Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 09:10 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Nigeria

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Nigeria, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa8218.html [accessed 30 September 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.
NIGERIA

 

General Sani Abacha, who seized power in a palace coup in November 1993, remained Nigeria's Head of State throughout 1995. Under Abacha, the main decisionmaking organ was the exclusively military Provisional Ruling Council (PRC), which ruled by decree. The PRC oversees the 32-member Federal Executive Council composed of military officers and civilians, including several prominent politicians. Pending a new constitution, some provisions of the 1979 and 1989 constitutions were observed, although the decree suspending the 1979 constitution was not repealed, and the 1989 constitution was never implemented. In his October 1 Independence Day speech Abacha announced a transition timetable which purports to return Nigeria to democratically elected civilian government by October 1, 1998. However, by year's end, little progress had been made in the transition.

The Government continued to enforce its arbitrary authority through the Federal Security System (the military, the state security service, and the national police), and through decrees blocking action by the opposition in the courts. All branches of the security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.

At the end of the year, the economy continued its downward slide. While the country's elites continued to prosper, unemployment, underemployment, and inflation increased markedly. Nigeria depends on oil exports for over 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings and over 75 percent of its budget revenues. In order to cope with reduced oil revenues, the Government implemented a national Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) from 1986 to 1991. While the SAP was a success in some respects, economic conditions for the average citizen remained very difficult, and successive military governments increasingly abandoned reform by printing money the fueled inflation. Endemic corruption further hindered the functioning of the economy.

The human rights record worsened in 1995. Throughout the year, the Government cracked down hard on the opposition. The most prominent outspoken critics of the regime remained in detention or self-imposed exile abroad, although four detainees were released on December 31.

General Abacha's Government relied regularly on arbitrary detention and mass arrest to silence its many critics. The winner of the annulled June 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood K. O. Abiola, remained in detention on charges of treason. Security forces used excessive force to combat a growing wave of violent crime, killing and wounding a number of persons, including innocent civilians. Police tortured and beat detainees, and prison conditions remained life threatening; many prisoners died in custody. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. To continue its hold on power, the regime enacted or extended a series of harsh decrees restricting press freedom and civil liberties which, like other military decrees, contained clauses prohibiting judicial review of any government action. Prominent writer, environmentalist, and minority rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were executed November 10, following a trial by special tribunal completely lacking in respect for due process for the murder of four Ogoni politicians in May 1994. Former Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo, his erstwhile deputy and outspoken National Constitutional Conference delegate, Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, and more than 20 others were charged, convicted, and sentenced by a secret military tribunal for their roles in alleged March coup plot. Abacha announced in October that the PRC had confirmed the Tribunal's verdicts, he also announced that the Government had commuted many of the death sentences. Obassanjo was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment instead of life, and Yar'Adua's death sentence was commuted to 25 years' imprisonment. Four military officers were given life sentences.

Security services continued routine harassment of human rights and prodemocracy groups, including labor leaders, journalists, and student activists. Other human rights problems included violence and discrimination against women; infringements of freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, travel, and political and labor affiliation.

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, police and security services commonly engaged in extrajudicial killings and excessive use of force to quell antimilitary and prodemocracy protests. Credible, although unconfirmed, reports by Nigerian human rights groups indicate numerous deaths of suspects in police custody. These reports are generally accepted by the public and are consistent with other credible reports of police abuse, including the use of torture to extract criminal confessions. The Government seldom holds police and security services accountable for their use of excessive, deadly force or the death of individuals in custody. The Government's actions have fostered a climate of impunity in which these abuses flourish.

Minority rights and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were executed on November 10 after their conviction by a tribunal which, although legally constituted, did not conform to the internationally accepted norms for a fair trial (see Section 1.e.).

In January 52-year-old Uwanogho Obire died while in detention at Oghara Police Station (Ethiope West), Delta state. Witnesses testified before a judicial panel of inquiry that police interrogators tied Obire to a bar suspended between two wooden frames and whipped him with an electric cable and iron rods. In February the Government dismissed two Ondo state policemen for flogging to death two robbery suspects during interrogations at the Ondo town police station. The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) publicized the case of Clement Tusiima, an Ogoni who died while in government custody in August. In May 1994, the Rivers state internal security task force had arrested Tusiima, a skilled automobile technician, in Port Harcourt in connection with the killings of four prominent Ogoni politicians. Reportedly tortured by soldiers for several months at Bori military camp, Tusiima was transferred to the State Intelligence and Investigation Bureau and subsequently to Port Harcourt prison. MOSOP alleged that Tusiima was denied urgently needed medical treatment following his ordeal and died of brain damage.

Extrajudicial killings remained common. Increasing and widespread violent crime prompted police to employ roadblocks and checkpoints, where extortion, violence, and lethal force is reportedly common. On January 25, Ikeja (Lagos) police shot and killed two university students, Bola Afilaka and Ayodele Adejuyibe, after Afilaka refused to stop his car at a checkpoint. Following a pursuit, police reportedly apprehended the pair, shot them, then detained both at Adeniji Adele police station. Nineteen-year-old Afilaka was found dead in the cell the next morning. On February 1, 14-year-old roadside merchant Mabel Ugwumanu was killed by stray bullets fired by police attempting to stop a motorist at a checkpoint in Ihiala.

Mobile anticrime police patrols routinely shot people suspected of armed robbery. According to the Human Rights Monitor (HRM) organization, in May a police patrol in Kaduna state shot and killed three suspected armed robbers. The police maintained that they shot the three suspects to halt their escape while conveying them to Kano. HRM noted that the police shot all three men in the chest, not in the back as would be expected of people fleeing. In June Zaria police shot and killed 11 robbery suspects in two separate encounters. Police killed eight suspects during a highway shootout and three others while attempting to apprehend them at a Zaria hotel. Police maintain that all were trying to escape. In August Lagos state police commissioner James Danbaba claimed that police killed

30 suspected armed robbers during a series of late July raids on their hideouts scattered throughout the state.

