Human rights in Nigeria

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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Nigeria

Nigeria's human rights record remains poor and government officials at all levels continue to commit serious abuses. Human rights in Nigeria are protected under the most current constitution of 1999. Nigeria has made serious improvements in human rights under this constitution though the Human Rights Report of 2012 notes areas where significant improvement is needed. [1] This report discusses abuses by Boko Haram, killings by governmental forces, lack of social equality, and issues with freedom of speech.

History since independence[edit]

In the period between its independence in 1960 to 1998, Nigeria had, in terms of heads of State, two elected, one appointed, one military successor and 7 coups d'etat powers. In 1979, they moved to a presidential system in order to properly instate the right of choosing who rules them with a new constitution. This constitution guarantees fundamental human rights that are constantly in violation. There was a crusade for human rights in 1985 when General Ibrahim Babangida took power.[2] Though short-lived, there were changed under the Babangida both for the positive as well as for the negative.

Freedom of Expression[edit]

When General Babangida took power in 1985 and repealed Decree N0. 4 of 1984, a law that made it criminal behavior to publish any material that was considered embarrassing or against the interests of the government,[3] there was renewed hope for freedom of expression both by the people and the media. Within the Babangida regime, political tolerance occurred for some time. However, this brief foray into human rights broke down when the regime began jailing its critics and firing employees who did not promote their views and ideals. This regime closed down more newspapers and banned more popular organizations than any other in Nigeria's post-colonial history.[3]

The press in Nigeria was often subject to scare tactics and intimidation. Journalists were subjected to "chats" with the State Security Service that involved threatening and possible imprisonment.[3] There were continually newspaper shutdowns. In 1990, The Republic, Newbreed, Lagos Daily News, The Punch, and various other newspapers were shutdown at some point by the federal government.[4]

Critics maintain that though measures of freedom of the press have improved, there is still room for improvement. Nigeria was described as "partly free" in the Freedom of the Press 2011 report published by the Freedom House (see yearly rankings in Freedom House ratings in Nigeria section). Journalists are still subject to abuses by security forces. On 11 October 2013, four senior editors of the Nation were arrested "by proxy" under charges of forgery. The editors who they were originally looking for had published a letter from the former president of Nigeria to current President Goodluck Jonathan recommending the termination of some officials. The police were forced to release the editors after the media, politicians, and other civil rights groups protested and put pressure on the police force.[5]

Government violations[edit]

Police force[edit]

In Nigeria, the Nigeria Police Force has been typically viewed as inefficient and corrupt. The Joint Task Force (JTF) has provided inadequate and violent response to the Boko Haram attacks. The JTF has been involved in killing suspects without fair trial as well as killing random members of communities expected in involvement with the Boko Haram.[6] This "heavy-handed" approach violates human rights with its lack of access to a fair trial and use of discriminatory techniques to determine perpetrators of violence.[6]

Within the regular Nigerian Police Force, there are high amounts of corruption and violations that include extortion and embezzlement. The police force takes advantage of the people by putting up roadblocks that require a fee to pass and taking money for no legal reason. Within the police force, there is no equal protection under the law.[7] The wealthy are able to buy the police for security as well as expecting the police to turn a blind eye to illegal activities they participate in.

Corruption[edit]

Nigeria has the label of having one of the world's highest levels of corruption. This is especially seen within the public sector including stealing public funds and accepting bribes[8] It is estimated that between 1999 and 2007, Nigeria has lost around $4 billion to $8 Billion yearly due to corruption [9]

Politicians often siphon public funds to further their political careers and they also pay gangs to aid them in rigging elections. The elections since the end of military rule occurring in 1999,2003, and 2007 were bloody affairs and were openly rigged.[9] In 2007, ballot boxes were visibly stuffed by paid gangs and in some cases, electoral results were simply made up.[10] The Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 300 were killed due to the 2007 elections and that is considered to be a conservative estimate as cited from a Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Derrick Marco, Nigeria country director in March, 2007. These measures of violence and intimidation discouraged the general public from voting. Those who did come out were subject to attacks by gangs [9]

