COVID-19 Restrictions Created Much Havoc – Wigwe

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A cross-section of participants at the SPaCVOSSA citizens forum held in Abuja.

The provost, Centre for Strategic Research and Studies, National Defence College (NDC), Ambassador Chijioke Wigwe, has said available data shows the COVID-19 restrictions contributed to the upsurge in domestic violence and other crimes such as looting, cyberfraud, and internet scam.

At the citizens forum on Strengthening Citizens Voices for Security Sector Accountability (SPaCVOSSA) during the COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria organised by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) and Trust Africa, yesterday in Abuja, he said the increase in violence and other criminalities put additional strain on security agencies, which are already working to support a public health response.

He explained that, during a pandemic, the security sector has a variety of crucial responsibilities, the most important of which is to help in the implementation of public health measures.

According to him, the police, army, and other security agencies are needed to ensure public compliance with laws or regulations governing physical distance, business closures, mass gathering bans, lockdowns, and stay-at-home measures or quarantines, as they were during COVID-19 lockdown.

He, however, noted that there were some shortcomings in their responses and that there were issues that needed to be addressed, to improve accountability in the security sector.

Represented by the head of department, science and technology centre, strategic research studies (NDC), Commodore Anayo Unoneme (rtd), he contended that the Nigerian system must invest in peace-building within the security sector, to create a fertile ground for constructive participation of security forces in every day life as in emergencies.

Earlier, the programme manager, Centre for Law for Enforcement Education in Nigeria (CLEEN Foundation), Ruth Olofin, said though the lockdown had been eased, however, the human rights violations experienced during the lockdown phase 1 had remained unaddressed sufficiently especially in the country.

“Again, evidence from our COVID-19 pandemic policing project at CLEEN also showed that the pandemic was also turned into a profiteering adventure by security actors. These were characterized by extortion of citizens for failure to use face masks especially around the south-south and the south-east, money exchanges at state borders to facilitate travels despite a ban on inter-state movements just to mention a few,” he said.

He spoke of the need to promote accountability in the security sector, recommending the reactivation of accountability for HR-related violations; promoting a rights-based approach (RBA) to policing and law enforcement.

Others, according to her, include undertaking capability-based development planning that is futuristic and scenario based; and development of standard operating procedures (SOP) on policing in complex emergencies.

In his welcome remarks, the executive director, Centre LSD, Mr. Monday Osasah, said the project being funded by Trust Africa, its donor agency based in Dakar, Senegal, was not to criticise the security agencies but to conscientize the citizens to demand for accountability.

“The project was conceptualized because the COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise so there is need to find out the level of human violations, harassment that happened during that period. Why we are here today is to conscientize the populace to demand accountability from security agencies. Our coming here is not to criticize the security agencies but to demand for accountability for improved service delivery.

“We know the security agencies may have their issues, challenges in discharging their national assignment, we are all partners in progress if our brothers and sisters in the security agencies are witnessing challenges there is need for citizens to come together to review issues together and chart a new course to move Nigeria forward,” he added.

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