Niger

Last updated: January 4, 2022

Update

On December 17, 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Voule, urged authorities in Niger to act on their promise to create and maintain an effective civic space in the country. Voule, who spoke at the end of an official visit to Niger from December 6-16, also said it was vitally important to allow public demonstrations, which are necessary for every democratic, open and inclusive society. However, he acknowledged that, “Unfortunately, the recent prohibitions of demonstrations organized by Tournons La Page on 5 and 12 December, and the arrests for ‘illegal gatherings’ of their members on 10 December on Human Rights Day threaten this commitment.” Voule further said demonstrations organized in the past illustrated that dialogue with organizers could reduce all risks of violence, and he urged the authorities to urgently restore a dialogue with civil society and political parties on security, economic, social and environmental issues.

Introduction

Niger is a former French colony with a civil law system and has been an independent republic since 1960. The first democratic general elections in Niger took place in 1993, after which the President of the Republic and 83 députés (MPs or legislators) assumed office. Although challenges remain, the country is now governed by the Seventh Republic, which commenced with the adoption of the Constitution of November 25, 2010.

Since the advent of democracy in Niger, civil society organizations (CSOs) have played an important role in multi-party governance. Beyond supporting the public welfare, CSOs are also involved in the defense and promotion of human rights and republican values, including the rule of law, democracy, good governance, and judicial independence.

However, civil society has been under increasing threat in Niger since 2013. For example, in response to CSO opposition to and protests against the 2018 Finance Law, the government arrested and imprisoned several CSO leaders. Notably, on September 9, 2019, these CSO leaders were exonerated after the Court of Appeal held that the State had failed to comply with the Law on Public Demonstrations.

Organizational Forms
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and foreign associations
Registration Body
Ministry of Interior
Approximate Number
As of 2018, a total of 2,895 CSOs existed in Niger, according to the Ministry of Community Development and Land Management.
Barriers to Entry
A foreign association can only receive authorization to operate for a limited amount of time and to conduct specific activities. In addition to limiting a foreign association’s activities.
Barriers to Operations/Activities
CSOs of regional or ethnic character (caractère régional ou ethnique) are prohibited.

CSOs are required to submit an annual “activity report,” including an “action plan” and financial report, to the Ministry of Community Development.

CSOs have been dissolved arbitrarily.

Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy
The Law on Wiretapping, the Law on Cybercrime, and the Law on Interception of Certain Communications by Electronic Means have chilled criticism of the government.

The government has used article 31 of the Law on Cybercrime to surveille the Facebook and WhatsApp conversations of individuals critical of the government.

Government officials have broad authority to intercept communications sent electronically to address “attacks on state security,” among other reasons.

The government has shut down internet access.

Barriers to International Contact
There are no significant legal barriers to the receipt of international support.
Barriers to Resources
There is a lack of clarity about the ability of domestic and foreign CSOs to engage in economic activity.
Barriers to Assembly
The organizers of all demonstrations are required to provide prior notification to the municipality where the demonstration is to take place from five to 15 days before the date set for the demonstration.

Organizers are responsible for any violence, assaults, kidnappings, or destruction of public or private property occurring during a demonstration.

Municipal authorities often ban demonstrations on vague grounds of “security reasons”, “public disorder”, or “inability to control”.

The state uses excessive force, including tear gas, beatings, detainment, and arrest when demonstrations are not organized by the state or its supporters.

Organizers may face sanctions, fines, and prison terms. Sanctions vary from two months imprisonment and fines of 20,000 FCFA (approximately $30) to six months and fines of 1,000,000 CFA (approximately $1,500).

Population
23,605,767 (July 2021 est.)
Capital
Niamey
Type of Government
Semi-presidential republic
Life Expectancy at Birth
Total population: 59.7 years; male: 58.19 years; female: 61.26 years (2021 est.)
Literacy Rate
Total population: 35.1%; male: 43.6%; female: 26.7% (2018 est.)
Religious Groups
Muslim 99.3%, Christian 0.3%, animist 0.2%, none 0.1% (2012 est.)
Ethnic Groups
Hausa 53.1%, Zarma/Songhai 21.2%, Tuareg 11%, Fulani (Peuhl) 6.5%, Kanuri 5.9%, Gurma 0.8%, Arab 0.4%, Tubu 0.4%, other/unavailable 0.9% (2006 est.)
GDP per capita
$1,200 (2017 est.)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Ranking Body
Rank
Ranking Scale
(best – worst)
UN Human Development Index
189 (2020) 1 – 189
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index
111 (2021) 1 – 138
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
143 (2021) 179 – 1
Transparency International
123 (2020) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World
Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 20
Civil Liberties: 28 (2021)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 40
1 – 60

