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COVID-19 lockdown: Rising cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls

1.0 Introduction

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the Federal Government on Monday, June 1, 2020, initiated the second phase of easing the restriction of movement in the affected locations of Lagos, Ogun and FCT, Abuja. The following new directives were subsequently issued: nationwide curfew from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am; the full opening of the financial sector; the restricted opening of places of worship, (regular church & mosque services only) to be based on State Government protocols; restrictions on interstate travels except for goods and essential travel; restriction on the gathering of more than 20 persons outside of workplaces and religious services; closure of educational institutions until further evaluation. 

Taking a cue from the above directives, many state governments followed suit to vary the lockdown and restrictions in their respective states. Although the Federal Government has eased the lockdown, new cases of infections remain on the rise. As of Sunday 14th June 2020, Nigeria has 16,080 Covid-19 confirmed cases, 5220 recovered patients, and 420 deaths. The rise in the number of new infections is likely a combination of increased testing capacity by state governments and the lifting of restriction of movements.


2.0 Methodology

CLEEN Foundation uses a triangulation approach involving the collection of primary data by our 36 states and FCT coordinators and observers in the 774 LGAs tracking Covid-19 developments across the country through reliable secondary sources of information. The Foundation received a total of 2,982 reports across the 774 LGAs across Nigeria disaggregated as follows:

• 1,739 reports on citizens’ compliance with government directives;

• 872 reports on the conduct of security personnel enforcing government directives;

• 371 reports on human rights violations by security personnel enforcing government directives on the COVID19 pandemic.

These reports have been forwarded to Government agencies including the National Human Rights Commission, the Police Service Commission, and the Nigeria Police Force (Complaints Response Unit and the Gender Desk Unit). 

3.0 Citizens’ Compliance with Government Directives

There has been a general decline regarding citizens’ compliance with government directives including the dusk to dawn curfew, use of facemasks and physical distancing, ban on public gatherings, and inter-state movements. 

3. 1. Compliance with Dusk to Dawn Curfew: 

Despite the revision of the curfew to commence from 10:00 pm to 4:00 pm, the general observation across the country indicate citizens’ lack of adherence to the dusk to dawn curfew imposed by federal and state governments. 

Our observers in the six states in the South-South region reported partial compliance by citizens on curfew and sit at home restrictions by the various state governments. In Edo State, it was reported that most citizens have ignored this directive which has led to a rise in defaulters who were arraigned before the mobile courts daily for not adhering to the curfew. Similarly, in Bayelsa State, our volunteers observed a relative decrease in public compliance with government directive on dusk to dawn curfew in the state capital, Yenagoa. Citizens were observed moving on highways and streets at night. Additionally, there is no public compliance with the dusk to dawn curfew outside the state capital as the Covid-19 taskforce is yet to enforce government directives. In Cross River state, our observers reported strict compliance with the curfew directive by citizens as the taskforce were observed monitoring and ensuring compliance.

In Lagos State, South West region, it was reported that compliance with the curfew is low as many citizens are observed moving on the road after the designated time, though personnel of the Nigeria Police Force was making efforts in some areas to enforce the curfew. Similarly, in Ekiti State, it was reported that there was moderate compliance to the curfew in Ado LGA, however, it was observed that security personnel who ought to enforce compliance on non-movement during the curfew hours are not performing their functions with the seriousness it deserves as most of the security personnel disperse from their checkpoints once it is 10:00 pm. This has become a convenient time for interstate drivers to convey passengers from Lagos and Oyo into Ekiti State.

In the North Central region, specifically in Plateau State, our observers reported low compliance by residents to the lockdown order by the state government especially in Langtang LGA where Okada riders and commercial vehicles fully loaded with passengers were seen frequently plying the roads. Similarly, in Niger State, our observers covering Shiroro, Lapai, Bida, and Kagara communities reported that citizens are not complying with the curfew directives and are engaging in their normal activities in these areas. In the Federal Capital Territory, the Ministerial Taskforce team on the enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions arrested some persons in drinking bars within the Kubwa and Dutse Alhaji axis of Bwari Area Council for violating the curfew order.

In the South East region, reports from our observers indicated inadequate compliance to the curfew by citizens in Imo State and moderate compliance in the other South East States. People are gradually adjusting to their usual nightlife and businesses without adhering to the curfew imposed by the government. Bars and hotels have resumed their usual night operations in some places as previously reported. These developments have implications on the efforts of the federal and state government to stop community transmission of COVID-19.  

