Cablegate: Draft 2001 Country Human Rights Report for Nigeria

Published: Wed 24 Oct 2001 09:17 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Sensitive but Unclassified--NOFORN--entire text.
2. Following is the 2001 Country Report on Human Rights for
3. Introduction
Nigeria is a federal republic composed of 36 states and a
capital territory, with an elected president and a bicameral
legislature. On May 29, 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo of
the Peoples Democratic Party was inaugurated to a 4-year term
after winning elections in February 1999 that were marred by
fraud and irregularities perpetrated by all contesting
parties, but most observers agreed the elections reflected
the will of the majority of voters. These elections marked
the end of 16 years of military-led regimes. On May 5, 1999,
the Abubakar Government signed into law a new Constitution
based largely on the suspended 1979 Constitution; the new
Constitution entered into effect on May 29, 1999. The
Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however,
in practice the judicial remains susceptible to executive and
legislative branch pressure, is influenced by political
leaders at both the state and federal levels, and suffers
from corruption and inefficiency.
The Federal Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is tasked with law
enforcement. The Constitution prohibits local and state
police forces. Internal security is the duty of the State
Security Service (SSS). The SSS's profile remained poor
under the Obasanjo regime. Until the advent of the civilian
administration in May 1999, special paramilitary anticrime
squads called "Rapid Response Teams" operated in every state.
Under Obasanjo, the military personnel dispatched to these
units returned to their barracks, but the units remained
intact in most states, staffed by regular policemen and with
a reduced role and a less menacing presence. The Obasanjo
Government increased its reliance on the army to quell
internal disorder. The degree of civilian control over the
Rapid Response Teams and the national police force improved
during the course of the year. Despite these new controls,
members of the security forces, including the police,
anticrime squads, and the armed forces committed numerous,
serious human rights abuses.
The economy has declined for much of the last three decades.
Most of the population of approximately 120 million was rural
and engaged in small-scale agriculture. Agriculture accounted
for less than 40 percent of gross domestic product but
employed more than 65 percent of the work force. The
agriculture and manufacturing sectors deteriorated
considerably during the oil boom decades. The collapse of
market agriculture contributed significantly to the country's
urbanization and increased unemployment. Although the great
bulk of economic activity is outside the formal sector,
recorded gross domestic product per capita was $250. Much of
the nation's wealth continued to be concentrated in the hands
of a small elite mostly through corruption and nontransparent
government contracting practices. During the year, petroleum
accounted for over 98 percent of the country's export
revenues, most of the government's revenues, and almost all
foreign investment. During the year economic growth was
modest, with growth still impeded by inadequate
infrastructure, endemic corruption, and general economic
mismanagement. The Obasanjo Administration inherited ports,
roads, water, and power infrastructure in a state of
collapse. Both the Federal Government and various states
have focused on improving infrastructure with some success.
Chronic fuel shortages which afflicted the country for
several years have been alleviated. Food production has
improved, due in part to record rainfalls, but post-harvest
loss remains a significant problem due to poor transportation
infrastructure. An estimated two-thirds of the country's
population live in poverty and are subject to malnutrition
and disease. In 2001, the Government has made progress in
reducing controls on the private sector, and increasing
expenditures for key social sectors.
The Government's human rights record was mixed; although
there were improvements in several areas during the year,
serious problems remain. While the national police, army,
and security forces continued to commit extrajudicial
killings and used excessive force to quell civil unrest and
ethnic violence, the frequency of these abuses has declined
as compared to the record under the previous military
governments. The military was called on to restore order in
four incidents of civil unrest or conflict--Jos, Tafawa
Balewa, Kano and in the Tiv-Jukun conflict in Benue, Nasarawa
and Taraba states. The containment of severe ethnic conflict
has been important to restoration of order in these areas,
and the military has done so without many of the excesses
seen in previous military regimes. Nevertheless, Army,
police, and security force officers regularly beat
protesters, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted
prisoners; however, there were no reports of torture of
political dissidents. The Government took steps to curb
torture and beating of detainees and prisoners, including the
dismissal and arrest in 2000 of senior officials known for
such practices. Shari'a courts sentenced persons to harsh
punishments including amputations and death by stoning. Of
many amputation sentences, only two were carried out, and the
sentences for stoning have not been implemented. Prison
conditions were harsh and life threatening, and along with
the lack of food and medical treatment, contributed to the
death of numerous inmates. At different times in the year,
the Government released several hundred prisoners in an
attempt to ease prison congestion. In May 1999, the
Government repealed the State Security (Detention of Persons)
Decree of 1984 (Decree 2), which allowed arbitrary detention
without charge; however, police and security forces continued
to use arbitrary arrest and detention. Prolonged pretrial
detention remains a major problem. The judiciary is subject
to political influence, and is hampered by corruption and
inefficiency. The judicial system was incapable of providing
citizens with the right to a speedy, fair trial. The
Government continued to infringe on citizens' privacy rights;
however, there were no reports of members of the armed forces
looting property, destroying buildings, or driving persons
away from their homes. The Government generally respected
freedom of speech and of the press; however, there were some
exceptions. The Government continued to relax its
restrictions on the rights of freedom of association and
assembly. The Government occasionally restricted freedom of
movement. The Government generally respected freedom of
religion, however, the expansion of Shari'a law in the North
raised regional and ethnic tensions and threatened religious
freedom for minority religionists. The
Government-established Human Rights Violations Investigation
Panel (HRVIP), continued its work throughout the year
reviewing cases of human rights violations since 1966.
Domestic violence against women remained widespread and some
forms were sanctioned by traditional, customary, or Shari'a
law. Discrimination against women remained a problem.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) remained widely practiced,
and child abuse and child prostitution were common.
Localized discrimination and violence against religious
minorities persisted. Ethnic and regional discrimination
remained widespread and interethnic, religious, and regional
tensions increased significantly. Thousands of persons were
killed in various local ethnic and religious conflicts
throughout the country. Some members of the Ijaw ethnic
group in the oil-producing Niger Delta region who seek
greater local autonomy continued to commit serious abuses,
including killings and kidnappings. The police often could
not protect citizens from interethnic, interreligious,
communal, and criminal violence, and, due to the inability of
the police, the Government called upon the army to restore
order following unrest in three cities during the course of
the year. The Government took steps to improve worker
rights; however, some restrictions continued. Some persons,
including children, were subjected to forced labor. Child
labor continued to increase. Trafficking in persons for
purposes of forced prostitution and forced labor was a
problem and collusion of government officials in trafficking
was alleged. Vigilante violence increased throughout the
country, particularly in Lagos and Onitsha, where suspected
criminals were apprehended, beaten, and sometimes killed.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom From
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
National police, army, and security forces committed
extrajudicial killings and used excessive force to quell
civil unrest under the Obasanjo Government, although their
record of managing civil unrest improved from last year and
was much better that under the military regimes of the past.
The Government did not use lethal force to repress
nonviolent, purely political activities; however, lethal
force was used when protests or demonstrations were perceived
as becoming violent or disruptive, or in the apprehension and
detention of suspected criminals. There was marginal
improvement in security force accountability as misconduct
was investigated in a few instances. However in most cases,
neither the state anticrime task forces, the police, nor the
armed forces were held accountable for excessive, deadly use
of force or the death of individuals in custody. They
operated with impunity in the apprehension, illegal
detention, and sometimes execution of criminal suspects.
Since taking office, President Obasanjo largely resisted
pressure to call in military troops to quell domestic unrest,
which reduced the risk that the armed forces would overreact
or harass civilians. Instead, Obasanjo preferred to let the
police deal with civil disturbances, only sending in military
reinforcements when the police were unable to restore order.
Inter-ethnic clashes in June and July in Nasarawa, Bauchi and
Taraba States were handled with a police response. In
September the military was deployed in Plateau State to quell
a major outburst of ethno-religious violence between
Christians and Muslims. By October army troops were
responsible for maintaining order in Kaduna, Jos, Tafawa
Balewa, Kano and a significant part of eastern Benue, eastern
Nasarawa and western Taraba states. Nigerian military unit
commanders were briefed that international humanitarian laws
must be respected, when the security of troops is in
jeopardy.8 Multinational oil companies and Nigerian oil
producing companies subcontract police and soldiers from area
units particularly to protect the oil facilities in the
volatile Niger Delta region. A significant portion of the
strong upsurge in violent crime during the year was
attributable to criminal freelancing by current or former
security forces.
Police and military personnel used excessive and sometimes
deadly force in the suppression of civil unrest, property
vandalization, and interethnic violence, primarily in the oil
and gas regions of the Delta States. Confrontations between
increasingly militant "youths" (who tend to be unemployed
males between the ages of 16 and 40), oil companies, and
government authorities continued during the year. In June
mobile police in Khana local government area fatally shot an
Ogoni man who was allegedly unarmed at the time. In July a
police officer protecting oil contractors in Bayelsa State
killed a local youth, reportedly after he tried to disarm a
police officer.
In February Police attempts to disperse Muslim protesters
outside the main mosque in Gombe resulted in violence with
protestors damaging buildings and attacking the police
barracks. Reports of fatalities varied between three and
eight killed.
On many occasions during the year the Government authorized
the use of deadly force to combat crime, and police,
military, and anticrime taskforce personnel committed
numerous extrajudicial killings in the apprehension and
detention of suspected criminals. Police were instructed to
use deadly force against suspected vandals near oil pipelines
in the Niger Delta Region, against the Oodua Peoples Congress
(OPC) vigilante group in Lagos State and, allegedly, against
participants in the Jos and Kano riots that took place in
September and October, respectively. In a widely publicized
case, a police raid aimed at apprehending armed robbers
resulted in the death of at least four unarmed Igbo traders.
Violence and lethal force at police roadblocks and
checkpoints was reduced during the year; however, some
instances of such violence continued. During the year an
upsurge in violent crime in Lagos led to an increase in the
number of roadblocks and checkpoints at major intersections,
without an increase in police misconduct or violence.
Harsh and life threatening prison conditions and denial of
proper medical treatment contributed to the death of numerous
inmates (see Section 1.c.). Criminal suspects died from
unnatural causes while in official custody, usually as the
result of neglect and harsh treatment.
By the end of the year the case concerning a member of Lagos
Deputy Governor's security detail had yet to be transferred
to a court of competent jurisdiction. The individual
allegedly killed a young woman in May, 2000 when she
obstructed the Deputy Governor,s motorcade.
The Government continued to investigate and detain former
Abacha government officials and family members. The Lagos
High Court prosecution of Hamza al-Mustapha, Mohammed Abacha,
Mohammed Rabo Lawal, Lateef Shofalan, Mohammed Aminu and
Sergeant Rogers Mshiella for the 1996 murder of Kudirat
Abiola, a prominent prodemocracy activist and the wife of
Moshood Abiola, was adjourned pending a ruling from the
Supreme Court on an application by defense lawyers. Colonel
Ibrahim Yakassai, was being held for alleged involvement in
the death of Shehu Musa Yar,Adua, a case which has not yet
been formally been brought before a court. In addition to
the above Hamza Al Mustapha, Muhammed Rabo Lawal, Lateef
Shofolahan, Mohammed Aminu, Col. Yakubu, Ishaya Bamaiyi,
James Danbaba and Rogers Mshiella were in detention, charged
with the attempted murder in 1996 of Guardian newspaper
publisher Alex Ibru. The Ibru case was postponed when
Bamaiyi and Mustapha were summoned to appear before the Human
Rights Violations Investigation Panel (HRVIP).
