As COVID-19 continues its ravage, Nigeria still contends with managing its many crises of violent killings. Nigeriamourns Tracking system shows that at least two hundred and seventy-four (274) persons lost their lives to violent killings across the country.
In its Mass Atrocities Casualties Report for April 2020, the group noted that particularly disturbing was the high-handedness of security personnel enforcing the COVID-19 lock-down orders. These inordinately violent actions alone led to the deaths of at least 24 persons. Other recorded attacks included banditry/pillage attacks, continued terrorism, abductions, and isolated attacks.
Below are highlights of incidents that occurred in April 2020 from the report.
At least 160 deaths were attributable to pillage/banditry in April 2020. Witnesses confirmed that because of the lock-downs, bandits operated freely, attacking in their hundreds, shooting sporadically, razing down houses and killing residents as they pillaged.
In the pillage of three local government areas in Katsina State – Dutsinma, Danmusa and Safana, at least 47 persons were killed. Normalcy was not restored for over 6 hours until a joint team of security personnel was deployed to the scene. Similarly, no fewer than 22 persons lost their lives in bandit attacks in Gangaram village of Sabin Birni Local Government of Sokoto State.
In another incident, hours after gunmen killed three persons in Ancha community in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, seven persons were hacked to death in the neighboring Hukke village in the same local government area.
Boko Haram/ISWAP Targeting State Security Forces
Terrorists killed five Nigerian security personnel in a gunfight outside Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. In another incident, seven persons were killed after Boko Haram insurgents attacked two vehicles traveling along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway.
Extrajudicial killings perpetrated by security agents have remained a constant decimal in Nigeria. Directly related to their enforcement duties related to the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, security agents killed 24 persons while carrying out their duties. For instance, a man identified as Joseph Pessu was killed during a clash between restive youths and soldiers enforcing the stay-at-home order in Delta State. In Kaduna State, 2 incidents of extrajudicial killings which involved officers of the Nigerian Police Force and correctional service officers were reported. These incidents occasioned the deaths of 11 persons. There has been no further news about the apprehension of the officers responsible for these deaths.
In the wake of the lockdown order, cult-gangs presence took a dramatic dimension as armed gangs identified as the one million boys, numbering at least 200 invaded neighbourhoods such as: Alakuko, Ijaiye, Meiran, Iju-Ishaga, Fagbenro Street, and Kola, all in the suburbs of Lagos state.Residents subdued into hiding in their homes in fear, while others mobilized and engaged the robbers in a confrontation, to repel them from further carrying out the heinous act. The Lagos state police command also increased personnel deployment to the affected areas and gave out emergency numbers to call in case of attacks.
The Insecurity of Security Officers
The attacks on security agents continues to be a worrisome trend and as with previous months, they have recorded double digit numbers of fatalities. Of the 274 deaths recorded in the month of April 2020, at least 13 of them were of security agents.
The spiraling spate of the security in Nigeria has continuously caused citizens to become reactive rather than proactive. There has not been any convincing response to these violent conflicts by the security forces as news of killings continue to emanate.
One of the primary objectives of government is to protect the lives and properties of its citizens, however, violent killings abound and this questions the capacity of the Nigerian state to adequately secure the lives and properties of its citizens. One begins to wonder if the state, with its primary responsibility has become complacent.
It is paramount that we document these deaths, to give analyzable data to discuss ways to prevent re-occurrence and enforce tighter security laws to manage and resolve the insecurity situation.