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Nigeria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed numerous arbitrary and unlawful killings. The national police, army, and other security services used lethal and excessive force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects and committed other extrajudicial killings. Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths did not make their findings public.

The use by security services of excessive force, including live ammunition, to deal with protesters and disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings. On February 9, police and military personnel reportedly used live ammunition to disperse protesting members or supporters of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement at a school in Aba, Abia State, killing at least nine. In June Amnesty International (AI) published the findings of an investigation, concluding that on May 29-30, police and military personnel in Onitsha, Anambra State, killed at least 17 IPOB members or supporters ahead of a planned political demonstration. According to a September AI report, since August 2015 security forces killed at least 150 IPOB members or supporters and arbitrarily arrested hundreds. As of December the government had not investigated these incidents.

In January the government of Kaduna State appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the December 2015 killing by Nigerian Army (NA) forces of members of the Shia group Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Zaria, Kaduna State. The federal government indicated it would wait for the results of this investigation before taking action, claiming it would be the most acceptable course of action. During the proceedings, from which the IMN abstained, claiming bias against the group, Kaduna officials revealed the existence of a mass grave holding the remains of 347 IMN members killed by the NA. The government of Kaduna made public the commission’s nonbinding report on July 31. According to the document, 348 IMN members and one soldier died during the December 2015 altercations, which were followed by the government’s destruction of IMN religious sites and property in and around Zaria. The commission found the NA used “excessive and disproportionate” force and recommended the federal government conduct an independent investigation and prosecute anyone found to have acted unlawfully. It also called for the proscription of the IMN and the monitoring of its members and their activities. In December the government of Kaduna published a white paper accepting the commission’s recommendation to investigate and prosecute allegations of excessive and disproportionate use of force by the NA. It also accepted the recommendation to hold IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky responsible for all illegal acts committed by IMN members during the altercations and in the preceding 30 years. A federal court in December declared the continued detention without charge of Zakzaky and his wife illegal and unconstitutional. The court ordered the immediate and unconditional release of the IMN leader and his spouse but gave authorities 45 days to carry it out, reasoning that the government needed that time to provide the couple with a dwelling to replace the one destroyed in the wake of the 2015 Zaria incidents. As of December more than two hundred imprisoned IMN members continued to await trial on charges of conspiracy and culpable homicide.

Security forces were allegedly responsible for extrajudicial killings, often arbitrarily killing many individuals at one time. For example, in August military personnel entered a village in Bosso Local Government Area (LGA), Niger State, and allegedly killed seven civilians for denying soldiers permission to enter their houses and search for arms and ammunition. The government of Niger State set up a commission of inquiry to investigate. As of December it had not issued a report.

There were reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings related to internal conflicts in the Northeast and other areas (see section 1.g.).

b. Disappearance

According to AI, on August 16, armed men in a sport utility vehicle bearing government license plates shot and abducted pro-Biafra activist Sunday Chucks Obasi outside his home in Amuko Nnewi, Anambra State. In response to inquiries by his family, police in Anambra stated Obasi was not in their custody. As of December his whereabouts remained unknown.

Criminal groups continued to abduct civilians in the Niger Delta and the Southeast, often to collect ransom payments. For example, according to press reports, in June gunmen kidnapped as many as seven cement company contractors, including several expatriates, in the outskirts of Calabar, Cross River State. The kidnappers released the men unharmed several days later.

Other parts of the country continued to experience a significant number of abductions. Prominent and wealthy figures were often targets of abduction. For example, in March gunmen kidnapped, and later killed, NA Colonel Samaila Inusa in Kaduna State. In April kidnappers briefly abducted former minister of education Senator Iyabo Anisulowo in Ogun State, allegedly releasing him after a ransom payment.

Boko Haram continued to conduct large-scale abductions in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States (see section 1.g.).

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), passed in 2015, prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of arrestees; however, it fails to prescribe penalties for violators. Each state must also individually adopt the ACJA for the legislation to apply beyond the FCT and federal agencies. As of December only the states of Anambra, Ekiti, Enugu, and Lagos had adopted it. Final passage of an antitorture bill, initially passed in 2015 by both houses of the National Assembly but returned by President Buhari to the Senate for amendments, was pending.

The Ministry of Justice established a National Committee against Torture (NCAT). Lack of legal and operational independence and lack of funding, however, continued to prevent NCAT from carrying out its work effectively.

The law prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence and confessions obtained through torture. Authorities did not respect this prohibition, however, and police often used torture to extract confessions later used to try suspects. Police also repeatedly mistreated civilians to extort money.

