NHRC condemns violation of COVID-19 patients’ rights

*Issues guidelines for handling patients

From Joe Nwankwo

Nigeria’s top human rights watch agency, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has condemned the incessant cases of violation of the rights of Nigerians being held in isolation and treatment centres across the country in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, adding that every suspected victims of COVID-19 and those being treated for the ailment possess certain rights protected by the Constitution, which must be upheld at all times.

The Executive Secretary of the agency, Tony Ojukwu said through a press statement issued in Abuja and signed by the Director, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Lambert Opara, that the “ incessant violations of COVID-19 patients’ rights accounts for the rising cases of protests at treatment centres and abscondment of patients from such centres in many parts of the country.”

Ojukwu stated this in Abuja on Wednesday, while presenting documents containing a set of guidelines for the handling of COVID-19 patients without compromising their rights, issued by the NHRC.

The document entitled: “Standard minimum guidelines for the human rights of COVID-19 patients in treatment centres in Nigeria,” Ojukwu said, was issued pursuant to sections 5(a)(d)(1) and 6(g) of the NHRC (amendment) Act, 2010.

He said the guideline, which is a policy document and recommendation made by the NHRC to governments and health authorities both at the federal and state levels, contains human rights guarantees, such as rights to life, health, dignity, privacy, religion and protection against discrimination.

Ojukwu added: “It (the document) also contains provisions aimed at ensuring access to adequate accommodation, food, water and sanitation, information and communication for patients at COVID-19 treatment centres and facilities in Nigeria.

“Persons, who have tested positive to COVID-19 and placed in treatment centres are in extreme vulnerable situations and their human rights to life, health and personal dignity should be of paramount concern and major responsibility of the state.

“Other major highlights of the guidelines are the protection of medical personnel and staff of the treatment centres, persons in intensive care units and the participation of patients in clinical or drug trials.

“The guidelines have been designed to reflect the physical, emotional and mental needs of COVID-19 patients and have provided a basis for the protection of the rights of every patient without any bias or discrimination, including vulnerable persons such as children, persons with disabilities and old persons.”
Ojukwu, while commending governments for their efforts so far at containing the spread of COVID-19 in the country, urged them to study and put in place mechanisms for prompt implementation of the guidelines, which he added, could be enforced through his commission or the court.

The NHRC boss added: “The rights and guarantees enunciated in the guidelines shall be enforceable by any patient or persons who have suffered violations in accordance with the Constitution.

“The commission when requested, shall provide technical support in designing systems and frameworks for implementation of the guidelines

“The commission shall monitor, investigate and enforce the implementation of the guidelines.”

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