3.2 Non-Compliance with Physical Distancing Guidelines and Use of Facemasks: 

Compliance with public health directives on the use of facemask, adherence to physical distancing in public places amongst others has decreased across the six geopolitical zones. In the South-South region, our observers in Bayelsa State reported that law enforcement and security personnel were observed not wearing facemasks and complying with physical distancing in some Police stations in Ekeki, Azikoro, and Akenfa visited by our observers. Lack of compliance regarding the use of facemasks was also noted in other security institutions such as the Nigerian Security and Civil Défence Corps (NSCDC) along Water Board road, Air Force Barracks along Okaka Express Way, Army and Navy Base at Agudama town in Yenagoa, the state capital. Additionally, most security personnel on checkpoint and toll stations within and outside the Bayelsa State capital were observed not wearing facemasks. Apart from Delta State which recorded a reasonable level of compliance with government directives, other states in this region have recorded a low level of compliance with the use of facemasks and observing physical distancing. While some citizens are conscious of the use of facemasks, people are hardly conscious of maintaining physical distancing. 

Within the period under review across the six states in the South-West region, reports from our observers indicated a high level of non-compliance with the public health directives particularly the use of facemasks and physical distancing in public places. Life has seemingly returned to normal despite the daily spike in the number of new cases of infections across some of the South-West states.

Reports from the North-Central region revealed low compliance by citizens across the states in the region. Activities such as burial ceremonies and Local Government elections were observed to have been held without any recourse to the physical distancing directives. Compliance with the wearing of facemasks, regular handwashing with soap and water is generally low, especially in the remote areas across all the states. Most citizens have returned to their normal day to day activities. The regulation is only being enforced strictly in public places such as banks and some supermarkets. Regular markets have resumed their commercial activity with no compliance to the relevant government directives. In the Orange market, Mararaba in Nasarawa State less than 10% of both buyers and sellers at the market were seen wearing facemasks. The same thing was also observed in Kuje Area Council of the FCT. 

In the South-East region, there were reports of poor compliance across the states, especially in the markets, motor parks, public transport vehicles, and bars by our observers. However, the report from Imo state indicated that some churches visited within the week showed reasonable improvement in adherence to physical distancing order by splitting several services to reduce the congregants.

3.3 Ban on Public Gatherings and Citizens Compliance 

About 54% of CLEEN Foundation observers noted low and moderate compliance to a government ban on public gathering. The observers noted gathering of more than 20 persons against government directives were well observed across the 36 states and FCT. Some of these social gatherings included marriages and funeral ceremonies. In the FCT, a music concert was organized on Saturday 13th June 2020 at the Jabi Lake Mall featuring Naira Marley, who flew in from Lagos in a private jet. Although a mobile court has sealed the Mall for two weeks, some issues are yet to be answered. Who authorized the movement of the Executive Airline Services from Lagos to Abuja and back? Who approved the music concert under the Covid-19 pandemic? The Ministry of Aviation and Federal Capital Territory Administration should address Nigerians who authorized the concert in Abuja despite the lockdown on interstate travel and restriction of air travel. 

Our observers reported that in Bayelsa state, citizens in Ekeremo LGA were observed holding funerals and wake activities without public compliance to the ban on public gathering. In Yenagoa, many churches had over 300 persons in attendance as against the prescribed number of 200 persons in large church auditoriums as directed by the State Government. In Delta State, most marriages and birthdays held were observed to have over 100 persons in attendance as against the prescribed number of 50 persons. Furthermore, in most churches and mosques visited in Udu, Ughelli South, Okpe, Isoko South, Patani, and Sapele LGAs of the state, congregants of more than 50 persons were observed in small church/mosque auditoriums violating the state government physical distancing directives. 

Incidences of public gatherings such as weddings, burials, relaxation spots, markets, and religious gatherings have been witnessed in Lokoja, Dekina, and Idah LGAs of Kogi State in the North-Central region. Similar reports were received as happening in Ogbadigbo and Kwande LGA of Benue state as against the ban on the public gathering by the state Government.

Our observers also noted varying directives on the ban of public gathering in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara states in the North West region. The ban on public gathering has only been effective in major city capitals in Kaduna and Kano states. Our observers confirmed that religious gatherings have fully re-opened in Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto, and Jigawa without any recourse to relevant public health concerns.

In the North East region, our volunteers reported a burial of a traditional chief in Biu LGA of Borno State where physical distancing was not observed, a crowd of more than 20 attendees was observed shaking hands.

3.4 Inter-State Movements 

Our observers in Akwa Ibom state reported that some security personnel mainly made up of members of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Army at Itu Bridgehead at the boundary between Cross River and the Akwa Ibom States were observed collecting bribes and allowing persons in and out of the state. In Bayelsa state, commercial motorists were observed conveying passengers from Yenagoa to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and Ughelli in Delta State with the compromise of security personnel. In Delta State, citizens were observed exiting and entering the state daily because both the Delta State COVID-19 task force and personnel of the Nigeria Police Force have been compromised at most of the borders of the state thereby allowing citizens to move freely to other states despite the restriction on inter-state movement by the State Government. The situation is however different in Cross River State as the interstate border closure is observed to be enforced as vehicles are not allowed entrance into the state during the period under review.

