Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Nigeria

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Nigeria, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The government of President Umaru Yar'Adua is now in its second year and, according to Human Rights Watch, has 'done little to address deeply-entrenched human rights problems' in the country. Since the end of military rule in 1999 more than 12,000 Nigerians have died in ethnic, religious and political violence (some estimates put the figure far higher). In November 2008, around 400 people were killed in Plateau State when Christians and Muslims clashed over the result of a local election. Other clashes in Ebonyi, Enugu and Benue states left at least 42 dead and many more displaced.

The long-running dispute between local communities and Shell in the Niger Delta ended on 4 June 2008, when the Nigerian government took a decision to replace Shell as operator of oil concessions in Ogoni areas. Initial enthusiasm was dampened when the government announced that the concession would be taken over by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the upstream subsidiary of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). International Crisis Group reported that, as Ogoni leaders sought clarification, it was first revealed that Addax Petroleum of Canada would run the operation, and then that Russian-owned Gazprom, one of the world's largest gas companies, had signed a preliminary agreement to do so. Further details are not yet clear. The Ogoni saw this development as yet another denial of their rights as local stakeholders. They are increasingly insistent in their demands for agreements that grant them rights in the exploitation of oil and gas reserves on their land.

Guerrilla activity by MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, stepped up in September 2008 when the group released a statement saying that their militants had launched an 'oil war' throughout the Niger Delta against pipelines and oil production facilities, and the Nigerian soldiers that protect them. Both MEND and the Nigerian government claim to have inflicted heavy casualties on one another.

On social issues, both the new government and its predecessor have tried to make progress. Official figures indicate that primary school intake has more than doubled in Nigeria since the government introduced free primary education in 2001. However, there is still a significant gender discrepancy, particularly in the northern states. According to UNICEF, just over a quarter of girls in northern Nigeria make it to secondary school, and more than half are married before the age of 15. Overall in the north, 40 per cent of school-aged children are not in school. According to the UN, this is because of 'the low value accorded by parents to girls' education, early marriages, poverty, and low quality learning environments'.

IRIN reported from Kano in December 2008 that a community-run project to create 'girlfriendly' primary schools is 'helping to correct long-time gender inequalities in education'. Kano is the region's most populous state in the north. Boys continue to outnumber girls in school, but education officials say the margin has narrowed. The government has also partnered with UNICEF and others to launch a Girls' Education Project in northern Nigeria. The UK committed $50 million to the project, which so far has distributed free learning materials to more than 700 schools in the region.

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