Covid-19: Curbing the Spread of The Virus Through Protection of Basic Human Rights
Every human being is entitled to certain fundamental rights by virtue of being human. These rights include the right to life, liberty, and security. Therefore, international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have embodied these rights in legally binding instruments. Article 3 and 9 of the UDHR and article 9 and 12 of the ICCPR have specifically mentioned the right to liberty and security of person. It states that no one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest for detention and no one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law. Majority of the of the UN member states including Nigeria have undertaken these international commitments and incorporated the rights in its domestic legislation.
However, the situation of human rights abuses in Nigeria is alarming. The illegal detention, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, torture, and ill-treatment both by state and non-state actors are escalating with each day. Torture, pre-trial detention, and arbitrary arrests are used as a tool to suppress dissenting voices in the country. The systemic human rights abuse is fueling the prevalent violence and disregard for law and order in the country. The reports of international human rights organizations have indicated that the prison inmates are subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. According to a report of Amnesty International, at least 10,000 victims have died in military detention. The victims include adult males, women and children; who are routinely subjected to ill-treatment and sexual abuses in these detention centers.
The increasing cases of illegal detention have created issues of prison congestion. According to the report of Amnesty International, Kaduna prison which has a capacity for only 473 detainees, now has 1, 480 prisoners. Similarly, Enugu Maximum Security Prison with a capacity for 638 inmates, has 2,077 inmates. The same situation present itself in Agodi prison, Ibadan with a capacity of 380 inmates, but housing over 1,400 inmates and the Ikoyi prison with a capacity of 800 inmates housing over 3000 inmates. The basic facilities and hygiene are also not available in these detention centers. In this time of the global pandemic, which demands social distancing, basic hygiene, and other forms of preventive measures, the situation of detention centers has endangered the lives of thousands of prisoners. If measures are not taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in these detention centers, the result may be catastrophic. . Therefore, it is important that international human rights organizations and other civil society organizations demand the Nigerian government to take immediate measures to address these challenges.
The state of affairs in Nigeria is not only a violation of international commitments but it is also an infringement of rights granted by the Constitution of Nigeria to its citizens. The state needs to establish its writ and work in collaboration with national and international human rights organizations to protect the rights of people. The state has to act in compliance with national and international human rights instruments and prevent illegal detention, arbitrary arrest, and extrajudicial killings. Similarly, the state has to take effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the detention centers by providing basic facilities. Otherwise, the situation may lead to lethal consequences and endanger the lives of thousands of people.


Emmanuel Akinwotu, (2020), Nigerian Forces accused of torture and illegal detention of children, The Guardian.