Despite increasing breaches of social distancing/mask wearing anti coronavirus protocols, the government has maintained certain restrictions, relying on the exception in the 1999 Constitution which provides, “Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.”
In June, restrictions on public worship were eased on the national level, but several stategovernments maintained such restrictions until August. In Lagos State, premises were required to register and be subject to inspection before reopening.
The media, affected by COVID-19, has appealed to the Federal Government for assistance, with a fund likely to be supervised by the Minister of Information. The Central Bank of Nigeria has pledged to assist the media.
For additional details, see ICNL’s COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker entry for Nigeria.
- In October, the government engaged in a brutal crackdown of mass protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit, opening fire on protesters and killing ten people. The government subsequently suspended the bank accounts of prominent protest supporters and fined media agencies for showing the police response. The #endSARS protests continued intermittently through December, with protesters aims expanding to include broader corruption and calling for the resignation of President Buhari.
- There are several bill pending before the National Assembly: a Bill for An Act to Provide for The Prohibition of Hate Speeches and For Other Related Matters (the Hate Speech Bill); a Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill (the Social Media Bill) and a Bill to establish a Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech. All propose sweeping powers and draconian punishments, and are strongly opposed by Nigerian civil society groups. Even if enacted, such legislation would have to survive any challenge based on the constitutional right to freedom of speech, as well as provisions in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but none of them has received a second reading.
Nigeria is a federal republic of thirty-six states and a Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, whose basic law is the 1999 Constitution (as amended). As a former British colony, the legal system of Nigeria follows the common law tradition, but there is also a provision for the application of traditional or indigenous customary laws and Shari’a (i.e. Islamic-based) law. Customary and Shari’a law were previously limited to civil matters where all the parties consented, but after 1999 some states in the northern part of Nigeria extended Shari’a law to criminal matters and social interaction.
Nigeria is home to a wide variety of civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Some of them came into existence even before the country was formed in 1914 and others in the period before independence in October 1960. Many others have formed since then.
The main laws that relate to CSOs are found in federal legislation. Because the Constitution guarantees freedom of association, there is no restriction on those who wish to join together for any kind of purpose, provided that the purposes for which the group is formed, or the methods that it uses, are not themselves illegal. The range of CSOs is as wide and diverse as the country itself, including local ‘elites’ clubs, traditional age class associations, unions in villages and small towns, and national organizations with thousands of members. While not every group or association must register, those that wish to enjoy the benefits of legal personality or the limited tax advantages that may be available must be registered or incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), Cap. C20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
One issue of pressing concern to civil society, and especially humanitarian groups in the northeast, is terrorism. Although the government has declared Boko Haram defeated, both Boko Haram and Islamic State-affiliate ISWAP (Islamic State in West Africa Province) have continued to make attacks in Nigeria, including targeting the convoy of the Borno State Governor in March 2019 and Nigerian army commanders in January 2020. However, the Nigerian Army has taken the fight to the terrorists, and they appear to have been unable to re-establish themselves as a ‘caliphate’ as they had done in 2014.
But life is insecure for inhabitants of states in the North-Eastern zone of the country, as they are subject to attacks or outright robbery or extortion whereby farmers are forced to deliver part of their yield to the insurgents or risk losing the entire crop. The tactics of Nigerian security agencies in the war against Boko Haram have also led to accusations of human rights abuses, to which their standard reaction has mostly been to attack the integrity, patriotism, or motives of those making the accusations (while agreeing to investigate some egregious or well-attested incidents). This has implications for the relationship between freedom of speech and the secrecy and/or propaganda associated with wars and the morale of those fighting them.
While the war in northeast is being waged, there has also been an increase in violence from ‘bandits’ in several northern states, such as Zamfara State, where the Governor complained that the security agencies were worse equipped than the criminals. Although there was a decrease in herder-farmer violence in the Middle Belt, perceptions of bias on the part of law enforcement agencies exists against the background of the crackdown on the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), an Igbo organization that seeks independence for the southeast and other adjacent non-Igbo areas. IPOB was declared a terrorist organization in 2017 and its leader was arrested, but after being released on bail, he disappeared. Rumours that then spread through social media that the Federal Government had killed him were proven false when he appeared at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. By contrast, none of the leaders of any of the sections of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, which speaks for nomadic herders who are mostly Fulanis (as is the President), appear to have even been invited for questioning or been cautioned by the security agencies, despite combative and threatening statements made in reaction to grazing bans in some states, or the establishment of a regional security outfit in the southwestern states, Àmọtẹkùn. However, individual perpetrators of attacks by herders have been arrested and charged in several Middle Belt and Southern States.
