Barely 24 hours into lockdown, law enforcement officers in Lagos have begun ‘harassing’ essential services workers over the interpretation of the conditions under which certain individuals are to be exempted from the state-wide curfew.
According to Lagos Commissioner of police Hakeem Odumosu, who spoke on TVC Monday, workers in essential services must prove that they are on duty in addition to providing their identity cards to be allowed on the road.
“The fact that I am a doctor, police man or journalist, am I on duty?” said Odumosu, casting uncertainty over how essential workers, even with proper identification, can carry out their much-needed duty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“ID only tells us who you are and where you work,” he said.
The new criterion by the police casts ambiguity and creates room for abuse of power. It also differs fundamentally from the president’s directive.
President Muhammadu Buhari in his address on Sunday declared a 14-day total lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja – the worst-hit state by COVID-19 – but said essential workers would be allowed to continue operation although there were certain conditions on some categories of workers.
No condition required essential workers to prove they were on duty.
In his address, President Buhari said the order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in health care related manufacturing and distribution.
Furthermore, he said, commercial establishments such as; food processing, distribution and retail companies; petroleum distribution and retail entities, power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and private security companies are also exempted.
“Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored.”
While Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.
This comes days after officers of the Nigerian Police Force in a viral video, acknowledged by the NPF twitter handle, were seen destroying a shop in bid to enforce compliance with state’s directive for businesses to halt operations.
While the NPF condemned the action, fears that the police brutality similar to India’s might follow the 2-week lockdown exercise in the three key states.