Phone: +234-7067899368

Covid-19: CLEEN Foundation Observes that Most Citizens in the South-East wear Face Masks because of the fear of Security Agents and not to Prevent Coronavirus Disease Spread in the Region

Covid-19: CLEEN Foundation Observes that Most Citizens in the South-East wear Face Masks because of the fear of Security Agents and not to Prevent Coronavirus Disease Spread in the Region

FILE PICTURE: August 26, 2018

For Immediate Release
3:00 pm
Saturday 4th July 2020

CLEEN Foundation Observes that Most Citizens in the South-East wear Face Masks
because of the fear of Security Agents and not to Prevent Coronavirus Disease
Spread in the Region

  1. Introduction

corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, a global disruption with
unprecedented geopolitical, health and security implications have been increasing
rapidly in Nigeria despite Federal and various State Government’s efforts to
flatten the curve through lockdown directives and its enforcement by security
officers, gradual phasing of imposed lockdown and reopening of the economy. The
exponential increase in Covid-19 confirmed cases and deaths on a daily basis indicates
the rise and spread of community transmission as the virus is apparently not a
respecter of persons or status.

Cumulatively, as at 30th
June 2020, South East geo-political zone has 1,414 confirmed cases, 677
discharged and 18 deaths. A breakdown shows there are 310 confirmed cases, 207 discharged
and three deaths in Abia state. There are 261 confirmed cases, 73 discharged
and six deaths in Enugu State. Anambra state recorded 73 confirmed cases, 57 discharged
and nine deaths. Ebonyi state recorded 438 confirmed cases, 357 discharged and
three deaths while Imo state recorded 332 confirmed cases, 40 discharged and
six deaths. In general, there are very few reports of security officers who
tested positive for coronavirus disease. However, in June 2020, it was reported
that ten Police Officers tested positive in Abia state. There is need for an
assessment of the possible impact of Covid-19 on security agents in the

2.0 Methodology

This is an aggregated  report of happenings inSouth-East, Nigeria from April – June 2020whichdocuments the
experiences/observations of 95 local government observers/volunteers and 5 state
coordinators across the five states in the zone specifically through the use of
electronic platform on compliance by citizens of government directives
and rights violations by security personnel in the region. A total of 95 observers and 5 coordinators
were trained and deployed across the respective states and Local Government Areas
in the region. These reports have been forwarded to
Government agencies including the National Human Rights Commission, the Police
Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Force (Complaints Response Unit and
the Gender Desk Unit). The CLEEN Foundation will continue to follow-up on their


3.1 Extra-Judicial
Killings by Security Personnel

There has been twelve (12) reported cases of extrajudicial
killings in the region by our observers.  Abia State accounted for six (6) deaths involving
officers of the Nigeria Police Force.  The
outcry of these extra judicial killings led to the redeployment of the former
Commissioner of Police of Abia State who was accused of inaction in the face of
the killings of citizens.  In Anambra State, four deaths were recorded involving
the Nigeria Police and the State Covid 19 Task Force enforcing government directives.

In Enugu State, a 27-yr-old 500 level Law student of Nnamdi
Azikiwe University, Awka, Augustine Ugwu, was allegedly murdered by an officer
of the Nigeria Police Force at Nsukka.  Furthermore, two persons were extra-judicially
killed by Naval officers at Ngor Okpala LGA of Imo State within the period
under review. In view of the increasing rates of extra judicial killings, the Federal
House of Representatives in May 2020, directed security agencies in Nigeria to
bring to justice the officials who were involved in the killing and other
abuses during the lockdown.
There have been calls for justice for the victims by citizens but as at the
time of writing, the perpetrators are yet to be brought to book.

