The Nigeria Bar Association Warri Branch is calling for urgent investigation into what led to the Military altercation resulting to deaths on the covid19 lock down in Delta State.
A statement signed by the Chairman, NBA Warri Branch, Michael A. Asugo, Esq ACIArb (UK) said ‘’On the 26th day of March, 2020, the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, through a state broadcast directed all person’s resident in Delta State to stay at home for 14 days from the 1st of April, 2020 as a way of ensuring that social distancing as prescribed by the World Health Organization is enforced and to prevent the coronavirus pandemic that is currently ravaging the globe from spreading to the State. In the said broadcast, the Governor stated that certain essential service providers would be allowed to operate so that persons who require these essential services do not suffer unnecessarily. Security personnel, including soldiers were drafted in to ensure compliance with this directive.
He said ‘’While the NBA Warri Branch commends the Delta State Government for the preventive and proactive steps taken so far to keep people from being infected with the dreaded disease, it has become imperative to draw the attention of the State Government and the heads of the various security outfits in the State to the seemingly lack of understanding of the directive being exhibited by the security personnel who are supposed to ensure compliance with the directive but have taken it as an opportunity to harass, intimidate and torture members of the public.’’
The “stay at home ” directive, as far we are concerned, does not amount to a “house arrest” for everybody in the state. Members of the public have the right to leave their homes to access the nearest essential services provider in their area or neighborhoods. However, we have discovered that the policemen and soldiers trying to enforce the directive of the State Government, have interpreted it to mean that it is only persons providing the essential services as defined in the said directive that are permitted to leave their homes and move about in that regard. Consequently, some members of the public who have ventured out of their homes to access these essential services such as going to the market, petrol stations, hospital or pharmacy to access these vital needs are being harassed routinely and daily. It was the unwarranted harassment that led to the senseless and unlawful killing of a young man in Ugbuwangue, Warri on the 2nd of April, 2020 by some soldiers which in turn led to a violent protest by members of the affected community which probably led to an unconfirmed report of an attack on a military man by aggrieved members of the public. This has in turn led to a video in circulation in the social media by some soldiers threatening consequential mayhem on the people of Warri.
The NBA Warri Branch hereby condemns any such unlawful killings and calls on the State Government and the police force to immediately apprehend the culprits and prosecute them for murder. Furthermore, the Branch hereby calls on the Government to immediately set up a monitoring committee which should be made up of representatives of the State Government, the security services, the NBA and some relevant Non-Governmental Agencies to monitor the level of compliance by the security agencies involved and members of the public and give a daily report to the appropriate authorities for necessary action. The Government should quickly re brief or we educate the security personnel involved in the enforcement of the directive on what is expected of them at this time so as to avoid a repeat of the ugly and unwarranted incident of 2nd April, 2020. The irresponsible and undisciplined soldiers who threatened to unleash mayhem on Warri should be fished out and prosecuted as he is obviously not a fit and proper person to be in the Armed Forces of this country. As the Chairman of the Branch, I have drawn the attention of the Hon. Attorney General and Commissioner for justice of Delta State to these issues and he has promised to look into them with a view to taking appropriate action.
The Branch shall, through its Human Rights Committee, follow up on the case of the young man who was killed by soldiers.
Finally, the NBA Warri Branch calls on members of the public to cooperate with the Government in its bid to protect them from the rampaging virus by complying with the social distancing directive. They should access the essential service providers closest to them and if they are harassed by the security operatives or prevented from accessing essential services, they should bring the incident to the attention of the NBA Warri Branch by calling the Chairman of the Branch on 08023510275 or the Vice Chairman on 08036532138. Thank you and stay safe.