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements
Ratification*
Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Yes 1986
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)
Yes 1986
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
Yes 1986
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)
Yes 2014
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
Yes 1967
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Yes 1999
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Yes 2004
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)
Yes 2009
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Yes 2008
Regional Treaties
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Yes 1986

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of Niger was adopted on November 25, 2010. The Preamble to the Constitution states:

We, The Sovereign Nigerien People … declare our adherence to the principles of pluralist democracy and human rights as defined by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 1981 African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; declare our adherence to regional and international legal tools for the protection and promotion of human rights as signed and ratified by Niger; reaffirm our absolute opposition to any regime founded on dictatorship, arbitrary rule, impunity, injustice, corruption, misappropriation of public funds, regionalism, ethnocentrism, nepotism, personal power or a cult of personality.

Two articles are particularly important for civil society:

Article 9 states: “Within the framework of the freedom of association recognized and guaranteed by the present Constitution, political parties, unions, non-governmental organizations and other associations or groups of associations can form and exercise their activities freely, respectful of the current laws and regulations…”

Article 32 further recognizes and guarantees the freedom to demonstrate as a constitutional right: “The State recognizes and guarantees the freedoms of movement, association, gathering, procession and demonstration in conditions defined by the law.”

In addition, Articles 1, 3, 4, and 8 of the Constitution are important for human rights and the rule of law because they concern Niger’s sovereignty, Niger’s remaining a unitary state and a democracy, the abolition of slavery, and the freedom of religion, respectively.

According to the Constitution and treaties ratified by Niger, nothing may justify the restriction of a basic right in an abusive, impulsive, or arbitrary fashion.

National Laws and Regulations

National laws and regulations affecting civil society and civic freedoms include the following:

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

In July 2017, the government announced its intention to “clean up” the CSO sector and declared that a “legally binding” text regarding CSOs would be promulgated. According to the Minister of Community Development in charge of CSOs, the new legal measure would relate to the “rules of intervention” and define “collaboration” between national and foreign CSOs. While the pending initiative had seemingly become dormant, there are indications it remains active. On February 29, 2020, during a strategic meeting organized by Policy Analysis and Evaluation Unit for Government Action (CAPEG), the Minister explicitly reiterated his desire to “clean up” the CSO sector.

We are unaware of any other pending legislative/regulatory initiatives affecting the civil society sector. Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

Title 2 of the Regulation 84-06 allows for the formation of the following types of CSOs:

  • Youth groups (Art. 12)
  • Sports and cultural associations (Art. 16)
  • Foreign associations (Art. 17)
  • Religious associations (Art. 19)
  • Charity organizations (Art. 20)
  • Non-governmental organizations (Art. 20-1, Law N°91-006)
  • Human rights defense organizations (Art. 20-2, Law N°91-006)
  • School associations not falling under the present regulation.

Art. 20-1 and 20-2, governing non-governmental organizations and human rights defense organizations, respectively, were enacted in 1992 and were intended to further support the development of the CSO environment. They are read alongside the provisions of the 1984 law.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are defined as being apolitiques, or “apolitical,” which CSOs interpret to mean “non-partisan,” as opposed to not being allowed to influence politics. They can, for example, engage in advocacy that is in the public interest. (Law 91-006, Art. 18(7)) NGOs are “animated by a spirit of volunteerism that they put at the service of others and whose vocation is development and support, through social or economic activities.” (Regulation 84-06, Art. 20(1))

Article 21 allows CSOs to come together as groups or federations. They can adopt whichever term they believe better suits their organization.

According to Regulation 84-06, the Ministry of Interior registers all types of CSOs.

As of 2018, a total of 2,895 CSOs existed in Niger, according to the Ministry of Community Development and Land Management, which is responsible for supervising CSOs in Niger.

