The United States government has slammed President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime for using the COVID-19 pandemic as a disguise to trample on its citizens’ rights, especially during the #EndSARS protests.
This was expressed by the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken while declaring the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices on Tuesday.
Commenting on the 45th annual report of the U.S. Department of State, Mr Blinken noted that Nigerians and citizens of other countries defied the COVID-19 health risks, the threat of arrest, and other intimidation forms demand the respect of their fundamental human rights, regardless of the repercussions.
It expressed: “From Hong Kong to Belarus, from Nigeria to Venezuela, people assembled in the streets. They called for governmental protection of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, safeguards for free and fair elections, and an end to discrimination.”
The #EndSARS protests in Nigeria last year and other demonstrations against intimidation and discrimination worldwide are notable examples.
The U.S. government said it stood against any forms of oppression and intimidation against law-abiding people worldwide, specifically condemning human rights violations in China, Syria, Yemen, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan, amongst others.
The U.S. accused some countries like Nigeria of using the pandemic as a disguise to restrict rights and enshrine authoritarian rule.
It added that women and children faced heightened risk as the prevalence of gender-based and domestic violence increased due to lockdowns and the loss of traditional social protections.
Other marginalised populations, including older persons, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQI+ persons, experienced “particular vulnerability.”
Mr Blinker reiterated the U.S. resolve to place “human rights front and centre in its foreign policy.”