Last Updated: Friday, 28 November 2014, 15:42 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Nigeria

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Nigeria, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa538.html [accessed 28 November 2014]
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.
 

At the end of 1993, Nigeria's military continued to rule the country. Until August 27, General Ibrahim Babangida, who had come to power in a 1985 coup, was the head of the military regime. Under Babangida, Nigeria's main decisionmaking organ in 1993 was the military-dominated National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), which ruled by decree. Amid controversy arising from his annulment of the June 12 Presidential election, Babangida resigned as President and Commander-in-Chief on August 26, installing the Interim National Government (ING), headed by businessman Ernest Shonekan. The ING included many members of the earlier Transitional Council, which had been responsible for managing day-to-day governmental affairs under the oversight of the NDSC. The ING was to organize a new presidential election and hand over authority to an elected civilian president by March 31, 1994. On November 17, the military forced Shonekan to resign, and General Sani Abacha assumed the titles of Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.

Abacha established a military-dominated "Provisional Ruling Council" (PRC), which ruled by decree, and named prominent persons from around the country to head government ministries, grouping them into a 32-member "Federal Executive Council" (FEC). Although the FEC included some holdovers from the ING, it also included some well-known prodemocracy and human rights activists. The PRC quickly dissolved the national and state legislatures and the local councils and replaced elected civilian governors with military administrators. The military regime announced it would hold a constitutional conference to plot Nigeria's future, including a timetable for return to democratic government. In the interim, the decree suspending the 1979 Constitution remained in force.

Nigeria's tightly controlled transition to civilian, democratic rule was supposed to end on August 27 with the inauguration of a democratically elected, civilian president. From February to April, Nigeria's two permitted political parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), staged presidential nominating conventions at the ward, local government, state, and national level. On June 12, the SDP's Moshood K.O. Abiola and the NRC's Bashir Tofa squared off in what national and international observers characterized as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria's history. But this assessment did not address itself to the process leading to the election, whose integrity suffered from the military regime's extensive manipulation, including the exclusion of many prospective candidates. From early official and unofficial returns it appeared Abiola had won a landslide victory. However, before formal results were announced, Babangida again usurped the democratic process, annulling the June 12 results. Babangida rationalized his action by claiming that he and the NDSC had uncovered evidence of massive electoral fraud, but he never presented evidence to the Nigerian people and never released the June 12 results. Nigerians in the Southwest responded to Babangida's announcement with public protests and civil disobedience campaigns. In July the protests turned violent, and more than 100 people were killed.

The bicameral National Assembly was installed in December 1992, but the NDSC prohibited it from legislating on most areas of national life. The ING used other bureaucratic and political maneuvers to circumscribe sharply the Assembly's authority. In November the PRC dissolved it. The basis of Nigerian constitutional law during 1993 was unclear. Legal experts could not always agree about what document formed the basis of law at any particular point during a year when three different governments held power. Questions of which constitution, if any, was in effect are largely irrelevant. All three governments derived their authority, directly or indirectly, from military power – not from a constitution or a popular mandate. Moreover, all Nigerian constitutions contain essentially the same provisions regarding human rights, and these form the basis of most judicial decisions, unless, as was often the case, a decree specifically nullified a provision or ousted judicial authority.

The Government enforces its authority through the Federal Security System (the Armed Forces, the State Security Service, and the national police) and through the courts. In 1992 Babangida announced the creation of the National Guard, which was supposed to relieve the military of its internal security role in situations in which the police were unable to maintain public order. However, during July's prodemocracy demonstrations, the National Guard remained in its barracks, and Babangida deployed the army to help quell the disturbances. In late October, the ING failed to fund the Guard and announced plans to disperse its personnel to various army units for additional training, effectively disbanding the organization. The security forces committed many human rights violations in 1993.

Most of Nigeria's 90-million population is rural, engaging in small-scale agriculture. Nigeria depends on oil exports for over 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings and 80 percent of its budget revenues. In order to cope with reduced oil revenues, Nigeria adopted an indigenous Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in 1986. While the SAP was a success in some respects, economic conditions for the average Nigerian remain very difficult. The elites continue to prosper, but there is widespread unemployment, underemployment, and inflation. Large budget deficits financed by money creation pushed inflation into the 80- to 90-percent range during 1993. The majority of the Nigerian population lives in poverty.

Nigeria's human rights record worsened in 1993. Babangida's erratic political course fueled increased economic distress, heightened episodic civil unrest in urban areas and interethnic violence in some rural areas, resulting in many civilian deaths. The Babangida regime regularly relied on arbitrary arrest and detention as a means of silencing its critics. It closed media houses critical of Babangida's nullification of the June 12 election and announced a series of draconian decrees restricting press freedom. Like other military decrees, they contained clauses prohibiting judicial review. Security services routinely harassed human rights and prodemocracy groups, journalists, and student activists. Other human rights problems included extrajudicial killings, police brutality, dangerous and unsanitary prison conditions, violence and discrimination against women, and infringements on freedom of speech, press, travel, and political and labor affiliation.

Shortly after its inauguration, the ING released detained human rights activists and pledged to respect press freedoms. Activists arrested during antigovernment demonstrations in September were formally charged and released on bail. However, other human rights abuses continued, and the ING failed to honor its pledge to repeal the draconian press decrees. The PRC permitted the closed media houses to reopen and withdrew spurious charges against prominent human rights and journalists, but, like the ING, it did not repeal the press decrees.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

As in previous years, extrajudicial killings and excessive use of force by police and security services were common. The most deadly incident occurred in July after the regime deployed police and military units to quell prodemocracy protests in Lagos. There were credible reports that security forces may have killed as many as 150 people. The regime asserted that the death toll was much lower and that security forces intervened only when confronted by violent criminals. While the victims included hoodlums and looters, who used the protests as cover to engage in violent criminal activities, eyewitness accounts indicated that security forces often fired randomly into crowds, killing innocent bystanders and peaceful demonstrators.

Security forces in eastern Nigeria demonstrated a similar willingness to use deadly force when confronted by peaceful demonstrators. In May the Movement to Save the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which alleges that the Government is systematically violating the Ogonis' human rights (see Section 5), staged a peaceful demonstration to protest an earlier violent confrontation between MOSOP sympathizers and security forces. According to eyewitness accounts, security forces fired into the protesters, killing one of them.

