Nigeria’s human rights situation deteriorated. Hundreds of people were killed in politically motivated, communal and sectarian violence across the country, particularly after the April elections. Violent attacks attributed to the religious sect Boko Haram increased, killing more than 500 people. The police were responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings, most of which remained uninvestigated. The justice system remained ineffective. Around two thirds of all prison inmates were still awaiting trial. There were 982 people on death row. No executions were reported. Forced evictions continued throughout the country, and violence against women remained rife.
In April, President Goodluck Jonathan was declared the winner of the country’s presidential elections. Violent attacks and rioting followed, resulting in hundreds of deaths. The President signed into law several bills, including the National Human Rights Commission Act in February; the Freedom of Information Act in May; and the Legal Aid Act and the Terrorism Act in June.
The National Human Rights Commission was given power to investigate human rights violations and visit police stations and other places of detention. By the end of the year, however, funds for the Commission had not been released.
Corruption remained endemic. In November, the President dismissed the Chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, six months before her tenure was due to end. No explanation was given. He also approved a 12,500 naira (US$76) increase in the monthly minimum wage to 18,000 naira (US$117). 1.3 million people remained internally displaced throughout the country.Top of page
Police operations remained characterized by human rights violations. Hundreds of people were unlawfully killed, often before or during arrests on the street. Others were tortured to death in police detention. Many such unlawful killings may have constituted extrajudicial executions. Many people disappeared from police custody. Few police officers were held accountable, leaving relatives of those killed or disappeared without justice. Police increasingly wore plain clothes or uniforms without identification, making it much harder for people to complain about individual officers.
Special task forces, including the Special Anti Robbery Squads and SOS, committed a wide range of human rights violations. In early 2011, the Bayelsa State government set up Operation Famou Tangbe – “kill and throw away” in the local language – to fight crime. Many officers linked to the operation reportedly unlawfully killed, tortured, arbitrarily arrested and detained people. Suspects in detention reportedly had no access to their lawyers or relatives.
In September, the Federal Government stopped Operation Famou Tangbe. The human rights violations committed while it was active remained uninvestigated.
The police frequently disobeyed court orders.
The majority of cases remained uninvestigated and unpunished. Some relatives were threatened when they sought justice.
There were consistent reports of police routinely torturing suspects to extract information. Confessions extracted under torture were used as evidence in court, in violation of national and international laws.Top of page
Violent attacks by suspected members of the religious sect Boko Haram increased, killing more than 500 people and often targeting police officers and government officials. Since June, bars and beer gardens in northern Nigeria were targeted, killing scores of people. The situation deteriorated towards the end of the year, with weekly reports of bombings and attacks. On 31 December, the President declared a state of emergency in parts of Borno, Niger, Plateau and Yobe states.
In response to the violence, the Federal Government set up a Special Military Task Force (JTF) in Maiduguri in June, consisting of the army, navy, air force, the Department of State Security and the Nigeria Police Force. Reports subsequently increased regarding the security forces in Borno State resorting to unlawful killings, dragnet arrests, arbitrary and unlawful detentions, extortion and intimidation. Hundreds of people were arrested. On 25 December, Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission expressed concerns about possible extrajudicial executions by security forces in northern Nigeria.
The government did not publicize the findings of a report on the July 2009 clashes between Boko Haram and security forces, in which more than 800 people died, including 24 police officers and Boko Haram’s leader, Muhammad Yusuf. In July, five police officers suspected of extrajudicially executing Muhammad Yusuf were charged with his murder and detained.
A report by the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East Zone was submitted to the President in September but was not made public. Senator Ali Ndume, representative of Borno-South and a Committee member, was arrested in November and charged under the Terrorism Act with concealing information and providing information to a terrorist group. He was released on bail in December.