On August 19 Rivers State House of Assemblyman Monday Ndor
was shot and killed by unknown actors outside his residence.
On October 4, violent clashes between the APP and the PDP in
Gusau, Zamfara State left four dead and 19 critically
During the year, lethal interethnic and intra-ethnic violence
escalated. In September, rioting broke out between the
Muslim Hausa and various predominantly Christian ethnic
groups in to Plateau State. Explanations for the initial
cause of the riot vary. Approximately 2,300 people may have
lost their lives in the disturbances, with many of the
victims buried in mass graves. Religious and ethnic violence
resulted in deaths in other communities as well. In June,
ethnic clashes in Nassarawa State between Tivs, Jukuns,
Hausa-speakers and Kwala led to several hundred deaths and
the displacement of approximately 40,000 people into
neighboring Benue State. This conflict resulted in the
kidnapping and murder of 23 army soldiers who were patrolling
the area to enforce the peace between the ethnic groups. In
Taraba State a dispute between Fulani herders and Tiv farmers
reportedly resulted in eight deaths. Hours after a peaceful
demonstration against U.S. military action in Afghanistan,
rioting broke out on 12 October in Kano, resulting in over
100 dead and significant property damage
The scale of communal violence in the Niger Delta area
lessened but ethnic rivalries and disputes between local
communities over resources still led to deadly clashes. In
July, serious fighting took place between the Akaeze and Osso
Edda communities in Ebonyi State. Reports indicated that 27
people had been killed.
In the Kalabari region of Rivers State, fighting between
three Ijaw communities: the Ke, Bille and Krakrama, led to
the reports of the deaths of between 20 and 100 people.
Violent border disputes between Cross River and Akwa Ibom
states continued.
Organized vigilante groups in large cities, particularly
Lagos and Onitsha, committed numerous killings of suspected
criminals. These vigilante groups engage in lengthy and
well-organized attempts to apprehend criminals after the
commission of the alleged offenses.
In Anambra State, the state government supported the
extrajudicial activities of the vigilante group known as the
Bakassi Boys. Like most vigilante groups, the Bakassi Boys
kill suspected criminals rather than turn them over to
police. The Bakassi Boys tortured and then executed between
25 and 36 suspected criminals at main intersections in
Onitsha on May 29th.
In Lagos State, the vigilante group known as the OPC clashed
repeatedly with the police over their protection of Yoruba
neighborhoods and over political issues. The organization
continued to function as a vigilante anti-crime force despite
the continuing operation of a order issued
against them by President Obasanjo in November of 1999. The
number of vigilante killings of suspected criminals carried
out by OPC was less than in recent years. Among the more
prominent incidents, in August, the OPC reportedly beheaded
four suspected robbers in Lagos before burning the bodies.
The crucifixion of a man in the Surelere district of Lagos
was also attributed to the OPC by the local community.
There were occasional killings in several universities
carried out by rival student organizations, commonly referred
to as
Extrajudicial killing carried out by organized gangs of armed
robbers remained commonplace throughout the year. Multiple
sources reported that a gang of at least 30 armed robbers
killed 22 residents of the town of Awkuzu, allegedly as
revenge for Bakassi Boy executions of suspected criminals
earlier in the year.
There also were numerous reports of street mobs apprehending
and killing suspected criminals. The practice of "necklacing"
criminals (placing a gasoline-soaked tire around a victim's
neck or torso and then igniting it, burning the victim to
death) caught in the act occurred in several cities.
b. Disappearance
There were no reports of politically motivated
disappearances. Members of minority ethnic groups in the
oil-producing areas kidnapped foreign and local oil company
employees to press their demands for more redistribution of
wealth generated by joint ventures with the state-controlled
petroleum corporation and for specific projects in their
areas. In all instances the victims were released unharmed
after negotiations between the captors and the oil firms; the
firms usually paid ransoms and promised improved conditions.
In addition to the political rationale for kidnapping, there
were numerous instances of strictly criminal kidnapping, in
which the perpetrators' sole objective was ransom for the
release of the victims. During the year, kidnappings by
criminals to extort money were more numerous than those
perpetrated for " political" reasons. There were also
several reports of different ethnic groups in the Delta
kidnapping rivals of other ethnicities as part of ongoing
disputes over resources. Due to limited manpower and
resources, the police and armed forces rarely were able to
confront the perpetrators of these acts, especially in the
volatile Delta region. A lack of resources prevented
judicial investigations from taking place so that kidnappings
were routinely left uninvestigated.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture and mistreatment of
prisoners, and the law provides for punishment for such
abuses; however, although there were no reports of torture of
political dissidents during the year, army, police, and
security force officers regularly beat protesters, criminal
suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners. Police
regularly physically mistreated civilians in attempts to
extort money from them. Detainees often were kept
incommunicado for long periods of time. The 1960 Evidence
Act prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence
obtained through torture.
With different versions of criminal Shari'a law now in place
in 12 Northern states, Shari'a courts delivered "hadd"
sentences such as amputation for theft, caning for various
offenses, and death by stoning. The courts have yet to
decide whether such punishments conflict with the
constitutional provision banning "torture or... inhuman or
degrading treatment." Caning, a punishment available under
Nigerian common law, the Northern Nigerian Penal Code, and
Shari'a law, does not appear to conflict with the
Constitution and has not been successfully challenged in the
court system as a violation of the constitutional provision
banning "torture or... inhuman or degrading treatment."
Stoning and amputation also have not been challenged under
the 1999 Constitution. There were only two amputations
carried out in 2001, despite a much larger number of
sentences. Lawal Isa had his right hand amputated in Zamfara
on May 3 for stealing 3 bicycles. Umaru Aliyu suffered the
same punishment in Sokoto on July 6, for stealing a goat.
Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, a 17-year old girl, was given 100 cane
strokes, following her conviction of fornication and slander.
Baobab, a Nigerian human rights NGO, had filed an appeal on
her behalf prior to the execution of the sentence. The case
generated a great deal of attention among international human
rights organizations, and the execution of a reduced
sentence, underscored likely political intervention to
dispose of the case. In 2001 Shari'a courts handed down the
first death sentences. Attahiru Umar was sentenced to death
by stoning for sodomy by a Kebbi Shari'a court. In Sokoto,
Safiya Hussaini, was convicted of adultery because she could
not prove who was responsible for her pregnancy. The Federal
Government has instituted a panel of legal scholars to draft
a uniform Shari'a criminal statute for all Northern states,
to replace hastily drafted, unconstitutional and often
self-contradictory Shari'a statutes adopted by the states.
In the numerous ethnic clashes that occurred throughout the
year, hundreds of persons were beaten and injured severely.
Police and security forces failed to respond to most criminal
acts in a timely manner. During a year that saw a
significant increase in criminal activity and civil unrest in
Lagos, Kano and elsewhere, police generally were outgunned
and outmaneuvered by criminals, or overwhelmed by mobs trying
to foment civil unrest. (See sections 1.a and 1.b).
Security forces occasionally beat and/or detained journalists
(see Section 2.a.).
Prison and detention conditions remained harsh and life
threatening. Most prisons were built 70 to 80 years ago and
lack functioning basic facilities. Lack of potable water,
inadequate sewage facilities, and severe overcrowding
resulted in unhealthy and dangerous sanitary conditions. Many
prisons held 200 to 300 percent more persons than they were
designed to hold, and many of the pretrial detainees held
without charge had been detained for periods far longer than
the maximum allowable sentence for the crimes for which they
were being held. Disease was pervasive in the cramped,
poorly ventilated facilities, and chronic shortages of
medical supplies were reported. Prison inmates were allowed
outside their cells for recreation or exercise only
irregularly and many inmates had to provide their own food.
Only those with money or whose relatives brought food
regularly had sufficient food; petty corruption among prison
officials made it difficult for money provided for food to
reach prisoners. Poor inmates often relied on handouts from
others to survive. Beds or mattresses were not provided to
many inmates, forcing them to sleep on concrete floors, often
without a blanket. Prison officials, police, and security
forces often denied inmates food and medical treatment as a
form of punishment or to extort money from them. Harsh
conditions and denial of proper medical treatment contributed
to the deaths in detention of numerous prisoners. A
reputable human rights organization estimated in 1999 that at
least one inmate died per day in the Kiri Kiri prison in
Lagos alone. According to Prisoners Rehabilitation and
Welfare Action (PRAWA) a nongovernmental organization (NGO),
dead inmates promptly are buried on the prison compounds,
usually without their families having been notified. A
nationwide estimate of the number of inmates who die daily in
the country's prisons is difficult to obtain because of
record keeping by prison officials. PRAWA alleged that prison
conditions were worse in rural areas than in urban districts.
PRAWA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
have regular access to the prisons and publish newsletters on
their work. The Government admits that there are problems
with its incarceration and rehabilitation programs and worked
with groups such as these to address those problems.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention;
however, the Government rarely observed these prohibitions
and the police and security forces continued to use arbitrary
arrest and detention.
Police and security forces were empowered to make arrests
without warrants if they believed that there was reason to
suspect that a person had committed an offense; they often
abused this power. Under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement
Procedures Rules of the Constitution (based on those of the
1979 Constitution), police may arrest and detain persons for
24 hours before charging them with an offense. The law
requires an arresting officer to inform the accused of
charges at the time of arrest and to take the accused persons
to a station for processing within a reasonable amount of
time. By law police must provide suspects with the
opportunity to engage counsel and post bail. However, police
generally did not adhere to legally mandated procedures.
Suspects routinely were detained without being informed of
the charges, denied access to counsel and family members, and
denied the opportunity to post bail for bailable offenses.
Sheik Yakubu Musa, a Katsina-based Islamic scholar, was
arrested and detained by security agents for 27 days without
being charged until he was ordered released by the Abuja High
Court. There was no functioning system of bail, so many
suspects were held in investigative detention. If family
members attend court proceedings, an additional payment is
often demanded by police.
Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem.
According to the Constitution, persons charged with offenses
have the right to an expeditious trial; however, in practice
this right was not respected (see Section 1.c.). Serious
backlogs, endemic corruption, and undue political influence
continued to hamper the judicial system (see Section 1.e.).
In January the Minister of State for Internal Affairs was
quoted in the press as saying there were 45,000 inmates of
the Nigerian prison system, seventy-five percent of whom were
awaiting trial. Police cited their inability to securely
transport detainees to trial on their scheduled trial dates
as one reason why so many of the detainees were denied a
Persons who happen to be in the vicinity of a crime when it
is committed normally are held for interrogation for periods
ranging from a few hours to several months. After their
release, those detained frequently are asked to return
repeatedly for further questioning. Police continued the
practice of placing relatives and friends of wanted suspects
in detention without criminal charge to induce suspects to
surrender to arrest, although this was done much less often
than under the Abacha regime (see Section 1.f.). Security
forces occasionally beat and detained journalists (see
Section 2.a.).