3.2 Brutality of Citizens
by Security Operatives

CLEEN Foundation Observers reported military
officers at various checkpoints brutalizing and dehumanizing citizens for not
wearing facemasks in Abia state. There have been outcries by drivers and road
users over cases of bribery and extortion by security officials on the roads
within the south-east region especially at the borders. There
was an incident in Onuimo LGA, at Umuna junction Mopol checking point, Imo
state on Saturday, 16th May 2020 where a trailer driver was
brutalized by the police officers due to minor disagreement on the compulsory
extortion fee by the police. The incident escalated into a serious crisis
between police and trailer drivers which nearly led to a breakdown of law and
order by the aggrieved citizens. There have been reports by drivers and road
users in Enugu state over cases of bribery and extortion by security officials
(State Covid 19 taskforce) on the roads within the state during this reporting
period. Further reports from Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA of Anambra
state indicated that security operatives (including local vigilante groups)
harass and extort money from people from 8:00 pm because of the curfew. It was
observed that people pay as high as N10,000 or have their cars impounded.
Bystanders in front of their houses were also harassed by security agents.
Extortion by security officers was commonly observed and reported in almost all
the LGAs in Imo State. It was further reported that the security officers at
strategic locations including borders were seen collecting moneys from drivers
and passengers to allow free movements within and outside the State. Meanwhile,
many security checking points transformed their extortion methods by using
youths to avoid easy identification by observers. The extortion by security
officers is still in progress in almost all the LGAs and borders of Imo State according
to the reports from our observers.


During the COVID-19 lockdown period, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) published human rights violations recorded during the lockdown.  In the South East, Enugu state topped the list of human rights violations reported during the first week of May 2020. Out of 104 complaints and incidents of alleged human rights violations received by the Commission from April 27th to May 3rd 2020, Enugu State had the highest recorded cases with 13 incidents followed by Imo State with 12 cases respectively. The conduct and activities of security agents and state Covid-19 taskforce trying to enforce the government directives in curtailing the spread in Enugu state contributed to the high number of human rights cases as documented. CLEEN Foundation will continue to monitor developments and report on disciplinary measures taking against the perpetrators of these crimes.


South East governors were observed to have responded to the
pandemic swiftly through various measures including lockdowns, curfews, ban on
public gatherings and events, Restriction of interstate movements, compulsory
wearing of face masks, social distancing guidelines among others. The level of
compliance on each of the directives varied as follows:

1 Stay at Home Order:

directive was partially complied with in the region leading to the south east governors’
addition of curfews in some hotspot areas. In Abia state, the restriction order
was partially lifted in May due to its crippling economic effect on the
citizens who are mostly into commerce and trade. Presently, state
governors are threatening to restrict movements again following the rising
number of cases in the region. In Enugu state, this directive was totally
complied with by civil servants and partially complied with by the rest of the
public, particularly those in commercial sector. The partial compliance led to
the state governments addition of curfews (10:00 pm to 6:00 am) in the state
and total closure of the main markets such as Ogbete/Akwata, Mayor and Garki.
This restriction order was partially lifted in early June 2020 due to its
crippling economic effect on the citizens. The Anambra state governor declared
two weeks of total lockdown in the state on the 11th of April and lifted it on
the 25th April, 2020. Even with the stay at home order, the citizens of Anambra
state struggled to comply with the order on the grounds that they feed
themselves from their daily activities without support from the government and
staying at home would result to hunger and starvation. Also, at the wake of
possible extension of the stay at home order by the Governor, some market associations
threatened a protest should the Governor attempt to extend the lock down. The pressure
from religious bodies, traders and the clamour
for survival by the people made the Governor to lift the stay at home order by providing
strict measures which the citizens, the market traders and churches must abide
to control the spread of the virus.

 Imo state was also on total lockdown for a
while to curtail the spread of the virus. Presently, the stay at home order is
no longer active in some parts of the state due to some obvious reasons
including hunger, non-payment of salaries, and lack of palliative supports from
the government.

4.2 Non-Compliance
with Physical Distancing Guidelines/Use of Facemasks

There are reports of general apathy to these
guidelines especially in Banks, worship centers and markets in Abia and Enugu
states. Despite the efforts of the state’s officials in getting leaders of
communities, religious bodies and markets to commit to enforcement of social
distancing prior to the partial relaxation, it was observed that citizens threw
caution to the wind as they go about their normal businesses. Most citizens
were not wearing face masks and the few citizens seen wearing facemasks either
hang it on their jaw or wear it inappropriately. The quality of facemasks and
their efficacy in protecting citizens has to be questioned. Majority of Imo state
citizens find it very difficult to comply with the compulsory facemasks order.
They see those obeying the rules as possible covid-19 carriers.