There were credible reports that "Lagos State Environmental Task Force" (see Section 1.c.) members killed several citizens who refused to stop at checkpoints or failed to comply with task force orders. In January task force members pursued and shot two men who refused to stop at a checkpoint. On April 12, task force members shot and killed a minibus driver after he refused the use of his vehicle to pursue another vehicle. On May 9 members shot and killed a 17-year-old boy after he allegedly tried to flee from the premises of the Lagos state Transport Corporation office in Oshodi. On March 16 three officials of the Akure (Ondo state) Local Government Environmental and Sanitation Revenue Task Force killed merchant Esther Akinbayajo in Akure during a minor argument in which officials reportedly used excessive force.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 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

The 1979 constitution (suspended) and the 1989 constitution (never implemented) prohibit torture and mistreatment of prisoners and provide criminal sanctions for such excesses. 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 tortured and beat suspects. There were widespread and credible reports that military interrogators beat and nearly tortured to death detained coup plot suspects, including colonels Lawan Gwadabe and R.S. Bello-Fadile. In February Defense Intelligence Service agents reportedly tortured an Air Force sergeant whom they accused of spying. Detainees are regularly kept incommunicado for long periods of time (see Section 1.d.).

In its early months in power, the Abacha regime formed the Lagos State Environmental Task Force, as part of its "war on indiscipline and corruption." Under the direct supervision of the Lagos State Administrator, Colonel Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the task force used brutal force on individuals in its attempts to rid Lagos of illegal street traders and copious accumulated garbage. Task force soldiers routinely beat and arrested anyone they perceived as "undisciplined," usually unarmed market women and traders, but also including jaywalkers, errant drivers, children, and young street hawkers. Task force soldiers at a Lagos bus stop routinely arrested and punished people who failed to use a nearby pedestrian bridge. Those arrested were fined, public humiliated for several hours, and subsequently released. On February 25 soldiers brandishing automatic weapons, whips, and billy clubs destroyed "illegal markets" on Ikoyi and Victoria islands, confiscated goods, and extorted money from petty traders.

In March Oyo state military administrator Colonel Chinyere Ike Nwosu ordered motorists and taxi passengers from their vehicles at the Egebda taxi and lorry motor park in Ibadan for allegedly violating Oyo "Sanitation Day" exercise. Nwosu's mobile court fined scores of motorists and forced them to kneel down in the hot sun. On April 25, Nwosu's military aides attacked and beat a bank manager in Ibadan after the banker's car narrowly avoided colliding with Nwosu's convoy of vehicles. According to press reports, armed soldiers battered the man with rifle butts, rendering him unconscious. The Government neither acknowledges nor denies that these practices occur, and their perpetrators go unpunished.

Prison conditions remain life threatening. Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities, and shortage of medical supplies result in deplorable sanitary conditions. Disease runs rampant in the cramped, poorly ventilated facilities. Prison inmates are seldom allowed outside their cells for recreation, and many inmates must provide their own food. In those cases, only those with money or whose relatives bring food regularly have something to eat. Poor inmates rely on handouts from others to survive. There are credible reports that prison officials and police deny inmates food and medical treatment as a form of punishment or to extort money from them. In October the convicted coup plotters were dispersed to various prisons around the country, inhibiting access to their families and food. The prisoners reportedly also are denied adequate medication and medical care. Severe overcrowding worsens the problem. For example, Ikoyi prison in Lagos, built to house about 800 inmates, holds over 2,000.

The Government derives considerable savings from the practice of leaving many children born in prison with their jailed mothers rather than placing them in foster homes.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, and Exile

The regime repeatedly engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention. Police are empowered to make arrests without warrants if they believe there is reasonable suspicion of an offense; they often abuse this power. The law requires that the arresting officer inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest and take that person to a station for processing within a reasonable time. By law, police must provide suspects with the opportunity to engage counsel and to post bail. However, police generally do not adhere to these safeguards. They often hold suspects incommunicado under harsh conditions for extended periods without charge; arbitrary detention occurs frequently. Police also commonly place relatives and friends of wanted suspects in detention without criminal charge in an effort to induce suspects to surrender to arrest.

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 precludes judicial review. Many citizens consider Decree Two the main threat to their basic freedoms because the judicial ouster clause encourages arbitrary detention and fails to define what constitutes acts prejudicial to state security or national economic well-being. Decree 11 of 1994 authorizes the PRC vice chairman or the Commissioner of Police to detain persons for up to 3 months. Decree 14 of 1994 forbids courts to order the Government to produce prisoners in court, effectively suspending the right of habeas corpus.

Throughout the year, especially following an abortive March

1 coup plot, the PRC relied heavily on arbitrary arrest and detention. Government security forces arrested and detained hundreds of military personnel and scores of civilians. On March 13, security forces arrested and detained former head of state Olusegun Obassanjo without charge in Lagos for 10 days, before security agents returned him to his Ota (Ogun state) farm, where they placed him under house arrest. Police also arrested Obassanjo's erstwhile deputy and National Constitutional Conference delegate, Shehu Musa Yar'adua March 9, and detained him in Abuja before transferring him to Lagos' Kiri Kiri maximum security prison. On June 5, the Government convened a secret special military tribunal, chaired by Brigadier General Patrick Aziza, and formally charged 16 soldiers and 7 civilians with treason and conspiracy (see Section 1.e.). On July 14, the Government announced that the tribunal had investigated 51 suspects, of which it had convicted and sentenced 40, including Obassanjo's and Yar'adua, for treason, conspiracy, and concealment of treason. Three persons were declared "wanted" for their alleged roles in the coup plot; seven were released; and one was cleared of some charges, but was kept in detention for unspecified further investigations (see Section 1.e.).

The Government also arrested and detained without charge several prominent journalists, prodemocracy activists, and human rights campaigners for their alleged roles in the coup plot. On March 15, security agents arrested the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Sunday Magazine, Chris Anyanwu, in response to her magazine's feature article entitled "Coup Up In addition to arrests related to the alleged coup plot, the Government routinely arrested and detained without charge leading human rights and prodemocracy activists. In January security agents arrested and detained for 10 days Ransome-Kuti and Femi Falana. Falana is chairman of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers. On January 17, the Government arrested Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, secretary general of the CD, and Shehu Sani, CD's Northern Nigeria organizer. It detained both without charge and repeatedly ignored court orders to produce and justify their continued detention. On April 20, security agents in Abuja arrested and detained without charge Dr. Ore Falomo, the personal physician of chief Moshood K.O. Abiola. Falomo was detained in Kaduna prison until his release on April 23. No official reason was given for his arrest and detention.

