a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary, unlawful, or extrajudicial killings. The national police, army, and other security services sometimes used lethal and excessive force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects. Improving from previous years, police forces engaging in crowd-control operations generally attempted to disperse crowds using nonlethal tactics, such as firing tear gas, before escalating their use of force.
Authorities did not always 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 generally did not make their findings public. In 2017 the acting president convened a civilian-led presidential investigative panel to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement, and the panel submitted its findings in February 2018. As of September no portions of the report had been made public.
As of September there were no reports of the federal government further investigating or holding individuals accountable for the 2015 killing and subsequent mass burial of members of a Shia political organization, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), and other civilians by Nigerian Army (NA) forces in Zaria, Kaduna State. In 2016 the government of Kaduna made public the Kaduna State judicial commission’s nonbinding report, which found the NA used “excessive and disproportionate” force during the 2015 altercations in which 348 IMN members and one soldier died. The commission 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. A 2016 report by the government of Kaduna State included acceptance of the commission’s recommendation to investigate and prosecute allegations of excessive and disproportionate use of force by the NA. As of September there was no indication that authorities had held any members of the NA accountable for the events in Zaria.
The report 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. In 2016 a federal court declared the continued detention without charge of Zakzaky and his wife illegal and unconstitutional. The court ordered their release by January 2017. The federal government did not comply with this order, and Zakzaky, his spouse, and other IMN members remained in detention. In April 2018 the Kaduna State government charged Zakzaky in state court with multiple felonies stemming from the death of the soldier at Zaria. The charges included unlawful gathering, criminal conspiracy, and culpable homicide, which can carry the death penalty. In October 2018 press reported IMN members were marching toward Abuja along at least three major feeder thoroughfares. During a clash with security forces at a military checkpoint at the border between Nasarawa State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the army reportedly used live rounds to break up the crowd. Amnesty International Nigeria reported at least 39 deaths and numerous injuries among the marchers. The government reported it opened an internal investigation of this incident but did not publish its findings. In December 2018 the New York Times published video footage that appeared to show armed forces members beating and shooting unarmed protesters. As of September there was no evidence that any members of the security forces had been prosecuted for these incidents.
In July the federal government banned the IMN and declared it a terrorist organization, stating the group had engaged in criminality, including attacking security forces and destroying public property, and accused the group of growing links to Iran. In August Zakzaky and his wife were permitted medical furlough to travel to India to seek medical treatment, but according to media reports they refused treatment and returned to Nigeria at their own insistence. As of September, Zakzaky’s case was pending. In July 2018 a Kaduna State High Court dismissed charges of aiding and abetting culpable homicide against more than 80 IMN members. The Kaduna State government appealed the ruling. Approximately 100 additional IMN members remained in detention.
In 2017 the air force mistakenly bombed an informal internally displaced persons (IDP) settlement in Rann, Borno State, which resulted in the killing and injuring of more than 100 civilians, humanitarian workers, and Nigerian Army personnel. The government and military leaders publicly assumed responsibility for the strike. Defense Headquarters conducted its own internal investigation. While the report was never publicly released, the board of inquiry briefed the press on some of the report’s conclusions and recommendations on July 25, 2017. The investigation cited a ‘lack of appropriate marking of the area’ and made recommendations for the air force and army to better communicate with the humanitarian community. The Nigerian Air Force increased its efforts to ensure its personnel are able to apply international humanitarian law and international human rights law in an operational setting through increased training of its personnel.
There were reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings related to internal conflicts in the Northeast and other areas (see section 1.g.).
The publisher of Bayelsa State-based tabloid the Weekly Source, Jones Abiri, was held for more than two years in incommunicado detention by the Department of State Services (DSS) without trial, access to counsel, or family visitation. Abiri told reporters that he was blindfolded, held in an underground cell for most of the two years, and did not have access to medication in detention (see section 2.a.). The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported Abiri was accused of being a member of a Niger Delta militant group but was not formally charged, and said Abiri’s detention was in response to critical coverage appearing in the July 2016 edition of the Weekly Source. Following an open letter from the CPJ and significant public outcry, Abiri was arraigned and eventually released on bail in 2018. Abiri was re-arrested early in the year and charged with cybercrime, sabotage, and terrorism offenses, and remained in detention as of September.
On August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement calling on the government to account for victims of enforced disappearance, including the disappearance of Abubakar Idris, a blogger who was abducted from his home in Kaduna State in August.
