COVID-19: HURIWA Warns President  Buhari Against Rights Violation

The Civil Rights Advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria  (HURIWA) has expressed concern that the ambiguities contained in the national Broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari has handed a free licence to armed security forces to wantonly breach the fundamental human rights of Nigerians contained in chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).

This is as they noted that it includes the Freedom from Arbitrary Arrests and Detentions; Rights to Life; Right to the Dignity of Human Person and other Basic Freedoms recognised in all international human rights laws.

 “Federal government must never be allowed to abuse the human rights of Nigerians through arbitrary detention and illegal arrests of citizens on frivolous reasons for violating the so-called quarantine”, said HURIWA National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko. “There is the possibility and indeed it has started happening that armed security forces are already arresting and detaining Nigerians under flimsy excuses and these armed security forces are extorting Nigerians in the guise of granting them bail”.

HURIWA criticised the national Broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari for “lacking in clarity”, because according to the Civil Rights Advocacy group, the directive to totally close down the nation’s commercial and political capitals of Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory for two weeks without making provisions for how families can buy their daily groceries and essential perishable food products and without any form of arrangements on how the poorest of the poor can get the food aids, shows that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks human empathy and is not ready to adhere strictly to the demands of the law to respect the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.

“HOW ON EARTH DOES THE PRESIDENT EXPECT THAT NIGERIANS COULD STAY INDOORS FOR TWO WEEKS WITHOUT ELECTRICITY POWER AND YET ARE EXPECTED TO HAVE THEIR SOUPS AND STEWS READILY AVAILABLE FOR THE DURATION OF THIS LOCKDOWN? Even in Wuhan in Communist China where CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC began, the dictatorship in China made clear guidelines regarding how families can get their groceries and in United Kingdom, the Government apart from providing economic recovery bailouts for all their businesses, also made some far reaching social safety nets for the vulnerable populations but in Nigeria the government has rolled out unclear guidelines on how the assistance to people in need will reach them”, he said.

HURIWA has also expressed consternation that President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to muzzle media freedoms by empowering the security forces to determine the media workers that will be allowed to access their offices during the two weeks’ lockdown.

“President Muhammadu Buhari said Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also free. But we think this draconian provision is targeted at ensuring that the Nigerian media is not free to monitor how the government carries out the responsibilities expected of them at this time of health emergency.

“The two weeks lockdown is going to be treated by the military and police as a period of free reign of gross violations of human rights of citizens and these two weeks may be tough for the human rights of the citizens. We accept that Nigeria needs to adopt drastic measures to contain the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC but in doing this we must be conscious of the human rights of citizens and also  allow the media to carry out their tasks of functioning as the national conscience in compliance with section 22 of the Nigerian constitution”.

“HURIWA has read that President Muhammadu Buhari averred that as his government remains ready to enforce these measures, and also tasked Nigerians to see this as our individual contribution in the war against COVID-19 because many other countries have taken far stricter measures in a bid to control the spread of the virus with positive results. However the ambiguity in the statement of President Muhammadu Buhari on how the Nigerian State will rise to the legal obligation of care to extend social safety nets for the vulnerable populations is totally insensitive and irresponsible.

“What is the meaning of the following-: For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks?”

HURIWA faulted President Muhammadu Buhari when he stated that “Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies”. 

The Rights group stated that this confusing directive does not show coherence in strategic planning and execution of government tasks and obligation of care for the poorest of the poor. This pronouncement is as empty as it can possibly be. This political statement is not meant to be meticulously implemented.

 HURIWA  condemned the deliberate ambiguity in the following Presidential directive- “For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our Internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks”.

The Rights group wondered how the government that has sent the populations into quarantine for two weeks is promising to provide food reliefs in the coming Months. “With what food will they spend the next two weeks given that these are people that depended on daily economic activities to be able to put food on their tables?”

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