In May and June, the Government expanded its crackdown, arresting scores of prodemocracy activists in a series of preemptive strikes prior to the second anniversary of the annulled 1993 presidential election. In mid-May security agents arrested Olawale Oshun, acting general secretary of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Josephine Okei, NADECO assistant secretary, and Femi Falana after NADECO announced plans to convene a commemorative convention in Lagos in early June. On June 1, government security forces arrested and detained Ransome-Kuti, Kwara state NADECO chairman Wole Oke, former Social Democratic Party presidential aspirant and NADECO activist Olu Falae, and former Kwara state governor and NADECO national publicity director Cornelius Adebayo. In addition, Ondo state security forces arrested and detained the octogenarian NADECO leader, Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin, and 39 members of his Yoruba political and cultural association known as Afenifere and charged them with holding an unauthorized political meeting at Ajasin's house. On June 7, the Government arrested, interrogated, and released Olisa Agbakoba, president of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), and two CLO employees, Steve Aluko and Tunde Akannu. Agbakoba was rearrested on June 9 and detained for 2 weeks. No official reasons were given for their arrests and detention.

On July 3, security agents arrested Gani Fawehinmi, National Conscience Party (NCP) president, and detained him without charge for 2 weeks. Although no official reason was given for Fawehinmi's arrest, it followed his July 2 press conference during which he had boldly criticized the Abacha regime and denounced the Government's provisional lifting of the ban on political activity (see Section 2.b.). Also in July, the Government arrested Chima Ubani, the secretary general of the Democratic Alternative (DA), Osagie Obayuwana, the Deputy National President of CD, and CLO executive director Abdul Oroh. No official reasons were given for their arrests and the Government ignored a Lagos federal high court order to produce and justify Oroh's detention. In late July, federal Ministry of Justice attorneys told the Lagos federal high court that Abayomi and Ubani were being held under provisions of the State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree of 1984. In September police again arrested Gani Fawehinmi along with five fellow NCP activists as Fawehinmi was about to address a party rally in Lagos. All six were arraigned and released on their personal recognizance 3 days after their arrest. Misdemeanor charges against Fawehinmi included unlawful assembly and conduct liable to breach the public peace. Trial on the misdemeanors was set for January 1996.

Throughout the year, government forces harassed and detained members of MOSOP, including Ken Saro-Wiwa's brother and sister-in-law Owns and Kiana Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa, Ledum Mitee, Barionem Kiobel, and 11 others also remained in detention in Port Harcourt's Bori Military Camp, with limited access to their lawyers, families or doctors until the end of the proceedings. A court convicted Saro-Wiwa and eight others, who received sentences of death by hanging. The other five defendants were released. The "Ogoni Nine" were executed November 10 (see Section 1.a.). In August the Rivers state internal security task force arrested four MOSOP activists including Lekue Lah-Loolo, Baton Mitee, Professor Meshack Karanwi, and a cameraman who filmed several videos subsequently incorporated into British television documentaries critical of the Government and multinational oil companies. Following the Ogoni executions, several clergymen and others were arrested and detained briefly to preclude any organized mourning or possible demonstrations.

Several leading labor and prodemocracy activists, who were arrested in 1993, remained in detention at year's end, including: M.K.O. Abiola; Fred Eno, personal aide to Abiola; Olu Akerele, Corporate Affairs Manager of the Abiola-owned Concord Press; Frank Kokori, General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum, Energy, and Gas Workers (NUPENG); Wariebi Kojo Agamene, President of NUPENG; R. Addo, first president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN); and P. Aidelomon, a PENGASSAN branch chairman.

The above cases were not isolated. The Government routinely detained human rights monitors, journalists, and political opponents throughout the year for making or publishing critical statements. Government security forces frequently harassed, arrested, and detained journalists for a variety of reasons, including the alleged spreading of false information and stories that exposed the actions of government officials (see Section 2.a.).

Most often the authorities did not charge detainees with a crime, held them for only brief periods, and questioned them about their activities and statements. Nigeria's total prison population is estimated at 65,000. A precise figure for the number of persons detained without charge is unavailable. However, CLO estimates that 50,000 prisoners, nearly 77 percent of the total prison population, are still awaiting trial.

There are no reliable estimates of the number of political detainees. At year's end, annulled 1993 presidential election victor M.K.O. Abiola remained detained in prison, despite a November 1994 ruling by the Kaduna Federal High Court of Appeals granting him bail on the condition that he "not disturb the peace." In December 1994 the same court overruled its earlier decision, and Abiola's attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court. In May eight Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice Mohammed Bello, withdrew from hearing the case because of a libel suit they had pending against Abiola's Concord Press, effectively suspending hearings of Abiola's appeal until new justices are named to the court. Abiola's trial on treason charges remained suspended indefinitely on orders from the regime. Other long-term political detainees, such as Olatunji Abayomi, Frank Kokori, and Abdul Oroh, continued to be held without trial.

There were no known instances of forced exile as a means of political control, although several NADECO members, including former Third Republic Senator Bola Tinabu, retired Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka were in self-imposed exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

To suppress opposition to its rule, the regime first bypassed the regular courts in favor of "tribunals" and then declared itself above the law by prohibiting court review of any government action. Sentences are generally severe. 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.

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 the 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 accept it. In practice, fear of legal costs, delay, and distance to alternative courts encourage many litigants to choose these courts.

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 Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari in 1983, left the institutional framework of the judiciary relatively intact. However, it 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.

The PRC retained the tribunal framework. In most cases before the tribunals, the accused have the right to legal counsel, bail, and appeal, although 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. In practice tribunal proceedings often deny defendants due process.

For example, in late 1994 the Government set up the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal to try Ken Saro-Wiwa and others for their alleged roles in the killings of four prominent Ogoni politicians in May 1994 (see Sections 1.d. and 5). On February 6, Saro-Wiwa and four others pleaded not guilty to charges that they procured and counseled others to murder the politicians. On March 28, the tribunal charged 10 additional suspects and merged the cases with the ongoing case against Saro-Wiwa. In June the 18-member defense team led by Gani Fawehinmi withdrew in protest after the Government refused to comply with a tribunal order to produce a videotape recorded May 22, 1994 at Port Harcourt's Government House in which State Administrator Lt. Colonel Dauda Komo proclaimed that Saro-Wiwa was "guilty of murder."