Criminal groups abducted civilians in the Niger Delta and the Southeast, often to collect ransom payments. Maritime kidnappings remained common as militants turned to piracy and related crimes to support themselves. On July 13, for example, Nigerian pirates boarded a cargo vessel off the coast of Bayelsa, kidnapping 10 Turkish sailors and taking them away by speedboat. The pirates, initially demanding three million dollars as a ransom payment, reportedly released the sailors in August after weeks of negotiations.
Other parts of the country also experienced a significant number of abductions. Prominent and wealthy figures were often targets of abduction. For example, on May 1, armed assailants kidnapped the nephew of President Buhari and held him for more than two months before police forces conducted a rescue operation.
Boko Haram and ISIS-WA conducted large-scale abductions in 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 2017 Anti-Torture Act defines and specifically criminalizes torture. The law prescribes offenses and penalties for any person, including law enforcement officers, who commits torture or aids, abets, or by act or omission is an accessory to torture. It also provides a basis for victims of torture to seek civil damages. The 2015 Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 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 July the states of Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Cross River, Delta, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, and Rivers had adopted ACJA-compliant legislation.
The Ministry of Justice previously established a National Committee Against Torture (NCAT). Lack of legal and operational independence and limited funding prevented NCAT from carrying out its work effectively.
The law prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence and confessions obtained through torture. Authorities did not always respect this prohibition and, according to credible international organizations, the Special Antirobbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) sometimes used torture to extract confessions later used to try suspects.
In 2016 AI reported SARS agents regularly tortured detainees in custody as a means of extracting confessions and bribes. In response to AI’s findings, the inspector general of police (IGP) reportedly admonished SARS commanders and announced broad reforms to correct SARS units’ use of excessive force and failures to follow due process. In late 2017 citizens began a social media campaign (#EndSARS) to document physical abuse and extortion by SARS officers and demanded SARS units be disbanded. In December 2017 the IGP announced plans to reorganize SARS units, but complaints of abuse continued. Several SARS agents were dismissed from the force and, in some instances, prosecuted, and the NPF sought technical assistance for investigations of SARS agents. The government failed to publicly release information on investigations and punishment of a majority of misconduct cases. In August 2018 then acting president Yemi Osinbajo ordered the IGP to overhaul the management and activities of SARS and ordered the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to set up a “Special Panel” with public hearings on SARS abuses. The government released the report in June recommending the dismissal and prosecution of 24 officers, the dismissal of an additional 13 officers, and the arrest and prosecution of two retired officers. Allegations of abuse by SARS agents continued throughout the year.
Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international human rights groups accused the security services of illegal detention, inhuman treatment, and torture of criminal suspects, militants, detainees, and prisoners. According to reports, security services committed rape and other forms of violence against women and girls, usually with impunity. In April, AI reported at least 10 soldiers in Giwa Barracks sexually exploited female detainees, demanding sex in exchange for food, soap, other basic necessities, and the promise of freedom. As of September the government had not held any responsible officials to account for reported incidents of torture in detention facilities in the Northeast, including Giwa Barracks.
Police used 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 states and the FCT may prescribe punishments such as caning, amputation, flogging, and death by stoning. The nature of a case and the consent of the parties usually determine what type of court has jurisdiction. The constitution specifically recognizes sharia courts for “civil proceedings;” they do not have the authority to compel participation, whether by non-Muslims or Muslims. At least one state, Zamfara, requires civil cases in which all litigants are Muslim be heard in sharia courts, with the option to appeal any decision to the common law court. Non-Muslims have the option to have their cases tried in the sharia courts if they wish.
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 often did not carry out sentences of caning, amputation, and stoning ordered 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 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 reports of canings during the year. On May 28, a sharia court convicted a 20-year-old man for eating a mango during Ramadan during restricted hours and publicly flogged him with 40 lashes. 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.
There were no new reports of sexual exploitation or abuse by peacekeepers from Nigeria deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. The government did not report investigating allegations 49 Nigerian soldiers deployed as UN peacekeepers to Liberia sexually exploited and abused women and children between 2003 and 2017.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Prisoners and detainees reportedly were subjected to gross overcrowding, inadequate medical care, food and water shortages, and other abuses; some of these conditions resulted in deaths. The government often detained suspected militants outside the formal prison system (see section 1.g.). In August the government passed a prison reform law and renamed the Nigerian Prison Services as the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS).
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a significant problem. Although the total designed capacity of the country’s prisons was 50,153 inmates, as of July they held 73,995 prisoners. Approximately 68 percent of inmates were in pretrial detention or remanded. As of July there were 1,489 female inmates. Authorities sometimes held female and male prisoners together, especially in rural areas. Prison authorities often held juvenile suspects with adults.
