Human Rights Watch Indicts Nigeria Police on Abuses

In spite of the nationwide protest against impunity by the Nigeria Police, Human Rights Watch in a damning report says the law enforcement agency has continued to arrest, detain, and use excessive force against peaceful protesters.

Last March, security forces allegedly fired live ammunition and teargas to disperse members of the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), who took to the streets in Abuja to protest the detention of their leader, Sheik El Zakzaky, since 2015.

The rights group says two people sustained gunshot injuries, and at least 10 people were arrested and detained.

According to its 2021 World Report on Nigeria, ‘’authorities continued to clamp down on nationwide Revolution Now protests against insecurity and corruption, arresting and briefly detaining over 60 people during protests in Abuja in August.

‘’Blasphemy-related cases in the north gained widespread attention and condemnationNigerian law criminalizes insult to religion. Sharia (Islamic law) applicable in the country’s 12 northern states with a significant or majority Muslim population, including Kano, also criminalise blasphemy.

‘’Nigeria’s constitution, however, protects freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

‘’In April, police in Kaduna State arrested Bala Mubarak, president of the Nigerian Humanist Association, a nongovernmental organization, following  a complaint by lawyers who accused  him of publicly insulting the Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook Page. Police transferred him to Kano State where he was being held incommunicado at time of writing.

‘’In August, a Sharia Court in Kano sentenced a musician, Yahaya Sharif- Aminu, to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed in a song circulated via WhatsApp. Also, in August, a 13-year-old boy was sentenced by a Sharia court to 10 years in prison for making “profane remarks” about God during an argument with a friend in northern Kano State.

‘’Civil society groups raised concerns over a new Corporate and Allied Matters Act, signed into law in August, being potentially used as a tool to restrict civic space and limit basic freedoms. The law empowers Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission to suspend the trustees of any registered association for reasons including fraud, misconduct, mismanagement or public interest and to appoint interim managers.

‘’Charges against 47 men for crimes under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) of 2014 were struck out in October after the court found that the prosecution had failed to diligently prosecute the case and provide evidence.

‘’The trial, which began on December 2019, is the first to be brought under the SSMPA, which criminalises same-sex conduct as well as public displays of same-sex amorous relationships, same-sex marriages, and the registration of gay clubs, societies, and organisations.’’

Key International Actors

Nigeria, according to the report, received significant loans from the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank to support the country’s health care sector and to shield jobs and businesses from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘’In June, the Nigerian Humanitarian Fund managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced that it had received a $22.4 million funding allocation to address the increased vulnerability of people affected by both the Covid-19 pandemic and the humanitarian crisis in the northeast.

‘’The United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom continued to provide Nigeria with humanitarian and development aid.

‘’They also repeatedly expressed concerns over terrorist attacks in the country, including attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers.

‘’In January, the European Parliament adopted a resolution deploring the attacks, urging the government to respect human rights in its counterterrorism response and to end the military detention of children.

Foreign Policy

‘’Nigeria supported the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and the United Nations in pressing for a swift return to civilian government after the military takeover in Mali in August, which President Muhammadu Buhari described as a setback to regional diplomacy.

‘’Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, completed his term as the 74th president of the UN General Assembly. During his presidency, he advanced issues around education, poverty, and inclusion, including a landmark political commitment on universal health coverage.

‘’Nigeria, which currently sits on the UN Human Rights Council, abstained from voting on some key resolutions, including those on the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and on human rights in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Burundi, Eritrea, and Iran.

‘’Nigeria voted in favor of other resolutions to advance rights protections, including on accountability for violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and on human rights in Myanmar.’’

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