In September AI reported police officers in the Special Antirobbery Squad (SARS) regularly tortured detainees in custody as a means of extracting confessions and bribes. For example, SARS officers in Enugu State reportedly beat one victim with machetes and heavy sticks, releasing him only after payment of 25,500 naira ($81). In response to AI’s findings, the inspector general of police reportedly admonished SARS commanders and announced broad reforms to correct SARS units’ failures to follow due process and their use of excessive force.

Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international human rights groups continued to accuse the security services of illegal detention, inhuman treatment, and torture of demonstrators, criminal suspects, militants, detainees, and prisoners. Military and police reportedly used a wide range of torture methods, including beatings, shootings, nail and tooth extractions, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. According to reports, security services committed rape and other forms of violence against women and girls, often with impunity. For example, in July a police inspector allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl in Mkpat Enin, Akwa Ibom State. As of December there were no reports of any investigation into the incident.

Police continued to use a technique commonly referred to as “parading” of arrestees, which involved walking arrestees through public spaces and subjecting them to public ridicule and abuse. Bystanders often taunted and hurled food and other objects at arrestees.

The sharia courts in 12 northern states may prescribe punishments such as caning, amputation, and death by stoning. The sharia criminal procedure code allows defendants 30 days to appeal sentences involving mutilation or death to a higher sharia court. Statutory law mandates state governors treat all court decisions equally, including amputation or death sentences, regardless of whether issued by a sharia or a non-sharia court. Authorities, however, often did not carry out caning, amputation, and stoning sentences passed by sharia courts because defendants frequently appealed, a process that could be lengthy. Federal appellate courts had not ruled on whether such punishments violate the constitution because no relevant cases had reached the federal level. Although sharia appellate courts consistently overturned stoning and amputation sentences on procedural or evidentiary grounds, there were no challenges on constitutional grounds.

There were no reports of canings during the year. Defendants generally did not challenge caning sentences in court as a violation of statutory law. Sharia courts usually carried out caning immediately. In some cases convicted individuals paid fines or went to prison in lieu of caning.

In January a sharia court in Kano confirmed the death sentence for blasphemy of an Islamic cleric and eight others. They had allegedly made blasphemous statements the previous May at a religious gathering in honor of the founder of the Tijaniya sect. As of December the case remained on appeal.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Prisoners and detainees were reportedly subjected to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, and other abuses. The government often detained suspected militants outside the formal prison system (see section 1.g).

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a significant problem. Although the total designed capacity of the country’s prisons was 50,153 inmates, as of March they held 63,142 prisoners. Approximately 72 percent of inmates were in pretrial detention or remanded. There were 1,225 female inmates as of September 2015. Authorities sometimes held female and male prisoners together, especially in rural areas. In 2013 the NPS reported there were 847 juvenile inmates in juvenile detention centers, but prison authorities often held juvenile suspects with adults.

Prisoners and detainees, the majority of whom had not been tried, were reportedly subjected to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, inadequate medical treatment, deliberate and incidental exposure to heat and sun, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to wholly inadequate sanitary conditions that could result in death. Guards and prison officials reportedly extorted inmates or levied fees on them to pay for food, prison maintenance, and release from prison. Female inmates in some cases faced the threat of rape.

Most of the 240 prisons were 70 to 80 years old and lacked basic facilities. Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities, and severe overcrowding resulted in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Disease remained pervasive in cramped, poorly ventilated prison facilities, which had chronic shortages of medical supplies. Inadequate medical treatment caused many prisoners to die from treatable illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Although authorities attempted to isolate persons with communicable diseases, facilities often lacked adequate space, and inmates with these illnesses lived with the general prison population. There were no reliable statistics on the number of prison deaths during the year.

Only prisoners with money or support from their families had sufficient food. Prison officials routinely stole money provided for prisoners’ food. Poor inmates often relied on handouts from others to survive. Prison officials, police, and other security force personnel often denied inmates food and medical treatment to punish them or extort money.

In general prisons had no facilities to care for pregnant women or nursing mothers. Infants born to inmate mothers usually remained with the mother until weaned. Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors–many of whom were born in prison–lived in the prisons. According to the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), in 2013 there were 69 infants in prison with their mothers. Results of a survey of women and children in prisons conducted by CURE-Nigeria and released in March revealed many children in custody did not receive routine immunizations, and authorities made few provisions to accommodate their physical needs, to include hygiene items, proper bedding, proper food, and recreation areas. According to a report by the NGO CURE-Nigeria, female inmates largely relied on charitable organizations to obtain female hygiene items.

Generally, prisons made few efforts to provide mental health services or other accommodations to prisoners with mental disabilities (see section 6).