Nigeria put measures in place to reduce the corruption levels. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission were established in the early 2000s. They have been attempting to combat the issue but they have not been very heavy handed in terms of punishment.[7] Former Edo State governor, Lucky Igbinedion pleaded guilty to embezzling 2.9 billion Naira which translates to about $24.2 million. He had a plea bargain with EFCC and was fined 3.5 million Naira ($29,167) and did not serve any jail time.[11]

Boko Haram[edit]

Main article: Boko Haram

Boko Haram is an Islamist terrorist group that focuses its attacks on government officials, Christians, and fellow Muslims who speak out against their actions or are thought to aid the government, known as "traitor Muslims".[6] They cite corruption committed by the national government as well as increased Western influence as the primary reason for their often violent actions. This group engaging in Jihad was banded in 2000 by the spiritual leader Mohammed Yusuf.

In July 2009, there were five days of extreme violence from Boko Haram as well as with the governmental response. From July 26–31, the group killed 37 Christian men and burned 29 churches. After a brief hiatus in claimed incidents, the group resurfaced in the summer of 2011 with church attacks. To date, the last claimed instance was October 20, 2013. Boko Haram militant killed around 19 people in the town of Gamboru Ngala.[12]

In October 2013, Amnesty International recommended that the Nigerian government investigate the deaths of more than 950 suspected Boko Haram members that died under military custody in the first six months of the year.[13]

In 2014, Boko Haram drew international attention from its April 14 kidnapping of approximately 276 female students from a secondary school in the northern town of Chibok, Nigeria. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claims the girls have converted to Islam and has threatened to sell them as wives to Boko Haram members at a price of $12.50 each.[14]

Social rights and equality[edit]

LGBT rights[edit]

In May 2013, Nigeria's House of Representatives voted to pass the Same Sex Marriage Bill. This bill prohibits gay marriage and allots fourteen years in prison to those engaged in same-sex relationships. This bill also allows punishment for those knowingly associating with those identifying as members of the LGBT community or aiding these individuals in becoming married or pursuing that lifestyle. The punishment for abetting gay marriage would be around 5 years. The final results of this bill are in the hands of President Goodluck Jonathan.[15] His decision on the bill will determine whether it is ratified or not. Though the bill has not yet been signed into law, there is unofficial usage by the police force to harass homosexual and those supporting equal rights. [16]

Women[edit]

Main article: Women in Nigeria

Women in Nigeria face various versions of human rights violations despite the provisions granted unto them in the 1999 Constitution.[17] Regardless of the opportunity provided to take up unconstitutionality to higher courts in Nigeria, women do no often utilize this option and as such, there continues to be many violations occurring.

Nigerian women face particular problems and injustices once they become widows. The women are subject to cultural pressures that are inconsistent with human rights. In the widowhood practice, culture demands that when a man of significance within the community dies, his widow must act in a certain way as documented by Akpo Offiong Bassey in her studies of the Cross River State.[18] First off, the woman must go into seclusion. They are also forced to neglect their bodies; they are not allowed to shave, shower, or change their clothing. They have to rub cow dung and palm oil on their bodies and must also sleep on the floor. Widows are also expected to wear black, the color of mourning, for two years to properly show their loss and respect for their late husband. [19]

Apart from mourning, the widow has immediate concerns involving living situations and property to deal with. In most cases, the eldest son and not the widow inherits the entire property.[19] Women are culturally viewed as property and can be inherited like the rest of a husband’s estate. Whether or not the widow can continue to reside on the property is dependent on her relationship with her eldest son or, if there are no sons, the eldest male relative of her husband. There have also been instances where the woman must return to her premarital home after refunding the bride price.[20] The lack of sufficient property right makes these women dependent on men while single, married, or widowed.

