Phone: +234-7067899368

COVID-19: CLEEN Foundation Observes High Level of Extortion by Security Agents Enforcing Lockdown in the South-South; Demands Investigation of such Practices Across the Country

COVID-19: CLEEN Foundation Observes High Level of Extortion by Security Agents Enforcing Lockdown in the South-South; Demands Investigation of such Practices Across the Country

For Immediate Release
Tuesday 14th July 2020
Abuja – Nigeria
3:00 pm

Foundation Observes High Level of Extortion by Security Agents Enforcing
Lockdown in the South-South; Demands Investigation of such Practices Across the

1.0 Introduction

 As the
coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continues to ravage many states across the
Federation, governments at all levels continue to adopt various measures in
collective efforts to stem the tide of the virus in Nigeria. Virtually all
sectors of public and private spheres have been affected by the pandemic with
attendant increases in human rights violations by state security actors,
unexplained deaths in parts of the Northwest/Northeast of Nigeria and extortion
by law enforcement agents at state borders and highways despite a ban on
interstate travels. The increasing rates of sexual and gender based violence within
and post-lockdown period in various parts of the country is a worrying
development. Sadly, these reports of various sexual abuses, incest, domestic
violence, rape leading to murder have continued unabated. The
consensus in the south south region has been the adoption of facemasks as a
preventive measure in combating the pandemic following the gradual ease of
lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun from the 4th of May 2020. The use
of facemasks has been matched with other COVID-19 directives and legal
frameworks in some instances by some governments in the region in efforts to
bring the pandemic to an end in Nigeria.

The increasing rate of confirmed cases of COVID-19
in Nigeria and for the region inclusively has been sources of great concern. As
of 30th June 2020, the South-south geo-political zone recorded 3417 confirmed
cases, 1254 discharged and 116 deaths. A breakdown shows there were 965 confirmed
cases, with 190 discharged and 23 deaths recorded in Delta state alone. In
Rivers state, we recorded 1056 confirmed cases, with 622 discharged and 38 deaths.
Furthermore, Bayelsa, recorded 205 confirmed cases, with 100 discharged and 14 deaths.
Akwa Ibom state 86 confirmed cases, 54 discharged and 2 deaths while Edo State
had 1105 confirmed cases, 288 discharged and 39 deaths. However, Cross River
state remained the only state with no known cases of COVID-19, none discharged
and no deaths as a result of the pandemic.

Generally, across the region, compliance to the use
of facemasks was particularly noticeable in the urban parts of the region but
weak in rural areas. In some cases, as seen in riverine areas, there were cases
of non compliance to the use of facemasks and social distancing. The trend was
not only noticeable within the residents but also security actors deployed on
COVID-19 duties were seen in various instances without the use of facemasks
while on duty. Extortion by security actors was almost the order of the day in
parts of the region as security agents deployed various tactics in collecting
monies from residents. These ranged from failure to use the facemasks to
extortion of passengers both within and across state borders. The complicity of
security actors needs to be addressed as part of ongoing measures to bring the
pandemic under control in Nigeria. We advocate for the prioritization of the
safety of security actors on COVID-19 duties and the effective and speedy
disciplinary measures to control actions of professional misconduct of erring
security operatives. We also recommend that officers who have exhibited
professionalism during the Covid-19 lockdown period should be officially

  1. Methodology

As part of the efforts to achieve the objectives of
its public safety and security project on COVID-19, CLEEN Foundation engaged
and trained 6 state coordinators and128 observers across all the local
government areas in the South-South region. These coordinators and observers monitored,
verified and documented several cases of human rights violations by security
operatives in the region in addition to citizens’ adherence to government
directives during the total lockdown and 2nd phase of the eased lockdown period.
The project worked in partnership with key government oversight bodies such as
the National Human Rights Commission, the Police Service Commission and law
enforcement institutions like the Nigeria Police Force (Complaints Response
Unit and the Gender Desk Unit) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence
Corps. CLEEN Foundation will continue to follow-up on their responses on
institutional actions to address the reports submitted to them. This report is
a summary of findings in the South-South geo-political zone from 1st
April – 30th June 2020.


