By Chimezie Godfrey
CLEEN Foundation has disclosed that citizens of the South-Eastern part of Nigeria wear facemasks because of fear of security agents and not to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
This was revealed in a statement signed by the Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Benson Olugbuo and made available to Newsdiaryonline on Sunday.
Olugbuo stated that the Foundation identified gaps in the implementation and citizens’ compliance with the COVID-19 preventive measures.
According to him, some of the gaps include non challant attitude of citizens to the existence of the virus, incessant compromise and extortion by security personnels at the borders, among others.
“Several people in the South-East wear face masks because of security agents and not necessarily to prevent coronavirus spread.
“There is an upsurge in reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence.
“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.
“Majority of the citizens are nonchalant to the existence of the virus despite the increase of covid-19 cases in the region.
“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.
“There is poor sensitization on the importance of the use of personal protective equipment especially in Imo state.
“There is incessant compromise and extortion by security personnel at the borders while the ban on interstate travels lasted,” he stated.
The CLEEN Executive Director also stated that there is an increase in reported cases of crime during the COVID-19 pandemic in different parts of the South-East.
In the light of forgoing, he called for non-violent policing and enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines, among other important recommendations.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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 recently.
“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 borders,” he stressed.
Olugbuo called on the South East Governors Forum to prioritize improving safety and security of the citizens always and in all places, especially in inner cities and communities.
He also stressed the need for assessment of the possible impact of Covid-19 on security agents in the South East and the entire country.