Cablegate: Nigeria Human Rights Roundup for Third Quarter Of

Published: Wed 25 Oct 2006 06:44 AM
DE RUEHUJA #2791/01 2980644
P 250644Z OCT 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. SUMMARY. To augment the required annual reporting,
Embassy Abuja will be sending regular round-up cables
detailing human rights incidents in Nigeria. This cable
mimics the format of the Annual Report on Human Rights and a
section at the end will discuss issues to which we will be
paying particular attention. We will continue to send cables
about individual events as needed. END SUMMARY.
2. Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life. There
continue to be reports from the Abuja police to the
diplomatic community on the number of armed robbers arrested
each week and the number of "dead robbers." Little
information is typically given about how the suspects in
question died, and investigation in to their deaths is not
3. Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life. Unconfirmed
reports indicate that 12 people died in an August gun battle
between the Nigerian military and militants in the Niger
Delta. Operating as the Joint Task Force, the military had
been sent in to attempt to stop the kidnappings discussed in
the next paragraph.
4. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention. A number of non-state
actors in the Niger Delta continue to kidnap individuals who
work for petroleum companies. While most of the militant
groups make public claims of concern about unfair resource
distribution and environmental destruction, the hostages are
routinely released, reportedly after a financial settlement
of some kind. In July a Dutch man was kidnapped and later
released, and later that month workers who had been kidnapped
in June were released. In August, citizens of Germany, the
Philippines, Norway, Ukraine, Belgium, Morocco, Great
Britain, and the United States were kidnapped by various
militant groups and later released.
5. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
Correspondence. Destruction of homes and businesses in Abuja
by the government of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)
continues. Typically, the FCT leadership decides that a
group of buildings is not in accordance with the master plan
for the city, will serve 21 days notice that the buildings
are to be demolished, and will then bulldoze the structures.
There is no meaningful appeal from the decision to bulldoze
the buildings, and their owners are not compensated.
Additionally, many of the people whose homes and offices are
destroyed hold permits issued by the FCT allowing them to
build and occupy the building. Many people are left homeless
and unemployed as a result. The FCT has recently discussed
plans to build some new housing units, but there is no plan
for how they will be allocated, there are fewer housing units
than homes destroyed, and the housing will not be available
until some time in the future.
6. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
Correspondence. On September 20, 2006, Muslim Youth in
Dutse, Jigawa State rioted, allegedly in protest of an
amorous relationship between a police officer and a local
woman. An unknown number of homes and businesses were
destroyed in the riot and reports indicate that the governor
of the state was threatened with lynching by irate youths and
had to be escorted from the capital.
7. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
Correspondence. Credible reports indicate that the Nigerian
military's Joint Task Force for the Niger Delta burned to the
ground a village in Obio-Akpor Local Government area of
Rivers State near Port Harcourt on the evening of August 24.
Militants from a nearby area had shot a soldier while
abducting an oil company employee. In retaliation, soldiers
came to the village shortly afterwards with cans of gasoline.
They set every building on fire and burned them to the
ground, destroying an area covering roughly four football
fields. Fortunately, no one died and only one person was
seriously injured. No compensation is expected to be paid to
the victims and the Nigerian military denies responsibility.
8. Freedom of Speech and Press. We reported in paragraph 7
of reftel that journalists Gbenga Aruleba and Rotimi
Durojaiye had been charged with sedition for reporting that
the president purchased a second-hand airplane. A hearing on
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July 25 allowed them both to remain free on bail, and a
hearing on October 10 led to the case being dismissed against
Aruleba. Durojaiye and his newspaper company still face the
sedition charge, although he remains free on bail while the
Court of Appeal determines the constitutionality of the
charges. Immediately after the hearing, Aruleba said first
that he was unsure why the charges had been dropped against
him and later said he thought it was because he merely
repeated a story Durojaiye wrote. In a later email to
PolOff, Durojaiye said that he believed the case against
Aruleba had been dismissed because he and his company (Africa
Independent Television) were willing to apologize to the
government for running the story while Durojaiye and his
company were not.
9. Freedom of Speech and Press. Local media frequently run
stories openly critical of the government, and yet sometimes
media practitioners are arrested or harassed for doing so.
PolOff gained some insight into who goes free and who goes to
jail in a conversation with a local journalist in September.
According to this source, it is acceptable to report the news
so long as one is not seen to be attacking politically
powerful figures, particularly the president. While the
information can be given, he said it must be slanted and
given in a respectful tone so as not to offend.
10. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association. We
reported in paragraph 9 of reftel that the national assembly
was considering an anti-gay marriage bill which would
duplicate existing laws on marriage and sexual relations
while making it more difficult for advocacy groups to
operate. While there have been murmurs that the bill might
advance in the legislative process, to date no further action
has been taken on it. While we still expect that it will
pass by a wide margin if it comes to a vote, it is becoming
increasingly likely that the legislation will die a quiet
death as the body politic becomes increasingly preoccupied by
the elections planned for April 2007.
11. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association. On July
12, State Security Service (SSS) officers sealed off the site
of a planned human rights meeting and prevented the meeting
from taking place because no permit had been issued for the
meeting. The SSS was acting under writ of the Public Order
Act, which had previously been declared unconstitutional by
Nigeria's courts. The July 12 meeting had been called to
protest the sacking of Bukhari Bello as chair of the National
Human Rights Commission. Bello was relieved of his duties
for criticizing government human rights practices.