Human Rights Violations/Extra Judicial Killings by security personnel

There were four (4) reported cases
of extrajudicial killings of civilians involving security operatives on
COVID-19 duties in the region. Within the first lockdown period imposed by the
Delta state government, our observers recorded a case of extra-judicial killing
by a soldier who was
reported to have shot and killed a young man named Joseph Pessu in the Ugbangwe
axis of Warri for violating the lockdown order of the State Government on the 1st
of April, 2020. This incident led to public outrage by angry youths in the area
but peace was swiftly restored by the state government and the Nigeria Army while
the soldier who committed the act was promptly arrested. Similarly, on the 25th
of April 2020, a tricycle rider was shot dead by a Police officer in Otokutu
town in Delta State over an alleged refusal by the deceased to advance bribe.  

In Rivers state, a
female police officer was shot dead by a member of the Rivers State Task Force
in Elenu town in Obio- Akpor Local Government Area on the 23rd of
April 2020. The police personnel while ensuring
civility is restored between the taskforce team and the traders who violated government
directives was shot by a police sergeant attached to the State Task Force.
In addition, a young man was shot on the leg by personnel of the Nigeria Police
at Abuloma in Port Harcourt Local Government Area for violating the lock down
order which occurred on the 10th of May 2020. We commend the quick
action of the Nigerian Army in arresting her personnel for the extra-judicial
killing of a civilian and recommend the full spectrum of justice to be
administered by all security agencies whose personnel have been indicted for human
rights violations during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

2.2 Brutality of
Citizens by security agents

 The South-South
region also recorded cases of high-handedness, torture and the use of force
beyond permissible levels. These acts were perpetrated by state security agents
including COVID-19 Taskforce teams set up by the state governments in the
region. In Bayelsa state, our observers reported incidences
of human rights violations and illegal detention on the 27th of
April 2020 of children and persons living with disability in Yenagoa and Ogbia
local Government areas by the Nigeria Police at around 6:00 pm before the
restricted curfew hours of 7:00 pm. Further, a Pharmacist was reported to have
been arrested while on essential duty in Port Harcourt by the Rivers State
COVID-19 Taskforce on the 12th of May 2020. He was reported to have
been humiliated and detained in the police cell. Subsequently, the sum of N20,
000 naira was used by the Pharmacist to bail himself. We also observed
that the state taskforce team was intimidating residents while enforcing the
lock down orders, mostly around Obio Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government
areas of the state.

In Akwa Ibom state, security personnel were
observed to have violated the rights of the citizens through the use of
barbaric and unjustifiable force. A Medical Doctor of the University of Uyo
Teaching Hospital was assaulted by the security personnel on the 3rd
of April 2020 even with the production of valid means of ID which showed he was
on essential duty. We also received reports of intimidation which led to
injuries on traders in Ikot Ekpene, Akaw Ibom state by security operatives
leading to a serious altercation. The situation was however brought under control
by the intervention of the Chairman of the State COVID-19 Taskforce. Our observers also reported that in
Sapele, Delta state, security personnel shot at protesters who staged a
peaceful protest against the extension of the sit-at-home order on 16th
of April 2020. Some protesters were flogged, molested while some sustained
various degrees of injuries.  

Intra-state Lockdown and Extortion by Security Personnel

Foundation reported movements and extortion of motorists by security operatives
deployed to man various points within states in the region. Failure to wear
facemasks was a major reason for the extortion by security actors of hapless
citizens. Our observers noted these practices were particularly rampant at
security check points and roadblocks. In Delta state, our volunteers reported
that in Jeddo Community located in Okpe Local Government Area of the state,
some personnel of the Counter Terrorism Unit of the Nigeria Police Force
popularly known as the ‘Red Beret’ in the state were observed to be publicly
extorting citizens of various amounts of monies on a daily basis. The amounts
collected from citizens ranged from N5, 000 to N10, 000 daily for not wearing
facemasks while boarding commercial tricycles within the reporting period. Places
like Udu, Otokutu Bridge, Jakpa/Ekpan, Airport road in Warri, and Sapele towns
also recorded police personnel collecting between N1, 000 and N5, 000 naira for
failure to wear facemasks. In Asaba, security personnel
at the following check points: Okwe Junction, Summit road, Coka
junction, Nnebisi road, Ibusa junction were observed
extorting money from citizens to enable free access within the state capital as
against Government directive on no-movement in the state. The same was
applicable in Effurun Sapele Road, Otukutu Bridge, Ebrumede,
amongst other areas in Warri. Traders were also extorted on a regular basis by
security personnel on established market days in most markets in Uvwie and
Ughelli areas of Delta state.

