Nigeria is a federal republic composed of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In 2015 citizens elected President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress party to a four-year term in the first successful democratic transfer of power from a sitting president in the country’s history.
Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over the security services.
The insurgency in the Northeast by the militant terrorist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISIS-WA) continued. The groups conducted numerous attacks on government and civilian targets that resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, widespread destruction, the internal displacement of approximately 1.8 million persons, and external displacement of an estimated 225,000 Nigerian refugees to neighboring countries, principally Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Widespread violence across rural Nigeria, including conflict over land and other resources between farmers and herders, resulted in an estimated 1,300 deaths and 300,000 persons internally displaced between January and July, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
Human rights issues included unlawful and arbitrary killings by both government and nonstate actors; forced disappearances by both government and nonstate actors; torture by both government and nonstate actors and prolonged arbitrary detention in life-threatening conditions particularly in government detention facilities; harsh and life threatening prison conditions including civilian detentions in military facilities, often based on flimsy or no evidence; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; criminal libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, in particular for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; refoulement of refugees; corruption; progress to formally separate child soldiers previously associated with the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF); lack of accountability concerning violence against women, including female genital mutilation/cutting, in part due to government inaction/negligence; trafficking in persons, including sexual exploitation and abuse by security officials; crimes involving violence targeting LGBTI persons and the criminalization of status and same-sex sexual conduct based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and forced and bonded labor.
The government took steps to investigate alleged abuses but fewer steps to prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government. The government did not adequately investigate or prosecute most of the major outstanding allegations of human rights violations by the security forces or the majority of cases of police or military extortion or other abuse of power.
The Borno State government provided financial and in-kind resources to the CJTF, a nongovernmental self-defense militia that coordinated and at times aligned with the military to prevent attacks against civilian populations by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA. Human rights organizations and press reporting charged the CJTF with committing human rights abuses. The government took few steps to investigate or punish CJTF members who committed human rights abuses.
Boko Haram and ISIS-WA conducted numerous attacks targeting civilians. Boko Haram recruited and forcefully conscripted child soldiers and carried out scores of suicide bombings, many by young women and girls forced into doing so — and other attacks on population centers in the Northeast and in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Abductions by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA continued. Both groups subjected many women and girls to sexual and gender-based violence, including forced marriages, sexual slavery, and rape. The government investigated attacks by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA and took steps to prosecute their members, although the majority of suspected insurgent group supporters were held in military custody without charge.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the independent electoral body responsible for overseeing elections by regulating the process and preventing electoral misconduct. From August 2017 to August 20, INEC conducted 10 elections, including end of tenure and by-elections.
Many of the elections, such as the Anambra State gubernatorial election in November 2017, were relatively peaceful. In August, however, INEC suspended a bye-election held in Rivers State, citing widespread violence. Press reports indicated that armed men dressed in SARS uniforms attacked election officials in an attempt to hijack election materials.
There was evidence of election malpractice, including widespread vote buying and selling and ballot hijacking by party agents despite the presence of INEC and security agents. For example, the Ekiti State elections in July were peaceful, but marked by pervasive vote-buying. Independent observers reported that during the Osun State elections in September, thugs and members of security services engaged in intimidation of voters and harassment of party monitors, journalists, and domestic observers.
Civil society organizations reported no legal restrictions on their ability to comment or observe parts of the electoral process. They reported aspects of the electoral process, however, remained opaque, allegedly because of deliberate attempts to undermine or circumvent the integrity of the process by stakeholders or because of INEC’s financial or logistical constraints. According to some civil society organizations, attempts to disenfranchise voters were on the rise through circumvention of permanent voter card procedures and targeted electoral violence. In response to some of these trends, INEC regularly cancelled votes from polling units that failed to use card readers properly.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution and law allow the free formation of political parties. As of January, 91 parties were registered with INEC, an increase from the previous 45. The constitution requires political party sponsorship for all election candidates.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Observers attributed fewer leadership opportunities for women in major parties and government, particularly in the North, to religious and cultural barriers. The number of women candidates was disproportionally low, and the accessibility of polls for people with disabilities was poor. Women occupied approximately 6 percent of National Assembly seats and 5 percent of state assembly seats. Five of the 37 cabinet members were women. Few women ran for elected office at the national level: in the most recent federal elections in 2015, women constituted just 128 of the 746 total candidates (17 percent) for the Senate, and 270 of the 1,772 candidates for the House of Representatives (15 percent).