Though the Nigerian Supreme Court has yet to formally deal with this issue, we see that in 2007 in the Nnanyelugo v. Nnanyelugo case that when two brothers attempted to get the land of their deceased brother under the case that a widow has no business with the property. The ruling stated that they would no longer allow the males to take advantage of the vulnerable position of the widows and young children.[19] There are other cases in which courts have ruled to implement the equality guaranteed underneath the constitution.

Child marriage[edit]

In Nigeria, around 43% of women are married under 18 years old.[21] One popular source of legislation that was first brought forward in 1991 and became national law in 2003 is the Child Rights Act. Among other factors to protect children from abuses and discrimination, Section 21 and 23 of the act made it illegal to marry off a child below the age of 18. If a husband consummates a marriage with a child, it is considered rape.[22]

The Child Rights Act competes with sharia law in some states as well as with customs and cultural expectations in different regions. The Child Rights Act has not been enacted in 13 of Nigeria’s 36 states where other cultural factors are largely influencing the laws that are enacted.[23] Some also believe that it is the high levels of child marriage that lead Nigeria to having the highest global rate of vesicovaginal fistula occurring during young girls delivery.

International perspective[edit]

According to the U.S. Department of State,

The most serious human rights problems during ... [2011] were the abuses committed by the militant sect known as Boko Haram, which was responsible for killings, bombings, and other attacks throughout the country, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and the widespread destruction of property; abuses committed by the security services with impunity, including killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, and destruction of property; and societal violence, including ethnic, regional, and religious violence. Other serious human rights problems included sporadic abridgement of citizens' right to change their government, due to some election fraud and other irregularities; politically motivated and extrajudicial killings by security forces, including summary executions; security force torture, rape, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees, and criminal suspects; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; prolonged pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary and judicial corruption; infringements on citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement; official corruption; violence and discrimination against women; child abuse; female genital mutilation ...; the killing of children suspected of witchcraft; child sexual exploitation; ethnic, regional, and religious discrimination; trafficking in persons for the purpose of prostitution and forced labor; discrimination against persons with disabilities; discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; vigilante killings; forced and bonded labor; and child labor.[24]

Twelve northern states have adopted some form of Shari'a into their criminal statutes: Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. The Shari'a criminal laws apply to those who voluntarily consent to the jurisdiction of the Shari'a courts and to all Muslims.[25] It provides harsh sentences for, among other crimes, alcohol consumption, infidelity, same-sex sexual activity, and theft, including amputation, lashing, stoning, and long prison terms.

Some Christian pastors in Nigeria were reported in 2009 of being involved in the torturing and killing of children accused of witchcraft.[26] In the decade ending in 2009, over 1,000 children were murdered as "witches".[26] Those pastors, in an effort to distinguish themselves from the competition, were accused of decrying witchcraft in an effort to establish their "credientials".[26]

Human rights organizations and bodies[edit]

Constitutional Rights Project- founded in 1990 to promote rule of law in Nigeria.

Nigerian Center for Human Rights and Development- founded in 1995 to promote democracy and enforcement of rights.

Human Rights Monitor- founded in 1992 to promote human rights.

Institute for Dispute Resolution- founded in 1999 to promote peaceful conflict resolution.

Freedom House ratings[edit]

The following chart shows Nigeria's ratings since 1972 in the Freedom in the World reports, published annually by Freedom House. A rating of 1 is "most free" and 7 is "least free".[27]

International treaties[edit]