Although there are no definitive statistics, Nigerian human rights groups maintain that scores of people die annually while in police custody. The claims, though difficult to substantiate, are widely accepted by the Nigerian public and consistent with other credible reports of police abuse, including the use of torture to extract criminal confessions (see Section 1.c.). In March the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) publicized the case of Johnny Eshiet, who died while in police custody in September 1992. The Ikeja police arrested Eshiet, a transport driver, after his vehicle was reported missing. The CLO reports that police officers bound Eshiet's hands and legs, hung him from the roof of an interrogation room, and flogged him with metal wires in an attempt to extract a confession from him that he arranged to have his vehicle stolen. An eyewitness reported observing Eshiet lying in a pool of blood after the interrogation. Plainclothes policemen took Eshiet to the hospital where he later died.

Police and security services are seldom held accountable for the use of excessive, deadly force or the death of individuals while in custody. The Government made no effort to investigate the conduct of security forces during July's prodemocracy protests and, despite pressure from CLO, there was no effort to investigate Eshiet's death. After the death in 1992 of an army colonel, Domven Rindam, at a police checkpoint, however, the authorities swiftly arrested and charged three policemen with murder. The celebrated case was pending before a Lagos high court at year's end. Rindam's death led police to dismantle most checkpoints, but violent crime in some parts of the country prompted police to maintain others. In June the press reported that police killed a 21-year-old truck driver at a checkpoint along the Port Harcourt-Aba expressway. No one was charged with the crime. The attempt to punish Rindam's killers contrasted sharply with the Port Harcourt case and raised questions about the willingness to investigate extrajudicial killings when the victims are nonmilitary.

b. Disappearance

No politically motivated disappearances were reported. However, government detention practices have the effect of causing many detainees to be "missing" for extended periods (see Section 1.d.).

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

Constitutions in effect under the NDSC, the ING and the PRC prohibit torture and mistreatment of prisoners and provided criminal sanctions for such excesses, and the Evidence Act of 1960 prohibits the introduction of evidence obtained through torture. Nevertheless, detainees frequently die while in custody (see Section 1.a.), and there were credible reports that police seeking to extract confessions regularly beat and tortured suspects. For example, the CLO reported that after police from the Adeniji Adele station arrested Uzoma Okorie and Godson Erugo they stripped them naked, suspended them by their wrists from the roof of a police interrogation room, and flogged them. While beating Ms. Okorie, police placed the neck of a beer bottle in her vagina. The CLO reports that police rearrested and beat Okorie and Erugo after they tried to file a complaint with the divisional police commander. In another case, the CLO reports that police in Port Harcourt chained the hands and feet of detainee Madufuro Igwe, suspended him upside down from a ceiling fan, and flogged him with motorbike brake wire.

In an interview with the CLO, Bertram Igwe, a public relations officer of the Rivers State Police Force sought to rationalize the use of torture: "There are helpless situations when you know that a suspect is deliberately telling lies and there is no other means you can use in cracking the case other than softening him." The Constitutional Rights Project conducted a nationwide police powers study that indicates Igwe's sentiments are shared by a large number of police officers: 67 percent of the officers interviewed conceded that, absent an efficient means of investigating a crime, torture becomes the easiest means of extracting information from suspects.

Conditions in Nigeria's prisons continue to threaten life. Lack of potable water and sewage facilities and medical supplies contribute to deplorable sanitary conditions. Disease runs rampant in the cramped, poorly ventilated facilities. A 1993 study of the Ikoyi prisons by the Lagos-based National Institute of Medical Research revealed that 28 percent of inmates had tuberculosis. The Institute warned that an epidemic could break out beyond prison walls unless steps were taken to treat inmates. At most prisons, inmates are seldom allowed outside their cells for recreation, and many must provide their own food. In those cases, only those with money or whose relatives bring food have something to eat. Poor inmates rely on handouts from others to survive.

There are credible reports that inmates are denied food and medical treatment as a form of punishment. It was widely reported, for example, that Beko Ransome-Kuti and Ken Saro-Wiwa were denied access to medical care after they were detained in July (see also Section 1.d.). Saro-Wiwa suffers from a heart condition, and his health deteriorated during his confinement. In some cases, prison officials and police deny inmates food and access to medical treatment to extort money from them.

Overcrowding in Nigerian prisons also remains a serious problem. The CLO reported that cells designed to hold four inmates at the State Intelligence and Investigation Bureau in Port Harcourt often contain more than 30. In October 1992, the Government created a task force on prison decongestion to address this problem. The task force's mandate was to review prison conditions, prisoners' jail terms, their conduct, and, when appropriate, authorize prisoners' release. According to former Secretary for Internal Affairs, Alhaji Abdulrahman, the task force had freed more than 4,000 prisoners since beginning its work. Many of those released had been detained without charge or had spent years in prison waiting for trial (see Section 1.d.).

While prison authorities are supposed to hand over to foster homes children born to women in prison, many children remain in detention with their mothers. Because prisoners are often expected to provide for themselves, it is often less costly for the Government to keep children in prison with their mothers than it would be to place them in foster care.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Nigerian criminal justice procedures call for trial within 3 months of arraignment for most categories of criminals. Inefficient administrative procedures, petty extortion, bureaucratic inertia, poor communication between police and prison officials, and inadequate transportation still result in considerable delays, often stretching several years, in bringing suspects to trial.

Police are empowered to make arrests without warrants if there is reasonable suspicion of an offense. These provisions give the police powers that are often abused. Nigerian law requires the arresting officer to inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest and take him or her to the station for processing within a reasonable time. The suspect is supposed to be given the opportunity to engage counsel and to post bail. Credible reports indicate that the police generally do not adhere to these safeguards. Suspects are often held incommunicado under harsh conditions for extended periods without charge. Arbitrary detention occurs frequently. Relatives and friends of wanted suspects are also commonly placed in detention without charge in an effort to induce the accused to present themselves to the police.

The State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree of 1984 (Decree Two) provides that the Government may detain without charge persons suspected of acts prejudicial to state security or harmful to the economic well-being of the country. When invoked by the Vice President, the Decree suspends the detainee's civil liberties and forbids judicial review of actions taken within its provisions. Many Nigerians still consider Decree Two the main threat to their basic freedoms because the judicial ouster clause encourages arbitrary detention by allowing officers to make arrests with impunity. Also, the definition of what constitutes acts prejudicial to state security or the nation's economic well-being can be very broadly interpreted.

After July's prodemocracy demonstrations, the regime used Decree Two to arrest and silence Beko Ransome-Kuti, Femi Falana, and Gani Fawehinmi, leading members of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), an umbrella human rights organization which was openly critical of the regime's decision to nullify the June 12 election results. The CD had called for the July demonstrations. The Government charged the three men with conspiracy and sedition and held them in an Abuja prison for almost 8 weeks. The regime ignored two court orders to produce the activists in court and, citing its powers under Decree Two, did not comply with a court order granting the detainees bail. The ING released them on August 30 but did not honor a promise to submit legislation to the National Assembly which would have repealed Decree Two. The PRC subsequently withdrew the charges, but Decree Two remains in force.

