The situation of violence and insecurity for Nigerians intensified, with at least 1,000 people killed in attacks by Islamist armed group Boko Haram in central and northern Nigeria. Police and other soldiers carried out unlawful and summary killings with impunity. Thousands of people were forcibly evicted from their homes in different parts of the country. Unlawful detention and arbitrary arrests were commonplace.
In January, the Nigeria Labour Congress, other trade unions and civil rights organizations declared a nationwide strike action in protest against proposals to remove fuel subsidies. The mostly peaceful protests began on 2 January and involved tens of thousands of people across many states. In several cases, police fired at protesters, and at least three people were killed and 25 injured across Kaduna, Kano and Lagos states. In January, one police officer was reportedly arrested and detained in relation to the use of force but no further action was known to have been taken against the officer by the end of the year.
On 20 January, at least 186 people were killed in Kano City when members of Boko Haram attacked security forces at eight different locations. The bombings were followed by an exchange of gunfire between Boko Haram and security forces lasting several hours. Among those killed were police officers, their relatives and residents living nearby. A journalist with the news station Channels, Enenche Akogwu, was also shot dead.
In the same month, President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 15 Local Government Areas across four states, which elapsed after six months.
Renewed tensions emerged in the Niger Delta when some former members of the armed group MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) claimed they were not receiving their monthly “amnesty” stipends – part of an agreement with the government. The group also said it was dissatisfied with the operation of programmes set up to reintegrate militants into society.
Between August and October, the country’s worst flooding in decades killed more than 300 people and displaced a million more, across 15 states.Top of page
Boko Haram attacks
More than 1,000 people were killed in attacks by Islamist armed group Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for bombings and gun attacks across northern and central Nigeria. The group attacked police stations, military barracks, churches, school buildings and newspaper offices and killed Muslim and Christian clerics and worshippers, politicians and journalists, as well as police and soldiers. In November, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced there was a reasonable basis to believe Boko Haram had been committing crimes against humanity since July 2009.
Responses by the police and security forces
Nigeria’s security forces perpetrated serious human rights violations in their response to Boko Haram – including enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, house burning and unlawful detention.
Scores of people were unlawfully killed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) – army, police and other security forces – set up to deal with the violence, or police; others were subjected to enforced disappearance from police or JTF custody.
People in at least five communities in Maiduguri had their houses burned down by the JTF, often following raids and arrests in the areas and in some cases seemingly as a punitive measure.
Hundreds of people accused of having links to Boko Haram were arbitrarily detained by the JTF. Many were detained incommunicado for lengthy periods without charge or trial, without being brought before any judicial authority, and without access to lawyers. Hundreds of people were detained without charge or trial at Giwa Barracks, 21 Armoured Brigade, Maiduguri, in harsh conditions that may amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.
Independent and impartial investigations were rarely carried out into allegations of human rights violations by the security forces and, when they were, the findings were not made public.
Unlawful killings were carried out by the police across Nigeria. In March 2012, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Governing Council said an estimated 2,500 detainees were summarily killed by the police every year.
Torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of criminal suspects and detainees, perpetrated by the security forces, remained widespread.
Widespread corruption and disregard for due process and the rule of law continued to blight Nigeria’s criminal justice system. Many people were arbitrarily arrested and detained for months without charge. Police continued to ask people to pay money for their release from detention. Many detainees were kept on remand in prison for lengthy periods and in harsh conditions. Court processes remained slow and largely distrusted. According to the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, over 70% of people in detention were awaiting either trial or sentencing. Court orders were often ignored by police and security forces.
Twelve states failed to enact the federal Child Rights Act into law. The country’s remand homes remained overcrowded and under-resourced. Police continued to detain children in police cells with adults.Top of page
Inter-communal violence continued in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria and claimed the lives of more than 100 people.
In September, the High Court of Lagos State declared the mandatory imposition of the death penalty to be unconstitutional, in a case brought in 2008 by the Legal Resources Consortium (LRC), assisted by Nigerian NGO LEDAP (The Legal Defence and Assistance Project).
But the death penalty remained mandatory in Nigeria’s penal laws for a wide range of crimes. There were approximately 1,002 inmates on death row by the end of 2012 including people who were juveniles at the time of the crime. Many were sentenced after blatantly unfair trials or after spending more than a decade in prison. The Federal Government said in 2012 that the moratorium on the death penalty in place the previous year was “voluntary”. Courts continued to pass death sentences.
Forced evictions and illegal demolitions continued across Nigeria. The homes of tens of thousands of people in four different communities in Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja were demolished in 2012. Hundreds of thousands remained at risk as state governments continued to issue threats of mass demolitions.
Intimidation of and attacks against human rights defenders continued.
Nigeria continued to have one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world. According to the World Health Organization, 14% of all maternal deaths worldwide happen in Nigeria.
Violence against women and girls, including rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse, remained serious problems.Top of page
Human rights abuses continued against people suspected of having same-sex relationships or non-conventional gender identity. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, approved by the Senate in December 2011, passed its second reading in the House of Representatives on 13 November. The Bill imposes a 14-year prison sentence on anyone who “[enters] into a same sex marriage contract or civil union”. The Bill, if passed into law, would criminalize freedom of speech, association, and assembly.Top of page
Oil pollution and environmental damage continued to wreak havoc on people’s lives and livelihoods in the Niger Delta. Environmental laws and regulations were poorly enforced. Recommendations on the clean-up of the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta, made by the UN Environment Programme in a major study published in 2011, were not implemented by the end of 2012.
On 11 October, a court case instituted against the oil company Shell by a group of farmers from the Niger Delta began at The Hague in the Netherlands.
On 14 December, a landmark judgement by ECOWAS found the Nigerian government had failed to prevent oil company operations from damaging human rights, and required the government to enforce adequate regulation of oil operations.Top of page