ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian security forces killed 18 people in two weeks while enforcing lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said.
Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous country and biggest energy producer, has recorded 407 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths from the highly contagious lung disease.
Lockdowns initially slated to last 14 days were put in place on March 30 in the southern commercial hub Lagos, neighbouring Ogun state and the capital Abuja. They were extended on Sunday by two weeks and other states, such as the northern economic hub Kano, have also imposed restrictions.
The NHRC, an independent body, said in a statement dated April 15 that there had been “eight documented incidents of extrajudicial killings leading to 18 deaths” between March 30 and April 13.
It said the killings were carried out by the Nigerian Correctional Service, the police force and army.
In response, a spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service said four inmates had died after violence broke out and left a number of prisoners and staff hospitalised. The rights commission report alleged eight deaths.
The Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on the NHRC statement.
The statement said “law enforcement agents extrajudicially executed 18 persons in the cause of the enforcement regulations” related to lockdown measures.
“The report notes that most of the violations witnessed during the period arose as a result of excessive or disproportionate use of force, abuse of power, corruption and non-adherence to national and international laws, best practices and rules of engagement,” the NHRC statement said.
The NHRC said it had received 105 complaints of alleged human rights violations in the first two weeks of the lockdown.
Nigerian police and the military have repeatedly been accused by rights advocates of using excessive force, but have consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Last year the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings also accused Nigerian security forces of using excessive lethal force. The police and military did not respond to those accusations.
Reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Mark Heinrich