Many students have been detained for allegedly taking part in
cult or criminal activities on university campuses.
The 1999 Constitution prohibits the expulsion of citizens,
and the Government does not use forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary;
however, in practice, the judiciary remained subject to
executive and legislative branch pressure, was influenced by
political leaders at both the state and federal levels, and
suffered from corruption and inefficiency. Understaffing,
underfunding, inefficiency, and corruption continued to
prevent the judiciary from functioning adequately. Citizens
encountered long delays and frequent requests from judicial
officials for small bribes.
Under the Constitution, the regular court system is composed
of federal and state trial courts, state appeals courts, the
Federal Court of Appeal, and the Federal Supreme Court.
There also are Shari'a (Islamic) and customary (traditional)
courts of appeal for each state and for the federal capital
territory (Abuja). Courts of the first instance include
magistrate or district courts, customary or traditional
courts, Shari'a courts, and for some specified cases, the
state high courts. The nature of the case usually determines
which court has jurisdiction. In principle customary and
Shari'a courts have jurisdiction only if both plaintiff and
defendant agree. However, in practice fear of legal costs,
delays, and distance to alternative venues encouraged many
litigants to choose the customary and Shari'a courts over the
regular venues. Shari'a courts have begun to function in
thirteen northern states.
Criminal justice procedures call for trial within 3 months of
arraignment for most categories of crimes. Understaffing of
the judiciary, inefficient administrative procedures, petty
extortion, bureaucratic inertia, poor communication between
police and prison officials, and inadequate transportation
continued to result in considerable delays, often stretching
to several years, in bringing suspects to trial (see Section
Trials in the regular court system are public and generally
respect constitutionally protected individual rights,
including a presumption of innocence, the right to be
present, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to
be represented by legal counsel. However, there is a
widespread perception that judges easily are bribed or
"settled," and that litigants cannot rely on the courts to
render impartial judgements. Most prisoners are poor and
cannot afford to pay the costs associated with moving their
trials forward, and as a result they remain in prison.
Wealthier defendants employ numerous delaying tactics and in
many cases used financial inducements to persuade judges to
grant numerous continuances. This, and similar practices,
clogged the court calendar and prevented trials from
Some courts are understaffed. Judges frequently fail to
appear for trials, often because they are pursuing other
means of income. In addition court officials often lack the
proper equipment, training, and motivation to perform their
duties, again due in no small part to their inadequate
There are no legal provisions barring women or other groups
from testifying in civil court or giving their testimony less
weight; however, the testimony of women and non-Muslims is
usually accorded less weight in Shari'a courts (see Section
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary interference with
privacy, family, home, or correspondence; however, although
government authorities generally respect these prohibitions,
authorities continued at times to infringe on these rights.
Police and security forces continued the practice of placing
relatives and friends of wanted suspects in detention without
criminal charge to induce suspects to surrender to arrest,
although this was done much less frequently than under
previous military regimes. There were calls by human rights
groups for the police to end the practice.
Unlike in several previous years, there were no reports of
members of the armed forces looting property, destroying
buildings, and driving persons away from their homes.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
Freedom of Speech and Press
There is a large and vibrant private domestic press that is
frequently critical of the Government as well as Government
-owned and controlled publications.
On May 26, 1999, in the last days of Abubakar regime, Decree
60 was signed into law and created the Nigerian Press Council
which was charged with the enforcement of professional ethics
and the sanctioning of journalists who violated these ethics.
The Nigerian Press Council immediately criticized it as "an
undisguised instrument of censorship and an unacceptable
interference with the freedom of the press." Decree 60
attempted to put control of the practice of journalism into
the hands of a body of journalists who were appointed by and
received payment from the Government. In 1999 the NUJ, the
professional association of all Nigerian journalists, and the
Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) rejected
the creation of the Press Council. The NPAN called the
decree unconstitutional and a violation of press freedom,
because there were already enough laws concerning the
operation of the press. The decree, which virtually made
members of the council employees of the Government, also
contained a number of provisions inimical to the operation of
a free press. Among other provisions, Decree 60 gave the
Press Council the power to accredit and register journalists
and the power to suspend journalists from practicing. Decree
60 required publications be registered by the council
annually through a system entitled "Documentation of
Newspapers." In applying for registration, publishers were
expected to submit their mission statements and objectives
and could be denied registration if their objectives failed
to satisfy the Council. The penalties for practicing without
meeting the Council's standards were a fine of $2,200
(250,000 Naira) or imprisonment for a term not to exceed 3
years. The decree also empowered the Council to approve a
code of professional and ethical conduct to guide the press
and to ensure compliance by journalists. Under the decree,
publishers were expected to send a report of the performance
of their publications to the Council; failure to do so was an
offense that carried a fine of $900 (100,000 Naira). The
Council has set up office and hired staff in Abuja, but is
yet to taken any official action. Many journalists believe
that the existence of the decree and council create a
significant limitation on freedom of the press in Nigeria.
During the year there were a few cases of threats against and
attacks on the press. In June, Nnamdi Onyeuma, editor of a
weekly magazine Glamour Trends was arrested and detained for
libel in connection with a story alleging that President
Obasanjo received a $1 million allowance for each of his many
foreign trips. Onyeuma is on bail awaiting court action.
In May, Imo State security personnel raided newsstands where
they seized and burned publications that carried stories on
activities of the Movement for the Actualization of the
Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), an Igbo youth group
advocating the revival of the break away Biafran Republic
that was defeated in the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70.
In April, Police beat a photographer and destroyed the film
in his camera when he attempted to photograph a suspect
leaving the Lagos High Court.
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the body
responsible for the regulation and monitoring of broadcast
media, threatened to take private television and radio
stations off the air in a dispute concerning the regulatory
body,s demand that the private stations pay 2.5 per cent of
their gross income to the NBC. The Independent Broadcasters
Association of Nigeria (IBAN) challenged the fees in court
and in October, President Obasanjo interceded, setting the
annual fee for the broadcasters at Naira 150,000 or U.S.
$1,300. During the course of the year, the NBC also
prevented the commissioning of the Here and There television
station in Oyo State claiming the original license had
expired. The NBC is challenging expansion plans by African
Independent Television (AIT), a part of Daar Communications,
claiming that AIT,s global and terrestrial licenses do not
allow them to act as a network. This year the NBC again
issued no new private radio or television licenses. Ten
applications pending from 1999 are still awaiting NBC
State Governors from Kano, Imo, and Zamfara States became
embroiled in disputes with journalists and publicly
threatened the media. A journalist temporarily lost his
accreditation to cover the State House in Imo State because
of an article critical of the Governor,s wife.
There are two national, government-owned daily newspapers in
English, the New Nigerian and the Daily Times. The New
Nigerian publishes an additional Hausa edition. Several
states own daily or weekly newspapers that also are published
in English. They tend to be poorly produced, have limited
circulation, and require large state subsidies to continue
operating. Several private newspapers and magazines have
begun publication since the inauguration of the civilian
Because newspapers and television are relatively expensive
and literacy levels are low, radio remains the most important
medium of mass communication and information. There is a
national radio broadcaster, the Federal Radio Corporation of
Nigeria, which broadcasts in English, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo,
and other languages. Fifty-one state radio stations
broadcast in English and local languages. For many years, the
Government prohibited nationwide private radio broadcasting,
but the Abacha regime granted broadcasting rights to local
and regional private radio stations in 1994. There were six
private radio stations operating at the beginning of the
year. International broadcasters, principally the Voice of
America (VOA) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), as
well as Deutsche Welle and others, broadcast in English and
Hausa and represent an important source of news for
The National Television Station, NTA, is federally owned,
while 30 states also operate television stations. There are
nine privately owned television stations that broadcast
domestic news and political commentary. There are two
private satellite television services. The 1993 Press Law
requires local television stations to limit programming from
other countries to 40 percent. The 1993 Press Law also
restricts the foreign content of satellite broadcasting to 20
percent, but the Government does not restrict access to, or
reception of, international cable or satellite television.
The Government did not restrict Internet access, although
unreliable and costly telephone service limited access and
hindered service providers. NITEL, the Nigerian PTT,
competed with dozens of privately owned Internet service
While private television and radio broadcasters remained
economically viable on advertising revenues alone, despite
the restrictions that the Government imposed on them,
government-sponsored broadcasters complained that government
funding and advertising were inadequate for their needs.
Even though editors report that government security officers
sometimes visit or call to demand information about a story
or source, journalists and editors no longer fear suspension
or imprisonment for their editorial decisions. State
broadcasters and journalists remain important tools for
civilian governors; these officials use the state-owned media
to showcase the state's accomplishments and to promote their
own political fortunes.
Since the May 1999 elections, foreign journalists who sought
to enter the country to cover political developments
generally have been able to obtain visas, and many of the
obstacles that previously frustrated foreign journalists were
removed. Officials within the Ministry of Information became
more accommodating to requests from foreign journalists.
Under Obasanjo's government, concrete steps have been taken
to address the problems in the education sector and to
restore academic freedom. In 1999, Obasanjo approved the
establishment of four new private universities. Student
groups alleged that numerous strikes, inadequate facilities,
and the rise of cultism (or gangs) on campuses continue to
hamper educational progress. On several occasions during the
year, protests by students resulted in harassment and arrest
by police forces.
Twenty-five wounded soldiers were sentenced to life
imprisonment for "mutiny" and "disobedience" by a court
martial after publicly protesting their treatment by military
officials. The soldiers had alleged medical neglect,
substandard treatment and non-payment of allowances after
they returned wounded from serving in the Nigerian contingent
of ECOMOG forces in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The 1999 Constitution provides citizens with the right to
assemble freely; and the Government generally respected this
right, although some limits remained.
Throughout the year, the Government nominally required
organizers of outdoor public functions to apply for permits,
although both government authorities and those assembling
often ignored this requirement. The Government retained
legal provisions banning gatherings whose political, ethnic,
or religious content might lead to unrest. Open-air
religious services away from places of worship remained
prohibited in most states due to religious tensions in
various parts of the country. For example, various Northern
states, including Plateau, Kano, Zamfara and Kaduna
instituted bans on public gatherings immediately following
periods of violent unrest. This was done in consultation
with a number of religious and traditional groups, and local
governments in order to prevent a recurrence of unrest.
Kaduna state government extended its ban on processions,
rallies, demonstrations, and meetings in public places in
order to prevent repetition of the violence that followed the
establishment of Shari'a law (see Sections 1.a. and 2.c.). A
political rally in Zamfara State degenerated into violence in
September, prompting a temporary ban on public political
rallies. Because of heightened inter-ethnic, inter-religious
and purely political tensions in 2001, various state
governments balance requests for public gatherings with their
potential for creating unrest, and generally permit them to
go forward when possible.