The regime detained Ken Saro-Wiwa, a leading human rights monitor and government critic, on three occasions: for brief periods on April 12 and 24, and for several weeks after June 21. Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP members maintain that the regime invoked Decree Two to detain him in June. While press reports that the regime planned to charge Saro-Wiwa with conspiracy and sedition make the MOSOP's contention plausible, the regime never publicly invoked Decree Two.

The above cases were not isolated. The Government routinely detained human rights monitors, journalists (see Section 2.a.), and political opponents for making or publishing statements critical of the Government. In 1992 five human rights activists, including Beko Ransome-Kuti, Gani Fawahinmi and Femi Falana, were detained under Decree Two and charged with treason. The case, which now appears to have become moot, was adjourned to February 1994.

Most often the authorities did not charge the detainees with a crime, held them for only brief periods, and questioned them about their activities and statements. The regime detained Ransome-Kuti without charge on three occasions before arresting him in July and charging him with conspiracy and sedition. Gani Fawehinmi claimed that the Government had detained him 23 times since 1969. Fawehinmi is suing Babangida, who allegedly detained him 14 of the 23 times, for damages. In February the regime detained Panaf Olakanmi, a CD member, for 3 days, allegedly for possessing seditious materials. The same month, security agents raided the CLO's Lagos headquarters (see Section 4) and detained its President, Olisa Agbakoba and two others. After questioning them about their human rights and prodemocracy work, security agents warned the three men to refrain from engaging in subversive acts. In March security agents detained Funsho Omogbehin, a CLO member.

After the regime nullified the June 12 elections, its arrests of human rights and prodemocracy advocates increased. The regime detained leading supporters of Abiola, the apparent winner of the June 12 election, including Oyo State politician Lamidi Adedibu and former governor of Kano State Abubakar Rimi.

According to credible press reports, the Goverment asked Adedibu to sign a statement renouncing his support for Abiola and the June 12 elections. In August security agents detained 200 prodemocracy activists who staged a sit-in to protest military rule and the nullification of the June 12 election results. As the National Assembly prepared to consider a motion endorsing an extension of Babangida's rule, security agents intervened, frequently detaining members for "questioning." Some members were held for as long as 24 hours. The authorities also arrested leading human rights monitors and labor leaders in Kaduna and Jos. They released the Kaduna monitors, who were not charged with a crime, after several days in detention. However, they charged the Jos activists, who were distributing prodemocracy leaflets, with distributing seditious materials and then released them on bail.

Nigeria's total prison population is estimated at 65,000. Human rights groups estimate that as much as 46 percent of this population is awaiting trial. A precise figure for the number of individuals detained without charge is unavailable. There are no credible estimates of the number of political detainees.

There were no known instances of forced exile as a means of political control.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Decree One of 1984, the Basic Constitution (Modification and Suspension) Decree, the first decree promulgated by the military officers who overthrew the civilian regime of President Shagari in 1983, left the institutional framework of the judiciary relatively intact but established a parallel system of military tribunals with sole jurisdiction over certain offenses, such as coup-plotting, corruption, armed robbery, and illegal sale of petroleum. A 1991 Decree amended Decree One by providing that only sitting or retired civilian judges may preside over tribunals hearing nonmilitary cases.

In most cases before the tribunals, the accused have the right to legal counsel, bail, and appeal, though some tribunals substitute a presumption of guilt for the presumption of innocence, and conviction rates in the tribunals reportedly exceed conviction rates in the regular courts. Sentences are generally severe.

Convictions for armed robbery by the Special Robbery and Firearms Tribunals, as well as convictions under the Treason and Treasonable Offenses Tribunal, carry the death penalty with no right of appeal. In the case of armed robbery, death sentences are confirmed by the state governor. Until August 26, when General Babangida installed the ING, the NDSC was responsible for confirming treason sentences. At year's end, it was unclear what organ of the Government had assumed this responsibility. Convictions before the Miscellaneous Offenses Tribunal and the Recovery of Public Property Tribunal may not be appealed in the regular courts, though there is provision for appeal before the Special Appeals Tribunal.

The Government's reliance on tribunals, which operate outside the constitutional court system, seriously undermines the judiciary's independence and often results in legal proceedings that deny defendants due process. For example, after 1992's ethnoreligious disturbances in Zangon Kataf, the regime created two special tribunals to try those allegedly involved in the riots. Defendants charged before the tribunals were denied the right to appeal the decisions. In early 1993, the tribunals sentenced 15 people to death. One of the tribunal chairmen, retired Justice Benedict Okadigbo, demonstrated little regard for due process throughout the hearings. There were credible reports that during the trial of six individuals, including retired Major General Zamani Lekwot, Okadigbo expressed his unhappiness with the defense attorneys' line of questioning and threatened to jail them if they continued. Human rights groups charged that proceedings before the Okadigbo tribunal were subject to political influence and that Okadigbo was more interested in securing convictions than in securing justice. The resignation of a tribunal member, who alleged that the other justices regularly met and gave judgments on cases without consulting him, lent credence to these allegations. To prevent human rights groups from challenging the tribunals' decisions, the regime promulgated a decree which removed the authority of the regular courts to hear any case regarding any abuse of constitutional rights by the tribunals. In August General Babangida commuted the sentences of those convicted by the Zangon Kataf tribunals from execution to 5 years in prison.

The regular court system is composed of both federal and state trial courts, state appeals courts, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Federal Supreme Court. Under the 1979 Constitution, courts of first instance include magistrate or district courts, customary or area courts, Shari'a (Islamic) courts, and for some specified cases, the state high courts. The nature of the case usually determines which court has jurisdiction. In principle, customary and Shari'a courts have jurisdiction only if both plaintiff and defendant agree to it, though in practice fear of legal costs, delay, and distance to alternative courts encourage many litigants to choose these courts.

Trials in the regular court system are public and generally respect constitutionally protected individual rights. Lawyers in court frequently referred to rights protected by the (then suspended) 1979 and (unimplemented) 1989 constitutions, and in cases where the Government had no direct interest, these rights were generally respected. They include a presumption of innocence, the right to be present, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to be represented by legal counsel. Free legal counsel is available through the Legal Aid Council for persons charged with capital crimes, but the Council is inadequately funded to provide assistance to all persons charged with lesser crimes. There is a legal provision for bail, but many human rights groups charge that it is underutilized. Bail is denied to those charged with murder, armed robbery, and drug offenses. There are no legal provisions barring women or other groups from testifying in civil court or giving their testimony less weight. The testimony of women is, however, accorded less weight in Shari'a courts. There is a widespread perception that judges in both the regular and Shari'a courts are easily bribed, or "settled," and that the courts cannot be relied upon to render an impartial judgment.