Another group which complains of being treated differently in Nigeria is the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, which was banned in July 2019 for “engaging in acts which were both terrorist and illegal” following a protest in Abuja over the continued detention of its leader, Sheik al-Zakzaky, in which eleven protesters, one journalist and one police officer were killed. The group is Shi’ite, while most of Nigeria’s Muslims are Sunni: however, other Shi’ite sects operate in Nigeria.
The herder-settler conflict and, more recently, the #EndSARS protests illustrate that Nigeria faces the same problems of deeply divisive and often false information spread through both social media and mainstream media that other countries have faced in their own democratic processes. The role of social media in spreading disinformation using false pictures (e.g., to portray armed herders and scenes of massacres which may be sourced from entirely different countries, or to portray images of persons killed in road accidents or sourced from drama sketches) presents a problem to which the government continues to respond with generalized stigmatization of all negative reports as ‘hate speech’.
The President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors elected in the February and March 2019 elections were sworn in on May 29, 2019 with fresh national elections scheduled for February 2023.
|Organizational Forms||Civil society organizations (CSOs)|
|Registration Body||Corporate Affairs Commission|
|Approximate Number||Digitization has improved record-keeping, while decentralization has improved access for those searching for information on individual companies.|
|Barriers to Entry||1 – Minors, persons of unsound mind, undischarged bankrupts, and those convicted within the previous 5 years of an offence involving dishonesty cannot be registered as trustees or directors.|
2 – The President may issue an order to prohibit a CSO that is “dangerous to the good government of Nigeria or of any part thereof.” The Corporate Affairs Commission has stated that henceforth, registration by socio-cultural groups and organisations would not be granted without a certificate of security screening and clearance of their Board of Trustees members.
3 – Both Nigerian and foreign CSOs seeking incorporation may face hurdles in the form of various requirements.
4- Ban on the registration of gay clubs, societies or organizations.
|Barriers to Activities||1 – If a CSO wishes to engage in activity that involves a government Ministry, Department, or Agency (MDA), it may need to satisfy the criteria of that MDA.|
2 – Some GONGOs are perceived as undermining independent CSOs.
3 – Certain state governments have been sought to pressure and even subvert CSOs.
4- Ban on the registration of gay clubs, societies or organizations.
5- President has the power to prohibit groups even if they are unregistered.
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2014 not only makes same sex marriage illegal, but it also provides that: “Any person or group of persons that … supports the registration, operation, and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence …”|
Bloggers and journalists who are critical of the country’s leaders, particularly at the State level, face increasing pressure, arrest, beatings, and threats to stop reporting, while the government has also resorted to treason-related charges where demonstrators call for the removal or resignation of elected leaders.
|Barriers to International Contact||None|
|Barriers to Resources||None|
|Barriers to Assembly||Failure to provide protection for and excessive use of force on protests that oppose government policies and excessive government control over the route and time of protests.|
|Population||219,463,862 (July 2021 est.)|
|Type of Government||Federal Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Total population: 60.4 years (2020 est.)|
Male: 58.6 years (2020 est.)
Female: 62.3 years (2020 est.)
|Literacy Rate||Male: 72.1%|
Female: 52.7% (2018 est.)
|Religious Groups||Muslim, Christian, indigenous|
|Ethnic Groups||250 or more, including Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, Tiv, Idoma, Nupe|
|GDP Per Capita||$5,136 (2019 est.)|
Source: Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, (Washington, DC), 2021.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale|
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||161(2020)||1 – 188|
|World Justice Project Rule of Law Index||108(2020)||1 – 128|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||35(2018)||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||146(2019)||1 – 180|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Partly Free|
Political Rights: 22
Civil Liberties: 25 (2020)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free|
1 – 40
1 – 60
|Fund for Peace: Fragile States Index||Rank:14(2020)||178 – 1|
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||1993|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||No||—|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1993|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)||No||—|
|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||1984|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||Yes||2004|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1991|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||2010|
|Key Regional Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)||Yes||1975|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The current Constitution of Nigeria came into force on May 29, 1999 and has been amended (altered) four times as follows:
- May 2010: First Constitution Alteration Act (mostly election-related changes)
- May 2010: Second Constitution Alteration Act (further election-related changes)
- February 2011 (National Industrial Court of Nigeria)
- May 2018: Fourth Constitution Alteration Act (several changes, including reduction in age limits for standing for election, time limits for election petitions, term limits for Vice President/Deputy Governor who completes a principal’s term, and financial autonomy for state legislatures and state judiciary)
Chapter IV of the Constitution enshrines fundamental rights, including the freedoms of association and assembly. Section 39 guarantees the right to receive and impart information. Section 40 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and association. Section 45 permits these rights to be restricted in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health, or to protect the rights or freedoms of others.