Nigeria's stances on international human rights treaties are as follows:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Human Rights Practices for 2012. 2012.
  2. ^ McCarthy-Arnolds,Eileen. "Africa, Human Rights, and the Global System: The Political Economy of Human Rights in a Changing World". December 30, 1993
  3. ^ a b c MCathy-Arnolds, Penna, and Sobrepena (1994). "Africa, Human Rights, and the Global System".
  4. ^ Africa Watch. “Academic Freedom”.
  5. ^ "2011 Human Rights Reports: Nigeria". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State. 24 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Human Rights Watch. "Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria". 2012."
  7. ^ a b Human Rights Watch. "Everyone's in on the Game- Corruption and Human Rights Abuses by the Nigerian Police Force". August 2010
  8. ^ "Everyone's in on the Game- Corruption and Human Rights Abuses by the Nigerian Police Force".
  9. ^ a b c Human Rights Watch. “Criminal Politics”. October 2007
  10. ^ Human Rights Watch. “Nigeria: Polls Marred by Violence, Fraud”. April 17, 2007.
  11. ^ Ahemba, Tume. "Convicted Nigerian ex-governor to pay $25,750 fine". Reuters. December 19, 2008.
  12. ^ Nossiter, Adam. "Vigilantes Defeat Boko Haram in Its Nigerian Base". The New York Times. October 20, 2013.
  13. ^ "Nigeria: Deaths of hundreds of Boko Haram suspects in custody requires investigation". Amnesty International. Oct 15, 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-05. 
  14. ^ "Boko Haram kidnapped the 230 school girls as wives for its insurgents". The Rainbow. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  15. ^ Adigun, Bashir and Gambrell, Jon. "Nigeria Anti-Gay Marriage Bill Approved". Huffington Post. May 30, 2013.
  16. ^ Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti Same Sex Laws. Change.org
  17. ^ Kuteyi, O.S. “The Rights of Nigerian Under the Laws: Real or Myth”. Gender Issues and National Development.
  18. ^ Ako-Nai, Ronke. “Gender and Power Relations in Nigeria”. Lexington Books. 2012
  19. ^ a b c “Gender and Power Relations in Nigeria”
  20. ^ Ako-Nai, Ronke. “Gender and Power Relations in Nigeria”. Lexington Books. 2012
  21. ^ Jain, Saranga and Kurz, Kathleen. "New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage- A Global Analysis of Factors and Programs". International Center for Research on Women. April 2007
  22. ^ Toyo, Nyoko. "Revisiting Equality as a Right: The Minimum Age of Marriage Clause in the Nigerian Child Rights Act, 2003". Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 7, The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (2006), pp. 1299-1312
  23. ^ Mark, Monica. "Nigeria's child brides". The Guardian. September 2, 2013
  24. ^ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State
  25. ^ Sharia Implementation in Northern Nigeria 1999-2006: A Sourcebook, authored by Philip Ostien, Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan, Nigeria, 2007, volume IV, chapter 4, part III, page 45 (republished on the Internet by the University of Bayreuth with permission of the author and publisher)
  26. ^ a b c "Church Burns 'witchcraft' children", The Telegraph, reported by Katharine Houreld, 20 October 2009
  27. ^ Freedom House (2012). "Country ratings and status, FIW 1973-2012" (XLS). Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  28. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 1. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Paris, 9 December 1948". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  29. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 2. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. New York, 7 March 1966". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  30. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 3. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  31. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 4. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  32. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 5. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  33. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 6. Convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes and crimes against humanity. New York, 26 November 1968". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  34. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 7. International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. New York, 30 November 1973". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  35. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 8. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. New York, 18 December 1979". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  36. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 9. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. New York, 10 December 1984". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  37. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11. Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York, 20 November 1989". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  38. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 12. Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. New York, 15 December 1989". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  39. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 13. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. New York, 18 December 1990". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  40. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 8b. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. New York, 6 October 1999". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  41. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11b. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. New York, 25 May 2000". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  42. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11c. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. New York, 25 May 2000". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  43. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 15. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York, 13 December 2006". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  44. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 15a. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York, 13 December 2006". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  45. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 16. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. New York, 20 December 2006". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  46. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 3a. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New York, 10 December 2008". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  47. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11d. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure . New York, 19 December 2011. New York, 10 December 2008". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 

External links[edit]