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. For example, according to press reports, Agodi Minimum Security Prison in Oyo State had 1,189 inmates despite a maximum capacity of 390.
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 total number of prison deaths during the year.
Prisoners and detainees were reportedly subjected to 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, transport to routine court appointments, and release from prison. Female inmates in some cases faced the threat of rape.
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. Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors–many of whom were born in prison–lived in the prisons.
Several unofficial military prisons continued to operate, including the Giwa Barracks facility in Maiduguri, Borno State. Although conditions in the Giwa Barracks detention facility reportedly marginally improved, detainees were denied due process and subjected to arbitrary and indefinite detention in conditions that remained harsh and life threatening (see section 1.g.). There were no reports of accountability for past reported deaths in custody, nor for past reports from AI alleging that an estimated 20,000 persons were arbitrarily detained between 2009 and 2015, with as many as 7,000 dying in custody.
After multiple releases during the year (see Improvements below), it was unclear how many children or adults remained in detention at Giwa Barracks or other unofficial detention facilities. According to press and NGO reporting, the military continued to arrest and remand to military detention facilities, including Giwa Barracks, additional persons suspected of association with Boko Haram or ISIS-WA.
The government continued to arrest and detain for prolonged periods, women and children removed from or allegedly associated with Boko Haram and ISIS-WA. They included women and girls who had been forcibly married to or sexually enslaved by the insurgents. The government reportedly detained them for screening and their perceived intelligence value. In April, AI reported authorities detained children removed from Boko Haram, including former child solders, with adults in Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison. There were multiple reports that adult inmates were sexually exploiting children. In September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported children detained for alleged association with Boko Haram and ISIS-WA were held in poor conditions in Giwa Barracks.
Administration: While prison authorities allowed visitors within a scheduled timeframe, few visits occurred, largely due to lack of family resources and travel distances. Prison officials often requested bribes to allow access for visitors.
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.
Independent Monitoring: There was limited monitoring of prisons by independent nongovernmental observers. The International Committee of the Red Cross had access to police detention, NCS, and some military detention facilities.
Improvements: Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), a deradicalization program, graduated 151 former low-level Boko Haram affiliate members and former detainees. Some OPSC graduates faced difficulty in reintegrating into communities due to stigmatization from being associated with Boko Haram.
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.
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 during 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. 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 sometimes 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 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 stringent bail conditions. In many areas with no functioning bail system, suspects remained incarcerated indefinitely in investigative detention. Authorities kept detainees incommunicado for long periods. Numerous detainees stated 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.
The government continued to turn to the armed forces to address internal security concerns, due to insufficient capacity and staffing of domestic law enforcement agencies. The constitution authorizes the use of the military to “[s]uppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authorities to restore order.” Armed forces were part of continuing joint security operations in the Northeast, Southeast, Niger Delta, Middle Belt, and Northwest.
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 most security force abuse and corruption. Police remained susceptible to corruption, committed human rights violations, and operated with widespread impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and torture 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 according to the Armed Forces Act. The army had a human rights desk to investigate complaints of human rights violations brought by civilians, and a standing general court martial in Maiduguri. The human rights desk in Maiduguri coordinated with the NHRC and Nigerian Bar Association to receive and investigate complaints, although their capacity and ability to investigate complaints outside of major population centers remained limited. The court martial in Maiduguri has convicted soldiers for rape, murder, and abduction of civilians. Many credible accusations of abuses remained uninvestigated.
In some northern states Hisbah religious police groups patrol areas to look for violations of sharia.
Arbitrary Arrest: Security 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, rounded up individuals during mass arrests, often without evidence.
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 NCS figures released in July, 68 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 NCS did not have vehicles to transport them to court. Some persons remained in detention because authorities lost their case files. Prison officials did not have effective prison case file management processes, to include a databases or cataloguing systems. In general the courts were plagued with inadequate, antiquated systems and procedures.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees may challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court and have the right to submit complaints to the NHRC. 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. There are no continuing education requirements for attorneys, and police officers were often assigned to serve as prosecutors. Judges frequently failed to appear for trials. In addition the salaries of court officials were 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 transition to sharia penal and criminal procedure codes, however, was largely perceived as hastily implemented, insufficiently codified, and constitutionally debatable in most of the states.
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 September 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 experts often advise them. Sharia courts are thus more susceptible to human error as many court personnel lack basic formal education or the appropriate training to accurately and effectively administer penal and legal procedures. Despite these shortfalls many in the North prefer sharia courts to their secular counterparts, especially concerning civil matters, as they are faster, less expensive, and conducted in the Hausa language.