Sections 39 and 40 provide as follows:
- Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
- Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions;
Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorised by the President on the fulfilment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for, any purpose whatsoever.
- Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society:
(a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or
(b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law.
Section 40: Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests:
Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Nigeria is a federal republic and the main laws that govern civil society are derived from federal legislation, including the following:
- Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020;
- Companies Income Tax Act (CITA) 2006;
- Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act 1998;
- Value Added Tax Act 1993;
- VAT Amendment Act 2007;
- Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act 2007;
- National Planning Commission Act 2013;
- The Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended):
- Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011.
While criminal offences may be created by federal legislation, most criminal laws are state laws which derive from the Penal Code (originally applicable in 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory) and the Criminal Code (originally applicable in 17 southern states).
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
In the wake of the #EndSARS protests and the perceived role of social media in sustaining the protests, and in fueling the violence that followed, there was much talk of regulating social media and banning hate speech. However, as the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre Nigeria (PLAC) noted “it is not unusual for bills to ‘die’ in Committee and never be heard of again.” As at November 2020, three pending bills on social media and hate speech appear to have been abandoned:
- Protection from Internet Falsehood Bill introduced in November 2019 by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa. Momentum on the Bill died after it met with strong opposition at its March 2020 Public Hearing, and there has been no committee report on it.
- The Bill to establish a Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech was introduced at the Senate in November 2019 by Sen. Aliyu Sabi. It was strongly criticized for its Death Penalty clause and has not come up for a second reading.
- The Hate Speech (Prohibition) Bill, 2019, introduced in the House of Representatives by Hon. Mohammed Monguno in July 2019, has not come up for a second reading.
A wide range of CSOs may be formed in Nigeria simply by individuals coming together for whatever collective purposes upon which they have agreed, provided those purposes are lawful. They include companies limited by guarantee, associations with incorporated trustees, unincorporated associations, co-operatives, and traditional organizations akin to friendship societies, such as town unions and other mutual benefit organizations.
For CSOs seeking legal entity status, the two most frequent options are associations with incorporated trustees and incorporation as a company limited by guarantee. Both of these forms of registration are governed by the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and are handled by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
A company limited by guarantee is formed for the promotion of commerce, art, science, religion, sports, culture, education, research, charity, or other similar purposes. The income and property of the company are applied solely towards the promotion of its purposes.
An association with incorporated trustees is an association of persons that appoints one or more trustees and pursues registration under Part C of the CAMA. There are two types of associations with incorporated trustees. The first type occurs where trustees are appointed by a community of persons bound together by customs, religion, kinship or nationality; the second type arises where trustees are appointed by a body or association of persons established for any religious, educational, literary, scientific, social, development, cultural, sporting, or charitable purpose.
Public Benefit Status
Under the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA), the profits of a company engaged in ecclesiastical, charitable, or educational activities of a public character, or promoting sporting activities are exempt from income tax. Not-for-profit companies engaged in other activities may apply to the President of Nigeria for an order to exempt them from taxation on their income or profits, no matter what the source.
In addition, incorporated Nigerian companies donating to Nigerian CSOs engaged in ecclesiastical, charitable, or educational activities of a public character, or to any of the bodies listed in the Fifth Schedule to the CITA, may claim tax relief for donations of up to 10 percent of their profits. Individuals, however, do not receive any tax relief for donations to Nigerian CSOs.
Barriers to Entry
There are several potential barriers to the formation of CSOs in Nigeria:
Potential Founders, Trustees, Directors. At least two persons over 18 are required to form a company, although minors may join in formation. Minors, persons of unsound mind, undischarged bankrupts, and those convicted within the previous five years of an offence involving dishonesty cannot be registered as trustees or directors.
Presidential power to prohibit organizations. While Nigerian law does not prohibit the formation or operation of unregistered groups, the President may issue an order to make unlawful a CSO that is “dangerous to the good government of Nigeria or of any part thereof.” Although there are few examples of organizations that have been refused registration because of such an order, this power has been used against unregistered organizations. For example, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was proscribed by the Obasanjo administration; the group is non-violent but seeks secession or the break-up of Nigeria. The radical Islamic sect Boko Haram has also been proscribed: while this was clearly a reaction to the violent methods of the Boko Haram group itself, other peaceful Islamist groups have found themselves the target of police raids and arrests after being wrongly tagged “Boko Haram” members.
