The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Nigeria to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Nigeria's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government prioritizes just and democratic governance as key to strengthening Nigeria's institutions and moving its democratic process forward. Although progress has been made with the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committee report to the National Assembly, the country still faces significant political challenges and uncertainty in the period prior to the presidential and National Assembly elections within the next year. The U.S. Government will continue to work with the Nigerian government toward achieving just and democratic governance through strong and transparent institutions based on credible, free, and fair elections, which will lead to a government that is more accountable to its people. In addition, the U.S. Government is engaged in efforts to help build the capacity of the National Assembly, train political parties on internal democracy, particularly advocating for the inclusion of women and other marginalized groups.
A complementary U.S. Government objective seeks to strengthen the rule of law to address endemic corruption, violent and financial crime on a massive scale, and bring perpetrators to justice. Corruption undermines the country's ability to develop economically, impacts U.S. citizens and companies directly, and provides an environment conducive to international criminal activity. The country's prominent role in transnational crimes ranging from drug and human trafficking to piracy, money laundering, and financial fraud highlights the negative impact of weak legal and law enforcement institutions on the country's progress. Its institutions lack the human capacity and financial resources necessary to fight these crimes effectively.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
To promote the objective of just and democratic governance, the U.S. Government will advocate for electoral reform in advance of the 2011 national elections. Election assistance will help develop a transparent and accurate national voter registration list and train civil society organizations in election monitoring. Technical assistance will promote growth of grassroots democracy through public outreach, speakers, exchange programs, and scholarships, and encourage federal and state levels to implement fiscal responsibility and public procurement legislation through the Pilot Engagement with States (PES) program. Internal efforts, such as the PES program and the Jos Task Force, target the Niger Delta and Jos regions.
On efforts to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights, U.S. programs train the Nigeria Police Force on community policing techniques, leadership, management, accountability, human rights, and ethics. The U.S. Government trains civil society groups in conflict mitigation, nonviolent advocacy, and religious and ethnic tolerance. To strengthen civil society and promote human rights, the U.S. Government 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 resource 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, as well as speaking out in policy fora against trafficking in persons, child labor, and other exploitative labor practices. Antitrafficking efforts include disseminating materials through public media, holding press briefings, funding skills training programs, and building law enforcement capacity to detect, investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate trafficking-in-persons cases. To protect the rights of persons with disabilities, the U.S. Government supports passage in the National Assembly of 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.
To protect freedom of speech and the press, the U.S. Government supports building the capacity of journalists to report effectively and objectively on governance issues. U.S. information resource center specialists provide training for journalists on using the Internet and assist them in conducting research on issues of bilateral concern, and American Corners serve as venues to train and inform 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. Exchange program alumni who have visited the United States participate in programs on human rights, democracy, religious tolerance, the rule of law, and investigative journalism. U.S. Government programs and other efforts promote domestic and international conflict mitigation and peacekeeping, including human rights training to police and military forces. 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. U.S. officials work with state officials and Muslim and Christian leaders to promote peace and tolerance. The conflict mitigation programs strengthen the capacity of community and opinion leaders, youth groups, and faith-based organizations to increase public awareness of the benefits of peaceful coexistence. These programs promote the use of best practices to mitigate and manage conflicts, including resolving disputes before they erupt into full-blown violence.