Protest and expression rights still seriously violated in Nigeria

Peaceful Assembly

Numerous protests have taken place throughout Nigeria over the last several months, some of which led to clashes between police and protesters. Several examples of protests and demonstrations include the following:

  • On 8th January 2017, campaigners from Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) marked 1,000 days since the Boko Haram kidnapping of more than 200 school girls by demonstrating in Abuja. BBOG continued to hold more demonstrations, including several in April 2017, demanding that the government take greater action to protect children. 
  • On 20th January 2017, several Nigerian civil society groups protested the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. On that same day, a pro-Trump rally reportedly left 20 dead and many missing when demonstrators clashed with police.
  • In April 2017, protests continued over the arrest of Shi’ite leader Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat. The police violently dispersed the protesters using tear gas, water cannons and police dogs. 
  • Also in April and previous months, multiple protests took place throughout the country over inadequate power supply to villages, towns and cities. 


From November 2016 through January 2017, Nigerian civil society recorded an overwhelming number of incidents involving violations of the right to freedom of expression. These cases involve mostly journalists and editors who are threatened, arbitrarily arrested, kidnapped, intimidated, and defamed. The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) based in Ghana collaborates with Nigerian civil society to monitor and report on the state of freedom of expression in the region. The following are several examples of such cases as documented by MFWA: 

  • On 30th November 2016, officers of Nigeria’s Department of State Security arrested and detained journalist, Friday Ogungbemi. He was taken back to his home the next day, while the security services searched the premises.
  • On 2nd December 2016, unidentified persons kidnapped radio reporter, Iyuadoo Tor-Agbidye, at her home in Makurdi. While details of release are unclear, Tor-Agbidye was later reunited with her family on 6th December.
  • On 19th January 2017, police raided the Abuja office of Premium Times, arresting the publisher and judiciary correspondent after the paper refused a request to retract news stories about the army and its operations.
  • On 25th January 2017, Ujunwa Atueyi, a journalist with The Guardian, was arrested and forced to delete pictures she took of a police raid. 
  • On 29th January 2017, police arrested the publisher of the Biafra Times newspaper, Peter Eke, along with nine other employees, and confiscated copies of the newspaper deemed seditious. 


On 9th January 2017, the Nigeria Network of NGOs welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari's decision to reconstitute the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), as it may present an opportunity for the NGO sector to re-visit and review the Not-for-Profit Organisations (NFPO) Code from October 2016 and advocate for better protection of civic space in Nigeria.