Several unofficial military prisons reported by domestic and international human rights groups–including the Giwa Barracks facility in Maiduguri, Borno State–continued to operate (see section 1.g.). In May AI reported that at least 149 individuals, including 12 children and babies, had died since January at Giwa Barracks. According to the report, overcrowding coupled with disease and inadequate access to food and water were the most likely causes of the increase in mortality at the installation. The military reportedly detained many of those at Giwa Barracks during arbitrary mass arrests based on random profiling rather than reasonable suspicion of supporting Boko Haram. The military publicly denied the findings of the report but worked with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and by October had released 876 children previously detained at the facility. It was unclear following their release how many other children or adults remained in detention at Giwa Barracks or other unofficial detention facilities.

In 2014 AI reported the mass extrajudicial executions of more than 600 recaptured prisoners at Giwa Barracks following an escape attempt. In 2013 AI had revealed the existence of previously unknown military detention facilities in the Northeast–including Giwa Barracks, and the Sector Alpha (also called “Guantanamo”) and Presidential Lodge (also called “the Guardroom”) facilities in Damaturu, Yobe State. According to AI, the military subjected detainees in them to inhuman and degrading treatment; hundreds allegedly died due to of extrajudicial killings, beatings, torture, or starvation. In response to the Giwa Barracks allegations, the military indicated it would conduct an investigation. As of December the military had not released any reports of an investigation.

Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners was inadequate, and authorities did not take steps to improve it. Authorities maintained records for individual prisoners in paper form inconsistently and did not make them widely accessible.

While prison authorities allowed visitors within a scheduled timeframe, few visits occurred, largely due to lack of family resources and travel distances.

The country does not have an ombudsman to serve on behalf of convicted prisoners and detainees. The ACJA provides that the chief judge of each state, or any magistrate designated by the chief judge, shall conduct monthly inspections of police stations and other places of detention within the magistrate’s jurisdiction, other than prisons, and may inspect records of arrests, direct the arraignment of suspects, and grant bail if previously refused but appropriate.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) conducts prison audits and in September announced the start of a new one. Despite an expressed willingness and ability to investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions, however, the last audit report it publicly released was in 2012. Through its Legal Aid Council, the Ministry of Justice reportedly provided some monitoring of prisons under the Federal Government Prison Decongestion Program.

Independent Monitoring: There was limited monitoring of prisons by independent nongovernmental observers. The International Committee of the Red Cross continued to have access to police detention and NPS facilities. It was also able to visit some military detention facilities.

Improvements: Some individual attorneys general and prison administrators worked to improve local facilities and processes. CURE-Nigeria worked with the chief justice of the FCT to review the cases of FCT inmates incarcerated in neighboring states while awaiting trial or after having served their sentences.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, police and security services employed these practices. According to numerous reports, since 2013 the military arbitrarily arrested and detained–often in unmonitored military detention facilities–thousands of persons in the context of the fight against Boko Haram in the Northeast (see section 1.g.). In their prosecution of corruption cases, law enforcement and intelligence agencies often failed to follow due process and arrested suspects without appropriate arrest and search warrants.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police Force (NPF) is the country’s largest law enforcement agency. An inspector general of police, appointed by the president and reporting to the minister of interior, commands the NPF. In addition to traditional police responsibilities of maintaining law and order in communities in each of the states and the FCT, the inspector general oversees law enforcement operations throughout the country involving border security, marine (navigation) matters, and counterterrorism. A state commissioner of police, nominated by the inspector general and approved by the state governor, commands NPF forces in each of the states and the FCT. Although administratively controlled by the inspector general, operationally the state commissioner reports to the governor. In the event of societal violence or emergencies, such as endemic terrorist activity or national disasters that necessitate the temporary deployment to a state of additional law enforcement resources, the governor may also assume operational control of these forces.

The Department of State Services (DSS) is responsible for internal security and reports to the president through the national security adviser. Several other federal organizations have law enforcement components, such as the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Interior, and federal courts.

Due to the inability of law enforcement forces to control societal violence, the government increasingly turned to the armed forces in many cases. In July, for example, the military launched Operation Accord to tackle an increase in the number of herder-farmer conflicts throughout the country.

