COVID-19: Holding Security Forces Accountable During Health Emergency

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Men of the Nigerian Police Force

As the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) disease remains a concern, a group of non-governmental, civil-society and health-related organisations have called for the strengthening of the security sector accountability during a national health emergency like a pandemic.

They collectively made the call at the Strengthening Pan African Citizens’ Voices for Security Sector Accountability (SPaCVOSSA) pre-forum organised by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) and Trust Africa in Abuja.

Addressing the media after the forum, the SPaCVOSSA project lead, Mr. Itia Otabor, said the overarching goal of the strengthening of the security sector accountability project was to strengthen the voices of the African citizens in security sector accountability.

Giving the project background, he explained that Trust Africa, an independent foundation based in Dakar, Senegal and works to secure the conditions for democracy and equitable development throughout the African continent, under the governance program issued a call for concept notes for implementing a project geared towards SPaCVOSSA in Africa and Post COVID-19.

According to him, the project was earmarked for four countries in four regional economic communities (RECs) of the African Continent namely Zimbabwe (South Africa), Nigeria (West Africa), Democratic Republic of Congo (Central Africa) and Kenya (East Africa) and Centre LSD was chosen as its implementing partner for Nigeria.

“Centre LSD conceptualization of the project was against the backdrop of outcries by Nigerian citizens on the security forces implementation of the lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Of note was also the limitation of citizens inability to call out security services and demand redress. According to statistics provided by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), between March 30 and April 13, 2020, which represented the first phase of the lockdown in Nigeria, law enforcement agents had killed 18 persons (more number than Coronavirus had done 12 at that time).

“The report also showed that a total of 105 complaints bordering on violations of citizens’ fundamental rights, illegal arrests and detention among others were received from 24 out of 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),” he said.

Otabor said the project aimed to build a critical mass of active citizenry that could make their voices heard and hold security forces accountable during periods of national health emergency such as COVID-19 pandemic.

He added the project implementation and execution would be carried out in two key Nigeria cities of Lagos (foremost commercial and economic centre) and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja (political capital).

The Centre LSD executive director, Mr. Monday Osasah, said the centre, a non-profit, nongovernmental organization with the vision of engendering an African society with strategic leadership, felt honoured to be charged with implementing the project in Nigeria.

“We believe that if citizens are given the requisite knowledge on the activities of security operatives in a national health emergency like a pandemic, and openly discussed amongst stakeholders via a forum and given legislative backing, citizens will be emboldened to always demand accountability from security forces implementing lockdown or any other measures during such public health emergencies,” he added.

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