In July Saro-Wiwa's tribunal-appointed legal aid counsel attorney resigned from the case, saying that his client refused to cooperate. In August the tribunal's chairman, Justice Ibrahim Auta, advised Saro-Wiwa and the others to cooperate with their newly appointed lawyers and suggested that failure to do so was not in their "best interest" because it would not stop tribunal proceedings. On October 31, the tribunal announced guilty verdicts and death sentences for Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists. The PRC "confirmed" this decision November 8 and executed all nine November 10 (see Section 1.a.).

On June 5, the Government convened a secret special military tribunal, chaired by Brigadier General Patrick Aziza, and charged 16 soldiers including 4 colonels (Lawan Gwadabe, R.S. Bello-Fadile, R.A. Emokpae, O. Oloruntoba), 7 Lt. Colonels (S.E. Oyewole, K. Happy Bulus, M.A. Igwe, R.D. Obiki, V.O. Bamgbose, O.E. Nyong, C.P. Izuorgu), 3 Captains (M.A. Ibrahim, A.A. Ogunsuyi, U.S.A. Suleiman), Second Lieutenant Richard Emonvhe, Staff Sergeant Patrick Usikpeko, and 7 civilians (Ret. Lt. Colonel M.A. Ajayi, Ret. Major Akinloye Akinyemi, Felix Ndmaigida, Peter Ijaola, Julius Badejo, Matthew Popoola, Sanusi Mato) with treason, concealment of treason, and conspiracy. The Government claims the defendants were tried in accordance with military law and had appointed military lawyers. There were credible reports that most military lawyers refused to represent the alleged coup plotters because they saw it as a "losing proposition." On June 30, the Lagos federal h1gh court dismissed Akinloye Akinyemi's suit challenging the constitutionality of the tribunal. Judge Vincent Eigbedion termed Akinyemi's lawsuit "foolhardy and incomprehensible" and based the court's decision on the "ouster" clauses contained in the 1990 Special Military Tribunal Act which prevent the judiciary from interfering with tribunal matters. The tribunal charged, convicted, and sentenced prominent human rights activists, journalists, and others, including relatives of the coup suspects, for their alleged "antiregime" activities throughout July and August.

In October the Government announced that the PRC and Abacha had approved final sentences for those convicted of participation in the coup plot. However, Abacha reduced the original sentences passed by the tribunal due to the international campaign for clemency for the coup plotters. The death sentences of Akinyemi, Gwadabe, Oloruntoba and Bello-Fadile were commuted to life imprisonment. The death sentences for conviction of conspiracy to commit treason of Yar'adua, Bulus, Oyewole, Emokpae, Igwe, Lt. Col. Ajayi, and four others were commuted to 25 years. The life sentences for convictions of concealment of Obaangjo, Ibrahim, Usikepo, Mato, Ndmaigida, Badejo, Popoola, Obiki and eight others were reduced to 15 years. Long-term political detainee George Mbah was convicted along with the coup plotters. Mbah's conviction was reduced from life imprisonment to 15 years. Prison terms for a variety of other offenses were similarly reduced. Military personnel who had been discharged but not tried were to be released and discharged from service.

The Government's frequent refusal to respect court rulings also undercuts the independence and integrity of the judiciary. In April and May, government security agents at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) twice ignored court orders termitting Gani Fawehinmi to travel abroad (see Section 2.d.). On April 10, security agents told Fawehinmi that they had been instructed to ignore an April 6 Lagos federal high court order and to prevent Fawehinmi from boarding a British Airways flight to London. Fawehinmi alleged that the head of state personally ordered that he not be allowed to travel abroad for urgently needed medical treatment because he was seen as a threat to the Government. In August the Government ignored Lagos federal high court orders to produce and justify the continued detention of CLO executive director, Abdul Oroh, and CD Chairman Beko Ransome-Kuti. The state security service initially ignored court orders to produce and justify the detention of Olatunji Abayomi and Chima Ubani, then declared that it held them under Decree Two provisions.

Seriously damaging the shred of credibility the judiciary retained, the regime in August 1994 declared itself above the law. Decree 12 of 1994 states that "no act of the federal military government may be questioned henceforth in a court of law," and "divests all courts of jurisdiction in all matters concerning the authority of the federal Government."

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

Trials in the regular court system are public and generally respect constitutionally protected individual rights, including a presumption of innocence, the right to be present, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to be represented by legal counsel.

There are no legal provisions barring women or other groups from testifying in civil court or for 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 are easily bribed, or "settled," and that the litigants cannot rely on the courts to render impartial judgment.

The number of political prisoners (as distinct from political detainees) held by the Government was also unknown.

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

Provisions of the 1979 and 1989 constitutions provide for the rights to privacy in the home, in correspondence, and in oral electronic communications. However, the military government regularly interfered in the lives of its citizens, and if the authorities desired to use a warrant in a particular search case, they often secured it from a military tribunal rather than a regular court. Human rights and prodemocracy leaders, including Gani Fawehinmi, Glory Kilanko, and Olisa Agbakoba, reported that security agents regularly followed them and cut off or monitored their organizations' telephones. Credible sources report an increase in harassment and intimidation by police and military units in Ogoniland following the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni activists. Abuses perpetrated in Ogoniland included random search of houses and cars without warrants or probable cause and prevention of any public display of mourning for the Ogoni Nine.

A 1995 money laundering decree allows the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to monitor telephone communications, access computer systems, and obtain bank and financial records of individual and corporate customers.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Abacha regime often publicly declared its support for these freedoms, but it nevertheless sought to confine public political dialogue to the constitutional conference. The regime also increased its systematic intimidation of the press through legal and extralegal means throughout the year. Constitutional provisions providing for freedom of speech and the press are not enforceable because of continued suspension of constitutional rights.

There is a large and vibrant press, which is frequently critical of the Government. Nonetheless, the Government directly owns or controls many newspapers and has shut down several others. The Government granted broadcasting rights to private radio stations for the first time in 1994.

The Government used a variety of methods to repress its many critics. In January and February it extended its August 1994 decrees proscribing for 6 months three newspaper publishing houses: the Concord Group; the Punch Group; and the Guardian Group. These new decrees granted the Abacha regime and its agents legal immunity from challenges to actions it took to implement the decrees, even when the action predated the decree. In July it rescinded the Guardian proscription order reportedly after that publishing group's owner and former Interior Minister, Alex Ibru, personally apologized for having offended the Head of State. In October Abacha announced the removal of the earlier bans on Punch and the National Concord, expressing the "hope that these media houses will now operate responsibly within the law and in the national interest."