 In Akwa Ibom state, it was observed that some
operatives of the Nigeria Police Force from the Surveillance unit were extorting
Tricycle operators and other motorists in the states using the excuses of no
facemask as excuses for these practices. Our volunteers observed that the rate
of extortion was particularly alarming during the day, which allowed for
movement of personnel. Road blocks were mounted at different locations in the
state namely: Afaha Obong Junction, Stadium Road by Ikot Ekpene Road Abak,
Pepsi Junction by Idoro Road Uyo, Ikot Abasi Road by New Road Opposite
Technical College Abak, Mkpat Enin, Uruan, Ikot Ekpene –Ikon Road, are places
of extortion on a daily basis. Also observed was a high level of extortion of
tricycles and mini- bus operators by officials of the State traffic Office in

Edo state, our volunteers observed incidences of brutality and extortion by
security personnel in the state. There were reports of residents being
subjected to molestation and in-human treatments by security personnel even
when arraigned by the Mobile Courts for allegedly violating government order on
the use of facemasks. These incidents were confirmed by the Nigeria Bar
Association, Benin Branch Monitoring Committee on Human Rights that most of the
residents arrested and arraigned before the mobile courts had their facemasks
but failed to wear such. In Ekpomma, Edo Central, we also recorded reports of
extortion by Police personnel of residents who did not observe government

4 Extortion by Security Operatives Interstate

The complicity of security actors in allowing movements across states was particularly worrying within the reporting period. Our volunteers in Akwa Ibom state reported that at the boundary between Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, security agents were seen collecting money and allowing butchers to pass through to Cross River State to buy goats to sell in Akwa Ibom despite a ban by the Akwa Ibom State Government. The ban on interstate movement was put in place as part of measures by the Federal governments to stop the transmission of the virus from state to state. In Delta state, our observers reported that the Ughelli-Bayelsa Highway, Koko-Benin Highway and Asaba-Onitsha head bridge became a bazaar for security personnel manning those check points who were seen extorting transporters and commuters between N500 – N3000 thousand naira at each checking point. There were regular entry and exits into the state through the Asaba – Onitsha and Patani-Bayelsa axis due to the compromising nature of security personnel. In Bayelsa state, commercial motorists were observed to commute with passengers from Yenagoa to Port Harcourt (Rivers state) and to Ughelli (Delta State) with complicity of security personnel. In Rivers state, the State land border closure were observed to be compromised as security agencies and the State Task Force were reported to collect N1000 from drivers for passage across the borders. Our volunteers further observed compromise on the part of the security personnel manning all border points and tollgates entrances to the state. However, there were commendable reports by our observers of the non-compromising nature of the taskforce manning the borders of Rivers and Cross River states due to few incidences of incursion into Rivers state.


Citizens compliance on the use of
facemasks/Physical Distancing in Public Places

On the use of facemasks and
physical distancing in the region, there were low to partial compliance in most
parts of the region. Physical distancing was observed in the urban areas while
rural communities and riverine areas carried on with business as usual. Some
places of worship adhered minimally to Covid-19 guidelines. The approved market
and movement days also served as grounds for overcrowding across major markets
in the region. In some urban areas of Delta state, it was observed
that most transporters did not adhere to physical distancing when conveying
passengers on market days. Most markets in the state are observed to operate in
Primary and Secondary schools closest to their domain and social distancing was
not adhered to as the markets were overcrowded. In the major
markets across the state, it was observed that that no measures were put in
place by the government to control the crowds for the three days which the
government directed citizens to trade and stock-up on food supplies.

Our observers further reported that
most citizens in coastal areas such as Ayakoromo, Ogbeingbene, Okirika,
Gbekebor, Obotebe, Yayorogbene, Ekoro, Egologbene, Oyangbene, Akparemogbene,
Eseimogbene in Burutu local government area areas failed to make use of their
facemasks knowing that the activities of monitoring task force were not strong
in these areas. Boat riders and passengers in the riverine communities of
Egbokodo River in Warri, River Ethiope in Sapele, Urie River in Igbide Isoko,
Asaba-Ase creek and Aragba River in Abraka, failed to make use of their masks
believing that the virus will not spread to the territory. However, with the
ease of lockdown by the
state government, most supermarkets, departmental stores,
corporate organizations and designated offices were observed to permit entry of
persons into their facilities only with facemask while the state taskforce in
enforcing violation of physical distancing was reported to have shut down some
eateries around Ekpan, Ugberikoko, Ugbolokposo all in Uvwie LGA of Delta state.