Generally, the police do not break up or cancel scheduled
meetings unless there is a compelling security reason.
Following the APP/PDP riot in Gusau, a PDP rally for the
Northwest Zone, scheduled to take place in Sokoto October
4-5, was cancelled by police for security reasons. A group
known as the Fourth Dimension, led by former Vice President
Augustus Aikhomu, was prevented from meeting in July because
of violence that occurred at a prior meeting in Benin City.
Police also cancelled a planned meeting of southern governors
in Enugu, called to counter a meeting of the 19 northern
governors, because it was "capable of creating disharmony."
Police regularly disrupt meetings of the OPC, and maintain a
ban on the organization.
C. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, including
freedom to change one's religion or belief, and freedom to
manifest and propagate one's religion or belief in worship,
teaching, practice, and observance; however, the Government
restricted these rights in practice in certain respects.
Respect for religious freedom remained limited during the
year due to the implementation of an expanded version of
Shari'a law in a total of 13 northern states, which
challenged constitutional protections for religious freedom
and occasionally sparked interreligious violence.
The Nigerian Constitution prohibits state and local
governments from adopting an official religion. The
Constitution also provides that states may elect to use
Islamic (Shari'a) customary law and courts. Federal, state
and local governments fund various religious activities,
including pilgrimages to Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem for
Christians, as well as requiring Christian or Islamic
religious knowledge to be taught in public schools. About
half of the population is Muslim, about 40 percent Christian,
and about 10 percent practice traditional indigenous religion
or no religion. Since independence, the jurisdiction of
Shari'a courts has been limited to family or personal law
cases involving Muslims, or to civil disputes between Muslims
and non-Muslims who consent to the courts' jurisdiction.
However, the Constitution states that a Shari'a court of
appeal may exercise "such other jurisdiction as may be
conferred upon it by the law of the State." Some states have
interpreted this language as granting them the right to
expand the jurisdiction of existing Shari'a courts to include
criminal matters. Several Christians have alleged that, with
the adoption of an expanded Shari'a law in several states and
the continued use of state funds to fund the construction of
mosques, teaching of Alkalis (Muslim judges), and pilgrimages
to Mecca (Hajj), Islam has been adopted as the de facto state
religion of several northern states. However, state funds
also are used to fund Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem. In
general states with a clear Christian or Muslim majority
tailor state-funded services to favor the majority faith.
The Constitution also provides that the Federal Government is
to establish a Federal Shari'a Court of Appeal and Final
Court of Appeal; however, the Government had not yet
established such courts by year's end.
The Government continued to enforce a ban on the existence of
religious organizations on campuses of primary schools,
although individual students retain the right to practice
their religion in recognized places of worship. Many states
allow the teaching of Kuranic or Biblical knowledge in
primary and secondary schools; however, in almost all states
with religious minorities, there are reports that students
are forced to take classes that violate their religious
principles. Islamic religious knowledge (IRK) is a mandatory
part of the curriculum in public schools in the North, while
Christian religious knowledge (CRK) is mandatory in the
South. State authorities claim that students are permitted
to decline to attend these classes or to request a teacher of
their own religion to provide alternative instruction. In
practice, where the population of a state is evenly divided,
CRK and IRK are equally available. Where there is a
predominant faith, the minority faith may or may not be
offered in the schools. For example, in many southern states
CRK is taught in the schools and IRK is not offered to Muslim
students in the public schools. Conversely, the opposite is
true in northern states with an overwhelming Muslim majority.
The law prohibits religious discrimination; however, reports
were common that government officials discriminated against
persons practicing a religion different from their own,
notably in hiring or awarding contracts. Christians in the
northern, predominantly Muslim part of the country accused
local government officials of attempting to use zoning
regulations to stop or slow the establishment of non-Muslim,
usually Christian, churches. Muslims in parts of the South
have suffered similar discrimination.
Purdah continued in parts of the country leading to continued
restrictions on the freedom of movement of women (see Section
In October 1999, the governor of Zamfara state signed into
law two bills aimed at instituting Islamic Shari'a law in his
state. Implementation of the law began on January 22.
Zamfara's law adopted traditional Shari'a in its entirety,
with the exception that apostasy was not criminalized.
Following Zamfara's lead, other northern states began to
implement varying forms of expanded Shari'a; by year's end 13
states had adopted variations of Shari'a law: Sokoto, Niger,
Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina, Borno, Bauchi,
Gombe and Kaduna states. Previously, Shari'a law had been
practiced in the north in the areas of personal law, only if
both litigants agreed to settle their disputes in Shari'a
courts. Elements of Shari'a also had been present in the
northern penal code, which had been applicable in the north
since independence.
As the result of ethnic and religious violence attendant to
the expansion of Shari'a criminal law in various Northern and
Middle-Belt states, (see Section 5), several northern state
governments banned open air preaching and public religious
processions. (#) Katsina and Plateau state governments have
enacted and maintained a ban on public proselytizing for
security reasons. Kaduna has maintained a ban on all forms
of "processions, rallies, demonstrations, and meetings in
public places." Such bans were viewed as necessary public
safety measures after the deaths of thousands in
predominantly ethno-religious conflicts, sparked in part by
the expansion of Shari'a since 2000, in Kaduna, Plateau,
Kano, Gombe and Bauchi. However, large outdoor religious
gatherings continued to be quite common, especially in the
southern part of the country.
The Federal Government has tacitly acknowledged the ability
of states to implement criminal Shari'a. However, the
Federal Government has instituted a committee charged with
the responsibility to draft uniform Shari'a criminal and
procedural laws that could be adopted by all states, instead
of the current state-drafted statutes that differ in many
respects (see Section 1.c.).
Although the expanded Shari'a laws technically do not apply
to Christians, the Christian minority in some states has been
subjected to many of the social provisions of the law,
primarily the ban on the sale of alcohol. Consumption of
alcohol by Christians has not been criminalized, however, its
sale and public consumption have been restricted throughout
most of the North, except on Federal Government installations
such as military and police barracks. All Muslims were
subjected to the new Shari'a provisions in the states that
enacted them. Various human rights groups have challenged
the constitutionality of criminal Shari'a, but these suits
have failed for lack of a plaintiff with adequate legal
standing. Safiya Hussaini, a divorcee who was convicted of
adultery and sentenced to death by stoning, has indicated her
intention to appeal, challenging the constitutionality of the
conviction (see Section 1.c.).
Distribution of religious publications remained generally
unrestricted, however, the Government continued to enforce
lightly a ban on published religious advertisements. There
were reports by Christians in Zamfara State that the state
government restricted the distribution of Christian religious
literature. Many Christians in the North complain that they
are not provided adequate radio time on state-owned radio
stations while Islamic religious programs are aired without
charge. Six Pakistani Muslim scholars were arrested in Benue
State September 23 without being charged, and were later
questioned by Federal Government officials in Abuja.
Following violence in relation to the expansion of Shari'a
laws in Kaduna in February 2000, several northern state
governments banned any type of proselytizing, in spite of the
fact that it is permitted by the Constitution. With
Shari'a-attendant violence recurring in Plateau, Bauchi and
Gombe states, such bans have remained in place. In Jos,
Missionaries reported that law enforcement officials harassed
them when they proselytized outside of majority Christian
neighborhoods. Proselytizing did not appear to be restricted
in the southern part of the country.
The Federal Government continued to settle property claims by
Muslim Brotherhood leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky for compensation
for his home and mosque, which were razed by law enforcement
in 1997. All 96 of the Muslim Brotherhood followers jailed
under the previous regime were released during the year.
Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel,
Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution entitles citizens to move freely throughout
the country and reside where they wish, and in general, the
Government respected this right; however, police occasionally
restricted this right by enforcing curfews in areas struck by
civil unrest, setting up roadblocks and checkpoints. These
are routinely used by law enforcement agencies to search for
criminals, and to prevent the transport of bodies from areas
of conflict to other parts of the country where their
presence might instigate retaliatory violence.
Unfortunately, security and law enforcement officials often
used such checkpoints to engage in extortion and occasional
violence (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.). Unlike last year,
there were no reports of government officials restricting
mass movements of individuals fleeing ethnic unrest. In
March 2000, however, the Governor of Niger State instructed
state police to install roadblocks to prevent southerners
from returning to their homes. In that incident,
southerners, particularly Igbo traders, were attempting to
return home because they feared violent reprisals in response
to the deaths of Hausas in Aba and Owerri (see Section 1.a.).
Violent clashes between ethnic Hausa and various non-Muslim
ethnic groups in Jos, Tafawa Balewa, and Kano resulted in the
imposition of dusk-to-dawn curfew following the deaths of as
many as 50 persons (see Sections 1.a. and 5). In September
and October, Tiv youths set up roadblocks in eastern Benue to
harass and kill ethnic Jukuns (see Section 1.a.).
The Constitution also prohibits the denial of exit or entry
to any citizen, and the Government generally respected this
law; however, the law also provides that women are required
to obtain permission from a male family member before having
an application for a passport processed. Some men take their
wives' and children's passports and other identification
documents with them while traveling abroad to prevent their
family from leaving the country (see Section 5). General
Jeremiah Useni, a retired general and former Minister of the
Federal Capital Territories under the Abacha regime, was
prevented in August from traveling outside Nigeria and his
passport was confiscated. No reason was given by the FG for
this action.
Prominent human rights and prodemocracy activists who fled
the country during the regime of General Sani Abacha
continued to return to the country as did many economic
refugees. There were no reports that the Government denied
passports to political figures or journalists or interrogated
citizens who were issued visas to foreign countries; however,
there have been sporadic reports that persons still were
questioned upon entry or exit to the country at Murtala
Muhammed international airport. These persons, all of whom
were opponents of the Abacha regime, were identified in
immigration computer systems as individuals to be questioned
by immigration or security officers. For example, Dr. Olua
Kamalu, deputy president of MOSOP, reported that the SSS
seized his passport on July 25, 2000. Dr. Kamalu was
planning a trip to Ghana to attend a visa interview at a
foreign embassy. 2001 example available.
During periods of civil unrest, numerous persons were
displaced from their places of residence. Thousands of
persons, both Christian and Muslim, were displaced internally
following the Kaduna riots in February and in May, 2000.
Most had returned by 2001, and in fact, Kaduna became a place
of refuge for people of all ethnic groups fleeing violence in
Jos, Tafawa Balewa and Kano. Up to 500,000 persons were
displaced following the ethnic conflict between Tiv, Jukun
and Hausa in Nasarawa State (see Section 2.c.). Several
thousand Hausa families fled Tafawa Balewa after what was
essentially a pogrom by the predominant Siyawa ethnic group
in southern Bauchi State. Bauchi Governor Mu'azu admitted
that essentially the entire Hausa community in Tafawa Balewa
had either departed or had been killed in the conflict (see
Section 1.a.). Following civil unrest created largely by
criminal opportunists in Kano in October, many Igbo and
Yoruba residents sent their families south.
Typically, only the head of household returned to areas of
unrest after authorities regained control. Most returnees
remained apprehensive about continuing to work in these areas
and returned only to finish business contracts or to sell
their homes in order to arrange a more organized departure.
