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Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Nigeria

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 14 March 2007
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Nigeria, 14 March 2007, available at: [accessed 26 April 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Obstacles to freedom of association77

On January 19, 2006, Mr. Bayo Ojo, Minister for Justice, presented the "Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Relationships Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and Other Matters Connected Therewith" before the Federal Executive Council.

The same day, the Council approved the text which prohibits, in particular, "the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations by whatever name they are called (...) by government agencies" (Article 7) and provides for a five-year prison term for any person involved in the registration of such organisations, or in the "organisation, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity or public show of a same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly, in public or in private" (Article 7-3).

The Bill was introduced before the House of Representatives on March 30, 2006, and examined by the Senate in first reading on April 11, 2006. On this occasion, some of its provisions were extended so as to provide for prison sentences for any person who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex" or "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage" (Article 8).

By the end of 2006, this Bill was still pending before the National Assembly.

Retaliation against Mr. Bukhari Bello and forcible dispersal of a peaceful demonstration78

On June 19, 2006, Mr. Bukhari Bello, executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nigeria, received a letter from the Federal Ministry of Justice notifying him of his removal from office.

A couple of days before, Mr. Bello had met the Minister for Justice, who had reportedly informed him of the discontent of the government, in particular the President of the Republic Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, following some of his public statements. During the 39th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) held in Banjul (The Gambia) from May 11 to 25, 2006, Mr. Bello had notably condemned the harassment and intimidation of the media and journalists by national security agencies. He had also publicly disapproved the proposed amendments to the Nigerian Constitution extending the presidential term of office, denouncing "African leaders who are not military men but use constitutional amendments to perpetuate themselves in power."

Mr. Bello's dismissal notably violated the NHRC Act No. 25 of 1995, which provides that a member of the Commission's Council may be appointed or removed from office by the President of the Republic only and not by the Minister for Justice (Article 4-2).

Following strong protest by other members of the NHRC Council, the Minister for Justice convened a meeting with the Commission's members on June 30, 2006. Mr. Bello came with his colleagues but was denied entry to the Ministry.

On July 3, 2006, Mr. Ojo appointed Ms. Folashade Ajoni, a representative of the Ministry of Justice with the NHRC, as executive secretary of the Commission.

The Minister further purportedly requested the police inspector-general to prevent Mr. Bello from accessing the premises of the Commission.

On July 13, 2006, several human rights NGOs, including the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), organised a meeting in Abuja to protest against Mr. Bello's removal and government interference with the indendence of the Commission. Upon arrival at the hotel where the event was due to be held, participants were denied access to the building by the police and members of the State Security Services (SSS) for supposedly "failing to obtain prior police authorisation". Civil society activists were then forcibly dispersed while some of them, who managed to enter the premises, were reportedly beaten.

The meeting could ultimately take place on the same day at the headquarters of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website ( was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

77. See Press Release, April 7, 2006.

78. See Joint Press Release of the Observatory and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), June 23, 2006.

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