Throughout the year, government security agents frequently harassed, arrested, and detained journalists. In January security agents arrested Sani Abdullahi and Yusuf Dingyadi, Hausa Service reporters for the Voice of America (VOA) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) respectively, and detained them without charge. The Government accused the pair of spreading false information, inciting religious hatred, and broadcasting inaccurate reports about religious clashes in Sokoto (see Section 5). In March security agents arrested Bayo Onanuga, editor-in-chief of The News, Tempo, and P.M. News, after The News reported on meningitis and cholera epidemics in Enugu, Ibadan, and Kaduna, three of four proposed host cities for the 1995 Junior Soccer World Cup. In May the Government arrested and detained an A.M. News reporter after he published a story alleging that the chief of general staff, General Oladipo Diya, had been a victim of advance fee fraud, commonly known as "419." In July security operatives arrested Babafemi Ojudu, A.M. News Editor, and Olusesan Ekinsola, the general manager of Ray Power 100.5, the only private radio station in Nigeria. Although no official reasons were given for their arrests, it was widely believed to be in response to a broadcast that soldiers had laid siege to an Ikeja police station. In August Enugu state police arrested and detained Louis Onyia, correspondent for The Week magazine, who refused to disclose his source of information regarding an article that the state police commissioner had consulted "oracles" to assist police investigations.

Government repression of journalists continued through the summer with the August 7 arrest of Fred Ohwahwa, Third Eye on Sunday editor, and the August 31 arrest of Osa Director, Tell Magazine's Kano bureau chief. No official reasons were given for their arrest and detention. In September security agents arrested the managing director of Sub-Saharan Press Limited (publishers of The Week magazine), Chris Mamah, and The Week editor, Godwin Agbroko. No reasons were given for their arrest; however, it was most likely in response to the magazine's September 11 feature entitled "Abacha's Illness: Top Aides Struggle to Take Over."

The Government increased harassment of the independent press in December. Information Minister Walter Ofonagoro led a high profile campaign warning journalists not to publish articles against the interests of the Government. Security agents increased their overall efforts to intimidate, harass, and arrest prodemocracy journalists.

On December 16, the headquarters of The Guardian was set on fire. Press accounts said that the fire "was set by men reportedly dressed in military uniform." On December 17, the Government detained staff of Tell Magazine, then seized that publication's entire print run, which featured a headline article, "Abiola Freedom." On December 23, the State Security Service (SSS) confiscated approximately 32,000 copies of the January 1 edition of Tell Magazine at the Academy Printing Press in Ilupeju and ransacked Tell offices in Ikeja. Several hours later, the SSS arrested Nosa Igiebor, editor-in-chief of Tell. On December 31, arsonists set fire to the offices of the Independent Communcations Network Limited, publishers of The News and Tempo. There were credible reports that the fire was set by the SSS.

The Government also denied entry to and deported foreign journalists, including two South Africa-based journalists, Henrick Thomsen and Ric Miller, of a leading Danish daily newspaper. In May it seized thousands of copies of the May 22 international edition of Newsweek magazine which contained an article critical of the Head of State.

The military government used a number of other means to intimidate the press. These included a decree banning government offices from advertising in nongovernment media, periodic directives to government offices forbidding the purchase of certain publications, personal attacks in government-controlled media against journalists and others who challenged government policies, and threats of harassment of potential advertisers and investors in antigovernment publications. In August the regime dismissed both Tunji Oseni, chief executive of the government-controlled Daily Times newspaper, and its board of directors. It appointed a sole administrator, Innocent Oparadike, in their place.

Television, both Nigerian and foreign, is widely available. Access is limited more by substandard cable installation, electrical power surges and outages, and technical broadcasting difficulties than by government intervention.

Academic freedom is generally respected, although the head of Ahmadu Bello University's Political Science Department claimed that faculty cannot in fact conduct research. There were credible reports that the Government secretly tape recorded conversations among faculty at the University of Ibadan and the University of Lagos. Security agents subsequently confronted faculty members with the recordings and interrogated them concerning their alleged political activities. Some student groups believe university authorities follow government directives to suspend or expel activist students.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The two constitutions provide citizens with the right to assemble freely and associate with other persons in political parties, trade unions, or other special interest associations. However, the Government proscribed all political activity 1 day after coming into power in 1993. In August 1994, General Abacha announced that "individuals or groups may henceforth canvass political ideas, but they cannot form political parties for now." On March 3, Ibadan police stopped a rally marking the end of Ramadan at Oke Ado market after an announcement that prominent Ibadan politician Lamidi Adedibu was scheduled to speak. In May the Edo and Oyo state military administrators issued orders indefinitely banning all political and tribal meetings. In June the Government arrested 39 supporters of Afenifere, and charged them with holding an unauthorized political meeting (see Section 1.d.).

On June 27, Abacha announced a partial lifting of the month-old ban on political activity. Enthusiasm over the lifting of the ban was muted, however, by Abacha's announcement that no political activities would be allowed until the moribund National Electoral Commission (NEC) was reconstituted. The only immediate effect of Abacha's announcement was that political and cultural associations, such as Afenifere, NADECO, and Gani Fawehinmi's NCP, theoretically could establish themselves as political parties. Only 1 week after Abacha's announcement, Fawehinmi was arrested for holding an illegal political rally in Lagos.

Permits are not normally required for public meetings indoors, and permit requirements for outdoor public functions are often ignored by both Government and those assembling. However, the Abacha government retained the authority of Decree Five of the Babangida government, which had banned gatherings whose political, ethnic, or religious content it believed might lead to unrest.

Although Abacha announced the lifting of restrictions on political activities in his October 1 Independence Day address, he issued no enabling decree. The Lagos police chief refused to grant the NADECO a permit for a mid-December rally, disbursing the 10,000 people in attendance with clubs and tear gas. Police also aborted a mid-December rally in Abeokuta in support of the release of Abiola, Ransome-Kiti, and Obasanjo. CD Acting Chair Frederick Fasehun and others arrested at the stillborn rally have been charged with sedition, disturbance of the peace, and unlawful assembly. On December 27, the Government issued a directive that all universities be closed, reportedly to prevent the use of students for illegal rallies by prodemocracy groups. At year's end, the Government continued to repress the political activities of opposition groups.

Open-air religious services away from places of worship remain prohibited in most states due to religious tensions in various parts of the country.