A few hundred residents of the Odi village, razed by soldiers
in 1999, have returned to the area; however the federal
Government has not provided them with assistance to
reconstruct their village (see Section 1.a.).
Nigerian law contains provisions for the granting of refugee
and asylum status in accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
The Government cooperated with the Lagos office of the U.N.
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian
agencies in assisting refugees through the National
Commission for Refugees and its Federal Commissioner. The
Eligibility Committee established under Decree 52 of 1989,
which governs the granting of refugee status, asylum, and
resettlement, reviews refugee and resettlement applications.
A representative from the UNHCR participates in this
committee. The issue of the provision of first asylum has
not arisen since the establishment of the National Commission
for Refugees under Decree 52.
At year's end, there were 6,933 recognized refugees: 13 from
Angola; 23 from Benin; 4 from Cameroon; 1,703 from Sierra
Leone; 3,194 from Chad; 74 from Sudan; 1,561 from Liberia; 69
from Cote d'Ivoire; and 292 from other countries. The
Government also resettled in the country 3 Cameroonians, 3
Chadians, 5 Sudanese, 13 Liberians, and 17 persons from other
There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a
country where they feared persecution.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of
Citizens to Change Their Government
In 1998 and 1999 citizens had the opportunity to exercise
their right to change their government. General Abdulsalami
Abubakar oversaw a transition to civilian rule that included
elections for local governments (in December 1998), state
governors and assemblies (in January 1999), and national
legislators and the president (in February 1999). Voter
apathy and widespread fraud marred the legislative elections;
however, the turnout increased for the presidential race,
which proceeded peacefully with reports of only a few violent
incidents. The Independent National Electoral Commission
(INEC) certified former President Olusegun Obasanjo's victory
over Chief Olu Falae with a reported 62 percent of the votes.
Irregularities occurred at each stage of the electoral
process, particularly the presidential nominating convention
and election where, for example, large sums of money were
offered by both political camps to delegates to vote against
political opponents. During the presidential election,
international observers and foreign diplomats witnessed
serious irregularities in procedures. All three parties
engaged in the local purchase of false ballots and fraudulent
tally sheets so that there were vast discrepancies between
what observers saw and inflated tallies in some areas. In
addition there were administrative problems such as late
delivery of voting materials at a large number of polling
stations. Those areas with the worst problems were the
southern tier of states in the Niger Delta region, several
states in Igboland, and a handful of north central states.
The production of "ghost votes" in these states amounted to
as much as 70 or 80 percent of the total reported votes.
Although all parties engaged in attempts to rig the vote, the
PDP machine in the Delta and Igboland was responsible for the
worst excesses. These votes may have added an estimated 15
percent to Obasanjo's total figure; however, observers
believe that even if they were thrown out, he still would
have maintained roughly a 15 percent lead over Falae's total.
International observers confirmed the results and stated
that, despite widespread fraud, Obasanjo's victory reflected
the will of most voters. Although Falae initially protested
the election results, eventually he dropped his legal
challenge. INEC issued a report on the conduct of the
election in July 1999 that documented the fraud. Obasanjo,
109 senators, 360 members of the House of the National
Assembly, and 36 governors and state assemblies assumed
office on May 29, 1999. The President, Vice President, and
other national and state officials serve 4-year terms. The
next state and national elections are scheduled for 2003,
while local government elections are scheduled for 2002.
INEC is working with several international electoral
assistance organizations to help improve the process in 2003;
however, no INEC officials have faced disciplinary action as
result of their involvement in corrupt activities in the 1999
election. The Constitution outlaws the seizure of the
government by force and contains provisions for the removal
of the President, Vice President, ministers, legislators, and
state government officials for gross misconduct or medical
reasons. In November 1999, Senate President Evan Enwerem was
removed after another credentials scandal. His replacement,
Chuba Okadigbo, was removed in August after an internal
Senate investigation on contracting procedures resulted in
his indictment. Several other public officials were
subjected to close scrutiny by the press, public, and
legislative investigators.
The political system remains in transition. The three
branches of the new government acted somewhat independently
during the Administration's third year in office. The
President was instrumental in removing former Senate
President Chuba Okadigbo in 2000, and continued to fight to
remove Speaker Ghali Na'abba in early 2001. He abandoned
this approach after evidence came to light of widespread
fraud and corruption in the attempt to buy votes for
Na'abba's removal. The Senate and the House of
Representatives legislative responsibilities such as budget
review and oversight, the election reform initiative and
resource allocation seriously. Obasanjo created several
commissions to investigate past government contracts and
human rights abuses, which were overwhelmed with applications
to present evidence of wrongdoing (see Section 4). However,
the judicial branch remained weakened by years of neglect and
Abubakar's military Government, which consulted with a
selected group of constitutional and legal experts around the
country to revise the 1979 and 1995 Constitutions,
promulgated the 1999 Constitution on May 5, 1999. The
constitution-writing process was criticized for not being
open to enough participants and for not being subjected to
wider debate on the country's federal structure, revenue
allocation and power-sharing formulas, and minority ethnic
groups' rights. Complaints about the Constitution persisted
and there were continued calls for a national conference,
many from groups in the southwest. A bill for a national
conference was introduced in the Senate late in the year.
They looked instead to the constitutional reform committee in
the Senate.
Special Advisor to President Obasanjo on Constitutional
Matters Dr. Maxwell Gidado heads a process which gathered
information from citizen groups in various parts of the
country on reform of the 1999 Constitution. His findings
will be presented by the President to the National Assembly
for consideration. (I am not sure of exact process or
whether findings have been presented yet.)
Although the Constitution allows the free formation of
political parties, only three parties were registered with
the INEC. The Constitution requires parties to have
membership in two-thirds of the country's 36 states. In
anticipation of the 2003 election INEC began preparing a
draft electoral law for the National Assembly to consider in
the next legislative session. In 2000, public fora were held
during the year in all 36 states and the federal capital
territory of Abuja to solicit citizens' views on the draft
law. Over 10,000 citizens participated, however, the draft
law was not subject to much public debate outside of this
exercise. The proposed law seeks to regulate the timing of
elections and the eligibility of independent parties to
register. Because of the propensity for violence and unrest
during elections, and in order to prevent an unfair advantage
accruing to incumbents, there is substantial pressure to
reschedule local government elections, currently set for
April 2002, so that presidential, gubernatorial and local
government occur in 2003. Conflicting bills regarding both
timing of elections and eligibility of new parties are
pending in the Senate and House.
Women are underrepresented in government and politics,
although there were no legal impediments to political
participation or voting by women. Men continued to dominate
the political arena. NGO's continued to protest the
underrepresentation of women in the political process, and
women were underrepresented in the new civilian government.
Only 6 women were appointed as ministers out of a total of 56
positions. There were 3 women among the Senate's 109
members, and only 12 women were elected to the 360-member
House of Representatives. Women's rights groups pushed
local, state, and the Federal Government (and local levels as
well) to adopt a 30 percent affirmative action program;
however, these efforts were unsuccessful.
There are no legal impediments to participation in government
by members of any ethnic group. The Constitution requires
that government appointments reflect the country's "federal
character." However, there are more than 250 ethnic groups,
and it is difficult to insure representation of every group
in the Government. The federal- and state-level ministers
generally are selected to represent the country's and the
individual State,s regional, ethnic, and religious makeup.
President Obasanjo attempted to create an ethnically
inclusive Government. The 56-member Cabinet and 109
ambassadorial slots were allocated to an equal number of
candidates from each state to achieve a regional balance.
Despite this effort, northerners and southeasterners
criticized the Government for favoring westerners or ethnic
Yorubas, while the southwesterners criticized the Government
for relying too heavily on northern and southeastern
Middle-belt and Christian officers dominate the military
hierarchy. Military retirements in 2000, few in number,
appeared to reflect normal political and military
decision-making, and appeared to be based on the perceived
needs of the military and country, without reflecting an
ethnic or religious bias. Due to the retirement of many
"political" officers in 1999, there is a perception among
some in the north that the historical northern Hausa
influence on the military has been reduced to the point where
the North is now underepresented.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
The Government permitted local human rights groups to operate
and did not interfere with their activities; nor did it
detain, intimidate, or harass their members. Criticisms of
the Government's past human rights record were abundant in
various media. High-level government officials noted that the
human rights community assisted in the advancement of
democracy. In June President Obasanjo, along with a number
of cabinet members and National Assembly members, met with a
number of prominent human rights representatives for
The Catholic Secretariat, a local sectarian interest group,
continued to hold a monthly open forum in Lagos on various
subjects relating to past and present human rights issues.
Discussion panels have included a number of NGO's, media, and
religious leaders. Each session ended with recommendations
to the Government on how best to resolve these issues. The
Government had not responded to any of these recommendations
at year's end.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is
active, with offices in Abuja and Lagos under the direction
of a regional delegate. Its primary human rights activities
during the year involved the training of prison officials on
human rights, sanitation, and prisoner health.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established
by Decree 22 in 1995 and tasked with monitoring and
protecting human rights in the country, enjoyed greater
recognition by and coordination with NGO's. The NHRC is
chaired by retired Justice Uche Omo and includes 15 other
members. The NHRC is establishing zonal affiliates in each of
the countries six political regions. The NHRC is supposed to
work closely with NGO's that are devoted to human rights
issues. Since its inception, the NHRC has been denied
adequate funding to do its job properly. At year's end, the
NHRC had created a strategic work plan through 2002, and was
in the process of developing a national action plan to be
deposited with the UNCHR. In 2001, it began actively to
assist in appealing extreme Shari'a verdicts in the North.
The HRVIP, commonly known as the Oputa panel, was established
in June 1999 by President Obasanjo to investigate human
rights abuses dating to 1966 and the time of the first
military coup. The Oputa panel can recommend courses of
action to the justice system for perpetrators of past abuses,
something the NHRC does not do. According to Justice Oputa,
the chair, the panel's primary goal is to provide the country
with a systematic examination of past human rights abuses to
develop a national consensus on the boundaries of acceptable
behavior by government entities as well as individuals. The
panel has heard cases throughout the year, mostly involving
allegations of unlawful arrest, detention, and torture as far
back as the 1966 Biafran War. The panel has also heard cases
in which the rights of groups were violated. The Oputa Panel
has held extensive hearings in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt,
and Kano throughout the year, and has taken evidence in the
claims of over 10,000 petitioners. The work of the Panel has
produced some controversy when former Heads of State, Ibrahim
Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and Salisu Buhari refused to
appear to answer questions about human rights abuses under
their respective regimes. The Panel will conclude its
hearings by the end of the year, and will proceed to draft a
report and issue its findings.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
The 1999 Constitution provides citizens with the right to
freedom from discrimination based on "community, place of
origin, ethnic group, sex, religion, or political opinion."
However, customary and religious discrimination against women
persisted, occasional religious violence was a problem,
social discrimination on the basis of both religion and
ethnicity remained widespread, and ethnic and regional
tensions continued to contribute to serious violence both
between groups of citizens and between citizens and the
security forces.
