Nigerian lockdown claims 18 lives

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Nigerian security forces killed 18 people while enforcing lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said.

Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous country and biggest energy producer, recorded 407 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths from the disease.

Lockdowns initially slated to last 14 days started on 30 March in commercial hub Lagos, neighbouring Ogun state and capital Abuja. They were extended on Sunday by two weeks and other states, such as northern economic hub Kano, also imposed restrictions.

The NHRC, an independent body, said in a statement there were “eight documented incidents of extrajudicial killings leading to 18 deaths” between March 30 and April 13.

It said the killings were carried out by the Nigerian Correctional Service, the police force and army.

In response, a spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service said four inmates died after violence broke out and left prisoners and staff hospitalised. The rights commission report alleged eight deaths.

The Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on the NHRC statement.

The statement said “law enforcement agents extra-judicially executed 18 persons in the cause of the enforcement regulations” related to lockdown measures.

“The report notes most violations witnessed during the period were a result of excessive or disproportionate use of force, abuse of power, corruption and non-adherence to national and international laws, best practices and rules of engagement,” the NHRC statement said.

The NHRC received 105 complaints of alleged human rights violations in the first two weeks of the lockdown.

Nigerian police and the military are repeatedly accused by rights advocates of using excessive force, but consistently deny wrongdoing.

Last year the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings accused Nigerian security forces of excessive lethal force.