The police, DSS, and military reported to civilian authorities but periodically acted outside civilian control. The government lacked effective mechanisms and sufficient political will to investigate and punish security force abuse and corruption. The police and military remained susceptible to corruption, committed human rights abuses, and operated with widespread impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution of suspects. The DSS also reportedly committed human rights abuses. In some cases private citizens or the government brought charges against perpetrators of human rights abuses, but most cases lingered in court or went unresolved after an initial investigation. In the armed forces, a soldier’s commanding officer determined disciplinary action, and the decision was subject to review by the chain of command under the Armed Forces Act. In March the army announced the creation of a human rights desk to investigate complaints of human rights violations brought by civilians, although as of December that office’s mandate remained unclear and no investigations had been formally initiated.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police and other security services have the authority to arrest individuals without first obtaining warrants if they have reasonable suspicion a person committed an offense, a power they often abused. The law requires that, even under a state of emergency, detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours and have access to lawyers and family members. In many instances government and security officials did not adhere to this regulation without being bribed. Police held for interrogation individuals found in the vicinity of a crime for periods ranging from a few hours to several months, and after their release, authorities frequently asked the individuals to return for further questioning. The law requires an arresting officer to inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest, transport the accused to a police station for processing within a reasonable time, and allow the suspect to obtain counsel and post bail. Families were afraid to approach military barracks used as detention facilities. Police routinely detained suspects without informing them of the charges against them or allowing access to counsel and family members; such detentions often included solicitation of bribes. Provision of bail often remained arbitrary or subject to extrajudicial influence. Judges often set exceedingly stringent bail conditions. In many areas with no functioning bail system, suspects remained incarcerated indefinitely under investigative detention. Authorities kept detainees incommunicado for long periods. Numerous detainees alleged police demanded bribes to take them to court hearings or to release them. If family members wanted to attend a trial, police often demanded additional payment.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security force personnel arbitrarily arrested numerous persons during the year, although the number remained unknown. In the Northeast the military and members of vigilante groups, such as the CJTF, reportedly continued to round up individuals during mass arrests, often with no evidence against them.

Security services detained journalists and demonstrators during the year (see sections 2.a. and 2.b.).

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. According to NPS figures from March, 72 percent of the prison population consisted of detainees awaiting trial, often for years. The shortage of trial judges, trial backlogs, endemic corruption, bureaucratic inertia, and undue political influence seriously hampered the judicial system. In many cases multiple adjournments resulted in years-long delays. Many detainees had their cases adjourned because the NPF and the NPS did not have vehicles to transport them to court. Some persons remained in detention because authorities lost their case files.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees can challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court and have the right to submit complaints to the NHRC. For example, in April an Abuja court ordered the EFCC to pay the sum of 10 million naira ($31,750) as damages to the former acting national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party after declaring his arrest and subsequent detention by the commission illegal.

Nevertheless, most detainees found this approach ineffective because, even with legal representation, they often waited years to gain access to court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial branch remained susceptible to pressure from the executive and legislative branches. Political leaders influenced the judiciary, particularly at the state and local levels. Understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency, and corruption prevented the judiciary from functioning adequately. Judges frequently failed to appear for trials. In addition, the pay for court officials was low, and they often lacked proper equipment and training.

There was a widespread public perception that judges were easily bribed and litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments. Citizens encountered long delays and received requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favorable rulings.

Although the Ministry of Justice implemented strict requirements for education and length of service for judges at the federal and state levels, no requirements or monitoring bodies existed for judges at the local level. This contributed to corruption and the miscarriage of justice in local courts.

The constitution provides that, in addition to common law courts, states may establish courts based on sharia or customary (traditional) law. Sharia courts functioned in 12 northern states and the FCT. Customary courts functioned in most of the 36 states. The nature of a case and the consent of the parties usually determined what type of court had jurisdiction. In the case of sharia courts in the North, the impetus to establish them stemmed at least in part from perceptions of inefficiency, cost, and corruption in the common law system.

The constitution specifically recognizes sharia courts for “civil proceedings,” but they do not have the authority to compel participation by non-Muslims. Non-Muslims have the option to have their cases tried in the sharia courts if involved in civil disputes with Muslims.

The constitution is silent on the use of sharia courts for criminal cases. In addition to civil matters, sharia courts also hear criminal cases if both complainant and defendant are Muslim and agree to the venue. Sharia courts may pass sentences based on the sharia penal code, including for “hudud” offenses (serious criminal offenses with punishments prescribed in the Quran) that provide for punishments such as caning, amputation, and death by stoning. Despite constitutional language supporting only secular criminal courts and the prohibition against involuntary participation in sharia criminal courts, a Zamfara State law requires that a sharia court hear all criminal cases involving Muslims.