Reports of spousal abuse are common, especially those of wife
beating. Police normally do not intervene in domestic
disputes, which seldom are discussed publicly. The Penal
Code permits husbands to use physical means to chastise their
wives as long as it does not result in "grievous harm," which
is defined as loss of sight, hearing, power of speech, facial
disfigurement, or other life threatening injuries. A women's
rights group has estimated that spousal abuse occurs in 20
percent of adult relationships. In more traditional areas of
the country, courts and police are reluctant to intervene to
protect women who accuse their husbands formally if the level
of alleged abuse does not exceed customary norms in the
areas. Rape and sexual harassment continue to be problems.
Prostitution is rampant, particularly in urban areas. A
number of states, including most northern states which have
begun the enforcement of Shari'a law, have begun to enforce
existing laws or to introduce new laws to combat
prostitution. All states that have adopted Shari'a have
criminalized prostitution, which is enforced with varying
degrees of success. Prostitution is not illegal in Lagos
State; however, authorities can use statutes that outlaw
pandering as a justification for arresting prostitutes (See
Section 6.c). The adoption of Shari'a-based legal systems by
northern states has led to the strong enforcement of laws
against prostitution for both adults and children (see
Section 2.c.). Southern states, like Edo, also are
criminalizing prostitution and raising the legal age for
marriage from 16 to 18. There is an active market for
trafficking in women to Europe, and elsewhere (see Section
6.f.). In some parts of the country, women continue to be
harassed for social and religious reasons.
Purdah, the Islamic practice of keeping girls and women in
seclusion from men outside the family, continued in parts of
the far north.
Women experience considerable discrimination as well as
physical abuse. There are no laws barring women from
particular fields of employment; however women often
experience discrimination because the Government tolerates
customary and religious practices that adversely affect them.
The Nigerian NGO's Coalition expressed concern about
continued discrimination against women in the private sector,
particularly in access to employment, promotion to higher
professional positions, and in salary inequality. There are
credible reports that several businesses operate with a "get
pregnant, get fired" policy. Women remain underrepresented
in the formal sector but play an active and vital role in the
country's important informal economy. While the number of
women employed in the business sector increases every year,
women do not receive equal pay for equal work and often find
it extremely difficult to acquire commercial credit or to
obtain tax deductions or rebates as heads of households.
Unmarried women in particular endure many forms of
While some women have made considerable individual progress,
both in the academic and business world, women remain
underprivileged. Although women are not barred legally from
owning land, under some customary land tenure systems only
men can own land, and women can gain access to land only
through marriage or family. In addition many customary
practices do not recognize a women's right to inherit her
husband's property, and many widows were rendered destitute
when their in-laws took virtually all of the deceased
husband's property. Widows are subjected to unfavorable
conditions as a result of discriminatory traditional customs
and economic deprivation. "Confinement" is the most common
rite of deprivation to which widows are subjected, and it
occurs predominately in eastern Nigeria. Confined widows are
under restrictions for as long as 1 year and usually are
required to shave their heads and dress in black garments.
In other areas, a widow is considered a part of her husband's
property, to be "inherited" by his family. Shari,a personal
law, in contrast to traditional law and practice in many
English common law cases, protects widows property rights.
Polygamy continues to be practiced widely among all ethnic
groups and among Christians as well as Muslims and
practitioners of traditional persuasions. Women are required
by law to obtain permission from a male family member to get
a passport (see Section 2.d.). The testimony of women is not
equal to that of men in criminal courts. If one woman
testifies, a second woman must also to provide testimony to
equal the weight of the testimony of one man.
Women have been affected to varying degrees by the adoption
of Shari'a in the North. In Zamfara state, local governments
instituted laws requiring the separation of Muslim men and
women in transportation, health care, and primary educational
services (see Section 2.c.). Separate transportation and
health facilities for men and women already have been
implemented there. In 2000, a non-Muslim woman was pulled
from a motorcycle and injured by vigilantes for breaking the
new rule requiring separate transportation for women in a
local government area of Zamfara State. In January, an
unmarried 17-year-old woman was given 100 strokes of the cane
lashes for fornication and false testimony (see Sections
1.c,). While humiliating, the caning did not appear to cause
serious injury, and the woman was reported to have walked
home after the execution of the sentence without aid. Safiya
Hussaini was convicted of adultery in Sokoto State because
she could not prove who was responsible for her pregnancy.
Procedural irregularities were noted in her case. In
apparent violation of traditional Shari'a jurisprudence, some
Alkali judges appear to deny Shari'a criminal protections to
women that they provide to men. This tends to subject women
to harsh punishments for fornication or adultery based solely
upon the fact of pregnancy, while men are not convicted
without the requisite number of witnesses.
A national network of women's rights NGO's described the
Government's 1998 report on the implementation of the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW) for the period 1986-94 as "inaccurate"
in its positive portrayal of the status of women. The NGO
Coalition for a Shadow Report on the Implementation of CEDAW
(NGO CEDAW Coalition) issued its alternative report in March
1999, which was critical of the Government's failure to
remove legal impediments and social discrimination faced by
women. During the year, there reportedly was not much
progress made to rectify the problems described in the NGO
Public schools continued to be inadequate, and limited
facilities precluded access to education for many children.
The Constitution's general provisions call for the
Government, "when practical," to provide free, compulsory,
and universal primary education; however, despite the
President's commitment to compulsory education, compulsory
primary education rarely was provided, particularly in the
north (see Section 6.d.). Girls are discriminated against in
access to education for social and economic reasons. The
literacy rate for males is 58 percent but only 41 percent for
females. Rural girls are even more disadvantaged than their
urban counterparts. Only 42 percent of rural girls are
enrolled in school compared with 72 percent of urban girls.
In the north, Muslim communities favor boys over girls in
deciding which children to enroll in secondary and elementary
schools. In the south, economic hardship also restricts many
families' ability to send girls to school and, instead, they
are directed into commercial activities such as trading and
street vending. While the Government increased spending on
children's health in recent years, it seldom enforced even
the inadequate laws designed to protect the rights of
Cases of child abuse, abandoned infants, child prostitution,
and physically harmful child labor practices remained common
throughout the country (see Sections 6.c and 6.d.). Although
the law stipulates that "no child shall be ordered to be
imprisoned," juvenile offenders are incarcerated routinely
along with adult criminals. The Government only occasionally
criticized child abuse and neglect, and it made little effort
to stop customary practices harmful to children, such as the
sale of young girls into marriage (see Section 6.f.). There
were credible reports that poor families sell their daughters
into marriage as a means of supplementing their income.
Young girls often are forced into marriage as soon as they
reach puberty, regardless of age, in order to prevent the
"indecency" associated with premarital sex.
A number of states have adopted Islamic (Shari'a) law in
varying degrees. While most schools in the north
traditionally have separated children by gender, it is now
required by law in Zamfara, Sokoto, and Kebbi state schools
(see Section 2.c.).
There was evidence of trafficking in children (see Section
The Federal Government publicly opposes Female Genital
Mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international
health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological
health; however, it has taken no legal action to curb the
practice. (#) A federal law banning FGM is currently before
the National Assembly. Because of the considerable problems
that anti-FGM groups faced at the federal level, most are
refocusing their energies to combat FGM at the state and
local government area (LGA) level. Edo State banned FGM in
October. Ogun, Cross River, Osun, Rivers, and Bayelsa states
banned FGM during the year. However, the punishments imposed
are minimal, in Edo state the punishment is a $10.00 (1,000
Naira) fine and 6 months imprisonment. In addition once a
state legislature criminalizes FGM, NGO's have found that
they must convince the LGA authorities that state laws are
applicable in their districts.
The Women's Centre for Peace and Development (WOPED)
estimated that at least 50 percent of women are mutilated.
Studies conducted by the U.N. Development Systems and the
World Health Organization estimated the FGM rate at
approximately 60 percent. However, according to local
experts, the actual prevalence may be as high as 100 percent
in some ethnic conclaves in the south. While practiced in
all parts of the country, FGM is more predominant in the
southern and eastern zones. Women from Northern states are
less likely to be mutilated; however, those affected are more
likely to undergo the severe type of FGM known as
infibulation. WOPED believes that the practice is
perpetuated because of a cultural belief that uncircumcised
women are promiscuous, unclean, unsuitable for marriage,
physically undesirable, or potential health risks to
themselves and their children, especially during childbirth.
The National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, The
Nigerian Women's Association, and the Nigerian Medical
Association worked to eradicate the practice and to train
health care workers on the medical effects of FGM; however,
contact with health care workers remains limited.
Nevertheless, most observers agree that the number of females
who are currently subjected to FGM is declining.
Indigenous forms of FGM vary from the simple removal of the
clitoral hood or labia minora to excision of the clitoris and
the most dangerous form, infibulation. The age at which
females are subjected to the practice varies from the first
week of life until after a woman delivers her first child.
The Ministry of Health, women's groups, and many NGO's
sponsored public awareness projects to educate communities
about the health hazards of FGM. The press repeatedly
criticized the practice.
People with Disabilities
While the Government called for private business to institute
policies that ensured fair treatment for the disabled, it did
not enact any laws requiring greater accessibility to
buildings or public transportation, nor did if formulate any
policy specifically ensuring the right of the disabled to
Religious Minorities
The law prohibits religious discrimination; however private
businesses frequently are guilty of informal religious
discrimination in their hiring practices and purchasing
Religious differences often correspond to regional and ethnic
differences. For example, the northern region is
overwhelmingly Muslim, as are the large Hausa and Fulani
ethnic groups of the region. Many southern ethnic groups are
predominantly Christian, although the Yoruba are roughly
fifty percent Muslim. Consequently, at times it is difficult
to distinguish between religious or ethnic/regional
discrimination or tension, both of which are pervasive.
Religious tensions underscored what were predominantly ethnic
confrontations throughout the year. The Middle Belt, because
of its particular historical circumstances, has suffered
recurring inter-religious and inter-ethnic violence during
the past two years.
The crisis in Kaduna in February and May 2000 was the first
major Muslim-Christian conflict during Obasanjo's tenure.
Viewed through the ethnic prism, there were numerous
conflicts in Southern Kaduna between smaller ethnic groups
and the Hausa-Fulani who occupied towns, whose names are now
synonymous in Nigeria with the conflicts that occurred there:
Zangon-Kataf, Kachia, and Kafanchan. There has not been a
similar flare up of violence this year due in part to the
government sponsored dialogue between the different faiths
and ethnic groups. For example when two small churches were
partially burned in the northern part of Kaduna city in
October, the fires were put out through the efforts of
Christian and Muslim neighbors, and the State Government
promised funds to repair them.