Most people wear
facemasks not because of protection but just to cross Police/Army check points
or gain access to the banks and other financial institutions. There are reports
of non-compliance at various LGAs and communities, especially in churches,
markets and commercial buses. Reports from Nwangele, Obowo, Ahiazu Mbaise,
Orlu, Okigwe, Onuimo, Ngor Okpala, Orlu, Isu in Imo state suggested that the
poor compliance may be ascribed to poor sensitization of the local communities
on the reality of Covid-19 and urgent need for adequate infection prevention
and control measures. The zeal for physical distancing has reduced to the
extent that people are boldly hugging themselves in the markets, burial and
marriage ceremonies without safety considerations. Furthermore, the physical
distancing directive is not being adhered with in Anambra state as most citizens
are not complying at various local food markets visited around Nnewi, Nkpor and
Onitsha amongst others show low compliance level to this guideline. Unfortunately,
it is higher within urban areas like Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi.

Citizens Compliance on Ban on Public Gatherings

 There is reasonable compliance to the various state’s
governments’ guidelines on gatherings as community leaders and local government
chairmen are being used to enforce this in the region.  Abia and Enugu States Government are observed
to issue a permit for any event with strict directives on number of attendees.
While burials are allowed, events like weddings and other non-essential
gatherings remain banned in the states. Public Gatherings were banned at the
beginning of the lockdown when the Anambra state government swung into action
to prevent the virus from either entering the state or spreading. The
traditional rulers and vigilantes were enjoined to ensure compliance at the
community level. This was achieved as violators were flogged and their activities
disrupted.  However, after lifting of the
sit at home order, the Government directed that any public function should not
accommodate people more than thirty (30) in number including traditional
ceremonies and burials as the citizens were allowed to bury their loved ones.
These notwithstanding, multiple reports have it that Bars and Restaurants
opening within Awka are yet to adhere to the directive and since they open and
operate at night, there is little obstruction they encounter from enforcement agencies.
There is fairly adequate compliance to the ban on social gatherings such as
weddings, burials, night clubs, meetings and sports activities in some parts of
Imo State. The burial ban was slightly lifted on 16th May, 2020 when
the Executive Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma gave two weeks break
for burials without ceremonial gatherings. This decision came as a result of
the increased pressure in the available mortuaries in Imo State due to lack of
space for new corpses.  It appears that
the ease on burials automatically lifted the ban for other public gatherings
such as wedding ceremonies, political party meetings, birthday parties and so
on. Several burial ceremonies and other public gatherings took place at
different locations without any form of adherence to the recommended physical distancing
and use of personal protective equipment (PPEs).

4.4 Inter-State

This has been the loophole which the states
governments in the region have been making frantic efforts to plug. For instance,
due to the economic status of the city of Aba, most traders from surrounding
states have continued to break the travel ban to visit the state. It is
therefore not a surprise that about 70% of the new and rising cases in the
state are being reported in Aba, Abia State. On the other hand, Enugu State is
a gateway state to Eastern region of Nigeria sharing boundaries with Kogi and
Benue states.  Because of this, most
traders from northern states have continued to break the travel ban to visit
Eastern part of Nigeria through Enugu border communities.

During the period under review, there were
media and eyewitness reports of influx of Almajiri children and other youths
from the North to the East during the lockdown and interstate travel ban
period. State governors alleged the complicity of security agencies in making
its borders porous thus receiving bribes and allowing visitors in the region
despite the ban. The cases of reported migration of Northern youths into the
region are one report too many which led the states to set up its own taskforce
to complement police at border points. A particular index case in Abakpa, Enugu
East LGA is a woman who was said to have travelled from Plateau state to Enugu
and Covid-19 related symptoms manifested few days after her arrival.

Based on available
reports, there are free movements of people both within the LGAs and also
across the borders of Imo State and neighbouring states such as Abia, Anambra
and Rivers States. The State borders are very porous due to complicity of
security officers in the enforcement of the inter-state movement ban. The
officers at the borders focus more attention on extortion from drivers and
passengers than playing their roles. Towards the third week of April, attention
in Anambra state was shifted from people with travel history outside the
country to community level spread of the disease, prompting the government to
place a ban on inter-state movement, but allowed the movement of those on
essential services and those carrying essential goods. However, this order was
disobeyed as citizens were moving in and out of the state with connivance of
security personnel who collect bribe to allow them pass as observed in Onitsha
Head Bridge where passengers pay about one thousand naira to security agents on
duty. Also, citizens travelling from other States like Enugu are made to have
the Bus conveying them to stop at the Boundary between Enugu and Anambra state
by security agents at the border.  They
will have to walk through the boundary and board other vehicles in the other
part of Anambra state to continue the journey to their destination in the


is an upsurge in sexual and gender based violence cases reported in the South
East within this period and most of them are related to domestic abuse. It is
worrisome that several of these cases go unreported and most times
unprosecuted. A major sexual violence case reported within the period is that
of the 39-year-old man, Charles Okoro, accused of raping a 7-year-old girl, who
lives in the same compound with her single mum in Aba, Abia state. The story
went viral because it was alleged that officers of the Nigeria Police Force were
trying to ‘broker peace’ instead of arraigning the suspect and seeking for
justice. In a related development, a mother of four children was raped and
murdered by a suspected ritualist at Umu-chiaku Lowa Uboma in Ihitte/Uboma LGA
of Imo State.