In Edo state, it was observed that in Etsako East
LGA, some churches were organising programmes with sizeable gatherings and
physical distancing was not being adhered to including in most markets in the
state due to overcrowding. Compliance is said to be average on ban on public
gathering as there are reported incidences of gathering of more than 20 persons
by citizens in some part of the state. There is moderate compliance by
residents on the use of facemasks while transporters were observed to fully
comply with the physical distancing by commuters which was enforced by the
state taskforce. In most markets visited especially
Ibillo market in Akoko Edo LGA and Okhuesan communities in Esan south east LGA,
citizens failed to adhere to physical distancing. Most transporters in the
state were observed to adhere to physical distancing while commuting passengers.
However, we still recorded few incidences of violations. Most
citizens across the state were observed not to comply with the use of facemasks
and physical distancing in public places.

The Cross River State Government on the 4th of
April 2020 signed into law the ‘No-Mask-No Movement’ policy which prohibits the
movements of persons around public places without a facemask. A penalty of
N100,000 was imposed on defaulters. Despite the policy, it was observed that some
members of the Hausa community in Calabar the state capital did not comply with
social distancing rules. However, there was a commendable
level of compliance in the usage of facemasks by residents
in the urban areas and several violations in the rural communities. Most
citizens that participated in the local government area elections held in June
2020 wore face masks. However, compliance to physical distancing amongst
citizens was not adhered to and most polling units were not provided with hand sanitizers
especially outside the state capital. It is hoped that with this new law, the
level of compliance to the use of facemasks will improve across the state.

In Bayelsa state, it was observed by our volunteers that social distancing was not observed in most markets in the state. There were reports of non-compliance to physical and social distancing by commuters, transporters and even security operatives in the state mainly made up of Police, Army and Civil Defense Corps who checked vehicle particulars and controlled crowd movement including patrolling the highways, These operatives were observed not to wear facemask and other personal protective equipment including complying with social and physical distance in their various stations and barracks including Police Force (Ekeki, Azikoro, and Akenfa Police station), Civil Defense (Water Board road), Air Force (along Okaka express way), Army and Navy Based (at Agudama town) all in Yenagoa, the state capital. It was further observed that most citizens living in the rural and riverine areas namely Kolokuma, Ogbia and Sagbama, Nembe and Southern Ijaw Local Government areas flouted government directives on the use of face mask. They were also reported not to observe physical distancing in their communities, however the compliance level in Yenagoa the state capital was observed to be high by citizens.

Our observers in Rivers state observed that the United Bank of Africa, Ikwerre Branch was observed to violate the directive on physical distancing by her customers and was almost shut down by the Local Government chairman for noncompliance within the reporting period. Other areas visited in state apart from Obio-Akpor and Port Harcourt LGAs, which were observed to commence partial lockdown on the 4th of May 2020, witnessed partial compliance by citizens to govt directives. Most transporters were observed to adhere to physical distancing while commuting passengers but there were still few incidences of violations. Furthermore, the volunteers observed that most police personnel on patrol neither wore face masks nor maintained physical distancing with motorists.

 In Akwa Ibom state, our observers reported
that in some areas namely Mbo, Okobo, Udung Uko, Urue Offong, worshippers in
churches were observed not to comply with physical distancing and the use of
facemasks while certain transporters were also observed not to comply with Government
directives on physical distancing in Uyo. Most markets visited especially at
the community levels in Oron, Uruan, Ikot Abasi, Itu, Eastern Obolo Local
Government Areas indicated low citizens’ compliance to government directive in
this regard. However, due to the government directive to open worship centres
in the state, our observers reported that physical distancing and use of
facemask was observed in churches monitored in Mkpat, Oruk, Onna, Ikot Abasi
and Uruan local government areas of the state. However, churches monitored in
Udung, Okobo, Urue Offong and Mbo local government areas by our observers indicated
that many worshippers did not make use of facemasks.

Citizens Compliance to Government imposition of curfew and Sit at Home

the six states of the region, we observed partial compliance by citizens on
curfew and sit at home restrictions by the various state governments in the
region. In Bayelsa state, it was observed that the dusk-to-dawn curfew was
flouted by citizens in all the Local Government areas including Yenagoa the
state capital. However, in Delta State our observers reported high level of
compliance to curfew directives in most parts of the State by citizens
especially after the time was extended from 8:00 pm – 6:00 am to 10:00 pm – 4:00
am. In Akwa Ibom state, most security agents who enforced the lockdown rules
were observed to fail to comply with the Federal Government directive on the
curfew hours. They maintained that they were waiting to hear from the Governor
of Akwa Ibom State thus creating confusion amongst citizens. The situation was
however different in Cross River state, where our observers reported strict
compliance to the curfew directive by citizens as the taskforce were observed to
monitor and ensure compliance. In Edo state a gradual decline in compliance to
the curfew was observed in the state as motorists were seen commuting at very
late hours without compliance to government directives.