A violent ethnic crisis erupted in July between the Sayawa
ethnic group and Hausa/Fulani residing in Tafawa Balewa in
southern Bauchi State. Tafawa Balewa is similar to Kafanchan
or Zangon Kataf in Kaduna state in that it is inhabited
primarily by the Muslim Hausa-Fulani, while the indigenous,
non-Muslim, Sayewa ethnic group dominates the land and
villages surrounding the town. It is unclear how the
violence in Tafawa Balewa commenced, but it may have been
related to the proposed introduction of Shari'a law by Bauchi
State. Most casualties--up to one hundred dead and
significant property loss--were Hausa-Fulani. State
authorities acted quickly to prevent a reprisal by
Hausa-Fulani against the Sayewa by calling in the military to
maintain order, but tensions in Tafawa Balewa persists. By
mid-September, most of the Hausa-Fulani had left Tafawa
During the weekend of September 7, violence erupted in the
Jos that eventually claimed more than 2300 lives. It is
unclear how the unrest began, but tensions had risen over the
appointment of an ethnic Hausa to the chairmanship of a local
Poverty Alleviation Program, and earlier violence between
Christian Sayewa and Musim Hausa-Fulani in Tafawa Balewa,
Bauchi, only 60 kilometers away. There were also several
reports of Hausa-Fulanis being summarily killed in outlying
villages. Roughly eighty-percent of the casualties in Jos
were Hausa-Fulani Muslims, who constitute a significant
minority in Jos. The military was able to restore order, but
thousands of Hausas fled Plateau state for Kaduna, Kano,
Jigawa and Bauchi. This conflict appears to have been
primarily ethnic, and secondarily religious. Christians of
different sects were reported to have attacked each other,
and Yoruba Muslims reportedly joined in the killing of their
Hausa co-religionists. The Jos conflict produced
approximately 11,600 internally displaced persons according
to the Nigerian Red Cross.
In October 12, 600 to 1000 Muslims peacefully demonstrated in
Kano against U.S. and allied air strikes against Afghanistan.
However, several hours after the demonstration two small
churches were burned. The following morning, a mob of
predominantly Hausa youth began attacking shopkeepers and
looting shops in city,s major market. The military was
called in to restore order and did so successfully. The
violence appeared to be primarily opportunistic and
criminally inspired but with religious and ethnic overtones,
with gangs trying to foment unrest in order to loot. Churches
and three mosques were reportedly burned during the fighting.
After order was restored, Governor Kwankwaso held a series
of meetings with local ethnic and religious leaders to stem
further outbreaks and to rebuild trust between the
National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities
The country's population of about 120 million is ethnically
diverse, and consists of more than 250 groups, many of which
speak distinct primary languages and are concentrated
geographically. There is no majority ethnic group. The
three largest ethnic groups, the Hausa-Fulani of the north,
the Yoruba of the southwest, and the Igbos of the southeast,
together make up about two-thirds of the population. The
Ijaw of the South Delta area, the fourth largest group, claim
a population of 12 million, roughly the same as the Kanuri
population in the far northeast and Tiv population in the
south. Because of the lack of reliable statistics, it is
difficult to determine the populations of the various ethnic
The Constitution prohibits ethnic discrimination by the
Government. In addition the Constitution mandates that the
composition of the federal, state, and local governments and
their agencies, as well as the conduct of their affairs,
reflect the diverse character of the country in order to
promote national unity and loyalty. This provision was
designed as a safeguard against domination of the Government
by persons from a few states or ethnic and sectional groups.
These provisions were included in response to previous
domination of the Government and the armed forces by
northerners and Muslims. In fact, many argue that the
informal, though immutable rules of regional and ethnic
"zoning" substantially outweigh the Constitution, because
they are the implicit rules by which Nigerians agree to
remain in one nation. The Government of Olusegun Obasanjo
was an example of this diversity. Obasanjo is a Yoruba from
the southwest, the Vice President is a northerner, and the
Senate President is an Igbo. President Obasanjo assiduously
followed the unwritten rules of zoning in making key
appointments: essentially, each state must have at least gets
one minister and one minister of state. While this makes for
an unwieldly cabinet and can make geographic or ethnic
provenance outweigh considerations of competence, this system
can not be dispensed with easily. The political parties also
engaged in "zoning," the practice of rotating positions
within the party among the different regions and ethnicities
to ensure that each region and ethnicity is given adequate
representation. Nonetheless, claims of marginalization by
members of southern minority groups and Igbos continued. The
ethnic groups of the Niger Delta, in particular, continued
their calls for high-level representation on petroleum issues
and within the security forces. Northern Muslims, who lost
previously held positions within the military hierarchy,
accused the Obasanjo Government of favoring Christians from
the Middle Belt for those positions. Traditional linkages
continued to impose considerable pressure on individual
government officials to favor their own ethnic groups for
important positions and patronage.
Societal discrimination on the basis of ethnicity is widely
practiced by members of all ethnic groups and is evident in
private sector hiring patterns, de facto ethnic segregation
of urban neighborhoods, and a continuing paucity of marriages
across major ethnic and regional lines. There is a long
history of tension among the diverse ethnic groups (see
Section 1.a.)
Significant inter-ethnic clashes were reported in Delta,
Anambra, Bauchi, Plateau, Nassarawa, Rivers, Benue, Bayelsa,
Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Ebonyi States, often resulting in
fatalities (see Sections 1.a, 5.d).
Competing economic aspirations among smaller ethnic groups
related to the control and powers of subnational governments
occasionally led to violent conflict. This competition is
often expressed in terms of "indigene" versus "immigrant."
The crisis in Jos, despite its religious overtones, was
partially precipitated by indigenous ethnic groups in order
to drive out or deny Hausa-Fulani "immigrants" access to the
resources of Plateau State--even though immigrant Hausa
settlers originally founded Jos.
A recurring conflict over land rights and status continued
for several months between the Tiv, the Kwalla, the Jukun and
the Azara ethnic groups. These groups all reside in or near
the convergence of Nasarawa, Benue and Taraba states. The
Tiv, who are thought to have originated in the East African
highlands, migrated to central Nigeria hundreds of years ago.
Tivs are regarded as interlopers by the "indigenous" ethnic
groups, except in parts of Benue State where the Tiv
predominate. The conflict began in southeastern Nasarawa
state June 12 when Alhaji Musa Ibrahim, a chief of the
Hausa-speaking Azara ethnic group, was assassinated by a
group of local Tiv. Hundreds may have been killed in the
ensuing conflict, which was eventually stopped by the
military, with nearly 30,000 Tiv migrating south to Benue
State. In July, the conflict spread to Taraba State and
involved the Jukun ethnic group attacking the Tiv.
Twenty-five people were reported killed and 25,000 Tiv fled
Taraba for camps on Benue and Nasarawa. Tensions in Makurdi,
Benue State, rose over the influx of Tiv, and nearly resulted
in ethnic conflict there in September.
Other ethnic minorities, particularly in Delta, Rivers,
Bayelsa, and Akwa Ibom states, have echoed the Ogoni ethnic
group's claims of environmental degradation and government
indifference to their development in the Delta. Groups such
as the Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, and Isoko continued to express
their unhappiness about their perceived economic exploitation
and the environmental destruction of their homelands, and
incidents of ethnic conflict and confrontation with
government forces increased in the delta area, particularly
after the Ijaw Youth Council issued the Kaiama Declaration in
December 1998 (see Section 1.a.). Other ethnic groups saw
the Kaiama Declaration, which claims the entire Delta the
property of the Ijaw, as threatening their rights. Disparate
organizations of youths from a variety of ethnic groups
continued to take oil company personnel hostage in the delta
region (see Section 1.b.). For example, in June, an Ijaw
group took around 60 people hostage at an oil facility at
Bonny Island, Rivers State. The group alleged that the land
where the facility was situated had been obtained illegally.
As a result of this ongoing violence, many oil companies
continued to employ local police, and in some cases military
troops, to protect their facilities and personnel. Local
youths claimed that these "militias" engaged in extrajudicial
killings and other human rights abuses, in some cases with
the support of foreign oil companies (see Section 1.a.).
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), an entity
created in October 2000 to increase government resources
committed to the area and grant more local autonomy over
expenditure of these resources, achieved little while plans
to source its financing remained contentiously debated.
Section 6. Worker Rights
The Right of Association
The 1999 Constitution gives all citizens the right to
assemble freely and associate with other persons, and to form
or belong to any trade union or other association. However,
several statutory restrictions on the individual's right of
association, and on trade unions, remain in effect despite
repeals of most military-era anti-labor decrees. These
restrictions include: permitting only a single central labor
federation (the Nigerian Labour Congress); requiring trade
unions to be formally registered by the Federal Government;
requiring a minimum of 50 workers to form a trade union;
recognizing only 29 trade unions; preventing non-management
senior staff from joining registered trade unions; and,
denying senior staff associations a seat on the National
Labor Advisory Council (NLAC). Several of these restrictions
were cited by an ILO committee of experts in 1999. The
government has yet to amend these laws, but has conducted
discussions with senior staff associations concerning formal
recognition and their accession to the NLAC.
Certain categories of Nigerian workers are not permitted to
join trade unions, including members of the armed forces, and
government employees in the police, customs, immigration,
prisons, federal mint, central bank, and telecommunications.
Certain workers engaged in an "essential service" are
required to provide advance notice of a strike. Essential
services include banking, postal services, transportation,
public health, and utilities. Employees working in a
designated export-processing zone may not join a union until
ten years after the start-up of the enterprise.
According to figures provided by the Nigerian Labour
Congress, total union membership is approximately four
million. Less than ten percent of the total work force is
organized. With the exception of a small number of workers
engaged in commercial food processing, the agricultural
sector, which employs the bulk of the work force, is not
organized. The informal sector, and small and medium
enterprises, remain largely unorganized.
Since 1978 the government has mandated a single trade union
structure with service and industrial unions grouped under
the NLC. The trade union movement is composed of two groups
consisting of junior and senior staff workers. The single
trade union structure and segregation of junior from senior
staff were intended by government to dilute labor's
bargaining strength. Junior staff workers--primarily
blue-collar workers--are organized into 29 industrial unions
with a membership of approximately four million persons and
are affiliated with the NLC. Twenty-one associations make up
the senior staff associations of Nigeria, which have renamed
themselves the trade union congress (TUC). The TUC has a
claimed membership of approximately 400,000 to 600,000. The
TUC -- primarily white-collar workers--has not been
officially sanctioned by the government, is prohibited by
statute from affiliating with the NLC. Although it lacks a
seat on the National Labor Advisory Council, the government
has commenced discussions concerning its accession to the
body. Sescan has begun to lay the political groundwork to
achieve government recognition, which will require formal
action by the national assembly.
Strikes occurred in May and June by the doctors and
university professors over wages, working conditions, and
government investment in infrastructure. Both actions were
resolved following lengthy negotiations with the relevant
government ministries, and are significant in that labor
extracted government commitments to budget greater funds for
development of the nation's moribund health and education
Smaller strikes plagued the oil sector, particularly in the
areas of operation in the Niger delta. The principal issues
raised by NUPENG (National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas
Workers) and its senior staff counterpart PENGASSAN
(Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of
Nigeria) are the increasing use of contract labor and the
number of indigenous workers in management positions.