Religious, professional, and other organizations need not register with the Government and are generally permitted freely to associate with other national and foreign bodies. The PRC retained its ban on 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.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Government generally respects freedom of belief, practice, and religious education which had been provided for by the suspended 1979 and 1989 constitutions. Decree One (suspending most of the 1979 constitution) and the stillborn 1989 constitution also prohibited federal and state governments from adopting a state religion, and the PRC reaffirmed the secular nature of the state in its instructions to the constitutional conference. The Government instituted a ban in 1987 (which is still in effect) on religious organizations on campuses of primary schools, although 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 continue to restrict the entry into the country of certain religious practitioners, particularly persons suspected of proselytizing. While it has not outlawed the practice, the Government discourages proselytizing in the belief that it stirs up religious tensions, particularly in the predominantly Islamic north.

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

The two constitutions entitle citizens to move freely throughout the country and reside where they wish. However, increasing violent crime in many parts of the country prompted police to set up roadblocks and checkpoints, where officials commonly engaged in extortion, violence, and excessive use of force.

Those constitutions also prohibited expulsion or the denial of exit or entry to any citizen. In practice, however, women must often obtain permission from a male family member before being granted a passport, and the Government, like its predecessors, occasionally prevented travel for political reasons.

For example, in August the Government prevented Gani Fawehinmi from exiting Port Harcourt Airport and "deported" him back to Lagos. Government security agents told Fawehinmi that they had "orders from above" that he not be allowed to enter Port Harcourt; not to talk to anyone or address any gathering; and that he be returned to Lagos "immediately." In April and May, government security agents at MMIA twice prevented Fawehinmi from boarding an international flight. Fawehinmi subsequently managed to travel abroad, but government security agents immediately seized his passport upon his return to Lagos.

Throughout the year the Government routinely seized the passports of its critics. On June 7, government security agents at MMIA seized the passport and plane ticket of Abiola's attorney, Godwin Ajayi, prior to his planned departure to attend an international Bar Association conference. On June 30, the Government confiscated the passport of prominent feminist, Glory Kilanko, who, 1 week before, criticized the Government's human rights record at a British Commonwealth NGO forum in Wellington, New Zealand. In August the Government seized the passports of Nigerian Bar Association President Priscilla Kuye, Women in Nigeria representative Nyoko Toyo, Citizen magazine editor Bilikisu Yusufu, and Mero Mandara and prevented them from traveling to the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing. In March government security agents seized former head of state Olusegun Obasanjo's passport after he returned from the United Nations World Summit on Social Development.

Journalists reported harassment at the nation's airports by security officials throughout the year, including having to fill out a special exit and entry form detailing their movements abroad, reasons for making their trip, and friends and associates overseas. Security officials harassed or temporarily confiscated the passports of journalists who refused to complete the form. There were credible reports that the Government had assigned military security personnel to MMIA to screen departing passengers to apprehend prodemocracy supporters. Government security agents were instructed to question extensively citizens who had been issued United States visas. If the agents were not satisfied with the responses, they had orders to seize passports and turn the suspects over to military intelligence and state security service personnel for additional questioning.

Nigerian law and practice permit temporary refuge and asylum for political refugees from other countries. The Government cooperates with the Lagos office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in dealing with an estimated 4,300

Liberian, 1,400 Chadian, 580 Cameroonian, 140 Ghanaian, and an undetermined number of Togolese, Somalian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian refugees. There were no reports that refugees were expelled from Nigeria in 1995.

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

Citizens could not exercise this right in 1995 and there was little indication that General Abacha's military regime was willing to permit them to do so on any basis other than a process tightly controlled by the regime. Throughout the year, the regime committed numerous, repeated, and egregious human rights abuses in its effort to prevent citizens from opposing it by peaceful political means.

After coming to power, the Provisional Ruling Council headed by General Abacha promised a return to civilian, democratic rule but did not provide a timetable. The regime instead convened a constitutional conference which prepared a draft constitution, but did not set a definitive date for the termination of military rule. In his October 1 Independence Day address, Abacha announced a transition timetable leading to inauguration of a civilian president on October 1, 1998. The process was to begin with the adoption of a new constitution, lifting of all restrictions on political activities, establishment of an electoral commission, creation of committees on transition implementation, national reconciliation, and federal character, and appointment of a panel on creation of new state and local governments, all within the final 3 months of 1995. The transition program further provides for a series of local, state and federal elections over a period of 3 years. It does not provide for any meaningful civilian participation, other than in elections, and Abacha has not indicated any intention to relinquish control during the transition process.

So far, Abacha has made no meaningful progress in the 3-year transition program. The new constitution proposed by the National Constitutional Conference in June was never adopted. Only in early December did Abacha take the first step when he approved the composition of three of the transition committees. On December 22, Abacha announced the establishment of the last three committees. However, Abacha never issued enabling decrees for any of the new bodies, without which they are powerless. By year's end, no positive action in the direction of civilian rule had emerged from any of the bodies.

Nigerian politics remains dominated by men. However, there are no legal impediments to political participation or voting by women or members of any other minority group. There are three women in the PRC's Federal Executive Council.

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

The Government permitted local human rights groups to operate but often interfered with their activities, detaining their members and preventing them from criticizing the Government's human rights record (see Sections 1.d. and 2.a). High-level government officials regularly denounced the activities of Nigeria's human rights community, often accusing its members and the independent press of participating in foreign-inspired plots to destabilize the country.

Notwithstanding the Government's hostile attitude, national and international human rights groups engaged in a vocal and public campaign for the promotion of human rights. Among the most active organizations are: the CLO; the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR); the CD; the Constitutional Rights Project (CRP); the National Association of Democratic Lawyers; Human Rights Africa (HRA); the HRM; the NCP; the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law; the Legal Research and Resource Development Center; the National Association of University Women; the International Federation of Women Lawyers; Women in Nigeria; 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, spoke out frequently on human rights issues as well. Amnesty International is active in Nigeria, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has a regional office based in Lagos.

The Government sometimes prevented foreign human rights monitoring groups and individuals from visiting Nigeria. In August government security agents detained and deported two South African-based journalists for a Danish newspaper (see Section 2.a.). The pair had planned to meet with leading human rights and prodemocracy activists, as well as MOSOP representatives, during their 2-week visit. In July the Government refused the United Nations Human Rights Commission's (UNHRC) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention permission to visit, citing the UNHRC's failure to respond to a joint CLO, CRP, MOSOP, CD, CDHR, and HRA request on July 24 to send a country mission to assess the human rights situation. The Government admitted British Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative delegation representatives to the country in July but denied them access to detainees.

