CLEEN Foundation has urged the federal government to investigate extortion of citizens by security agents while enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown in the South-South region and across the country.
The Executive Director of the organization, Dr Benson Olugbuo made the demand in a statement he signed and issued to newsmen on Tuesday.
Olugbuo noted that 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, extortion by law enforcement agents at state borders and highways despite a ban on interstate ban.
He revealed that extortion by security actors was almost the order of the day in parts of the South-south region as security agents deployed various tactics in collecting monies from residents.
Olugbuo mentioned that extortion ranged from issues such as 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 commended,” he stated.
The CLEEN Executive Director noted that high level of extortion by security operatives both within the states and at interstate borders and high ways, and weak compliance to COVID-19 directives by residents in the communities were among the gaps identified in the region.
He therefore called for the training of security agents on operational guidelines, among other key recommendations.
“There should be training of security agents on the operational guidelines for the Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies issued by Nigeria Police Force.
“The Federal Government should ensure that security personnel are provided with personal protective equipment and hazard allowance.
“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.
“There is need for a coordinated regional approach to Covid-19 directives by all state governors in South-South region,” he stressed.
Olugbuo urged state governments in the region to ensure total compliance by religious leaders in their states to Covid-19 directives on re-opening of places of worship.
He stressed that all states’ task forces 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.