Defendants have the right to challenge the constitutionality of sharia criminal statutes through the common law appellate courts. As of December no challenges with adequate legal standing had reached the common law appellate system. The highest appellate court for sharia-based decisions is the Supreme Court, staffed by common-law judges who are not required to have any formal training in the sharia penal code. Sharia law experts often advise them.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants are presumed innocent and enjoy the rights to: be informed promptly and in detail of charges (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals); receive a fair and public trial without undue delay; be present at their trial; communicate with an attorney of choice (or have one provided at public expense); have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence; not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal. The law grants defendants the right to apply directly or through a lawyer for access to government-held evidence.

Authorities did not always respect these rights. Although accused persons are entitled to counsel of their choice, no law prevents a trial from going forward without counsel, except for certain offenses that carry the death penalty. Authorities held defendants in prison awaiting trial for periods well beyond the term allowed by law (see section 1.c.).

Human rights groups alleged the government denied terror suspects detained by the military their rights to legal representation, due process, and to be heard by a judicial authority. Despite announcements in 2015 that the government was preparing to prosecute 350 Boko Haram suspects in custody, as of December there were no reports of the government initiating their prosecutions. Thousands of other individuals suspected of association with Boko Haram remained in detention with no investigations or prosecutions initiated against them.

Under common law women and non-Muslims may testify in civil or criminal proceedings and give testimony that carries the same weight as testimony of other witnesses. Sharia courts usually accorded the testimony of women and non-Muslims less weight than that of Muslim men. Some sharia court judges allowed different evidentiary requirements for male and female defendants to prove adultery or fornication. Pregnancy, for example, was admissible evidence of a woman’s adultery or fornication in some sharia courts. In contrast, sharia courts could convict men only if they confessed or there was eyewitness testimony. Sharia courts, however, provided women some benefits, including increased access to divorce, child custody, and alimony.

Military courts tried only military personnel, but their judgments could be appealed to civilian courts. Members of the military are subject to the Armed Forces Act regarding civil and criminal matters. The operational commanding officer of a member of the armed forces must approve charges against that member. The commanding officer decides whether the accusation merits initiation of court-martial proceedings or lower-level disciplinary action. Such determinations are nominally subject to higher review, although the commanding officer makes the final decision. If the case proceeds, the accused is subject to trial by a four-member court-martial. The law provides for internal appeals before military councils as well as final appeal to the civilian Court of Appeals.

In May the NA announced a special court-martial to try two generals on unspecified charges. In September the court convicted one of them of indiscipline and reduced his rank. In August the NA convened a court-martial to try 16 soldiers and four officers for offenses allegedly committed during operations in the Northeast. Their cases were pending as of December.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no new reports of political prisoners or detainees. Persons arrested in previous years for alleged treason remained in detention at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but the executive and legislative branches, as well as business interests, exerted influence and pressure in civil cases. Official corruption and lack of will to implement court decisions also interfered with due process. The law provides for access to the courts for redress of grievances, and courts may award damages and issue injunctions to stop or prevent a human rights violation, but the decisions of civil courts were difficult to enforce.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits arbitrary interference, but authorities reportedly infringed on these rights during the year, and police entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization. There were reports of warrantless arrests of young men in the Niger Delta region on suspicion of having links with militant groups. In their pursuit of corruption cases, law enforcement agencies reportedly carried out searches and arrests without warrants.

The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) continued to threaten to evict residents in communities not deemed in compliance with the Abuja city master plan. The FCDA typically claimed that demolished homes, businesses, or churches lacked proper permits (even if owners were able to produce documentation indicating the structures were built legally), were unsafe, or posed health hazards. Many civil society organizations and citizens claimed property developers with connections to government officials acquired vacated properties. No transparent legal process existed for deciding which homes the government would demolish. Persons who lost homes lacked recourse to appeal and received no compensation. Many observers viewed the demolitions as motivated primarily by corruption and discrimination based on socioeconomic class, since mostly lower- and middle-class persons lost their homes and property.

For example, the government of Kaduna State issued demolition notices in March to residents of Gbagyi Villa despite a court injunction against the planned demolition. Residents claimed the government had not consulted with them or offered alternative housing or compensation.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, the government frequently restricted these rights.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: The constitution entitles every individual to “freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.” Although federal and state governments usually respected this right, there were reported cases in which the government abridged the right to speech and other expression.

Press and Media Freedoms: Freedom House’s annual survey of media independence, Freedom of the Press 2016, described the press as “partly free.” A large and vibrant private domestic press frequently criticized the government. Because newspapers and television were relatively expensive and literacy levels low, radio remained the most important medium of mass communication and information.

Violence and Harassment: Security services detained and harassed journalists, sometimes for reporting on sensitive problems such as political corruption and security. Security services including police occasionally arrested and detained journalists who criticized the government.