Several public safety and security incidents were recorded in
the South-East from April to June 2020.  For
example, security agents confronted members of the Indigenous People of Biafra
(IPOB) protesting the killing of Christians and civilians in the country on
June 8 2020. Even though no fatality was recorded, it is reported that about seven
protesters were detained after the incident in Umuahia. There were reports of
kidnapping within Abia state especially in Aba. In one of the cases, Vanguard Newspapers
reported on May 9 of the rescue of two victims by officers of the Nigeria
Police Force. Other
security related incidents recorded in Imo State include armed robbery,
assassination and kidnapping in different parts of the state especially Okigwe
and Onuimo LGAs.

On Tuesday, June 2 2020, a wealthy young
man was gruesomely murdered by an unknown-gunmen within Okigwe town. In
addition, there has been several attempts of kidnapping with heavy shootings in
Okigwe town within the reporting period. As a result, there is fear and
apprehension within Okigwe and Onuimo communities in Imo State. In a related
development, a case of killing of Mr. Ozoemena Iriaka, a 75 years old man farmer
from Agwa community allegedly by suspected herdsmen was recorded at Oguta LGA
of Imo State. This ugly incident left the community with serious tension,
although the Imo state Commissioner of Police has intervened to ensure that the
perpetrators are brought to book.

Another murder incident took place in
Okigwe, Imo State on Tuesday 30th June, 2020. Three commercial cyclist
operators were attacked by armed robbers who pretended to be customers along
Umulolo road in Okigwe LGA and took their motorcycles away to an unknown
destination. Two of the victims died on the spot, while one is alive and receiving
treatment at Federal Medical Centre Umuahia. There is security tension in
Okigwe at the moment as a result of the incident as the victims were said to be
from the northern part of the country.


  1. Several people in the South-East wear face
    masks because of security agents and not necessarily to prevent coronavirus
  2. There is an upsurge in reported cases of sexual
    and gender-based violence.
  3. Due to non-availability of adequate personal
    protective equipment, most security officials are exposed to risk of contacting
    the infection while they enforced government directives.
  4. Majority
    of the citizens are nonchalant to the existence of the virus despite the increase
    of covid-19 cases in the region.
  5. There
    is poor compliance to physical distancing directives and use of facemasks in
    the markets, commercial buses and most public gatherings such as wedding,
    burial and community meetings.
  6. There
    is poor sensitization on the importance of the use of personal protective
    equipment especially in Imo state.
  7. There is an
    increase in
    reported crimes during the Covid-19 pandemic in different parts of the
  8. There
    is incessant compromise and extortion by security personnel at the borders while
    the ban on interstate travels lasted.
  9. There
    are very few reports of security officers who tested positive for coronavirus
    disease in the South East and its impact on security agents generally.


  1. There is need to retrain personnel of security
    agencies in the region on non-violent policing and enforcement of Covid-19 guidelines
    to ensure synergy with other government agencies and respect for the rights of
    South East citizens.  
  2. There should be continuous public
    sensitization and provision of hotlines for reporting and documenting cases of
    human rights abuses by security agents and cases of sexual and gender based
    violence against women and girls.
  3. There is need for continuous
    sensitization and advocacy in all the states in South East due to the rising
    surge in community transmissions of the coronavirus disease.
  4. There is need to provide personal protective
    kits to security operatives in the region given the rising cases especially
    with over 10 police officers testing positive to COVID-19 in Abia state
  5. The
    States Governors should consider informal policing groups to support the formal
    policing groups in the enforcement of the ban on inter-state movement at the
  6. The
    South East Governors Forum should prioritize improving safety and security of
    the citizens always and in all places, especially in inner cities and
  7. There
    is need for an assessment of the possible impact of Covid-19 on security agents
    in the South East and the entire country.

May God bless the Federal
Republic of Nigeria and heal our land.

Benson Olugbuo, Ph.D.
Executive Director
CLEEN Foundation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.