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

Both the 1979 and 1989 constitutions provide citizens with the right to freedom from discrimination based on "community, place of origin, ethnic group, sex, religion, or political opinion." However, customary and religious discrimination against women persists, while tension between the Government and disaffected minority ethnic groups is on the rise.

Women

Reports of spousal abuse are common, especially wife-beating in polygynous families. Police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, which 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. Women also bear the brunt of attacks for social and religious reasons, particularly for "immodest" or "inappropriate" behavior.

Women experience considerable discrimination as well as physical abuse. There are no laws barring women from particular fields of employment, but women often experience discrimination because the Government tolerates customary and religious practices which adversely affect them. While the number of women in the formal sector increases every year, 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 are underprivileged. Though women are not legally barred from owning land, under some customary land tenure systems only men can own land, and women gain access to land through marriage or family. In addition, many customary practices do not 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. In other areas, a widow herself is considered part of the property, and she too may be "inherited" by the husband's eldest male relative. Polygyny is widely practiced among all ethnic groups in both Christian and Islamic communities. Women often must provide permission from a male family member to obtain a passport (see Section 2.d.).

Children

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. It remains only sporadically committed to children's welfare. Public schools continue to deteriorate, and limited facilities precluded access to education for some children. While the Government increased spending on children's health in recent years, it seldom enforced even the inadequate laws designed to protect the rights of children. Although the law stipulates that "no child shall be ordered to be imprisoned," juvenile offenders are routinely denied bail and incarcerated along with hardened criminals.

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 mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health. Nigeria cosponsored a resolution at the Fourth World Health Assembly calling for the elimination of harmful health practices, including FGM. However, the Government has taken no action to abolish the procedure, and nearly all ethnic groups subject young females to it. Nigerian experts estimate that as many as 50 percent of Nigerian women, primarily in the Christian south but less in the Muslim north, may have undergone FGM, which varies from simple removal of the clitoral hood or labia minora to excision of the clitoris and the most dangerous form, infibulation.

The age at which females are subjected to FGM varies from the first week of life to after a woman delivers her first child. The Ministry of Health and NGO's sponsor public awareness and education projects to inform communities of the health hazards of FGM. The press openly condemned the practice on a number of occasions.

People with Disabilities

While the Government called for private businesses to institute policies ensuring fair treatment of the 2 percent of the work force that it claims is disabled, it has not enacted any laws fostering greater accessibility to buildings and public transportation, nor has it formulated any policy which specifically ensures the right of the disabled to work.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government has promulgated no official policy concerning 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 continued between rival ethnic groups in Delta, Rivers, Benue, Cross River, Plateau, and Taraba states, often resulting in casualties. 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), maintain that the Government continues to engage in a systematic campaign to deprive them of their land and its wealth.

Members of the Ogoni group 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 public services, such as water and electricity. MOSOP, which campaigns for greater Ogoni autonomy, often describes government policy towards the Ogoni as genocide. The confrontation between the Government and the Ogoni has increasingly turned violent, and Ogoni concerns about environmental degradation and the quality of social services in the oil producing region have merit. Despite this, accusations that the Government is engaged in a genocidal campaign against the Ogoni are unfounded. Other ethnic minorities, particularly in Delta, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom states, have echoed Ogoni claims of environmental degradation and government indifference to their development. Groups such as the Ijaw, Itsekiri, and Urhobo have grown increasingly vocal in expressing their unhappiness, while the prevalence of ethnic conflict and confrontation with government forces increased in these areas.

Religious Minorities

The 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 January, May, and June when clashes between Muslims and Christians in the northern cities of Kano and Sokoto resulted in scores of deaths and the partial destruction of each city's central market. In response, the Christian Association of Nigeria condemned the killings, and alleged official indifference to the incidents. To date the Government has not prosecuted anyone for the killings.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Although basic labor legislation dating to 1974 remains in place, decrees enacted in 1994 that dissolved elected national executive councils of the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and two key oil sector unions and placed them under the authority of government-appointed sole administrators have effectively emasculated the labor movement. Nigeria has signed and ratified the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Convention on Freedom of Association, but there are no safeguards preventing the Government from interfering in the administration of labor unions. The Government's exercise of absolute power over the affairs of the NLC, NUPENG, and (PENGASSAN) fly in the face of international obligations and demands by numerous international bodies. Although the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the World Confederation of Labor and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) filed a complaint with the ILO committee on freedom of association following the 1994 dismissal of the three National Executive Councils, the Government had not responded positively by year's end. Instead, it kept NUPENG General Secretary Frank Kokori and President Waribi Agamene and two officials of PENGASSAN in custody without charge since August 1994, and used threats and investigations to intimidate union officials and undermine union members' resolve to resist government domination.

The Government's promises to allow elections of new executive councils in advance of the June ILO conference were never fulfilled, nor was the labor movement allowed to choose its own representatives to the ILO. Instead, the Government attempted unsuccessfully to seat workers' delegates of its choosing. In the ensuing debate on Nigeria in the ILO's committee on the application of conventions and recommendations, delegates adopted a "special paragraph" that took the Government to task for denying trade unions the right to elect their leaders freely. The 1995 action supplemented the 1994 finding of the ILO committee on freedom of association that the Government's interference in the administration of labor unions and its restriction of workers rights is in direct contravention of ratified conventions. The committee then recommended that the Government remove appointed administrators from labor bodies, restore suspended union executives and allow them access to the premises of union headquarters, and restore dues checkoff. By year's end, none of these demands had been met.

The Government proceeded with plans to impose its own restructuring plan on the 41 unions of the NLC and was considering a draft constitution for the labor central. Elections of union executives at local and branch levels were occurring, but the Government continued to balk at holding elections for national executives, apparently fearing that the election would put in office trade unionists who would challenge government involvement in union affairs.

At the end of the year, the Government had failed to respond to a request by the ILO to send a delegation to Nigeria aimed at securing the release of trade unionists and was again cited in a December 1 resolution of the ICFTU executive board that appealed to all affiliates and international trade secretariats to support measures to seek the release of the jailed trade unionists and the elimination of government interference in trade union affairs.

