thursday 25th June 2020 when bandits attacked two villages in the Local Government Area. There were also reports that in bid to evade attacks by bandits, eight frontline Local Government Areas of Katsina State have resorted to a truce and payment of monthly fees to the bandits. Some of the villages allegedly involved are Unguwar Tsamiya, Birnin Kogo, Bangi, Kahi, and Raba all within Faskari Area Council as confirmed by a local. The issue of farmer-herder clashes was also recorded in Agwa community in Oguta LGA of Imo state where it was reported that herdsmen on Sunday June 14, 2020, killed a 75-year-old farmer, Mr Ozoemena Iriaka. The incident raised serious tension in the community.
The recent attack in Borno state, North East region on the United Nations humanitarian helicopter on Thursday, 2nd July, 2020 by insurgents and the killing of two civilians including a 5-year-old child in Damasak reaffirms the insecurity in the region despite the ongoing pandemic. On the issue of communal clashes, it was reported that in Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, on June 8th and 10th 2020 respectively, there were attacks on the people of Onuenyim and Azuoji villages in Azuoffia Nduegu Okpuitumo Community by unknown persons from Idoru villages of Obubra LGA in Cross River state. The attackers destroyed property worth several millions of naira. In Kano state, the police rescued over three hundred people who were forcefully locked up in a rice-processing factory and made to work throughout the lockdown period in the state. These are troubling incidents that require further investigations by security agents.
6.0 Gaps Identified
- Critical voices of women, religious leaders, youths, civil society organisations and persons living with disabilities are missing in the current membership of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 pandemic. This should be corrected for effective representation.
- The decline in the use of facemasks, other personal protective equipment (PPE) and compliance to other public health advisory by citizens as observed across the country to curb community transmission and stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is very worrisome with the alarming daily increase of infections recorded by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.
- Poor enforcement of government directives by law enforcement and security personnel observed across the country.
- Most citizens are not aware of their status due to inadequate testing across all states in Nigeria despite ongoing community transmission at all levels.
- Refusal by persons who have tested positive for COVID 19 to stay in isolation centres and designated hospitals for treatment is contributing to the community spread and transmission of the coronavirus pandemic
- Increasing rate of sexual and gender-based violence across the country remains an issue of grave concern in need of urgent attention from all government agencies.
- The ongoing banditry in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states of the North West region is a security threat on the verge of snowballing into serious insecurity issues that can engulf the entire region if not adequately addressed.
- The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 pandemic should be expanded to include more women, religious leaders, youths, CSOs and persons living with disabilities to ensure effective representation of all sections of the society in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
- Federal and State governments need to prioritize aggressive community sensitization and awareness campaigns on the reality of the pandemic and the need to adhere to the public health and safety advisory guidelines provided by the Federal Government and Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.
- The National Orientation Agency must be seen to play a very strategic role in taking the appropriate message to local communities and grassroots on the effects of community transmission on the nation.
- Nigerian citizens should comply with all non-pharmaceutical guidelines provided by the Presidential Task Force and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to reduce the increasing spread of the virus as has been observed in recent weeks.
- There is need for continued re-evaluation of the strategies deployed by the Presidential Task Force and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control that would be inclusive of community leaders to enhance the strategies particularly now with the increasing community transmission and recorded infections.
- State governments should work with the organised private sector to provide mobile testing units to ensure that the majority of Nigerians have access to testing and emergency health care services.
- We commend the leadership of both houses of the National Assembly on the consideration to organize a joint special session on Sexual and Gender-based Violence which is a step in the right direction to address the issue. We however enjoin the National Assembly to ensure that all recommendations to address the systemic challenges that impede access to justice and comprehensive support for victims, survivors and their families are considered.
- The Federal and State Governments should prioritize improving public safety and security of the citizens always and in all places, especially regarding the ongoing security issues in the North West and North East respectively which requires adequate attention.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and heal our land.
Benson Olugbuo, Ph.D, Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation