National emergency, security agents and us



As the coronavirus pandemic continues to invade countries and cross borders, each country is taking steps to contain its impact on their citizens.

Taking a cue from China’s strategy of containment where Wuhan, the city that gave birth to the  virus was locked down and isolated from other cities with stringent measures, other countries are adopting the same technic. China first locked down the epicentre of the outbreak and later locked down large parts of the country.

The World Health Organization praised China’s efforts as “perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”

The New York Times which described the lock down as “one of the biggest social control campaigns in history,” estimated that it covered 760 million people.

The outcome and recovery level of Wuhan, which is gradually returning to normal after about 11 weeks; and the fact that there were no known cases of COVID 19 in any major Chinese city indicates the effectiveness of the strategy.

Hence, the Wuhan Strategy has been the most successful method in containing the spread of COVID 19. Little wonder, countries both developed and developing have all embraced the method.

While some countries are implementing a total lock down, others have taken to partial lockd own. The United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria among other countries, have approached COVID 19 as a national emergency that requires stringent measures to save. their citizens from the greater catastrophe that might result.

To achieve success, each country activated its instruments of national power and mobilized human and material resources for set goals.

While the success of the lock down depends on health workers, doctors and other hospital staff such ambulance drivers; there are other citizens whose contribution in times of emergency is very significant: They include ministries, departments and agencies central to crises management, security personnel and  the media.

Of  these stakeholders in the frontline, the security agencies seem to be in the eye of the storm.

There have been allegations and outcry about the attitude of security personnel deployed to enforce ‘corona curfews.’  From the United Kingdom to India, the Philippines, Paraguay, Kenya and Nigeria, there are concerns about what may be considered as “the most extreme COVID 19 lock down controls around the world”.

In the UK, the British Police has been accused of abusing powers to enforce lock down. British Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps  told Sky News that “some British Police might have gone too far in their containment effort, British Government, “approved emergency legislation that gave police the power to issue instant 30-pound ($37) fines to people who gather in groups of more than two  or leave their homes without good reason such as for work, food-shopping or exercise.”

India, which lock down covers about 1.3 billion people is considered the harshest and most extensive in the world. Reports in the medi show where violators were forced to squat and forced to chant  “We are enemies of the society. We cannot sit at home.”

In Paraguay, those who violated lock down rules were asked to lay face down on the floor and asked to repeat: “I won’t leave my house again, officer.”

In the Philippines, it was reported that,  “police and local officers trapped lock down violators in dog cages.” In Kenya, a 13 year old was killed at his balcony in Nairobi by police.

As part of the effort to contain COVID 19 in  Nigeria, Presiden Muhammadu Buhari in an address to the nation, announced 14 days total lock down in the Federal Capital, Lagos, as well as Ogun states.

The President said: “Fellow Nigerians, from the first signs that  Coronavirus  or COVID 19 was turning into an epidemic and  was officially declared  a world wide emergency, the Federal Government started planning preventive, containment and curative  measures in the event the disease hits Nigeria.”

He added: “The whole instruments of government  are now mobilized  to confront  what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis.”  Some state governments have also announced partial or total lock down of their states.

Since the lockdown in Nigeria, security agencies have been deployed to various areas to enforce the presidential order.  While majority have been professional and civil in carrying out their assignment,  there have  been allegations of humiliation and unnecessary aggression against citizens by some.

Despite this global outcry and national concern by citizens, rights groups and other stakeholders about unprofessional conduct of some security personnel in the line of duty who infringe on thhe civil liberties of citizens, we must all realize that this iis an unusual situation that requires unusual measures. As noted by Judith Sunderland, Associate Director, Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia: “The general rule is that restrictions on rights, like we’re seeing right now, are legitimate and permissible, if they’re lawful, to meet a legitimate objective, and if they are imposed for the shortest amount of time and proportionate to the objective.”

Hence, while I urge security personnel to be professional and civil always, I implore  Nigerians to help in saving lives by obeying rules of lock down.  Let the security personnel heed the advice of Group Capt Sadiq Garba Shehu thus: “Be firm, but not brutal. Treat those  who disobey lock down as citizens/law breakers. Don’t deal with them like ‘enemies… and do not extort. Do not bully unnecessarily…it is unprofessional.”

We must realize as President Buhari hinted in his laddress that “as individuals, we remain the greatest weapon to fight this pandemic. We will be playing our roles when we see the lock down as, “our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of the virus.”

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