Registration Procedures. Both Nigerian and foreign CSOs seeking incorporation under the CAMA may face hurdles in the form of various requirements. For example:
- A CSO that wishes to incorporate as a company limited by guarantee needs to have its structure approved by the Federal Government. There is no specific procedure for securing such approval, but applications are handled by the Attorney-General of the Federation. CSOs adopting this procedure may be required to make adjustments; for example, a CSO with educational objects may be required to have a director with a background in education on its board. Generally, however, difficulties that CSOs experience are more likely to be due to administrative bottlenecks or inefficiency than to attempts at political control.
- A CSO can challenge any refusal to make a decision on its application for registration by applying for an order of mandamus to compel the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to take a decision. However, there is no fixed time for deciding on an application.
- For associations with incorporated trustees, each change to its trustees or its registered constitution must be published in newspapers with an unspecified waiting period before any changes can take effect. Any member of the public can object to the proposed change or to the CSO’s original incorporation. While the affected CSO may challenge any objection, the process causes delays.
- The proposed trustees of CSOs may be required by CAMA to undergo a police background check, although these powers are rarely exercised in the case of incorporated trustees.
- Registration fees must be paid as stipulated in subsidiary regulations under the CAMA. The fees range from N21,000 (US$150) for the registration of Incorporated Trustees to N10,000 (US$75) for a company whose nominal share capital does not exceed one million naira (US$7,500). While these fees are relatively modest, not-for-profit organisations do not enjoy any waivers or reduced fees. They must also pay stamp duty on their registration or incorporation documents.
Foreign Organizations. Foreign CSOs may be incorporated just as local CSOs under CAMA. However, they must comply with the same rules as local organizations. This means they are prohibited from having a name that may be acceptable in their home countries but which could be interpreted in Nigeria to be the name of a government body (thus “National” in the name of a foreign CSO could be considered problematic).
A foreign CSO that is not able to incorporate under CAMA may still operate in Nigeria if it is registered with the National Planning Commission. This status is achieved when the Ministry grants the foreign CSO’s request for a bilateral agreement. Once the agreement is completed, the foreign CSO has a legal personality in Nigeria. However, that status comes at the price of fairly extensive control by the Ministry, which acquires powers over the operation of the foreign CSO. The Ministry may appoint members to its Board, approve the hiring of its key personnel, and approve its budget because the essence of the bilateral agreement is that the foreign CSO becomes a quasi-consultant to the Ministry.
LGBTQ Organizations. The registration of LGBTQ clubs, societies and organizations are prohibited under Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, which President Jonathan signed into law in January 2014. It should be noted, however, that no society or organization that is formed for unlawful purposes can be registered in any event, but the Act specifically bars the registration of LGBTQ organizations.
Barriers to Operational Activity
Additional registration or certification requirements. If a CSO wishes to engage in some activity that involves a government Ministry, Department, or Agency (MDA), it may need to satisfy the criteria of that MDA. For example, a CSO that wishes to engage in election observation may need to seek registration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Refusal by the INEC to register the CSO would not mean that the CSO would cease to exist or prevent the members of that CSO from engaging in election observation (provided that its members could do so within the rules generally applicable to election observation). However, members of a CSO that is registered with INEC would probably be issued some kind of identification that would enable its members to move freely and enter certain locations, such as collation centres, that otherwise would be closed off to the general public.
A CSO that is providing developmental support – e.g., digging boreholes for water or providing some educational support – might seek to be registered with the relevant state or federal MDA, at least for the purpose of facilitating communication. Many CSOs, however, carry out such activities without seeking to be placed on any such “approved list.” Registration with an MDA is not to be confused with incorporation by the CAC, as it is the latter that confers legal personality. In some cases, depending on the objects for which an organization is formed, the CAC requires a prospective association to secure prior certification by a particular ministry or department.
GONGOs. The government has established government NGOs or “GONGOs.” For example, during the 2007 elections, election-observation organizations sprang up and were recognized and accredited by the INEC. This was perceived as an attempt to undermine and overshadow the statements that were issued by independent CSOs that were critical of the conduct of the elections.
Harassment. While CSOs have not been subject to harassment by the Federal Government, certain state governments have been known to attempt to pressure and even subvert CSOs and to single out certain CSOs for special adverse treatment. In such cases, however, CSOs have the right to challenge the government in court.
From time to time, the police attempt to claim that they have the power to restrict the rights of Nigerians to hold public meetings based on colonial-era legislation, but in view of the constitutional guarantees on freedom of association and assembly, such powers are often successfully challenged in the courts.
Prohibition on LGBTQ clubs, societies, and meetings. In January 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which bans same-sex marriages and civil unions and prohibits the registration of LGBTQ clubs, societies or meetings in Nigeria. It also prohibits their “sustenance, processions and meetings.” It is not required that any group of people register, but the President has the power to prohibit groups or organisations even if they are unregistered. The Act appears to prohibit LGBTQ clubs and organisations even without the need for presidential intervention; however, the constitutionality of this provision against freedom of assembly and association guarantees has not yet been tested.
