Rev Fr Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP

You shall not kill”(Exod. 20:13).

The ten commandments are the charter of the freedom of the children of God (humanity as a whole). Consequently, the results of the atrocious acts committed against humanity during World War II which ended in 1945, led to the official inception of the United Nations on 24th of October, 1945.

Following the establishment of the United Nations, 50 member states were allowed to make contributions to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

In that declaration, which took place on December 10th, 1948 in Paris, during the United Nations General Assembly, human rights were clearly defined as THOSE RIGHTS INHERENT TO ALL HUMANS.

In the definition, it was clearly stated that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security” (“Universal Declaration of Human Rights”).

Sadly, the right to life, freedom, and security is now being atrociously violated by those who are supposed to offer security of life to the people, all because they have might, and access to weapons.

No one has any right over his/her life, let alone the life of another. Every human being is only a steward to the life that God has graciously given to us all (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2280-2281). So, only God the owner of life has absolute right over life.

As at April 15th, 2020, the death toll from COVID-19 in Nigeria stood at 11. ‘Not too bad, compared to the number of recovered cases,’ some may say. However, it’s quite tragic that the number of those killed by our overzealous security personnel in the name of enforcing lockdown stood at 18 as at the same April 15th.

The report on the figures above was made public on April 15th, 2020 by Mr Anthony Ojukwu, the Secretary General of Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), during “Politics Today” on Channels TV.

According to him, civilians’ complaints of brutality and killings by security operatives were received from 24 out of Nigeria’s 36 states between March 30th and April 13th. Social Action published an interesting article about this trend.

Put together, it means that 29 persons as at April 15th, died in the context of coronavirus, since its outbreak in Nigeria. But the number of those killed through human rights violations far outweigh the number of those killed by coronavirus itself.

Now that the number of infected persons has risen to 5621, with 176 fatalities (as at May 16th), I hope that more persons have not been killed by our overzealous security personnel (though the Director of NHRC had reported, during a Press briefing on May 12th 2020, that the figures of human rights abuses have dropped).

After that report by the NHRC Boss, there was outrage in some parts of Plateau State, as Nigerians demanded justice for the arrest, torture and brutal murder of Rinji Peter Bala, a 20yr old 300level student of History and International Studies, University of Jos by a personnel of the Nigerian Army, for alleged violation of lockdown order around 7pm (cf. “RAGE AS NIGERIANS DEMAND JUSTICE FOR SLAIN 20 YEAR OLD!” by Joyce Shelu).

During the Presidential Task Force briefing on May 14th, an AIT reporter complained of lack of synergy between security personnel enforcing the lockdown order, and the order itself which gives room for the free movement of those on essential duties.

Since May 13th 2020, some Medical Doctors in Abuja have been threatening to abandon their duty post to security personnel who have consistently trampled on their rights to freedom of movement as essential workers. An instance was the case of a medical doctor who was forced to sit on the ground or be shot, because he was returning from night duty.

While reacting to the report on the abuse of power and brutal killings that took place between March and April, a Deputy Inspector General of Police, Babatunde Ogunyanwo, said that the police “shall investigate and those found culpable will face justice” (cf. “Nigeria: Commission claims 18 killed in virus lockdown” by Olarewaju Kola, April 16, 2020).

Sadly, till now I have not read anything from security chiefs on decisive penalties on overzealous security personnel. What I keep reading and seeing on National TV are threats to deal with any security personnel found wanting during the lockdown. What about those who have already committed the heinous crime of extra judicial killings? I guess they are still investigating.

It is often said in our local parlance that ‘Wen breeze blow fowl yansh go open‘ (nothing stays hidden forever). Is this not a further exposure of the decay in our security system? Armed forces that are supposed to enforce law and order have become the ones killing innocent Nigerians who were out there to fight for their daily survival.

Why try to imitate the western world when you do not have their type of support system, or technical know how? Can’t Africa, and Nigeria in particular do things her own way?

Why did our leaders lockdown the Nation for two weeks without properly evaluating the consequences of the lockdown? Why didn’t we foresee the murders, the acute hunger, the increase in neighbourhood crime? And while these issues were yet to be resolved, why was the lockdown further extended?

Now that total lockdown restrictions have been eased in some parts of the country, why the continuous increase in human rights violations? Our security personnel should not forget that there are countless number of their families and friends out there who have no right and access to guns as they do. It is said that goats do not bite, but when a goat is pushed to the wall, it may be forced to bite.

Our leaders must act now by bringing these overzealous security personnel to book. Else, they may be stoking the embers of a cauldron that may overwhelm us all. And if that happens, only God knows the extent of the harm it may cause us as a nation.

In all of this, where is the sensitivity of the leadership of this country? Where is the President? Have we done anything wrong to be Nigerians? We did not choose ourselves, we were chosen by God to be Nigerians. So why have we become prey in the hands of those who are supposed to protect us?

The leaders of Africa, and particularly Nigeria, should know that life does not end here. Everyone will give account of his/her stewardship before the Supreme Leader and Giver of life on the last day.

Finally, this article does not in anyway seek to justify the violations of lockdown orders by violators. But a call for a holistic approach by our leaders, and justice for those brutally murdered, through democratic principles rooted in the Rule of Law.

For justice delayed is justice denied.

Image credit@pixabay