For example, in May a journalist was driving to an assignment when he saw two police officers beating up a driver and his passenger by the side of the road. When he stopped to film the scene, one officer tried to prevent him from doing so while the other slapped him. After a struggle, the officers arrested the journalist and took him to the police station in Mushin LGA, Lagos State. After threatening him, the police released the journalist.

In August EFCC agents arrested a popular blogger known as Abusidiqu after he published a post highly critical of the head of the EFCC. He was released two days later, amid widespread criticism of his arrest.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government controlled much of the electronic media through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), which is responsible for monitoring and regulating broadcast media. The law prohibits local television stations from transmitting programming from other countries except for special religious programs, sports programs, or events of national interest. Cable and satellite transmission was less restricted. For example, the NBC permitted live transmission of foreign news and programs on cable and satellite networks, but they must dedicate 20 percent of their programming time to local content.

Journalists practiced self-censorship. Local NGOs claimed security services intimidated newspaper editors and owners into censoring reports of killings and other human rights abuses.

Libel/Slander Laws: Libel is a civil offense and requires defendants to prove the truth of the opinion or value judgment contained in news reports or editorials or pay penalties. This limited the circumstances in which media defendants could rely on the common law legal defense of “fair comment on matters of public interest,” and it restricted the right to freedom of expression. Defamation is a criminal offense carrying a penalty of two years’ imprisonment and possible fines.

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were few government restrictions on access to the internet, but challenges with infrastructure and affordability persisted. Rising internet usage in the country was due to growing cell phone usage, although high-speed broadband penetration increased from 10 percent in 2014 to 14 percent during the year. According to the World Bank, 47 percent of individuals used the internet in 2015.

Human rights advocates and business executives expressed concern over the inadequacy of laws to protect personal data and privacy rights. Some civil society organizations, government officials, and business executives expressed concern over the broad powers the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 gives law enforcement and other security agencies to intercept private communications. According to civil society organizations, business executives, and network providers, the government in the past conducted massive surveillance of citizens’ telecommunications, and on occasion compelled network operators to release political dissidents’ communication data.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, the government occasionally banned gatherings when it concluded their political, ethnic, or religious nature might lead to unrest. Open-air religious services held away from places of worship remained prohibited in many states, due to fears they might heighten interreligious tensions. In October several northern states enacted restrictions on religious activities shortly before the Shia commemoration of Ashura. When the IMN attempted to observe Ashura, security forces seeking to enforce the restrictions killed at least 15 IMN members. In November a similar situation between the IMN and the NPF during a pilgrimage march in Kano State resulted in the death of one police officer and more than 40 IMN members.

The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, a law prohibiting marriages and civil unions among persons of the same sex, criminalizes the free association of any persons through so-called gay organizations (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

In areas that experienced societal violence, police and other security services permitted public meetings and demonstrations on a case-by-case basis.

Security services continued to use excessive force to disperse demonstrators during the year (see section 1.a.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the right to associate freely with other persons in political parties, trade unions, or other special interest organizations. While the government generally respected this right, on occasion authorities abrogated it for some groups. In October the government of Kaduna State proscribed the IMN, alleging the group constituted a danger to public order and peace, and ordered the arrest of IMN spokesperson Ibrahim Musa for allegedly violating the ban. As of December Musa was in hiding.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but security officials restricted freedom of movement at times by imposing curfews in areas experiencing terrorist attacks and ethnoreligious violence.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers through the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons.

In-country Movement: The federal, state, or local governments imposed curfews or otherwise restricted movement in the states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe in connection with operations against Boko Haram. Other states imposed curfews in reaction to events such as ethnoreligious violence.

Police continued to conduct “stop and search” operations in cities and on major highways and, on occasion, set up checkpoints. Upon assuming office, the new inspector general of police renewed his predecessor’s order to dismantle all checkpoints. Nonetheless, many checkpoints operated by military and police remained in place.

Exile: There are no legal grounds for forced exile, and there were no examples of formal legal proceedings to exile a citizen. Some citizens chose self-exile for political reasons or for fear for their personal security.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

In December the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported there were approximately 1.8 million persons displaced in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe. Insurgency was the main reasons for displacement, followed by communal clashes. The IOM estimated approximately 24 percent of IDPs lived in camps and camp-like settings and 76 percent with host families. More than half of the IDP population was female and 55 percent children under 18, 48 percent of them under five years of age. The true number of IDPs was likely much higher, as IOM’s efforts did not encompass all states and did not include inaccessible areas of the Northeast.