Despite Nigeria's established legal tradition, the judiciary's independence and integrity are also undercut by the Government's frequent refusal to respect court rulings. For example, the regime ignored a court order requiring that it produce detained human rights monitors Ransome-Kuti, Fawehinmi, and Falana, in court (see Section 1.d.). While some judges, like the justice who ordered the regime to show cause for its detention of the editors of Tell magazine (see Section 2.a.), are prepared to challenge the Government, many are not. This was best illustrated in 1993 by a Supreme Court decision in a case challenging the regime's authority to nullify the June 12 elections. The Supreme Court ruled that the decrees represented the supreme law of the land.

In addition, there is a perception that in cases which touch upon important government interests, the Government manipulates the courts. Early in the year, prodemocracy groups threatened to file a suit challenging the regime's decision to cancel the 1992 primaries and extend its rule by 8 months. The regime responded by reminding Nigerians that the decrees on which its actions were based contained judicial ouster clauses, prohibiting judicial review of its actions. The regime, its spokesmen said, was not subject to any court orders touching upon the transition program. In June, however, the regime chose to respect an Abuja high court restraining order prohibiting the National Electoral Commission (NEC) from releasing the June 12 results. This decision followed an earlier government decision to ignore a court order forbidding the NEC from conducting the elections. The regime's selectivity did not escape the notice of Nigerians, many of whom charged that the regime's newfound respect for the rule of law was rooted in its unhappiness with the election results. Shortly afterward, General Babangida nullified the election.

The two civilians and nine army officers, convicted in connection with an April 1990 coup attempt after an unfair secret trial before a Special Military Tribunal, continued to be held incommunicado at year's end. Otherwise, there were no reports of political prisoners in Nigeria.

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

The 1979 and 1989 Constitutions provide for the rights to privacy in the home, in correspondence, and in oral electronic communications, but those Constitutions, as noted, were suspended throughout the year. In fact, human rights leaders allege that they are regularly followed and that their organizations' telephones are cut or tapped by security agents. Given statements made by police officials in late 1992 and early 1993 that "security agencies (were) monitoring the activities of a human rights activist", these claims seem credible.

Also, in January Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka complained that immigration and customs officials harassed him at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, and in June Soyinka charged that security agents monitored his movements. Soyinka also alleged that a police helicopter frequently hovered around his home.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The 1979 Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the three governments that controlled Nigeria during 1993 repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to both principles. In practice, however, the Babangida regime regularly violated these guarantees and conducted a vigorous campaign to silence its critics in the press. While the ING did not routinely arrest and detain journalists, neither did it honor its pledge to repeal decrees limiting freedom of the press, nor did it permit media organizations closed by the Babangida regime to reopen. The PRC permitted media houses to reopen but did not repeal the objectionable decrees.

Security agents often prevented human rights monitors from discussing the Government's human rights record and criticizing the transition program. During April security agents detained Abdul Oroh, the CLO's Executive Secretary, and Nimmo Bassey and prevented them from speaking at the opening of a new CLO chapter in Benin City. Also in April, Delta State police prevented Ken Saro-Wiwa from delivering a lecture and forcibly escorted him from the state. After General Babangida installed the Interim National Government, Attorney General Clement Akpamgbo announced that reference to the nullified June 12 election constituted a criminal act.

The Babangida regime regularly detained journalists, often charging them with conspiracy or sedition, for publishing material critical of the Government or which the Government deemed inflammatory. In March after The Reporter, a northern daily, published a front-page commentary titled, "Nigeria's prevailing mess: (Babangida) to blame," the regime proscribed the newspaper and jailed its editor, Mallam Hayatu. Also in March, security agents arrested the editors of The News and charged them with contempt of court, allegedly for publishing sealed court documents. There are credible reports, however, that the regime arrested the editors to punish them for their magazine's consistent criticism of government policies. In April the Government arrested Innocent Okoye, editor of The Satellite, and Chris Okolie, publisher of Newbreed magazine after they printed articles critical of the regime. The regime arrested the editors of Tell magazine in May and again in August. In the second instance, the regime ignored a court order to produce the editors in court and provide a justification for their detention. It subsequently released the editors but charged them with possessing seditious documents. The PRC dropped the charges on November 30.

The Babangida government waged an aggressive campaign (often relying on informers) to silence Tell and The News, magazines which consistently published articles critical of the regime and its transition program. In April and May, security agents seized thousands of issues of both magazines – at one point seizing three successive issues of Tell. In May security agents seized 42,000 copies of an edition of The News which contained an article characterizing General Babangida as "careless, incompetent, and unprincipled." The authorities frequently detained vendors caught selling either magazine without bringing charges. The regime justified its seizures of Tell and The News by alleging that two unpublished decrees proscribed the magazines' circulation.

On May 2, the regime promulgated the Treason and Treasonable Offenses Decree, which permits it to prosecute "anyone who conspires either with himself or any other person in Nigeria or outside Nigeria by words or publication to disrupt the general fabric of the country or any part of it." The Government may impose the death penalty on individuals convicted under the Decree, which is so broadly worded that almost any criticism of the Government could violate its provisions. On May 22, the regime, perhaps in response to intense domestic and international criticism, reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of the press and announced that it was "setting aside" the Decree. The regime did not repeal the Decree, however, and on the same day it made the announcement, State Security Service agents seized 80,000 copies of The News.

In June the regime promulgated the Offensive Publications (Proscription) Decree, Decree 35, which empowered it to proscribe or order the seizure of any publication containing any article or material likely to disrupt the transition to democracy. Like the treason Decree, Decree 35 is so broadly worded that almost any criticism of the transition program could provide sufficient grounds for the seizure or proscription of the publication in which it appeared.

Regime attacks on the press intensified after nullification of the June 12 election results. In July it closed six media houses, including the Concord group, owned by M.K.O. Abiola, the apparent winner on June 12. All six media houses were strongly critical of the regime's nullification of the election and repeatedly urged the government to release and respect the results. Secretary for Information and Culture, Uche Chukwumerije, claimed the media houses were closed because they had "mortgaged their professional ethics for money" and engaged in "irresponsible journalism." Official anger over the media houses' criticism is a much more plausible explanation for their closure. The regime permitted two of the media houses to reopen, though one was open only "commercially" and restricted from publishing. The Babangida regime promulgated a decree banning 10 publications of the other 4 media houses, including The National Concord, The Punch, The Sketch, and The Observer. The PRC allowed them to reopen in November.