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. In May 1993, the Government promulgated the Teaching Essential Services Decree, declaring education an essential service. The decree did not, however, proscribe education sector unions.

Approximately 70 percent of the work force is employed in agriculture. Agricultural workers, except for small numbers in the food processing sector, are not unionized. 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.

In contravention of the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association, the Government has decreed that the NLC is the single central labor body. Although state executive councils of the NLC continue to function, government interference makes it difficult for the NLC to represent workers effectively. The NLC has claimed to represent 3 million workers of a total work force of 30 million. This figure is difficult to verify and may have dropped in light of a depressed manufacturing sector and significant public sector reductions in force. The Government continued to resist attempts by higher graded workers and middle management to form and register an independent labor central. However, the Senior Staff Consultative Association of Nigeria continues to serve as an unregistered central for the senior staff associations. Because it is unrecognized by the Government, its leaders have also been more outspoken on political issues than the NLC.

The right to strike is recognized by law except for those performing essential services. However, workers are required to give 21 days' notice prior to commencing a strike. There are no laws prohibiting retribution against strikers and strike leaders, but strikers who feel they are facing unfair retribution may submit their cases to the industrial arbitration panel whose decisions are binding on all parties.

In April the Government fired 3,000 striking Kwara state civil servants who were demanding promised government relief packages, including 100 percent increases in transportation and housing allowances. The Government subsequently reinstated the workers, except for union officials, and dissolved the union.

On May 18 after negotiations broke down, security agents and riot police, backed by an armored personnel carrier, broke up a demonstration and arrested scores of striking Nigerian Security Minting and Printing Company workers who were protesting poor working conditions and the Government's failure to implement promised relief packages. They had gathered in front of the Lagos Mint to press their demands. Citing the Essential Services Decree, the Government dismissed 2,500 workers. Many of these workers were subsequently rehired as new employees, thereby forfeiting seniority rights and benefits.

In September teachers struck for 2 weeks over demands that included payment of allowances and salary arrears that had previously been agreed to in negotiations. They returned to work when the Government paid half of the arrears, gave a date certain for payment of the remainder, and agreed to continue work on stalled consideration of a new teachers' salary schedule and a teachers' registration procedure. Strikes in the public sector occurred in many of the 30 states, typically when underfunded state and local governments failed to fulfill previously negotiated contract provisions relating to salaries and allowances. The National Association of Resident Doctors struck for a week in November on wage-related issues, returning to work when Government conceded two demands and promised to study two others. At Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) in Zaria, the strike by doctors coincided with the gruesome murder of the medical director of the hospital by service workers who mobbed his office to protest failure of the hospital to pay allowances. The doctors at ABUTH, in addition to wage demands, pressed the authorities to find and arrest suspects and to improve hospital security.

Nonagricultural enterprises which employ more than 50 employees are obliged by law to recognize trade unions and to 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. The Government threatened to withdraw the dues checkoff provision and make the payment of union dues completely voluntary if unions pursue strikes. This was the case in August 1993 when the NLC called a general strike, and in September 1994 at the conclusion of the petroleum strike.

In August 1991, the Government revoked a policy in effect since 1975 that permitted international labor affiliation only with the OATUU and affiliated Pan-African labor federations. Under Decree 32, affiliation with non-African international labor organizations was allowed. Negotiations commenced with the ICFTU seeking formal affiliation, but the removal of the NLC executive and the protracted political confrontation have precluded further progress on these applications. In December the ICFTU adopted a resolution critical of the Government's labor policies and actions.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The labor laws provide for 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. Laws further protect workers against retaliation by employers for labor activity through an independent arm of the judiciary, the Nigerian Industrial Court (NIC), which handles complaints of antiunion discrimination. Before cases can be brought to the NIC, parties are required to seek mediation and conciliation through the Ministry of Labor. Unresolved disputes can subsequently be taken to the Industrial Arbitration Panel and the NIC. Union officials have, however, questioned the independence of the NIC in light of its refusal to resolve various disputes stremming from Government's failure to fulfill contract provisions for public employees.

There have been no significant reforms in labor practice since January 1991, when the Government abolished the uniform wage structure for all government entities. This allowed each tier of government--federal, state, local, and parastatals--freedom 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.

One export processing zone is in development in Calabar, Cross River state. Workers in such zones are subject to same national labor laws.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The 1974 Labor Decree and the 1989 constitution prohibit forced or compulsory labor. However, the ILO noted that with no constitution in force, the Government may be unable to enforce the ILO convention against forced labor.

d. Minimum Age of Employment of Children

The 1974 Labor Decree prohibits employment of children under

18 years of age in commerce and industry and restricts other child labor to home-based agricultural or domestic work. The law further stipulates that children may not be employed in agricultural or domestic work for more than 8 hours per day. The Decree allows the apprenticeship of youths aged 13 under specific conditions.

Primary education is compulsory, although this is rarely enforced, and recent studies show declining enrollment due mainly to the continuing deterioration of public schools. This lack of sufficient primary school infrastructure has ended some families' access to education, forcing them to place their children in the labor market. The ILO and the United Nations Children's Fund, in consultation with the NLC, have concluded that child labor, while not yet endemic, is increasing and could become a serious problem.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The 1974 Labor Decree sets a minimum wage, which is reviewed on an ad hoc basis. The last review in 1991 was undertaken by a tripartite group consisting of representatives of the NLC, the Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association, and the Ministry of Labor. With the considerable decline in the naira, the Group raised the minimum wage from $2.90 (250 naira) to $5.00 (450 naira) per month, a level which does not provide a decent living for a worker and family.

The Labor Decree also established a 40-hour workweek, prescribes 2 to 4 weeks of annual leave, and stipulated that workers must be paid extra for hours worked over the legal limit. The decree also stated 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 decree contains general health and safety provisions, some aimed specifically at young or female workers. While it requires that the Factory Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labor and Employment inspect factories for their compliance with health and safety standards, this agency neglects safety oversight of construction sites and other nonfactory work. The decree also requires employers to compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of those killed in industrial accidents. The Labor Decree does not provide workers the right to excuse themselves from dangerous work situations without loss of employment. The Labor Ministry, which is charged with enforcement of these laws, has experienced large staff turnover and has been largely ineffective in identifying violations. The Government has failed to act on various ILO recommendations since 1991 to update its moribund Inspection and Accident Reporting Program.

 

Search Refworld

Countries