Food continued to be one of the IDPs’ greatest immediate needs. The United Nations reported in December that 5.1 million persons in the three northeastern states, including most IDPs, were in urgent need of food assistance. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, 20 to 50 percent of children screened by October in recently accessible areas of Borno and Yobe States were acutely malnourished. According to NGOs, in Bama, Borno State, 120 IDPs died in May of starvation over the course of 10 days. In addition to food, IDPs faced shortfalls in clean water, health care, and shelter. After recognizing the severity of the crisis in the Northeast, in September the government appointed an interministerial task force to assess and revamp the response efforts of its various ministries, departments, and agencies.

IDPs, especially those in the Northeast, continued to face severe protection issues. In April UNHCR published the results of a rapid protection assessment of IDPs in camps, settlements, and host communities in Maiduguri, Dikwa, and Damboa. In Maiduguri more than half of areas surveyed reported instances of survival sex in exchange for food or freedom to move in and out of IDP camps. Nearly half of all the areas surveyed reported rapes of women and girls in their camps and communities. A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in October documented cases of rape and sexual exploitation of IDP women and girls committed by government officials and other authorities, including camp leaders, vigilante groups, police officers, and soldiers. The government responded quickly to HRW’s findings, indicating it had already ordered investigations into the matter. In November the inspector general of police announced establishment of a special panel to investigate all the cases reported by HRW. Shortly after, the Borno Police Command announced it had deployed 100 female police officers to IDP camps. In December the inspector general announced the arrest of two police officers, one prison warden, two CJTF members, one civil servant, and three servicemen suspected of sexual misconduct toward IDPs.

Slightly more than one-third of all sites in the UNHCR rapid protection assessment reported cases in which security services arrested and detained suspected Boko Haram members at IDP camps and in host communities; most families had not heard from the detainees since their arrest. Other protection concerns among respondents’ included attacks or bombing, lack of accountability and diversion of humanitarian aid, drug abuse, hostility and insecurity, harassment of women and girls, and lack of humanitarian assistance for host communities.

NGOs reported there were insufficient resources available to IDP victims of sexual and gender-based violence, who had limited access to safe, confidential psychosocial counseling and medical services or safe spaces. Women and girls abducted by Boko Haram, as well as the babies born as a result of rape during their captivity, faced stigmatization and community isolation.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR, as of November there were approximately 1,363 refugees (including more than 1,100 urban refugees) and 440 asylum seekers. They came mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Sudan, and Guinea, the majority of them living in urban areas in Lagos and Ijebu Ode, in Ogun State.

Employment: Refugees could move and work freely in the country but, like most citizens, had few opportunities for employment.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees, like citizens, had poor access to police and the courts.

Durable Solutions: The government, working with UNHCR, facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 616 Cameroonian refugees by February. It was also implementing a local integration work plan for protracted refugees.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to a few hundred individuals who may not qualify as refugees.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials sometimes cooperated and responded to their views, but on some occasions dismissed allegations quickly without investigating the charges.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The law establishes the NHRC as an independent nonjudicial mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights. The NHRC monitors human rights through its zonal affiliates in the country’s six political regions. The NHRC investigates allegations of human rights abuses and publishes periodic reports detailing its findings, including torture and poor prison conditions. The law provides for recognition and enforcement of NHRC awards and recommendations as court decisions.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides all workers, except members of the armed forces and public employees in “essential services,” the right to form or belong to any trade union or other association, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, but some statutory limitations substantially restricted these rights. Trade unions must meet various registration requirements to be legally established. By law a trade union may be registered if it has a minimum of 50 members and if there is no other union already registered in that trade or profession. A three-month notice period, starting from the date of publication of an application for registration in the Gazette, must elapse before a trade union may be registered. If the Ministry of Labor and Productivity does not receive objections to registration during the three-month notice period, it must register the union within three months of the expiration of the notice period. If an objection is raised, however, the ministry has an indefinite period to review and deliberate over the registration. The registrar may refuse registration because a proper objection has been raised or because a purpose of the trade union violates the Trade Union Act or other laws. Each federation must consist of 12 or more affiliated trade unions, and each trade union must be an exclusive member in a single federation.

The law generally does not provide for a union’s ability to conduct its activities without interference from the government. The law narrowly defines what union activities are legal. The minister of labor and productivity has broad authority to cancel the registration of worker and employer organizations. The registrar of trade unions has broad powers to review union accounts at any time. In addition the law requires government permission before a trade union can be legally affiliated with an international organization.