Also in August, the Babangida regime promulgated Decree 43, which prescribed new registration guidelines for all newspapers and was designed to control the press and silence its criticism of the regime. The guidelines require the payment of registration fees of approximately $10,000 and approval of a registration application by a newspaper registration board whose members are appointed by the Secretary for Information and Culture. The Decree lays out tough penalties, including prison terms and fines, for the circulation of unregistered newspapers and publication of false statements. It requires also that every issue display the names and addresses of its owners, publishers, and printers. Registration must be renewed annually. In September the Interim National Government intimated that it would delay enforcement of Decree 43 until December. It also announced that it was the responsibility of the National Assembly, not the ING, to repeal the Decree. The Assembly was not able to do so before General Abacha's military regime dissolved it.

Nigeria's universities were closed on May 3 because of a strike by the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU, see Section 6). In early October, the strike ended and the universities reopened. The Government lifted its bans on the ASUU and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in 1993. Academic freedom is generally respected, although some groups allege that government security agents maintain an active undercover presence on the campuses and that university authorities act at the behest of the Government to suspend or expel student activists. Student political activists continued to face harassment from university and security officials.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although all Nigerian constitutions have provided all citizens the right to assemble freely and to associate with other persons in political parties, trade unions, or other special interest associations, only two political parties were permitted in 1993, and the PRC dissolved them on November 18. In addition, Abacha's first speech as Head of State declared that "all processions, political meetings and associations of any type in any part of the country are hereby banned."

The PRC's predecessors did not normally require permits for public meetings indoors, and permit requirements for outdoor public functions were often ignored. However, on the authority of Decree Five the Babangida regime banned gatherings whose political, ethnic, or religious overtones it feared might lead to unrest. In January Osun State authorities, fearing protests by prodemocracy activists, banned public demonstrations and processions. In June Bauchi State authorities announced a similar ban aimed at preventing prodemocracy demonstrations in the wake of the regime's nullification of the June 12 election. Open-air religious services away from places of worship remain prohibited in most states due to religious tensions in various parts of the country.

Nigerians form and participate in a wide variety of special interest organizations, including religious groups, trade groups, women's organizations, and professional associations. Such organizations need not register with the Government and are generally permitted free association with other national and foreign bodies. Members of the Nigerian Bar Association

(NBA) accused the regime of interfering with their right to freedom of association, however. In February 1993, the regime promulgated Decree 21, the Legal Practitioners (amended) Decree, which empowered Nigeria's attorneys to manage the NBA's affairs and conduct elections for its national executive committee. After a disputed presidential election in 1992, the NBA was thrown into crisis. The regime allegedly tried to take control of the NBA by backing a candidate (ING Secretary for Transport and Aviation and PRC Minister for Power and Steel Alhaji Dalhatu) friendly to it but, having failed, used the NBA's internal disarray as an excuse to try again by means of Decree 21. The NBA was challenging Decree 21 in court at year's end.

In May the regime banned several political organizations which it contended were founded primarily along ethnic, tribal, religious, or other parochial lines for the purpose of sponsoring various political candidates. The organizations remained banned under the ING and the PRC.

c. Freedom of Religion

Decree One (suspending most of the 1979 Constitution) and the unimplemented 1989 Constitution prohibit federal and state governments from adopting an official state religion. In addition, the PRC has made it clear that, whatever emerges from the planned constitutional conference, Nigeria will remain a secular state. The 1979 and 1989 constitutional provisions for freedom of belief, practice, and education in regard to religion are generally respected. The Government instituted a ban in 1987 (which is still in effect) on religious organizations on schoolgrounds at the primary level. Individual students retain the right to practice their religion in recognized places of worship.

Distribution of religious publications is generally unrestricted. There is a lightly enforced ban on published religious advertisements, and religious programming on television and radio remains closely controlled by the Government. Both Christian and Muslim organizations allege that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Department were restricting the entry into the country of certain religious practitioners, particularly persons suspected of proselytizing. Religious practitioners operating schools, institutions, or medical facilities generally were not affected, nor were those seeking renewal of existing residence permits.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Nigeria's 1979 and 1989 Constitutions entitle its citizens to move freely throughout the country and to reside where they wish. They also prohibit expulsion or the denial of exit or entry to any Nigerian citizen. In practice, Nigerians travel abroad in large numbers, and thousands are engaged overseas in work and study. Exit visas are not required.

However, the Babangida regime for political reasons occasionally prevented travel. In June the regime seized Ken Saro-Wiwa's passport and refused to release Olisa Agbakoba's passport, which it had seized the previous year, preventing them from traveling to Vienna to attend the World Conference on Human Rights. The regime returned Saro-Wiwa's passport in September after his release from detention (see Section 1.d.) and Agbakoba's shortly afterwards. In September authorities briefly seized and held Wole Soyinka's passport. Citizens leaving Nigeria have the right to reenter, and citizenship may not be revoked for any reason.

Nigerian law and practice permit temporary refuge and asylum in Nigeria for political refugees from other countries. Nigeria supports and cooperates with the Lagos office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A Liberian refugee camp, with an estimated population of 3,000, continued to operate in Ogun state. There is also an undetermined number of Chadian refugees residing primarily in the northern border area. There were no reports that refugees were expelled from Nigeria in 1993.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens did not have this right in 1993. Throughout most of 1993 the NDSC, headed by General Babangida, remained the highest authority in the land. On August 26, Babangida announced that he was leaving office and installed an Interim National Government (ING) headed by Ernest Shonekan, a civilian. The ING, which was supposed to organize new elections and hand over power in March 1994, included a number of officials, civilian and military, from the Babangida regime and continued to rule by decree. The PRC, which took power November 17, banned all political institutions and parties. It announced plans for a constitutional conference, but national elections before 1995 are unlikely.

After canceling presidential primaries in late 1992, General Babangida promulgated Decree 52, which extended military rule by 8 months until August 27, 1993, and laid out a new election process and schedule. Presidential candidates were required to win nominating conventions at the ward, local, state and, finally, the national level before squaring off in June 12 elections. The 23 individuals who competed in the canceled 1992 presidential primaries were banned from contesting the new election.

In 1989 the Government created the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), wrote their manifestos, constitutions, and platforms, and gave them the exclusive right to contest elections. From February to April 1993, the SDP and the NRC conducted nominating conventions under the close supervision of the Government. M.K.O. Abiola emerged as the SDP presidential candidate, while Bashir Tofa secured the NRC nomination.