In the South West region, our observers recorded increased interstate movements across the six southwest states. Reports from Ekiti State indicates that transport fare from Akure, Ondo State to Ado- Ekiti, Ekiti state is now between N2,000 to N2,500. Other transport fares reported were Ado -Ekiti to Ibadan which ranges between N5,000 to N,6000, and Ado-Ekiti to Lagos between N1,200 to N1,500. Several of the violations were committed in collaboration with law enforcement and security agencies on the highways who extort drivers and passengers in exchange for free passage.

In the North-Central region, reports from Ogbadigbo LGA of Benue state has shown a substantial level of compliance with the ban on interstate movements as a result of reinforcement of active security personnel manning the entry points from neighboring states. Reports from Niger State showed constant movements of vehicles on the Zuba-Suleja-Minna road as a result of compromised security personnel. Movements in and out of the FCT from both Abuja-Kaduna routes and Abaji-Lokoja routes have been continuously reported. Lack of stringent measures in enforcing the ban on interstate movement has led to more insecurity issues including the recent kidnap of the Christian Association of Nigeria Chairman, Nasarawa State Chapter, Bishop Joseph Masin who was later released. 

Reports from our observers in Kaduna state, North-West region, have reported that the state government has maintained the prohibition of interstate and intercity travel, while government officials and mobile courts continue to enforce the ban to prevent people from spreading the coronavirus through non-essential movement. 

Reports from our observers in the South-East region stated that there is free movement of persons across the various states borders in the South-East. The borders have been very porous due to the compromising attitude of the security personnel towards enforcing the inter-state movement ban. Reports from Imo State showed that the borders at Obowo, White/ Uboma, Okigwe, Ngor Okpala, and Nwangele are porous for inter-State movements, which may have served as a contributing factor to the sudden rise in COVID-19 confirmed cases in the state.

In the North-East region, there are reports of compromise at the borders by security personnel across all the states by our observers as transporters and commuters are entering and exiting the respective states thus violating the ban on interstate travel. This has resulted in conflicts between state task force on Covid-19 and security agencies as recently witnessed in Borno State 

4.0 Reports on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 

There is an alarming increase in cases of sexual and gender-based violence since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria. This is a result of different factors including weak enforcement of laws, lack of diligent prosecution of rape suspects, stigmatization of rape victims, culture, traditions, and patriarchy among other issues. The deaths of Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, 22 years old, a student of the University of Benin in Edo State, and Barakat Bello, 18 years old, a student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Moor Plantation, Apata, Ibadan, Oyo State sparked a national outcry in Nigeria and mobilized activists to demonstrate for an end to sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria. Despite the outcry, more cases have emerged which shows a pattern of impunity and lack of effective government response.  

In the South-West region, there were two (2) media reported cases of rape of two (2) young girls in Oyo and Ekiti States respectively. Unfortunately, the victim in Oyo was murdered in cold blood while a report from Ekiti indicated that some of the suspects were apprehended and brought to the office of the wife of the Governor who prompted handing over of the suspects to the police for investigation. Similarly, on Wednesday 3rd June 2020, men of Ogun State Police Command arrested a 25- year- old – man, Wasiu Bankole, for forcefully having carnal knowledge of a 70-year-old woman while she was asleep. The suspect was arrested 24 hours after he committed the offense at Abule Lemode, Ijoko in the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of the state. On Thursday, 4th June 2020, a 12-year-old girl, was gang-raped by four masked men at her residence in the Abijo area of Ajah, Lagos State. She was said to have been raped while playing alone in the compound around 2 pm on Thursday 4th June 2020. Similarly, in the North West region, a 12-year-old girl was purportedly raped by a middle-aged (57) man at Limawa quarters in Dutse local government area of Jigawa state. She has also been allegedly raped by eleven (11) men on different occasions.

A 13-year old girl was allegedly gang-raped in Kaduna state by four men who had whisked her away on a bike. The Kaduna State Ministry of Human Services and Social Development has since launched an investigation. It was gathered that the girl was drugged before being raped. She was later dumped underneath a stationary vehicle near her house. 

A report from Osun state indicated that in the Erinmo Ijesa area, a man lured a 16-year-old daughter of a family friend to accompany him to the farm along with two other persons. He thereafter sent the other two persons to another farm far away, leaving the young girl alone with him. He thereafter raped the innocent girl. CLEEN Foundation has been escalated the case to the relevant agencies for urgent investigation and action.