Citizens Compliance on Ban on Public Gathering

the reporting period, our volunteers observed that in Bayelsa state, citizens
in Nembe and Ekeremo Local Government areas of the state were holding frequent
burials, funerals and wake keeping programmes without public compliance to the
ban on public gatherings. In Yenagoa, many churches had over 300 congregants in
attendance as against the prescribed number of 200 persons in large church
auditoriums. In Delta State, our observers reported low compliance with
government directive on public gatherings as citizens congregated in large
numbers in most clubs, bars and marriages monitored in the state in Uvwie,
Ughelli North, Sapele, Udu, and Warri South Local Government areas
respectively. Most marriages and birthdays held in the state within the period
under review were observed to have over 100 persons in attendance as against
the prescribed number of 50 persons. In most churches and mosques visited in
Udu, Ughelli South, Okpe, Isoko South, Patani, Sapele local government areas of
the state, congregants of more than 50 persons were observed in small
church/mosque auditoriums violated Government directives. In Akwa Ibom state, a
commendable level of compliance to the directive by citizens was observed.

7.0   Sexual
and Gender Based Violence

Rivers state, the Nigeria Police Force in arrested a 24-year-old lady who was alleged
to have sexually molested a four-year male old child of her employer which
occurred on the 10th of May 2020. In Edo state, the rape of Miss Uwa Omozuwa at
a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) on the 27th of May 2020
and her eventual death remains the most traumatizing event recorded in the
state. In Delta State, a girl of 10 years was reported to have been gang-raped
while hawking on the streets in Opuama Community, Warri North Local Government
Area on the 8th of June 2020.  These
reports are indicative of the need for state governments to set-up taskforce
teams and institute stronger measures to tackle the menace of sexual and gender
based violence in the region. We advocate for the prioritization of the safety
of children at this critical period and the need for improving police actions
on SGBV and visibility across the states. It is gratifying to note that the
Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill was passed into law by the Akwa Ibom
State House of Assembly. We advocate effective implementation of this law and
other laws to address sexual and gender based violence in the region.    

8.0 Gaps noted

  1. High level of extortion by security
    operatives both within the states and at interstate borders and highways.
  2. There was weak compliance to
    COVID-19 directives by residents in the communities and riverine areas.
  3. Public gatherings and social events
    despite ban on such engagements by the state governments in the region.
  4. Noncompliance by citizens to
    physical distancing and precautionary guidelines by the Federal Government
    and Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.
  5. Conflicting guidelines on curfew
    hours between the Federal and State Governments in the region and lack of
    synergy on COVID-19 implementation policies
  6. Low usage of personal protective
    equipment by security operatives on COVID-19 engagement in the region. 
  7. Use of face masks and physical
    distancing is not a priority to citizens in riverine communities making
    community transmission inevitable in different parts of the region
  8. Significant increase in reported cases
    of SGBV within the region in the period under review
  9. Lack of effective enlightenment
    campaigns and community mobilization of citizens in riverine areas of the
    region on the negative impact of Covid-19 on the health of citizens and
    the economy.
  10. The Taskforce on Covid-19 set up by
    states are not inclusive of significant members of the society including
    religious leaders, youths, women and people living with disabilities.  

  1. Training of
    security agents on the operational guidelines for the Police and other Law
    Enforcement Agencies issued by Nigeria Police Force.
  2. The Federal Government
    should ensure that security personnel are provided with personal protective
    equipment and hazard allowance.
  3. Security personnel
    found guilty of extorting citizens and violating human rights should be
    disciplined appropriately to serve as a deterrent to other erring officers.
    Those that have excelled professionally should be commended formally.
  4. There
    is need for a coordinated regional approach to Covid-19 directives by all
    state governors in South-South region.
  5. State
    governments in the region should ensure total compliance by religious
    leaders in their states to Covid-19 directives on re-opening of places of
  6. All
    State Taskforce on Covid-19 should be inclusive by having women, youths,
    religious leaders and people living with disabilities to enable community
    mobilization to beat the pandemic.

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

Benson Olugbuo, PhD
Executive Director,
CLEEN Foundation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.