On June 12, Nigerians voted in what national and international observers judged the freest and fairest election in the country's history. However, this assessment did not take account of the process leading to election day which was marred by extensive manipulation by the military regime, including the exclusion of many prospective candidates. Early official results and unofficial returns appeared to indicate that Abiola had won a landslide victory. However, before the National Electoral Commission could announce formal results, an Abuja high court issued a restraining order blocking their release. The court issued the order after an organization seeking to extend military rule filed a suit challenging the election's validity. On June 23, General Babangida nullified the election results, claiming that he and the NDSC had uncovered evidence of widespread electoral fraud, but he never presented any evidence to substantiate his allegation. Many Nigerians believe that he canceled the election because he opposed the results.

General Babangida's action in nullifying the June 12 election results produced massive public protests and civil disobedience campaigns. It lead to a standoff between Babangida and the unofficial winner, Abiola, with strong elements of a struggle between military and civilians. His action also ignited longstanding ethnic animosities and briefly raised the spectre of civil war. Subsequently, Olusegun Obasanjo, a former head of state, and others played important mediating roles in advocating an all-civilian interim government.

The ING, however, proved incapable of dealing with Nigeria's problems. At the urging (some say demand) of General Abacha and others, ING Chairman Shonekan resigned on November 17. Abacha installed himself as Head of State and established the military-dominated PRC. He also named a largely civilian cabinet which included some prominent prodemocracy and human rights activists. Reneging on an earlier promise, Abacha named military officers rather than civilians to replace the elected civilian governors whom he had dismissed. Local Government councils were left in the hands of civilians, but Nigerians will not have an opportunity peacefully to change their government at any level until the proposed constitutional conference completes its work and a timetable for the return to democracy is implemented.

At the party conventions and in the June 12 election, voters cast their ballots by a "modified open-secret system." Under this system voters balloted privately but remained at the conventions and polling stations while election officials publicly tabulated the results.

Men continue to dominate Nigerian politics. However, there are no legal impediments to political participation or voting by women or any other minority group. One woman served in the 91-member Senate, and 6 women served in the 589-member House of Representatives. Several women ran for President and at the SDP convention one woman, Sarah Jibril, finished fourth in the balloting. One woman held a cabinet position in the Interim National Government, and there were two female deputy governors. There is 1 woman in the 32-member FEC, but no woman is a member of the PRC.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Human rights groups across a broad spectrum are engaged in the vocal and public campaign for the promotion of human rights in Nigeria. Among the most active are: the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO); the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR); the Constitutional Rights Project; the National Association of Democratic Lawyers; Human Rights Africa; the Legal Research and Resource Development Center; the National Association of University Women; the International Federation of Women Lawyers; and the Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association. A number of prominent authors, including Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, artists, educators, and jurists, in addition to professional and labor organizations, have spoken out frequently on human rights issues.

The Government often interfered with the activities of human rights organizations, detaining their members (see Section 1.d.) and preventing them from criticizing the Government's human rights record (see Section 2.a.). Detentions increased after the Government nullified the June 12 election. In addition to incidents outlined in other sections of the report, in February police and security agents raided the CLO's Lagos office and confiscated membership lists, financial statements, and the manuscript of a report titled, "Prisoner in the Shadows – a report on women and children in selected Nigerian prisons." On the same day, security agents searched the home of CLO President Olisa Agbakoba and the home of CDHR member Chima Ubani. Security agents also detained Agbakoba (see Section 1.d.). On occasion, the Government harassed family members of human rights leaders.

High-level government officials regularly denounced the activities of Nigeria's human rights community, often accusing its members of participating in foreign-inspired plots to destabilize the country. There are credible reports that the State Security Service engaged in a campaign to discredit human rights leaders by distributing leaflets and hanging posters alleging that they were interested only in political self-promotion or stirring up ethnic divisions (see also Section 1.f.).

In June the regime sent a diplomatic note to all diplomatic missions and international organizations present in Nigeria deploring diplomatic contact with human rights groups, which it labeled "subversive." The note threatened that the regime would "take appropriate measures to protect its national security" if diplomats continued meeting with human rights groups. U.S. and other diplomats continued to meet with such groups. Foreign human rights groups are permitted to visit Nigeria. The Government occasionally responds to domestic human rights charges, though often not constructively. For example, the Government often claims that its attacks on the press (see Section 2.a.) are a response to irresponsible journalism.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Women

There are no laws barring women from particular fields of employment, but women often experience discrimination because the Goverment tolerates customary and religious practices which adversely affect them. Women do not receive equal pay for equal work and often find it extremely difficult to acquire commercial credit or obtain tax deductions or rebates as the heads of households.

While some women have made considerable individual progress, both in the academic and business world, most women are underprivileged. According to a 1990 U.N. Children Fund's (UNICEF) report, fewer than 10 percent of Nigeria's women are employed in nonfarming occupations. Though women are not legally barred from owning land, under customary land tenure systems only men own land, and women gain access to land through marriage. In addition, under law a woman may not inherit her husband's property unless she can prove that she contributed to the acquisition of the property. Many customary practices do not even recognize a woman's right to inherit her husband's property, and many widows are rendered destitute when their in-laws take virtually all of the deceased "husband's property," often leaving the woman with barely the clothes she is wearing. Polygamy is widely practiced among all Nigerian ethnic groups in both Christian and Islamic communities.

Reports of wife abuse are common, especially in polygamous families. Police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, and they are seldom discussed publicly. In more traditional areas, it is questionable whether the courts and police actively intervene to protect women who formally accuse their husbands if the level of alleged abuse does not exceed customary norms in the area. Purdah, the Islamic practice of keeping girls and women in seclusion from men outside the family, is prevalent in parts of Nigeria's far north. A number of factors affect the strictness with which seclusion is enforced, including the husband's wishes and his socioeconomic status.

An estimated 100,000 Nigerian women suffer from vesico-vaginal fistula. Approximately 83 percent of the cases result from prolonged labor among underage women. Another 13 percent reportedly result from the primitive Hausa/Fulani practice known as "gishiri cut," whereby a pregnant woman is cut open through the genital organs, damaging the bladder or rectum, in a frantic bid to release the fetus.

Children

The Government's commitment to children's welfare has been more sporadic than deliberate, and it devotes only limited resources to children's welfare, though the amount of money spent on children's health projects has increased in recent years. Nigerian laws designed to protect the rights of children, such as child labor laws and the 1964 Children and Young Persons Act, are often obsolete, inadequate, and seldom enforced. Although the law stipulates that "no child shall be ordered to be imprisoned" in Nigeria, juvenile offenders are routinely denied bail and incarcerated along with hardened criminals. Juvenile courts often ignore proper procedures, and there is little effort to explain the nature of the offense to defendants. The Government only occasionally condemns child abuse and neglect and makes little effort to stop customary practices, such as the sale of children into marriage. "Remand homes," as Nigerian reform schools are known, are very protective of their inmates, but necessary elements such as varied and sufficient food, medical care, health precautions and recreation are lacking.

