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Nigeria

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Last updated on 10.11.2017 at 12:46

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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Group of human rights CSOs take the fight against the NGO Regulation Bill to court

Group of human rights CSOs take the fight against the NGO Regulation Bill to court

As reported previously on the Monitor, the draft NGO Regulatory Commission Bill is currently under consideration in the National Assembly. The Bill has been criticized heavily as it contains restrictive provisions and could potentially "endanger constitutional guarantees of freedom of association, assembly, speech as well as freedom of conscience and religion". The National Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the National Assembly on 26th September outlining its opposition to the Bill stating that:

Association

As reported previously on the Monitor, the draft NGO Regulatory Commission Bill is currently under consideration in the National Assembly. The Bill has been heavily criticised as it contains restrictive provisions and could potentially "endanger constitutional guarantees of freedom of association, assembly, speech as well as freedom of conscience and religion". The National Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the National Assembly on 26th September outlining its opposition to the Bill, stating that:

"The National Human Rights Commission is of the view that there is no need for the establishment of an NGO Regulatory Commission as most of the roles and functions ascribed to this ‘Commission’ in the proposed bill falls within the mandate of Corporate Affairs Commission and other Agencies referred to in the bill". 

In addition, 23 human rights organisations under the umbrella of the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) filed a suit on 3rd November at the Federal High Court Abuja seeking for the NGO Bill to be declared unlawful and unconstitutional. The group asked the court to determine whether a judicial order can stop the National Assembly from further deliberating the Bill, as the group says that "they not need to wait for the Bill to be passed into law before challenging it and that once it can be shown that the Bill is likely to infringe on their rights if passed into law". 

Expression

On 12th September 2017, about 20 soldiers raided the premises of the state secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists Secretariat in Umuahia, Abia State. The soldiers beat up and threatened journalists and smashed their phones and Ipads on the ground, alleging that the journalists took pictures of Operation Python Dance exercise of the Nigerian Army, who were parading the streets on a show of strength. A contingent of 200 soldiers were reportedly on their way to conduct the Operation in the house of the self-proclaimed Biafa separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

On 16th September, the governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, banned two journalists of This Day and Vanguard newspapers - Amby Uneze and Chidi Nkwopara - from covering activities at the seat of government, declaring them "enemies of the government". Okorocha said the two were fond of publishing uncomplimentary reports about his administration, but failed to cite any specific breach of ethics by the journalists. 

On 17th October,  judicial authorities in Nigeria denied a group of journalists access to a hearing that was taking place at the High Court in Abuja. Officials of the Department of State Services prevented reporters from entering the court room, stating that they had been instructed to keep the media out of the courtroom. The hearing related to the case of Nnamadi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who is charged with terrorism and leading an illegal secessionist movement. Earlier this year on 10th January, journalists were prevented from attending and covering another hearing on the case.

On 26th October, photojournalist Ikechukwu Ibe of the Daily Trust newspaper was assaulted by a captain of the army in Abuja. In addition, his camera was confiscated and the memory card of the camera removed and destroyed. Ibe was taking pictures of a vehicle that ran into a restaurant in Jabi area of Abuja when the assault occured.

Peaceful Assembly 

Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, a pro-independence group, and its supporters have staged a series of protests across the country and abroad by diaspora, including at the UN General Assembly on 19th September, against the military operation, Operation Python Dance, in the southeast of the country. Counter protests have also been held, including a protest by the Stand Up For Peace Movement at the embassy of the U.S. in Abuja on 28th September, over statements made by a U.S. spokesperson against the government's labeling of IPOB as a terrorist group. Another protest on 5th October took place at the British High Commission to demand the extradition of Nnamdu Kanu of the IPOB, with protesters alleging Kanu is in the UK. 

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.

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