A police appeal against the April 2010 Borno State High Court decision that they should pay compensation to the relatives of Mallam Babakura Fugu’s father, Alhaji Baba Fugu – who was extrajudicially executed in police custody in 2009 – had not been heard by the end of the year.Top of page
Communal and sectarian violence continued in Nigeria’s middle belt throughout the year. The authorities’ failure to prevent violence and protect people’s right to life caused violence to escalate. More than 200 people died in clashes in Plateau State alone, in relation to long-standing tensions and land conflicts between different ethnic groups. On 18 January, the Plateau State Commander of the Special Military Task Force reportedly ordered soldiers to shoot on sight.
Hundreds of people were killed in politically motivated violence across Nigeria before, during and after the national parliamentary, presidential and state elections in April. Politically motivated threats and intimidation also took place. The report of the Presidential Committee on Post-Election Violence, presented to the President in October, was not made public. The Committee Chairman highlighted Nigeria’s climate of impunity as one of the main causes.
Scores of people were rounded up by the police and security forces in relation to northern Nigeria’s ongoing violence, but few were successfully prosecuted or convicted. Previous commissions of inquiry into the Plateau State violence reportedly named suspected perpetrators, but no criminal investigations were started during the year.Top of page
Nigeria’s criminal justice system remained under-resourced, blighted by corruption and generally distrusted. When investigations occurred, they were often cursory and not intelligence-led. The security forces often resorted to dragnet arrests instead of individual arrests based on reasonable suspicion. Suspects were regularly subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in detention.
Court processes were slow, resulting in most detainees being kept in lengthy pre-trial detention in appalling conditions. Seventy per cent of Nigeria’s 48,000 prison inmates had not been tried. Many had awaited trial for years. Few could afford a lawyer.
In August, the Federal Government set up a Committee on the Implementation of Justice Sector Reforms to draft legislation, guidelines and recommendations and implement these within 24 months.Top of page
Seventy-two people were sentenced to death. There were 982 people on death row, including 16 women. Fifty-five people had their sentences commuted and 11 were pardoned. No executions were reported. Many death row inmates were sentenced following blatantly unfair trials or after more than a decade in prison awaiting trial.
In June, the scope of the death penalty was expanded to include supporting terrorism resulting in death. Provisions under the Terrorism Act were imprecise, too broad and inconsistent with human rights standards for due process, lawful deprivation of liberty and fair trial.
In October, Mohammed Bello Adoke, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, stated that Nigeria had introduced an official moratorium on executions. However, no official gazette was issued to confirm this.Top of page
Evictions continued throughout Nigeria without genuine consultation with people affected, adequate notice, compensation or alternative accommodation. More than 200,000 people continued to live at risk of forced eviction from their waterfront communities in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls by state officials and individuals remained rife. The authorities consistently failed to prevent and address sexual violence, or to hold perpetrators to account.Top of page
Twelve of Nigeria’s 36 states had not passed the Child Rights Act. The police frequently arrested and detained children unlawfully, including those living on the street and other vulnerable children. Children continued to be detained with adults in police and prison cells. The country’s one functioning remand home remained overcrowded.
No investigation was carried out into the violent clash on 29 December 2009 in Bauchi, in which 22 children were killed. Many were reportedly shot by the police.Top of page
A pattern emerged of intimidation and attacks against human rights defenders and journalists, with several being threatened, beaten or arrested by police and security forces. Politicians increasingly used their influence to secure the arrest of people criticizing the authorities.
Despite the 2009 presidential amnesty granted to members of armed groups, armed gangs continued to kidnap oil workers and attack oil installations. The security forces, including the military, continued to commit human rights violations.
Oil industry pollution and environmental damage continued to have a serious impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. However, affected communities still lacked access to vital information about the oil industry’s local impact.
Environmental laws and regulations were poorly enforced, partly due to government agencies being compromised by conflicts of interest.
Human rights abuses continued against people suspected of having same-sex relationships or non-conventional gender identity. In December, the Senate approved a bill which would impose a 14-year prison sentence for same-sex marriages. Any person or groups that “witness, abet and aids the solemnization of a same sex marriage or union” or “supports” gay groups, “processions or meetings”, would face a 10-year prison sentence. The same sentence would apply to a “public show of same sex amorous relationship” and anyone who registers gay clubs and organizations protecting the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people.Top of page