Nigerian law provides that "no child should be engaged or be employed in street trading." However, the Government condones street trading, and young boys and girls are prevalent in Nigeria's market stalls and hawking a variety of wares in the ubiquitous traffic jams. Inordinate numbers of street children are prevalent throughout Nigeria and many, known as "area boys," often resort to crime and harassment of traders, pedestrians, and drivers. The Government periodically rounds up and detains these children with no regard for due process.

Despite government efforts, labor, political, and other problems plague Nigeria's education system, and many children go without any formal education. Parents are often forced to remove children from school for economic reasons. There are credible reports that poor families often sell their daughters into marriage as a means of supplementing their incomes. There are also reports that many young girls are forced into marriage as soon as they reach puberty, regardless of age, to prevent "indecency" associated with premarital sex.

The Government publicly opposes female genital multilation (circumcision). Nigeria was one of five countries which sponsored a resolution at the 46th World Health Assembly calling for the elimination of harmful health practices, including female genital mutilation. However, most Nigerian ethnic groups circumcise young females. Nigerian experts estimate that as many as 50 percent of Nigerian girls/women – virtually 100 percent in the primarily Christian south, and fewer in the Muslim north – have undergone female genital mutilation which varies from simple removal of the labia minora to removal of the clitoris to the most dangerous form, infibulation. The age at which females are circumcised varies from the first week of life to after a woman delivers her first child. Some groups circumcise prior to marriage; others during pregnancy, believing that if the head of the child touches the clitoris during delivery, the child will die. The Federal Ministry of Health and nongovernmental organizations sponsor public awareness and education projects to inform communities of the health hazards associated with female genital mutilation.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There is no official policy of discrimination against any of Nigeria's 250 ethnic groups, and laws do not favor one group over another. However, Nigeria has a long history of tension among its diverse ethnic groups. Clashes between rival ethnic groups in Delta, Rivers, and Taraba States often resulted in bloodshed. Tradition continues to impose considerable pressure on individual government officials to favor their own ethnic group, and ethnic favoritism persists.

The Ogoni, an ethnic group indigenous to Rivers State in eastern Nigeria (Nigeria's oil producing region), charge that the Government engages in a systematic campaign to deprive them of their land and its wealth. The Ogonis claim that the Government seizes Ogoni property without fair compensation, ignores the environmental impact of oil production on Ogoni land, and fails to provide adequate social services, such as water and electricity. The Movement to Save the Ogoni People, which is campaigning for greater Ogoni autonomy, often describes government policy towards the Ogoni as genocide. While the confrontation between the Government and the Ogoni has occasionaly turned violent (see Section 1.a.) and Ogoni concerns about environmental degradation and the quality of social services in the oil producing region have some merit, accusations that the Government is engaged in a genocidal campaign against the Ogoni are unfounded.

Religious Minorities

Nigerian law prohibits religious discrimination. Nonetheless, it is commonly reported that government officials often discriminate against persons practicing a religion different from their own. Religious tensions often lead to violence, as in 1992 when clashes between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna State resulted in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deaths. Many Christian leaders allege that the civil disturbance tribunals established to try those accused of inciting the Zangon Kataf riots were biased against Christian defendants. The composition of the six-member Okadigbo tribunal, which included four Muslims, reinforced this impression. While it is unclear if a defendant's religion influenced the tribunal's judgments, accusations that the tribunal did not adequately safeguard defendants' right to a free and fair trial are credible (see Section 1.e.).

People with Disabilities

The Government called for private businesses to institute policies ensuring fair treatment for the 2 percent of the work force that it claims is disabled. It has not, however, enacted any laws nor formulated any policy which specifically ensures the right of the disabled to work, nor has it mandated what action should be taken if employers discriminate against the disabled.

While there is nothing which would indicate systematic discrimination against the disabled, disabled workers must compete in an economy in which many nondisabled are unemployed and underemployed. In addition, Nigeria's poor infrastructure makes it difficult for the disabled to get to work, making them less attractive to employers. Few office buildings have access ramps for wheelchairs, and many have elevators that work sporadically, if at all. Public transportation, when and where available, is not equipped to handle wheelchairs.

While the Government appears desirous of providing education for all handicapped children and adults, Nigeria's economic crisis and lack of adequate infrastructure make it difficult to allocate sufficient resources to meet the disabled population's needs.

Section 6 Worker Rights

The Babangida regime and the interim government that succeeded it made few changes in labor law. The interim government restructured the Nigeria Labour Congress in August, merging unions to reduce the number of affiliates from 41 to 29.

a. The Right of Association

Nigerian workers, except members of the armed forces and employees designated essential by the Government, may join trade unions. Essential employees include firefighters, police, employees of the Central Bank, the security printers (printers of currency, passports, and government forms), and customs and excise staff. Primary, secondary, and university teachers were added to the list of essential personnel in May. They fall into a special category, however, as they are allowed to organize but not to strike. The National Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria's umbrella labor federation, repeatedly called on the regime to reinstate unions in all sectors of the economy except for the armed forces, firefighters, and police. Neither the ING nor the PRC rescinded the relevant decree.

The vast majority (approximately 72 percent) of the Nigerian work force is employed in agriculture. No agricultural workers are unionized. Domestic workers, most of the informal sector, and practically all small industries and businesses remain nonunionized. Approximately 11.5 percent of the total work force belong to unions. Government decrees and policy continue to restrict labor freedoms. In contravention of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Freedom of Association, the Government has decreed a single central labor body, the NLC, and deregistered all other union federations.

The Government continued to resist attempts by senior government staff to form and register as an independent labor association the Senior Staff Consultative Association of Nigeria (SESCAN). It refused to register SESCAN affiliates as authorized labor organizations and did not allow employers to deduct SESCAN dues from employees' paychecks.

The NLC claims 3.5 million members out of a total work force of over 30 million, but this figure is difficult to verify. Although the population has grown and the work force has increased, endemic economic problems have probably contributed to a decline in union membership.

Under Nigerian labor law, any nonagricultural enterprise which employs more than 50 employees is obliged to recognize trade unions and must pay or deduct a dues checkoff for employees who are members. The NLC has complained that some employers deliberately organize their industries into multiple units employing less than 50 workers to avoid unionization. When the NLC called a general strike in August, the regime threatened to withdraw the dues checkoff provision and make the payment of union dues completely voluntary. Organized labor condemned this proposal, and the ING dropped it when the strike ended.