Pursuant to constitutional or statutory provisions, 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.
Authorities did not always respect these rights, most frequently due to a lack of capacity and resources. Insufficient numbers of judges and courtrooms, together with growing caseloads, often resulted in pretrial, trial, and appellate delays that could extend a trial for as many as 10 years. Although accused persons are entitled to counsel of their choice, there were reportedly some cases where defense counsel was absent from required court appearances so regularly that a court might proceed with a routine hearing in the absence of counsel, except for certain offenses for which conviction carries the death penalty. Authorities held defendants in prison awaiting trial for periods well beyond the terms allowed by law (see section 1.c.).
Human rights groups stated the government denied terror suspects detained by the military their rights to legal representation, due process, and to be heard by a judicial authority. Rights groups, including HRW, expressed concerns regarding inadequate access to defense counsel, a lack of interpreters, and inadequate evidence leading to an overreliance on confessions. It was unclear whether confessions were completely voluntary. Those whose cases were dismissed reportedly remained in detention without clear legal justification.
By 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 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 court-martial. The law provides for internal appeals before military councils as well as final appeal to the civilian Court of Appeals.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
On February 16, nine tribal elders were arrested in Kaduna State. Media reports stated the individuals were detained by order of Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai in retaliation for their criticism of his administration. Eight of the elders were released in June and the ninth in August, after being held for months with no charges filed.
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 constitution and the annual Appropriation Acts stipulate the National Assembly and the judiciary be paid directly from the federation account as statutory transfers before other budgetary expenditures are made, in order to maintain autonomy and separation of powers. Federal and state governments, however, often undermine the judiciary by withholding funding and manipulating appointments. 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 infringed on this right during the year, and police entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization. In their pursuit of corruption cases, law enforcement agencies reportedly carried out searches and arrests without warrants.
Press reporting indicated that the army was responsible for burning villages in areas where Boko Haram was suspected to have been operational and possibly supported by the local population. These actions reportedly contributed to the high number of internally displaced persons in the Northeast.
g. Abuses in Internal Conflict
Killings: Units of the NA’s Seventh Division, the NPF, and the DSS carried out operations against the terrorist groups Boko Haram and ISIS-WA in the Northeast. There were reports of military forces allegedly conducting extrajudicial killings of suspected members of the groups. Security forces also arbitrarily arrested men and boys perceived to be of fighting age for suspected collaboration with or for general or material support of the insurgents.
In March 2017 the army convened a board of inquiry (BOI) to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed by the army during campaigns against the insurgency in the Northeast, including in its detention centers. In May 2017 the BOI presented its findings to the chief of army staff. While the full report was not publicly available, the board briefed the press on some of the report’s conclusions and recommendations. The board documented conditions at military detention facilities, including the center at Giwa Barracks, and found instances of overcrowded cells and unsanitary conditions. The BOI concluded that these detention conditions, and delays in trials of alleged Boko Haram members, sometimes resulted in deaths in custody. The BOI also found that the denial of access to legal representation was a violation of human rights. The board reportedly found no evidence of arbitrary arrests or extrajudicial executions of detainees. The board also stated it was “unable to substantiate” any of the allegations against senior officers, claiming a lack of documents or other forensic evidence. The BOI reportedly did not find any individual member of the NA at fault for any human rights violation in military detention facilities, nor did it recommend prosecutions or other accountability measures for any member of the Armed Forces of Nigeria or other government entity. Notably the BOI did not meet internationally accepted best practices for investigations. In particular, the board lacked full independence, did not have forensic or other evidentiary expertise, and did not consult testimonies from victims of human rights violations in compiling its evidence, thus calling into question some of its conclusions.
In August 2017 then acting president Osinbajo announced a civilian-led presidential investigative panel to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement. The panel conducted hearings across the country and submitted its findings to the presidency in February 2018. As of September the report had not been made public.
Boko Haram and ISIS-WA attacked population centers and security personnel in Borno State. Boko Haram also conducted limited attacks in Adamawa, while ISIS-WA attacked targets in Yobe. These groups targeted anyone perceived as disagreeing with the groups’ political or religious beliefs or interfering with their access to resources. While Boko Haram no longer controls as much territory as it once did, the two insurgencies nevertheless maintained the ability to stage forces in rural areas and launch attacks against civilian and military targets across the Northeast. Both groups carried out infrequent attacks through roadside IEDs. ISIS-WA maintained the ability to carry out effective complex attacks on military positions.
