PRESS STATEMENT: April 17, 2020
A coalition of public interest organizations, under the auspices of the Action Group on Free Civic Space, have launched Legal Helplines to offer free legal services to persons whose rights are violated as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown measures in Nigeria. The organizations, comprising Spaces for Change (S4C), CLEEN Foundation, NOPRIN Foundation, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Center (RULAAC), JDPC Gowon Estate and the Network of Pro Bono Lawyers of Nigeria, with support from the Fund for Global Human Rights, are members of the Action Group on Free Civic Space, a loose network of human rights organizations, student unions, social movements and active citizens across Nigeria, working on different thematic issues, but committed to ensuring that government regulation in the name of national security does not shrink the civic space in Nigeria.
Lockdown directives issued by the federal and state governments in Nigeria have resulted in spikes in human rights abuses, including brutal killings of citizens, across the country. The documentation of coronavirus-linked violations published on Closing Spaces Database, a digital database that tracks incidents of shrinking civic space in Nigeria and West Africa, reveals a number of deaths caused by security operatives enforcing the lockdown in Delta, Abia, Anambra, Kaduna and Cross Rivers States. A significant surge in other forms of violence, especially domestic and gender-based violence, assaults, arrests, and harassment by armed law enforcement agents, have also been documented.
In a concerted effort to ensure that restrictive emergency measures are not exploited to clamp down on civil liberties, the six organizations have teamed up, combined their legal resources to build a pool of attorneys ready to intervene and secure justice for the aggrieved. Through the Action Group Legal Helplines: 0814500093 or 07039855775, Action Group’s team of lawyers are on standby 24/7 to receive complaints of human rights violations arising from the lockdown measures from any part of the country and provide free legal services, including securing police bails, providing on-the-spot legal advice, free legal representation in courts, and petitioning agencies and institutions responsible for redressing wrongs.
As the tensions between the COVID-19 disease-containment measures and fundamental freedoms become more pronounced during the enforced lockdown in the country, this collective initiative is determined to not only infuse proportionality and accountability in official preventative measures, but also ensure that states do not overreach their constitutional powers in the name of fighting a pandemic. Anyone who has witnessed, experienced or is currently a victim of human rights abuse- linked to the COVID-19 LOCKDOWN should call the above hotlines and get free legal help.
Signed: Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri | Benson Olugbuo | Okechukwu Nwanguma | Martins Besong | Oche Onazi | Samuel Ikule