The right to strike is recognized by law, except in the case of essential services as defined by the Government. There are no laws prohibiting retribution against strikers and strike leaders. However, strikers who feel they are facing unfair retribution may submit their cases to the Industrial Arbitration Court. Its decisions are binding on all parties.

During 1992 and 1993, a rapidly declining economy and the regime's annulment of the June 12 election resulted in a growing wave of protracted labor disputes, culminating in the NLC's August 28-September 6 general strike and a series of general strikes sponsored by the Campaign for Democracy (CD) and other government opponents. Although the security forces detained and harassed some of the more outspoken labor leaders, they did not make a systematic attempt to stop the strikes. There were no mass arrests of striking workers or violent confrontations between strikers and the security forces.

In May the regime promulgated the Teaching Essential Services Decree, which declared education an essential service. Although education-sector unions were not proscribed, the Decree called for the dismissal of teachers who participate in a strike that is longer than 1 week in duration. In July the regime banned the Academic Staff Union of Universities, which had been on strike since May, and issued dismissal notices to striking university teachers. The strikers ignored the dismissals, and the regime later rescinded the ban and reinstated the strikers without penalty.

The ILO continues to criticize the Nigerian Labor Code, which it asserts allows a number of practices that run counter to ILO conventions. These include Nigeria's single trade union system, the ban on organizing for certain categories of workers, the broad powers of the Government to supervise union accounts at any time, and restrictions on the right to strike.

In August 1991, the regime's Decree 32 amended a policy held since 1975 which permitted international labor affiliation only with the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and affiliated pan-African labor federations. Decree 32 partially repealed the ban by allowing affiliation with non-African international labor organizations, but only for training and education assistance.

The transition to civil rule program promulgated during the Babangida regime made it illegal for the NLC to engage in partisan politics. Despite this, the NLC publicly endorsed the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and NLC President Paschal Bafyau lobbied vigorously to be named the SDP's vice presidential candidate in the June 12 election. Neither the NLC nor Bafyau was sanctioned for their political activities.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The labor laws permit both the right to organize and the right to bargain collectively between management and trade unions. Collective bargaining is, in fact, common in many sectors of the economy. However, the Government retains broad authority over labor matters and can intervene forcefully in labor disputes which it feels contravene its essential political or economic programs.

There are provisions against antiunion discrimination in the Trade Dispute Act of 1976. Nigerian law further protects workers against retaliation by employers for labor activity through an independent arm of the judiciary, the Nigerian Industrial Court, which handles complaints of antiunion discrimination. The NLC has complained, however, that the Nigerian judicial system is often slow to handle labor cases and that this constitutes a denial of redress to those with legitimate complaints. Courts have compelled several employers to reinstate fired union activists.

The Ministry of Labor has tried to restrict its role to the enforcement of minimum wage and freedom of association laws. In January 1991 the Government abolished the uniform wage structure for all government entities. Now each tier of government – federal, state, local, and state-owned firms – is free to negotiate its own level of wages, benefits, and conditions of employment. As a result, negotiations, previously conducted on a nationwide basis under the direct supervision of the Labor Ministry, are now conducted on a local, often plant-wide, basis with less government involvement.

General Babangida laid the cornerstone for an export processing zone in Calabar on November 8, 1991. As of the end of 1993, the regime had not addressed the shape of labor relations within the zone.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The 1979 Constitution (and the 1989 Constitution, which formed the basis for most jurisprudence during 1993) prohibit forced or compulsory labor, and this prohibition has long been generally observed in practice. The ILO, noting that the 1989 Constitution had been suspended, asked the Government to indicate how the ILO Convention against forced labor would be enforced in the absence of constitutional guarantees. The ILO has also pointed out that Nigerian legislation regarding punishment for illegal strikes, breaches of labor discipline by merchant seamen, and compulsory arbitration may be in violation of the ILO Convention of the Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The 1974 Labor Decree prohibits employment of children under 15 years of age in commerce and industry and restricts other child labor to home-based agricultural or domestic work. The labor law prohibits the employment of children in agricultural or domestic work for more than 8 hours per day. The 1974 Decree allows the apprenticeship of youths aged 13 to 15 under specific conditions. Apprenticeship exists in a wide range of crafts, trades, and state-owned enterprises.

Primary education is compulsory in Nigeria, though the law is rarely enforced and recent studies show declining enrollment. The Government and UNICEF estimate that in 1987 primary school enrollment probably peaked at around 61 percent, declined steadily thereafter, and may have dropped below 50 percent during 1993. The principal cause for the decline has been continuing deterioration of public schools. This lack of sufficient primary school infrastructure has denied some families access to education, contributing to the number of children on the employment market.

The ILO and UNICEF, in consultation with the NLC, have concluded that child labor, while not yet endemic, is on the increase in the unregulated and nonunionized informal sector and could become a serious problem. Nigeria's export industries do not employ children. The United Nations has proposed a study to determine more precisely the extent of child labor in Nigeria. It also proposes to work together with the NLC, nongovernmental organizations, and the Nigerian Government to devise strategies to combat child labor abuses. Under the provisions of ILO Convention 123, the ILO requested the Government to supply it with a list of Nigerian children who may be employed in mining. The regime had not yet responded to the request by year's end.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The 1974 Labor Decree establishes a 40-hour workweek, prescribes 2 to 4 weeks of annual leave, and sets a minimum wage of $14 (450 Naira) per month. The Government's Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), coupled with a high inflation rate, has reduced the buying power of many Nigerian workers and led many within the NLC to criticize the SAP as an unfair imposition on the workers. The minimum wage as currently stipulated does not allow a worker's wages to keep pace with inflation nor provide a decent standard of living. Rising inflation is a frequent cause of strikes. Nigerian labor law stipulates that workers are to be paid extra for hours worked over the legal limit. Labor law also states that workers who work on Sundays and statutory public holidays must be paid a full day's pay in addition to their normal wages. There is no law prohibiting excessive compulsory overtime.

The 1974 Decree contains general health and safety provisions, some aimed specifically at youth and female workers, enforceable by the Ministry of Labor. Employers must compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of those killed in industrial accidents. The Labor Ministry, which is charged with enforcement of these laws, has been largely ineffective, and violations are common and go largely unpunished. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. However, such requests are rare, as dire poverty often compels workers to remain in dangerous jobs although they may be fully aware of the possible consequences.

In 1991 Nigeria invited an ILO tripartite team from the Committee of Experts (COE) to evaluate the country's labor inspection system. The COE determined that Nigeria was not yet fully in compliance with the relevant ILO conventions, as it did not maintain adequate statistics on its inspection program. Despite extensive ILO-sponsored training programs for factory inspectors, at the end of 1993 the ILO had not yet ruled that Nigeria was in compliance.

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