There are no laws prohibiting retribution against strikers
and strike leaders. Lagos State Government terminated an
important local union leader in Lagos, ostensibly for
nonperformance, following an extended and acrimonious strike
by state government workers. Strikers who believe that they
are victims of unfair retribution may submit their cases to
the industrial arbitration panel (IAP), with the approval of
the Labor Ministry. The IAP's decisions are legally binding
on the parties but may be appealed to the Nigerian Industrial
Court (NIC). In practice the decisions of these bodies
infrequently carry the force of law. Union representatives
describe the arbitration process as cumbersome and
time-consuming, and an ineffective deterrent to employer
B. The right to organize and bargain collectively
The labor laws provide for the right to organize and to
bargain collectively. Collective bargaining occurs
throughout the public sector and organized private sector.
Complaints of anti-union discrimination may be brought to the
Ministry of Labor for resolution. The Labor Minister may
refer unresolved disputes to the IAP and the NIC (see Section
6.a.). Union officials have questioned the effectiveness and
independence of the NIC in view of its refusal in previous
years to resolve various disputes stemming from the
government's failure to fulfill contract provisions for
public sector employees. The NIC was reconstituted this year
with several new members, including a formerly imprisoned
trade unionist, Milton Dabibi. Union leaders have criticized
the arbitration system's dependence on the labor minister's
referrals. The Labor Minister typically makes few referrals
to the IAP. The IAP and NIC are now active following the
government's appointment of new members, but sorely lacking
in resources.
Under the law, a worker under a collective bargaining
agreement may not strike unless his union has met the
requirements of the Trade Disputes Act, including mandatory
mediation and referral of the dispute to the Government. The
act allows the Government in its discretion to refer the
matter to a labor conciliator, arbitration panel, board of
inquiry, or the National Industrial Court. The Act forbids
any employer from granting a general wage increase to its
workers without prior government approval. In practice,
however, the law is widely ignored. Public and private
sector strikes are widespread, and private sector wage
increases are not submitted to the government for prior
The government retains broad legal authority over labor
matters and often intervenes in disputes seen to challenge
key political or economic objectives. But the era of
government domination of unions through handpicked "sole
administrators" is now over. The labor movement is
increasingly active and strident on issues affecting the
ordinary worker. During 2001 the Nigeria Labour Congress in
particular has spoken out often on issues ranging from
economic reform, fuel price deregulation, privatization,
globalization, tariffs, corruption, contract workers, and
political issues.
The labor movement in February gathered in Abuja to form a
"civil-society-based" political party, which would feature
strong labor representation. Although the event generated
much interest and attracted senior government attendance,
funding for the party remains a sticking point.
The government has directed each state administration to
establish its own salary structure based on its ability to
pay and in accord with the national minimum wage (see section
6.e.). The government's decision, taken without broad
consultation, caught several states by surprise. Many state
governments have found it difficult to pay the approximately
$60 (6500 Naira) monthly minimum wage to their employees,
without massive layoffs, and the elimination of "ghost
An export-processing zone (EPZ) is being developed in
Calabar, Cross River State, and a second is planned for Port
Harcourt, Rivers State. Workers and employers in such zones
are subject to national labor laws, which provide for a
ten-year amnesty on trade unions from the startup of an
enterprise. This feature of Nigeria's EPZ framework
attracted negative comment from the ILO.
c. Prohibition of forced or compulsory labor
The 1974 Labor Decree and the 1999 Constitution prohibit
forced or compulsory labor. However, trafficking in women
and children for purposes of forced prostitution and forced
labor is a problem (see section 6.f), and enforcement of the
law is not effective.
Although employment of persons under 18 years of age
generally is prohibited, except for agriculture and domestic
work, the government does not specifically prohibit forced
and bonded labor by children. There are occasional reports
of forced child labor, including child slavery rings
operating between Nigeria and neighboring countries (see
sections 5 and 6.f). The reports suggest that Nigerian
children are exported to other African countries for domestic
and agricultural work. Children from neighboring countries
are also imported to Nigeria for work as domestic servants.
d. Status of child labor practices and minimum age for
The 1974 Labor Decree prohibits employment of children less
than 15 years of age in commerce and industry, and restricts
other child labor to home-based agricultural or domestic
work. The law states that children may not be employed in
agricultural or domestic work for more than 8 hours per day.
The decree allows the apprenticeship of youths at the age 13
under specific conditions.
Primary education is compulsory, although this requirement
rarely is enforced. Studies indicate declining school
enrollment due to deteriorated public schools and increased
economic pressures on families. The lack of sufficient
primary schools and the high cost of school fees limits many
families' access to education, inducing them to place their
children in the labor market. Economic hardship leads to
high numbers of children in commercial activities aimed at
enhancing meager family income. Children are frequently
employed as beggars, hawkers, and bus conductors in urban
areas. The use of children as domestic servants is common.
According to an ILO statement in 1998, and data from UNICEF,
the incidence of child prostitution is growing (see section
The 1974 Labor Decree and the 1999 constitution prohibit
forced or compulsory labor, a prohibition that extends to
children, although they are not mentioned specifically in the
laws. There continue to be cases of trafficking in children
as indentured servants or for criminal activities such as
prostitution (see section 6.f.).
Private and government initiatives to stem the growing
incidence of child employment exist but are ineffective,
given the size of the problem, and the need for a
well-functioning legal system. UNICEF operates programs that
remove young girls from the street hawking trade and relocate
them to informal educational settings. UNICEF believes it is
only scratching the surface of the problem.
In conjunction with the ILO, the government is building a
national program of action in support of child rights,
survival, protection, development and participation.
The labor ministry has an inspections department whose major
responsibilities include enforcement of legal provisions
relating to conditions of work and protection of workers.
There are less than 50 inspectors for the entire country.
The ministry conducts inspections only in the formal business
sector, in which the incidence of child labor is not
E. Acceptable conditions of work
The 1974 Labor Decree set a minimum wage, which is reviewed
from time to time. Private sector minimum wages increased
this year to match the 2000 increase in the public sector
wage scale. However, the statutory private sector minimum
wage is irrelevant because real private sector wages greatly
exceed the minimum wage. In early 2001 the national police
went unpaid for several months.
The 1974 Labor Decree calls for a 40-hour workweek, two to
four weeks annual leave, and overtime and holiday pay. The
1974 Labor Decree sets out general health and safety
provisions, some of which are aimed specifically at young or
female workers. It requires that the factory division of the
Ministry of Labor and Employment inspect factories for
compliance with health and safety standards, but this agency
is greatly understaffed, lacks basic resources and training.
In addition, the labor ministry often fails to reimburse
inspectors for expenses incurred in traveling to inspection
sites. Consequently, safety oversight of many enterprises is
widely neglected and safety standards are quite low for
indigenous enterprises.
The Decree requires employers to compensate injured workers
and dependent survivors of those killed in industrial
accidents. The Labor Ministry, which is charged with
enforcement of these laws, has been ineffective in
identifying violators. The government has failed to action
various ILO recommendations since 1991 to update its program
on inspection and accident reporting. The Labor Decree does
not provide workers with the right to remove themselves from
dangerous work situations without loss of employment.
F. Trafficking in persons
No specific law makes trafficking in persons a crime. There
is an active and growing market for trafficking in women and
children within the region and to Europe for illicit
purposes. The full nature and scope of the trade remains
unknown, but is considered extensive. Immigration and police
officials throughout Europe report a steady flow of Nigerian
women entrapped and sold into prostitution in Europe,
particularly Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the Czech
Republic. Italian authorities deported several hundred sex
workers to Nigeria during the year. Other European countries
deported smaller numbers of Nigerian trafficking victims.
Nigerian Police officials claim that Nigerian women, though
seeking emigration for economic reasons, are often recruited
and trafficked to Europe through well-organized trafficking
syndicates run by Nigerian criminals. Evidence shows that
these Nigerian trafficking syndicates use indebtedness,
threats of beatings and/or rape, and threats of violence to
the victim,s family back in Nigeria to keep the trafficked
girls and women enslaved in European sex markets and to
discourage them from seeking assistance from European police
agencies or NGOs.
Nigerian police report that the families of girls and women
often condone their entry into the sex trade. During the
past year, there was at least one documented case of
trafficking in children reported in the Lagos metropolis,
though incidents of trafficking in Lagos and other major
Nigerian cities are suspected to be commonplace. The
absence of more documented reports is believed to be the
result of ineffective enforcement mechanisms, lack of
resources, and weak government commitment. There is evidence
of trafficking of children to the United States and Europe,
mostly for the reunification of children with their
undocumented parents abroad.
Basic economic incentives often underlie child trafficking.
Generally, families who employ children as domestic servants
(a widespread practice in West Africa) also pay their school
fees. Child traffickers receive a monthly payment from the
employer, part of which is to be remitted to the parents of
the indentured child servant. These traffickers take
advantage of a cultural tradition of child fostering, under
which it is culturally acceptable to send a child to live and
work with a more prosperous family in an urban center in
return for educational and vocational advancement.
According to ILO reports, there is an active and extensive
trade in child laborers, some of whom are exported to
Cameroon, Gabon, Benin and Equatorial Guinea to work in
agricultural enterprises. Other children are coerced into
prostitution. Authorities have identified a trade route for
traffickers of children for labor through Katsina and Sokoto
to the Middle East and east Africa. The eastern part of
Nigeria and some southern states such as Cross Rivers and
Akwa Ibom have been the sites of trafficking of children for
labor and, in some cases, human sacrifice. Nigeria remains a
destination for the trafficking of Togolese children. The
ILO issued a report on child trafficking in the region that
identified Nigeria as a source area, destination and transit
area for children trafficking within and the region.
The government has conducted few investigations into the
alleged involvement of government officials in trafficking,
though this involvement reportedly is widespread.
There is draft legislation now under review in the National
Assembly that would make trafficking a crime. There is
government and societal acknowledgement that trafficking in
women is a continuing problem, particularly to Europe.
Police attempts to stem the trafficking of persons are
inadequate and too often focus on the victims of trafficking,
who are often subjected to lengthy detention and public
humiliation upon repatriation to Nigeria. In contrast,
traffickers are almost never identified and punished.
Awareness campaigns, often conducted by spouses of prominent
politicians or non-governmental entities, have only recently
begun to garner widespread attention. There are few
statistics with which to determine if progress is being made
with these campaigns. The development of a reliable,
statistically-valid base for assessing the child trafficking
problem has only recently begun under ILO auspices.
A rare and high-profile arrest of a suspected trafficker
occurred in mid-2001. Bisi Dan Musa, a prominent Lagos
businesswoman and wife of a former Presidential aspirant, was
arrested and charged with 19 counts of stealing8
(kidnapping) and slave dealing after 16 children aged between
one and four years old were found in her custody.
In August, 33 Nigerian women and children intercepted in
Conakry, Guinea, were repatriated to Nigeria following the
personal intervention of President Obasanjo. As of this
writing, the Nigerian Government is planning to extradite and
prosecute in Nigeria 15 Nigerian traffickers arrested by
Guinean authorities in connection with the 33 trafficked
women and girl.
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