Public Benefit Status

Decree 92-292/PM/MF/P of September 25, 1992 recognizes and guarantees privileges for all CSOs. According to Article 14, benefits include:

  • An exemption from customs duties and all direct and indirect taxes, including VAT on furniture, equipment, material, and in-kind donations imported into Niger;
  • Implementation of a temporary regime to import vehicles without customs duties;
  • Exemption from customs duties on all material acquired by the CSO for its activities; and
  • Exemption from stamp registration duties, revenue taxes, and value-added tax (VAT).

Barriers to Entry

A CSO/association may be created by at least two natural or legal persons (Regulation 84-06, Art. 1). There is no minimum resource requirement. CSOs are established in the municipalities where they are headquartered through a declaration stating the association’s name and intent, its headquarters and annexes, and the persons in charge of administration and management.

Before undertaking any activities, a CSO must be “declared and authorized” through a registration process (Regulation 84-06, Art. 2). After a CSO has applied for registration and received approval, the CSO attains legal entity status and can commence its activities.

Registration of foreign associations is governed by the same laws as those of Nigerien associations. However, a foreign association can only receive authorization to operate for a limited amount of time and to conduct specific activities. In addition to limiting a foreign association’s activities, the government can limit its right to own personal and real property. (Art. 18)

The registration procedure is governed by Decree 84-049/PCMS/MI of March 1, 1984, which implements Regulation 84-06. Article 4 of the Decree states that the Ministry of Interior will authorize by decree or deny registration by simple notice. In theory, the denial of registration can be appealed to the Council of State, which is the highest administrative court. In practice, however, the Ministry of Interior acts as the sole authority.

Barriers to Operational Activity

According to Article 2 of Law 91-006 and Decree 92-292/PM/MF/P of September 25, 1992, only CSOs of regional or ethnic character (caractère régional ou ethnique) are prohibited. This means that no association can be constituted on the basis of representing a regional or an ethnic group.

CSOs are required to submit an annual “activity report,” including an “action plan” and financial report, to the Ministry of Community Development.

CSOs have been dissolved arbitrarily, as occurred with Association de Défense des Droits des Consommateurs des Technologies et de l’Information, de la Communication et de l’Energie (ACTICE) in 2018. Many organizations, such as Alternative Espace Citoyen (AEC), Réseau des Organisations pour la Transparence et l’Analyse Budgétaire (ROTAB) and Mouvement Pour une Citoyenneté Responsable (MPCR) also face government harassment because of their work. AEC was, for example, deprived of funding from OXFAM because the government put pressure on OXFAM to stop financing it.

Some CSOs have close links to the government, but such CSOs tend to exert less influence in Niger and abroad than more independent CSOs in Niger. The government uses government-linked CSOs to make general political statements.

Government rhetoric may seek to divide the civic sector. For example, in June 2016, during an interview on France24, the President of Niger distinguished between “pro-democracy NGOs” and “putschist NGOs”, with the latter term referring to CSOs that merely oppose the government’s authoritarian tendencies.

Barriers to Speech and Advocacy

Article 30 of the Constitution recognizes the freedom of expression: “Any person has the right to freedom of thought, of opinion, of expression, of conscience, of religion and of worship.”

According to Article 2 of Regulation 84-06, CSOs cannot openly engage in political or legislative activities. Nevertheless, when solicited, they may be asked to contribute to the development of legislation, and at times they influence public policy.

Three recent laws have narrowed civic space and chilled criticism of government: the Law on Wiretapping, the Law on Cybercrime, and the Law on Interception of Certain Communications by Electronic Means.

The 2020 Law on Wiretapping gives the government authority to monitor telephonic communication to address threats to the security of the state, terrorism, and transnational crime. The decision on whether to conduct wiretapping is granted to the government, rather than to courts.

Article 31 of the 2019 Law on Cybercrime makes it illegal to “produce, make available to others or disseminate data likely to disturb public order or undermine human dignity through an information system.” The government used this article to surveille the Facebook and WhatsApp conversations of individuals critical of the government, leading to the arrest of a dozen activists in early 2020.