Boko Haram continued to employ indiscriminate person-borne IED attacks targeting the local civilian populations. Women and children were forced to carry out many of the attacks. According to a 2017 study by UNICEF, children, forced by Boko Haram, carried out nearly one in five person-borne IED attacks. More than two-thirds of these children were girls. For example, in June terrorists remotely detonated explosives strapped to two girls and a boy at a market in Konduga, southeast of Maiduguri, in Borno State, reportedly killing 30 persons and injuring 40. Boko Haram continued to kill scores of civilians suspected of cooperating with the government.
ISIS-WA targeted civilians with attacks or kidnappings less frequently than Boko Haram, but employed targeted acts of violence and intimidation against civilians in order to expand its area of influence and gain control over critical economic resources. As part of a violent campaign, ISIS-WA also targeted government figures, traditional leaders, and contractors. In multiple instances ISIS-WA issued “night letters” or otherwise warned civilians to leave specific areas and subsequently targeted civilians who failed to depart.
Abductions: Boko Haram conducted mass abductions of men, women, and children, often in conjunction with attacks on communities. The group forced men, women, and children to participate in military operations on its behalf. Those abducted by Boko Haram were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, forced labor, and forced religious conversions. Women and girls were subjected to forced marriage and sexual abuse, including rape and sexual slavery. Most female person-borne IED bombers were coerced in some form and were often drugged. Boko Haram also used women and girls to lure security forces into ambushes, force payment of ransoms, and leverage prisoner exchanges.
While some NGO reports estimated the number of Boko Haram abductees at more than 2,000, the total count of the missing was unknown since abductions continued, towns repeatedly changed hands, and many families were still on the run or dispersed in IDP camps. Many abductees managed to escape Boko Haram captivity, but precise numbers remained unknown.
Approximately half of the students abducted by Boko Haram from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in 2014 remained in captivity. Leah Sharibu remained the only student from the February 2018 kidnapping in Dapchi in ISIS-WA captivity, reportedly because she refused to convert to Islam from Christianity.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Security services used excessive force in the pursuit of Boko Haram and ISIS-WA suspects, at times resulting in arbitrary arrest, detention, or torture (see section 1.c.).
Arbitrary arrests continued in the Northeast, and authorities held many individuals in poor and life-threatening conditions. There were reports some of the arrested and detained included children believed to be associated with Boko Haram, some of whom may have been forcibly recruited. Conditions in Giwa Barracks reportedly marginally improved during the year, as the military periodically released groups of women and children, and less frequently men, from the facility to state-run rehabilitation centers; however, some deaths in detention continued. According to army statements to the press, the 2017 BOI report made numerous recommendations for improving detention conditions and judicial processes for suspected Boko Haram and ISIS-WA members. There have been no reports that government employees have been held accountable for abuses in Giwa Barracks or other military detention facilities.
Boko Haram engaged in widespread sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. Those who escaped or that security services or vigilante groups rescued faced ostracism by their communities and had difficulty obtaining appropriate medical and psychosocial treatment and care. In July, Boko Haram kidnapped a group of women and cut off their ears in retaliation for perceived cooperation with Nigerian and Cameroonian military and security services.
Reports indicated soldiers, police, CJTF and others committed sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls and such exploitation and abuse was a concern in state-run IDP camps, informal camps, and local communities in and around Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, and across the Northeast. Despite a relative improvement in the humanitarian situation, women and girls continued to be exploited in sex trafficking. Although impunity remained widespread, there were some reports of charges brought against government officials, security force members, and other perpetrators. For example, in May an Air Force officer was convicted and sentenced for sexual exploitation of a 14-year-old girl in one of the IDP camps.
Child Soldiers: Children younger than age 18 participated in Boko Haram attacks. The group paid, forcibly conscripted, or otherwise coerced young boys and girls to serve in its ranks and perpetrate attacks and raids, plant IEDs, serve as spies, and carry out person-borne IED bombings, often under the influence of drugs. For example, in June terrorists remotely detonated explosives strapped to two girls and a boy at a market in Konduga, southeast of Maiduguri, in Borno State, reportedly killing 30 persons and injuring 40. The group also used abducted girls as sex slaves.
Reports indicated that the military coordinated closely on the ground with the CJTF, a nongovernmental self-defense militia that received limited state government funding. The CJTF and United Nations continued work to implement an action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, which was signed by both parties and witnessed by the Borno State government in September 2017. According to credible international organizations, since the signing of the action plan there have been no verified cases of recruitment and use of child soldiers by the CJTF. At a public ceremony in October 2018, UNICEF, the CJTF, and the Borno State government marked the formal separation of 833 children formerly associated with the group. Some demobilized former child soldiers were awaiting formal reintegration into communities.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.