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Diplomacy in Action

Nigeria


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
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Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions 

Nigeria is a federal republic with a population of approximately 148 million. In April 2007 Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was elected president in elections that were seriously flawed. Election tribunals have nullified the results of several 2007 local, state, and legislative elections. In December 2008 the Supreme Court upheld the election of President Yar'Adua.

The government's human rights record is poor, and many government officials at all levels commit serious abuses. The government's anticorruption efforts waned, with little progress on court cases of federal, state, and local officials arrested for corruption. The most significant human rights problems include the abridgement of citizens' right to change their government; extrajudicial killings and the use of excessive force by security forces; vigilante killings; impunity for abuses by security forces; torture, rape, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees, and criminal suspects; harsh and life threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and prolonged pretrial detention; executive influence on the judiciary and judicial corruption; infringement on privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement; domestic violence and discrimination against women; female genital mutilation; child abuse and child sexual exploitation; societal violence; ethnic, regional, and religious discrimination; trafficking in persons for the purpose of prostitution and forced labor; and child labor.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

To advance U.S. objectives and align them with the country's priorities, all U.S. programming is strategically organized under the "U.S.-Nigeria Framework for Partnership," which includes four mission strategic plan policy pillars: Governing Justly and Democratically; Peace and Security; Investing in People; and Economic Growth and Trade. To assist in prioritizing efforts, the United States conducts quarterly NGO forums in Abuja and Lagos, bringing together representatives from civil society groups working to advance democracy and governance, election reform, religious freedom, diversity, human rights, and press freedom, as well as the private sector. The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in the country aims to help build an accountable and transparent democracy that respects human rights and rule of law, demonstrates good governance, and includes a robust civil society and conflict resolution mechanisms. U.S. priorities are focused on the need for the government to improve the political environment, to hold free and fair elections, and to strengthen the rule of law. Electoral reform, anticorruption efforts, mitigating ethnic and religious violence, improving judicial and legislative independence, and strengthening media freedom are important components of this strategy.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

With governing justly and democratically as the top priority, the United States encourages electoral reform in advance of the 2011 national elections. For example, the United States has stressed the importance of electoral reform based on stakeholder input. Through various programs, the United States works to improve the capacity of civil society in the areas of advocacy and oversight of reforms; encourages the National Assembly to play a stronger role in the reform process; improves voter registration; trains election observers; promotes civic education; and supports mechanisms for civil society and legislative oversight over elections bodies.

To promote judicial reform, the U.S. Government provides case management techniques to judges and clerks who preside over ongoing election tribunals, leading to more orderly, transparent, and uniform adjudication of cases. To promote rule of law and anticorruption reform, the United States provides anticorruption training to government officials and builds the capacity of civil society. This includes training civil society to press the government on issues such as oil sector transparency, service delivery, and budget reform. The United States is also assisting civil society organizations to advocate for key anticorruption bills that are before national and state legislatures, as well as promote state-level fiscal responsibility and procurement reform. U.S. support to civil society has significantly increased its capacity to advocate for passage of key legislation at the federal level. The United States also provides funding to build the capacity of the country's house of representatives on issues of accountability, budget development, and transparency. Targeted training is also being provided at the local level in two states through pilot workshops on fiscal responsibility and public procurement reforms.

To strengthen civil society and promote human rights, the United States regularly distributes information on topics such as workers' rights, religious freedom, prison conditions, and women's, children's, and minorities' rights to a variety of groups and individuals through U.S. information centers in Abuja and Lagos and American Corners across the country. The U.S. Government works with local and international partners to strengthen respect for labor rights, including funding skills training programs for labor unions and workers' associations and speaking out in policy forums against trafficking in persons and child labor. The U.S. Government also works to combat trafficking in persons by disseminating antitrafficking materials through public media, holding press briefings, funding skills training programs, and delivering policy speeches. U.S. assistance has helped to build the capacity of law enforcement officials and the judiciary to detect, investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate trafficking-in-persons cases through training and communications equipment support. U.S. assistance has provided vocational training and nonformal education for trafficking victims. In 2008 the U.S. Government funded the translation and printing of the Anti-Trafficking Act into Hausa and Yoruba, two of the most prominent languages in country, for distribution by local NGOs. The United States works with civil society groups like the Joint National Association of Persons with Disability, the umbrella body of organizations of people living with disabilities, to advocate for increased rights for persons with disabilities. Specifically the United States supports passage by the National Assembly of key legislation, including the Prohibition of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Bill, the Disability Rights Commission Bill, and the Nigerians With Disability Bill, which includes the establishment of a trust fund for persons with physical disabilities.

The U.S. Government is undertaking multiple efforts to support media freedom. U.S. programs build the capacity of media to report effectively and impartially on governance issues. For example, the U.S. Government recently provided the eGranary Digital Library to the National Union of Journalists in order to increase their capacity to conduct research and gather information. U.S. information centers provide training for journalists on using the Internet and assist them in conducting research on issues of bilateral concern, and American Corners are also used as venues to train and inform journalists. Additionally, U.S. officials meet regularly with the Nigeria Union of Journalists to discuss press freedom and provide workshops on new information technology tools to both the Information Ministry and journalists. U.S. Government officials regularly conduct lectures and roundtable discussions on the rule of law, religious freedom, and democratic governance at major universities, think tanks, and American Corners in cities outside the capital. In February the U.S. Ambassador discussed the importance of rule of law in a lecture at the University of Benin. In October 2008, at the University of Yola, the U.S. hosted a lecture for more than 1,000 people on democracy, good governance, and anticorruption. Exchange program alumni who have visited the United States participate in programs on human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and investigative journalism.

U.S. programs and other efforts promote conflict mitigation and international peacekeeping. The United States works with the government to provide human rights training to troops engaged in international peacekeeping and to address issues of domestic conflict. The U.S. Government also engages with state governments in the volatile Niger Delta region on programs to promote early warning of conflict, conflict prevention, vocational skills training for vulnerable youth, civic education, and good governance. The United States has implemented a capacity building program at a mediation center in Kaduna to better address ethnic and religious violence, and U.S. officials work with state officials and Muslim and Christian leaders to promote peace and end religious discrimination. For example, the United States holds interfaith celebrations of tolerance and a U.S. program operating in five states (Delta, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and Rivers) promotes local conflict mitigation. The conflict mitigation programs educate community and opinion leaders, youth groups, and faith-based organizations about the benefits of peaceful coexistence.



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