A 38-year-old man named Simon Emeka was arraigned in Makurdi, Benue State on June 5th, 2020 for raping his seven (7) months old daughter. It was alleged that the accused person has been involved in the crime since the baby was three (3) months old. 

An online video that surfaced on Saturday 6th June 2020 indicated that a two (2) year-old girl at Idumota Lagos was repeatedly raped by a man and was beaten by her mother who blamed the child. The matter is currently under investigation by the National Human Rights Commission and the Lagos State Government. 

A 15-year-old boy, identified as Osayomi, was arrested by the police in Ekiti State for allegedly defiling a three-year-old girl. The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Asuquo Amba said the incident occurred at Audi, Osi Ekiti, in the Ido/Osi LGA of the state on May 30, 2020, around 5:00 pm. The mother of the three (3) year old victim returned home from the market and discovered that her daughter was rough and stressed. After a close examination, she noticed fluids on her daughter’s underwear, raising suspicion that she might have been defiled. A medical examination confirmed her suspicion.

The Nigeria Governors Forum has responded by declaring rape an emergency and calling on governors to adopt laws that will strengthen the capacity to deal with sexual and gender-based violence. Also, the Federal government has announced the composition of an Inter-Ministerial Gender-Based Violence Management Committee to tackle issues of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria. CLEEN Foundation will monitor and report on the effectiveness of these policies announced by both federal and state governments. 

5.0 Conduct of Security Personnel on Enforcement of Government Directives on Covid-19 Pandemic

About 54% of CLEEN Foundation observers reported that the security personnel deployed on COVID-19 duty were of good conduct. This is a decline from 60% good conduct reported last week. The extra-judicial killing recorded in Nasarawa state and other human rights violations may have accounted for the decline in the conduct of the security personnel on Covid-19 duty.

5.1 Human Rights Violations

In the North-West region, it was reported that armed bandits attacked the Doka LGA in Kaduna forcing most of the villagers to flee their states while leaving nine (9) persons dead. A district head in Katsina state was attacked and brutally murdered by armed bandits in the state.

A motorcyclist popularly known as Okada tried to kidnap a young man in Ogun state who had engaged him for transport services. After noticing that the Okada rider was taking him on a different path, the young man notified the rider who claimed he was using a different route to the young man’s destination. The young man after noticing they were in a lonely bush path shouted for help and was rescued by some farmers in the area. There have also been reported deaths in Gubio and Monguno in Borno State as a result of attacks from Boko Haram insurgents. 

6.0 Gaps Identified

1. Although the Covid-19 pandemic is still ravaging different parts of the country, there is an increase in other public safety and security issues across the country. These include banditry in North-West, Boko Haram attacks in the North-East, and sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in different parts of the country.

2. The wearing of facemasks and other personal protective equipment in different parts of the country is gradually becoming a status symbol instead of part of the guidelines to curb community transmission and stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. This development is worrisome and alarming.  

3. There is increasing noncompliance by citizens to physical distancing and precautionary guidelines by the Government and Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.

4. Poor enforcement of Government directives by law enforcement and security personnel.

5. Extortion of citizens by security personnel for failing to use face masks during interstate travels and lack of use of facemasks and other personnel protective equipment by some security personnel on COVID-19 enforcement duty. 

6. The complicity of security operatives in the non-compliance with interstate movement restrictions imposed by both the federal and state governments.

7.0 Recommendations

1. State governments that are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act 2003 and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 should do so as a matter of urgency. 

2. All security agencies should establish gender and juvenile desks to deal with rising cases of sexual and gender-based violence. 

3. Security personnel should be provided with personnel protective equipment and adequate hazard allowance. Those found guilty of a violation of citizens’ rights in the enforcement of government directives should be disciplined appropriately.

4. There is a need for aggressive community sensitization and awareness campaigns on the reality of the pandemic and the need to adhere to the health and safety guidelines provided by the government and Nigerian Centre for Disease Control. 

5. The Nigeria Governors Forum should prioritize improving the safety and security of the citizens always and in all places, especially in inner cities and communities. 

6. State government should work with the organized private sector to provide mobile testing units and First-Responder units, especially in low-income communities to ensure people, particularly the underserved, have access to testing and emergency health care. 

7. The government should consider informal policing groups to support the formal policing groups in the enforcement of the ban on inter-state movement at the borders.

8. There should be a greater commitment from politicians especially members of the National Assembly on how to deal with issues of rape and the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria. 

9. Victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence should not be stigmatized by society. Nigerian citizens should blame perpetrators not victims, survivors, or their family members.   

May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and heal our land. 

Benson Olugbuo, Ph.D. 

Executive Director

CLEEN Foundation

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