The Law on Interception of Certain Communications by Electronic Means, adopted in 2020, provides broad discretion to the President, Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Interior Minister, Justice Minister, or Customs Minister to authorize interception of communications sent electronically to address “attacks on state security and national unity, attacks on national defense and territorial integrity, prevention and combating of terrorism and transnational organized crime, and prevention of all forms of foreign interference and collusion with the enemy”. (Art. 2) These terms are not defined in the law, increasing the risk of abuse. The law also requires government officials, network operators, and service providers to cooperate in wiretapping operations. Article 3 allows the government to seize a network operator in order to undertake interceptions.

At the height of demonstrations from 2013 to 2017 against versions of the Finance Law, which was finally passed in 2018, the government shut off internet access.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no legal barriers to the receipt of international support.

Barriers to Resources

There are questions about the ability of CSOs to engage in economic activity. Regulation 84-06 contains neither explicit affirmation of or prohibition against engaging in economic activities.

Article 18 of Regulation 84-06 states that “foreign associations are subject to the same rules of constitution and declaration as Nigerien associations,” including regarding funding

Barriers to Assembly

Article 32 of the Constitution recognizes the freedom of assembly: “The State recognizes and guarantees the freedoms of movement, association, gathering, procession and demonstration in conditions defined by the law.”

Advance Notification

Law 2004-45 governing public demonstrations states the procedures and conditions for an assembly. The organizers of all demonstrations are required to provide prior notification to the municipality where the demonstration is to take place from five to 15 days before the date set for the demonstration. (Art. 3) At least three of the organizers must provide their first and last names and addresses. (Art. 4) The declaration must also indicate the demonstration’s purpose, location, date, and itinerary.

Authorities receiving the declaration must immediately provide a receipt and are required to respond 72 hours before the demonstration. In case of refusal, an appeal is possible.

No laws formally recognize spontaneous demonstrations.

Organizers are responsible for any violence, assaults, kidnappings, or destruction of public or private property occurring during the demonstration. (Art. 10) Participants are “jointly responsible for damages to persons and property resulting from the demonstration.” (Art. 14)

Municipal authorities often ban demonstrations on vague grounds of “security reasons”, “public disorder”, or “inability to control”. In violation of Articles 5 and 6 of Law 2004-45, these authorities often wait until the night before the demonstration to notify CSOs of the ban.

Moreover, on June 5, 2018, through Decree No°00000057/PDS/VN/SG of June 4, 2018, the president of the special delegation to the City of Niamey illegally invoked Article 5 of Law 2004-45 and Decree No°0010/MP/CVN/SG of January 12, 2017 to ban marches and meetings on workdays and evenings. This decree also banned a peaceful demonstration against the 2018 Finance Law, poor governance, and threats to public freedoms. Since then, the ban on all public demonstrations in Niamey has remained in place.

Municipal leaders have, in recent years, acted beyond their term limits. As the state has not organized municipal elections since 2014, all such officials have continued to serve beyond the end of their terms since then. Their continued service beyond their mandates means that they have come under the orders of the executive, which has instructed them to refuse to authorize public demonstrations. While the electoral commission did not immediately release results of elections for local officials in the nationwide December 13, 2020 elections, the PNDS, which has held power since 2011, won a plurality of seats in the national legislature, and the PNDS candidate won a presidential runoff.

Excessive Force

In practice, the state uses excessive force, including tear gas, beatings, detainment, and arrest when demonstrations are not organized by the state or its supporters.

Penalties

Organizers may face sanctions, fines, and prison terms. Sanctions vary from two months imprisonment and fines of 20,000 FCFA (approximately $30) to six months and fines of 1,000,000 CFA (approximately $1,500). In addition, government seizures of personal property are authorized by the penal code. For example, the government seized the property of the Coordinator of ACTICE under Article 5 of Law 2004-45.

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Events

The third African Girls’ Summit was held in Niamey, Niger, from November 16-18, 2021. Governments attending the summit committed to stronger human rights protections for girls’ education.

General News

African Leaders Meet in Niger to Support Girls’ Rights (November 2021)
It was declared that African leaders should prioritize education for pregnant girls and married adolescents at the third African Girls’ Summit in Niamey, Niger, from November 16-18, 2021. Governments attending the summit committed to stronger human rights protections for girls’ education.

The foregoing information was collected by ICNL’s CFM partner in Niger.