Despite overwhelming evidence of human rights violations, Nigerian authorities are fueling impunity across the country by failing to ensure accountability, said Amnesty International Nigeria today as Nigeria is being reviewed at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group.
Amnesty International Nigeria also raises concerns about restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and continued imposition of the death penalty.
“It is clear that Nigeria is not making progress in terms of bringing human rights violators to justice. We consistently called for accountability but government hardly takes concrete steps to tame the tide of impunity across the country by making sure those responsible for human rights violations are brought to justice,” said Osai Ojigho Director Amnesty International Nigeria.
“In its previous review in 2013 Nigeria pledged to commit to criminalizing torture, prevent and reduce human rights violations by the security forces, strengthening accountability mechanisms, addressing communal violence, improve economic, social and cultural rights implementation, and protect women’s rights. But none of these has happened,” said Osai Ojigho.
Across Nigeria there is increasing concern over human rights violations by security forces. Despite efforts by the government, through the army-led Special Board of Inquiry and the Presidential Investigative Panel, to review compliance by the armed forces with human rights, the authorities are yet to hold them accountable for gross human rights violations.
The Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill which is still pending before the National Assembly, contains provisions to prohibit discrimination against women and would override current discriminatory laws, policies, rules, directives and customs, and also sets out provisions to address harmful cultural practices that violate the rights of widows.
In its previous review Nigeria accepted three recommendations on access to adequate housing and ending forced evictions. However, thousands of people continue to be at risk of forced evictions across the country with very few laws and safeguards in place to stipulate the process for lawful evictions.
“Between 2015 and 2017, about 40,000 poor urban dwellers were forcibly evicted in Lagos State. In some instances, the state authorities ignored court orders declaring forced evictions unlawful. By contrast, in February 2017, the FCT authorities respected a court judgment to stop the eviction of hundreds of thousands of people in the Mpape community,” said Osai Ojigho.
Things are not getting better
Amnesty International continues to document unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions, including in the context of the armed conflict in the northeast and law enforcement operations conducted by the military in other parts of the country. The government’s decision to deploy the military to control internal public order situations has seriously undermined the role of the police and has led to unnecessary loss of lives.
Between August 2015 and October 2016, the security forces killed more than 150 IPOB members and supporters during non-violent gatherings. Amnesty International documented 11 such incidents, including in May 2016 when at least 60 people were killed when the security forces opened fire on IPOB supporters in several locations in the southeast.
In Zaria, Kaduna state, soldiers killed more than 350 supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), between 12 and 14 December 2015. The state authorities later admitted to a judicial Commission of inquiry that they had buried 347 bodies in a mass grave two days after the massacre.
The Commission recommended that the members of the military suspected of unlawful killings should be prosecuted, however, the Kaduna state government’s white paper rejected most of its recommendations.
Since 2014, the armed group Boko Haram has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, killing at least 9,000 civilians, abducting thousands of women and girls and destroying towns and villages.
The military continues to unlawfully detain thousands of civilians. By April 2017, at least 4,900 people were detained at Giwa barracks. All detainees, including children, are held incommunicado without access to their relatives held in other cells in the same barracks.
Violent clashes between nomadic herders and local farmers, often followed by reprisal killings, have resulted in hundreds of deaths across the country, with 549 dead in 2017 alone. Amnesty international considers the authorities’ response to communal violence totally inadequate, and in some cases unlawful.
Every year hundreds of oil spills occur in the Niger Delta, caused by oil company equipment, operational faults and poor maintenance, as well as by sabotage and oil theft. The spills damage the environment, destroy the livelihoods of people living there and impact on the rights to health, food and clean water.
The security forces continue to threaten, arrest and detain journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders. Since 2016, Amnesty International has documented at least 12 cases across Nigeria in which the security forces have arrested and detained journalists and bloggers merely for expressing critical opinions on both conventional and social media platforms.
Amnesty International recommends amending the Constitution to guarantee economic, social and cultural rights as human rights and to make them enforceable in court. To end violence against women measures should be made to ensure that Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act passed by the National Assembly in 2015, is applicable in all 36 states.
A moratorium should be established on mass evictions until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are in place to ensure that all evictions comply with international human rights standards, including through the adoption of legislation to explicitly prohibit forced evictions and guidelines to ensure that evictions are carried out in compliance with the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement.
There is need for the implementation of safeguards against human rights violations by the security forces, including arbitrary arrest, incommunicado and arbitrary detentions, rape and other forms of torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings.
Authorities should close the detention centre at Giwa barracks and ensure that all detainees are held in legal, sanitary and humane conditions, in line with The Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
Investigate, with a view to prosecution, Shell’s potential involvement in crimes linked to human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces in Ogoniland in the 1990.