12. Freedom of Religion. Several political officers made a
trip to Kaduna and Kano states to participate in Ramadan
activities. Both states are at least partially under Sharia
law. In a positive note, PolOff saw Christian churches
freely operating in both places. This was particularly true
in Kaduna State. While religious tension is certainly
possible in any part of Nigeria, this brief glimpse suggests
that Sharia is being applied in a manner which is equitable
to Christians.
13. Freedom of Religion. While the news for religious
freedom is good in some parts of Nigeria, tensions remain
high in other areas. Credible reports from Jigawa State
indicate that on September 10 churches were burned during a
religious conflict. A Christian student is believed to have
made offensive comments about the Prophet Mohammed in
response to offensive comments on the part of a Muslim
student about Jesus Christ.
14. Elections and Political Participation. While the
government continues to insist that elections will happen on
schedule, speculation continues that President Obasanjo
intends to stay. While the speculation has many sources,
there are three primary sources of concern. The first is
that voter registration is not proceeding according to the
announced plan. The Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) announced that all voters would be
registered by December through "direct data capture," a
method where their photo and digital fingerprint would be
taken. However, INEC does not have the equipment it needs to
complete the registration exercise in a timely manner. The
second problem is the general disorganization of Nigeria's
political parties. While the PDP is all but certain to
remain a viable political party, around 4 dozen other parties
exist and are going through a constant churn of merging with
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and splitting away from one another. None of the parties
have announced candidates, and there is little consensus on
which candidates will represent which parties. Third, many
leading candidates are under investigation for corruption by
the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other
law enforcement bodies. Currently under investigation or
threat of impeachment are the Vice President and as many as
30 of the 36 state governors. Other figures such as the son
of former head of state Ibrahim Babangida are also being
investigated. Being under indictment could legally
disqualify a political candidacy. It is improbable that
corruption on such a grand scale would suddenly be discovered
only a few months before an election. Some observers
speculate that the upsurge in corruption investigations is
motivated by the administration's desire to disqualify some
likely presidential candidates.
15. Elections and Political Participation. Disputed reports
indicate that on September 10 past Minister of Aviation and
current candidate for the governorship of Bauchi State Isa
Yuguda was the subject of an assassination attempt.
Allegedly, he was attacked by thugs sent by current Bauchi
State Governor Mu'azu, a member of the PDP. The attack was
said to have taken place in Abuja when a group of armed men
stormed Yuguda's home. He survived the attack.
16. Elections and Political Participation. In
mid-September, the Kano governor's motorcade was stoned by
youth upset with him for allegedly turning away from the ANPP
to cooperate with President Obasanjo and the ruling PDP. The
incident took place after the governor returned from an
overseas trip with the President. The incident was not
widely reported in the media.
17. Elections and Political Participation. Ayodeji
Daramola, PDP candidate for the governorship of Ekiti State,
was murdered August 14 by unknown assassins. He had been
publicly threatened by Ekiti Governor Fayose several times
prior to the killing. No visible progress has been made in
the investigation, and speculation is widespread that the
killing was politically motivated.
18. Elections and Political Participation. On July 28,
Lagos State PDP gubernatorial aspirant Funsho Williams was
bound, gagged and stabbed to death in his residence in Lagos
in the early hours of the morning. Although some arrests
were made and officials of Scotland Yard were invited to
examine the crime scene, no one has been arraigned in court.
There is little public confidence that those who have been
arrested actually carried out the murders and there has been
no mention of arrests of those who ordered the deed done.
The Williams case does stand out, however, in having foreign
agents called in to assist in the investigation.
19. Elections and Political Participation. Plateau State
gubernatorial aspirant Jesse Aruku of the newly registered
Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) was abducted late at
night on June 30 or July 1 and killed on July 2. Police say
his death was an assassination and not a robbery, but no
arrests are known to have been made in the case.
20. A number of human rights NGOs operate freely in Nigeria.
Paragraph 15 of reftel had reported that one local NGO was
facing a registration problem, but that problem has been
resolved. However, local democracy building NGOs have
reported feeling some pressure to only provide voter
education according to "approved" methods.
21. Women. The PDP is encouraging women to run for
political office by greatly reducing the fees charged to
women for the paperwork required to register as a PDP
22. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities. Plateau State was
the location of extensive intercommunal violence in 2001 and
again in 2004. The majority of the residents of the state,
and those who consider themselves "indigenes" of the area,
are Christian. Many of the commercial traders are Muslims
who have lived in the area for three generations or more but
are not considered indigenous. In conversations with PolOff,
the Muslim community feels that they are still being actively
discriminated against in outlays of public funds and the
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ability to seek public office.
23. There have been reports of a possible strike as the
Power Holding Company of Nigeria privatizes, and oil workers
were this summer discussing the possibility of a strike.
However, no industrial actions are known to have materialized
since the NITEL strike in June.
24. The attention of the embassy is increasingly focusing on
next year's planned elections as both a political and a human
rights issue. Through the end of the year, we will be
closely watching the progress of voter registration and the
organization of Nigeria's political parties. If voters are
registered and political parties well organized to conduct a
spirited campaign, it will be a positive sign for the conduct
of next year's elections. If either or both of these falls
through, Nigeria could be set for a period of significant
turmoil in the spring of 2007. We will continue to send
reports on specific issues as they develop.
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