On the heels of the total lockdown declared in Akwa Ibom State by Governor Udom Emmanuel in order to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa Ibom State Branch set up a 7-man Special Monitoring Committee to monitor, collate, report and document all cases of human rights abuse by the State Government Enforcement Team. The following is the report of the Committee for the week ending Sunday, 5th April, 2020:
- Daily Briefing on the Pandemic:
CLO is disturbed that since the total lockdown, there has been a dearth of update on efforts of the state government at combatting the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic. CLO is also disturbed that several days after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) pronounced five positive cases in Akwa Ibom State and the subsequent state broadcast by the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, there has not been further information on the patients and their current state of health and other developments.
CLO urges the state government to hold daily press briefing to update citizens and residents on the pandemic as is the practice in other states and across the world.
- Provision of Palliatives to the Citizens/Residents:
CLO is worried that days after the total lockdown, there is so far, no pronouncement on palliatives by the state government to the citizens and residents of the state, particularly the vulnerable, who are badly affected by the lockdown. Similarly, CLO is worried that Akwa Ibom State has not been shown to have benefited from the federal government palliatives. CLO urges the state government to make a definite pronouncement, urgently, to the citizens and residents of the state on the palliatives put in place to cushion the harsh effects of the total lockdown on the citizens and residents of the state.
CLO also urges the state government to demand and obtain the state’s share of the federal government palliatives for onward distribution to all the citizens and residents as is the case in other coronavirus affected states. CLO appeals to individuals, multinationals and other corporate organisations operating within the state to donate funds and relief materials to the people of the state.
- Electricity Supply:
CLO observed that there has not been adequate electricity supply in the state within the week under review and wishes to call on the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) to step up and ensure constant supply of electricity to the people. CLO urges that staff of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) should be seen and treated as persons on essential services by the enforcement team.
- Courts Sittings:
In order to ensure unfettered dispensation of justice and the decongestion of Police cells and Correctional Centres (Prison facilities), CLO urges the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State to immediately direct, at least, one High Court and one Magistrate’s Court, to sit on urgent matters, such as enforcement of fundamental rights, bail, and custody related matters during the period of the lockdown.
- Harassment of Persons on Essential Duties and Services:
CLO observed that several persons on essential duties were harassed by the enforcement team on their way to their places of work within the week under review. Available data, phone calls and reports from affected persons pointed to the prevalence of this anomaly and infringement on the rights of these citizens and residents of the state. CLO condemns this act in its totality as it is outside the scope of the lockdown Regulations.
Reports of harassment of food sellers and groceries stores attendants in Urua Oto in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area and Ete in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area were also collated by the CLO Monitoring Committee within the week under review. In Urua Oto for instance, the enforcement team impounded and carted away raw foods, such as yams, beans, rice, garri, tomatoes and other consumables, while in Ete, sellers of perishable foodstuffs were harassed and their foodstuffs carted away by the Enforcement Team.
- Extortion of Citizens/Residents by the Enforcement Team:
In the week under review, CLO observed that the Enforcement Team went outside its scope of duty and best practices to extort motorists, especially commercial motorists, such as tricycle (Keke) drivers and mini-bus drivers before allowing them passage. For instance, on Saturday, 4th April, 2020, at about 6:45 p.m., some Keke operators were arrested and detained by the Enforcement Team for over 2 hours at Edet Akpan Avenue (Four Lanes) by Nwaniba Road by Water fountain. The Enforcement Team had demanded for N1000 from each of the drivers. It took the intervention of the CLO Special Monitoring Committee for the Keke drivers to be released with the tricycles. Similar incidents were also observed on the same day by the CLO monitoring Committee at Utang Street, Ikpa Road, and sections of Ikot Ekpene Road, all in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
- Need for Members of the Enforcement Team to Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
CLO observed that most members of the Enforcement Team were themselves unprotected against the Coronavirus, as they were bereft of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). CLO is worried that this exposes the unprotected members of the Enforcement Team to possible infection and spread of the coronavirus in the State in the course of implementing the lockdown. CLO is also worried that this could send a wrong message to the public that the lockdown is punitive against citizens and residents of the state or that the coronavirus is not what it is said to be.
CLO urges the authorities to, as a matter of utmost urgency, educate and sensitise all members of the Enforcement Team on the devastating effects of the coronavirus and as well provide them with personal protective equipment, including hand sanitizers, and ensure that the members of the Enforcement Team use the personal protective equipment and the hand sanitizer regularly.
- Discipline of Erring Member of the Enforcement Team:
CLO commends the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Imohimi Edgal, for displaying courageous leadership in the prompt disciplinary measure meted out to Corporal Alexander Edidiong former Sergeant, who was involved in the abuse of the human rights of Dr. David Daniel Edet on 3rd April, 2020, along Nung Oku junction by the ring road.
CLO urges the Commissioner of Police, who is the head of the state Enforcement Team on the lockdown, to redouble efforts towards ensuring that the Team under his watch implements the total lockdown Regulations with civility and without abusing the rights of citizens and residents of the State.
- Compliance to Lockdown Regulations:
CLO calls on all citizens and residents in Akwa Ibom State to comply strictly with the total lockdown as directed by the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, except those on essential duties and services, in order not to be infected and/or spread the coronavirus.
Members of the CLO Monitoring Committee are:
- Comrade Nsemeke Udoakpan – Chairman
- Comrade (Barr.) Christopher Ekpo – Secretary
- Comrade (Barr.) Inibehe Effiong – Member
- Comrade (Barr.) Eyibio Okon – Member
- Rev. Fr. Cletus Etim – Member
- Rev. David Essien – Member
- Comrade Idorenyin Sampson – Member
Otuekong Franklyn Isong
(Chairman, CLO, Akwa Ibom State)
Dated; Monday, 6th April, 2020.