CIVICUS

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Nigeria

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Last updated on 04.07.2018 at 14:38

Nigeria Overview

Nigeria has a vibrant civil society and media, however CSOs and journalists face persistent attacks from state and non-state actors particularly when dealing with sensitive issues including security, corruption, human rights, women’s rights and governance.

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Nigerian military threatens Amnesty International following report on abuses

Nigerian military threatens Amnesty International following report on abuses

In a statement on 7th June, Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the Nigerian's military's use of threats, intimidation and smear campaigns to discredit the work of Amnesty International.

Association

In a statement on 7th June, Amnesty International Nigeria condemned threats, intimidation and smear campaigns against it by the Nigerian military. This followed the publication on 24th May of the Amnesty report "They betrayed us", which documents abuses by the military and militia, including the prevalence of sexual violence against women rescued from Boko Haram-occupied territory in so-called satellite camps in Borno State. On 23rd May, the day before the publication of the report, Amnesty International reported a media smear campaign, while staged protests took place at the office of Amnesty International Nigeria. Similar protests had taken place a year earlier on 20th March 2017. Amnesty's Osai Ojigho said: 

"Despite the military’s best efforts, we will not stay silent. In the face of efforts to evade responsibility or to smear our organization, we will continue to raise our voices whenever and wherever we see injustice, sexual abuse, discrimination against women, or any other violations of human rights in Nigeria."

Peaceful Assembly

On 22nd May 2018, thousands of people, led by Catholic bishops, protested peacefully in several cities across the country to condemn the killings of citizens, including priests, by presumed herders in herdsmen-farmer conflicts over fertile land. These conflicts have been sparked by drought and overpopulation, as herdsmen move south in search of pasture for their animals.  Some protesters called for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari for his failure to respond to the killings and to provide security. According to the Coalition on Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Nigeria over 2,000 Nigerians have died in the crisis. According to Amnesty International Nigeria, 1,813 people died between 1st January and 27th June 2018 as a result of the conflict between farmers and herders, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry, double the number of killings for the same period in 2017. 

On 30th May 2018, Biafran separatists in southeastern Nigeria staged a stay-at-home protest to commemorate the 1967 independence declaration of the Biafran Republic. That declaration was followed by a three-year war, which cost the lives of more than one million people. The stay-away protest was organised by the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) organisation alongside the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and was largely complied with in some cities in the south-east of the country, leaving streets, banks, schools, and markets almost completely deserted. The secessionist organisations blame the government for marginalising the region and intentionally keeping their community impoverished. As reported previously on the Monitor, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court upheld a decision to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation. 

Expression

On 22nd May, Security forces beat up journalist journalist Emeka Ihiegbulem of PUNCH newspapers while he was covering the celebration of the 18th anniversary of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM), two Biafran separatist groups. Ihiegbulem was later also physically assaulted by a police officer at the police headquarters, while his recorder, ID and notebook were confiscated. 

On 24th May, Adelani Yusuff, brother of Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Lasun Yusuff, stormed the house of New Telegraph journalist Mojeed Alabi in Ilobu. As Alabi was not home, Adelani Yusuff reportedly left him a threatening message, saying that he would "deal with him", according to Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA). The threat follows the publication of the article "Exposed! Nigeria’s Deputy Speaker in N1.1bn Water Contract Scam" by Alabi that same day claiming that the Deputy Speaker did not follow the Public Procurement Act and Code of Conduct in two contracts for water schemes. 

On 21st June, in an open letter to president Buhari, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists and 20 national, regional and international CSOs called for the release journalist Jones Abiri, who has been held in custody at the Department of State Security (DSS) for nearly two years without having appeared in court. Abiri, the publisher of the Weekly Source newspaper, was imprisoned on 21st June 2016 following publication of an article claiming that military was planning a coup against Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
 

Association in Nigeria

While freedom of association is guaranteed by Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended in 2010), no specific legislation governs the formation and registration of CSOs.

While freedom of association is guaranteed by Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended in 2010), no specific legislation governs the formation and registration of CSOs. Therefore, organisations need to adhere to the requirements of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) of 1990. The President has the power to make a CSO unlawful when it is ‘dangerous to the good government of Nigeria or of any part thereof’, however this power has seldom been used against peaceful CSOs pursuing legitimate aims. The approval of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in January 2014 prohibits and criminalises organisations working on LGBTI rights. The legislation has had a negative impact on the local advocacy of LGBTI issues as organisations are forbidden to have meetings or host debates or conferences. Human rights defenders face many risks, especially those working to promote LGBTI rights, anti-corruption effort, and good governance, as well as those working in areas controlled by the group Boko Haram.

Peaceful Assembly in Nigeria

Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution recognises the right to conduct peaceful protest, but in practice the exercise of this right is often stifled by unlawful interference from security agents.

Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution recognises the right to conduct peaceful protest, but in practice the exercise of this right is often stifled by unlawful interference from security agents. The Public Order Act regulates assemblies and contains some restrictive provisions, including one that gives the government the power to dictate the time and route of demonstrations. Following a judicial decision, authorisation is no longer required to conduct a protest, however, police have at times disregarded the court ruling. In some areas of the country, governors have banned protests, especially pro-Biafra marches. Security forces often use excessive force to disperse protests, with fatal consequences in some cases, such as the recent Pro-Biafrans march that resulted in 10 people being killed by security agents. Authorities have also stopped protests related to the Boko Haram insurgency under the pretext that such protests could cause disharmony and anarchy.

Expression in Nigeria

Nigeria has a large and vibrant media; however, many challenges to the full exercise of the right to freedom of expression remain.

Nigeria has a large and vibrant media; however, many challenges to the full exercise of the right to freedom of expression remain. Legislation regarding criminal defamation and sedition is regularly used to oppress people and journalists who are overly critical of government activities and who report on human rights violations, corruption and violence. Journalists regularly face attacks, arrest and harassment from government officials and non-state actors like Boko Haram. In many instances journalists are prevented from covering events, rallies and, court cases which focus on politically sensitive issues. The Cyber Crimes Act has also been used to restrict online freedoms and criminalise bloggers who publish information critical of government officials and other individuals. Nigeria passed the Freedom of Information Act in 2011, although reports show that the law is not yet being fully implemented.