The law stipulates that every collective agreement on wages be registered with the National Salaries, Income, and Wages Commission, which decides whether the agreement becomes binding. Workers and employers in export processing zones (EPZs) are subject to the provisions of labor law, the 1992 Nigeria Export Processing Zones Decree, and other laws. Workers in the EPZs may organize and engage in collective bargaining, but there are no explicit provisions providing them the right to organize their administration and activities without interference by the government. The law does not allow worker representatives free access to the EPZs to organize workers, and it prohibits workers from striking for 10 years following the commencement of operations by the employer within a zone. In addition the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, which the federal government created to manage the EPZ program, has exclusive authority to handle the resolution of disputes between employers and employees, thereby limiting the autonomy of the bargaining partners.

The law provides legal restrictions that limit the right to strike. The law requires a majority vote of all registered union members to call a strike. The law limits the right to strike to disputes over rights, including those arising from the negotiation, application, interpretation, or implementation of an employment contract or collective agreement, or those arising from a collective and fundamental breach of an employment contract or collective agreement, such as one related to wages and conditions of work. The law prohibits strikes in essential services, defined in an overly broad manner, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). These include the Central Bank of Nigeria; the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, Ltd.; any corporate body licensed to carry out banking under the Banking Act; postal service; sound broadcasting; telecommunications; maintenance of ports, harbors, docks, or airports; transportation of persons, goods, or livestock by road, rail, sea, or river; road cleaning; and refuse collection. Strike actions, including many in nonessential services, may be subject to a compulsory arbitration procedure leading to a final award, which is binding on the parties concerned.

Strikes over national economic policy are prohibited. Penalties for participating in an illegal strike include fines and imprisonment for up to six months.

Workers under collective bargaining agreements may not participate in strikes unless their unions comply with legal requirements, including provisions for mandatory mediation and referral of disputes to the government. Workers may submit labor grievances to the judicial system for review. Laws prohibit workers from forcing persons to join strikes, blocking airports, or obstructing public byways, institutions, or premises of any kind. Persons committing violations are subject to fines and possible prison sentences. The law further restricts the right to strike by making “check-off” payment of union dues conditional on the inclusion of a no-strike clause during the lifetime of a collective agreement. No laws prohibit retribution against strikers and strike leaders, but strikers who believe they are victims of unfair retribution may submit their cases to the Industrial Arbitration Panel with the approval of the Ministry of Labor and Productivity. The panel’s decisions are binding on the parties but may be appealed to the National Industrial Court. The arbitration process was cumbersome, time consuming, and ineffective in deterring retribution against strikers. Individuals also have the right to petition the labor ministry and may request arbitration from the National Industrial Court.

The law does not prohibit general antiunion discrimination; it only protects unskilled workers. The law does not provide for the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

In 2013 the ILO ruled many provisions of the Trade Union Act and the Trade Disputes Act contravened ILO conventions 87 and 98 by limiting freedom of association.

While workers exercised some of their rights, the government generally did not effectively enforce the applicable laws. Penalties were not adequate to deter violations. Inflation reduced the deterrence value of many fines established by older laws. For example, some fines could not exceed 100 naira ($0.32).

The labor ministry registered approximately five unions per year. Officials reported union membership declined in recent years, and a majority of workers labored in the informal economy.

In many cases workers’ fears of negative repercussions inhibited their reporting of antiunion activities. According to labor representatives, police rarely gave permission for public demonstrations and routinely used force to disperse protesters.

The government reported to the ILO that unionization in the EPZs had begun, citing the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, and Technical and Recreational Services Employees organizing members within the EPZ.

Collective bargaining occurred throughout the public sector and the organized private sector but remained restricted in some parts of the private sector, particularly in banking and telecommunications. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, the government and some private-sector employers occasionally failed to honor their collective agreements. For example, the government repeatedly failed to abide by a ruling of the National Industrial Court to implement a 2009 agreement between the government and the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU). In February health-care workers called off a three-month-old strike following government promises to enforce the agreement. In September JOHESU threatened to go on strike again, alleging noncompliance by the government on unpaid wages.

Union members complained about the increased use of contracted labor and short-term labor contracts by employers seeking to avoid pension contributions and other obligations to their employees. This problem prompted the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers to stage a three-day warning strike in 2014.

While the law does not provide for reinstatement of workers dismissed for their legitimate union activities, the Ministry of Labor and Productivity ordered the rehiring of union members fired for labor activism.

Some foreign employers reportedly failed to comply with labor laws, especially in the construction and textile sectors. For example, in May and July, recently fired workers of a foreign-owned construction company protested its alleged failure to provide proper notice and severance pay and to make mandatory pension contributions. A local NGO reported employers required workers to sign, as a condition of employment, contracts that explicitly prohibited them from attempting to join a union. Some employers dismissed workers involved in organizing unions.

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