Foreign Organizations. Foreign CSOs may be incorporated just as local CSOs under CAMA, but must comply with the same rules as local organizations with regard to names which are acceptable in their home countries, but which are deemed to be capable of being interpreted as the names of government bodies.“
Case of Borno State and Boko Haram. This military effort has put Boko Haram on the back foot since 2015, with reports that some of its members are attempting to blend into the local population in Borno State, which is the locus of the insurgency. There are concerns about Boko Haram retreating to local villages or even IDP camps and the government has been embarrassed over reports of starvation in northeastern Nigeria. There have also been reports of the government appropriation of aid intended for IDPs and other abuses of IDPs. Governor Shettima of Borno State also condemned the UN and other international CSOs for profiting from the crisis and spending more on themselves and armored vehicles than on IDPs or the population. When this attracted blowback from the UN and the international community, the Governor said that he had been referring to local NGOs. Although no local CSOs working in Borno State have funds for armored vehicles, the Borno State Government now requires all local CSOs to register and gain accreditation. The process does not appear to be settled and is thus considered to be haphazard, but all CSOs are affected and not only CSOs working with IDPs.
In terms of operations in Borno State, NGOs have been required to go to the Borno State Government House to collect a 15-page registration form, which required nearly 70 supporting documents. These requirements have been modified but the process is still unsettled. At first the Borno State Government said that NGOs that had not been registered or accredited would not be permitted to enter IDP camps or to hold workshops. This has also been modified, but the Department of State Security (DSS) has attended a number of CSO workshops and attempted to stop them on the grounds that they have not been authorized. There are also increasingly frequent checks by the Nigerian Immigration Service on the immigration status of CSO members.
Barriers to Speech/Advocacy
Companies registered under CAMA are prohibited from making any donation or gift to a political party, or from making any gift or donation “for any political purpose” (Section 43(2) of CAMA). Any breach of this prohibition could result in the officers and any member of the company that voted for such a donation being liable to refund the amount or value of the gift to the company and could also result in conviction and fines in an amount equal to the value of the gift. Human rights and pro-democracy CSOs have not been affected by these provisions, which have been interpreted as applying to partisan politics, registered political parties, and candidates for elective offices.
The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014 does not prohibit any advocacy for a change in the law on homosexuality, but makes it an offence to “support the registration, operation, and sustenance of LGBTQ clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria …” After an initial wave of activity, there appears to be little effort on behalf of the government to enforce the provisions of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. However, a challenge to the Act failed when the Federal High Court in Abuja struck the case for lack of standing.
Bloggers have come under increasing pressure in Nigeria since 2016, especially when they have challenged the ruling party. For example, Abubakar Usman, who is known for his strong pro-APC views (APC is the ruling party), was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged cyberstalking in August 2016. The EFCC said Mr. Usman’s activities contradicted sections of the Cybercrime Act. Usman was released after spending more than 36 hours in custody but was placed on administrative bail with conditions that he must make himself available to the EFCC whenever he receives an “invitation” from the EFCC.
The trends did not improve in 2017, with reports of the Kaduna State Government arresting those whom it accused of making false reports on the Internet. In addition, the Nasarawa State Urban Development Board demolished Breeze FM, a privately owned station that was licensed by the National Broadcasting Commission. Furthermore, two journalists were beaten and later told to never write anything against the Ebonyi State government (see the News Items section below in this report for more details).
Similar trends continued in 2019. For example, a journalist, Agba Jalingo, was kept in police detention for over a week over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River governor. Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, a Cross River State-based newspaper, was charged with treason. The SSS also took Omoyele Sowore into custody because Sowore, a social critic and publisher of Sahara Reporters, called for a revolution in Nigeria. The SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, told reporters, however, he was unable to say whether or not the SSS had any credible intelligence that confirmed Sowore had the capacity to execute a takeover of government in Nigeria.
Barriers to International Contact
There are no restrictions preventing Nigerian CSOs from contacting and cooperating with colleagues in civil society, whether inside or outside the country. CSOs are also free to cooperate with and contact businesses or government bodies, subject to the desire or requirements of any such body. The National Planning Commission has overall responsibility for managing multilateral and bilateral economic co-operation, development aid and technical assistance, and to this end, has embarked on the registration of international and local CSOs, with a view to ensuring that they operate in line with Nigeria’s direction and vision.
Barriers to Resources
There are no major legal barriers to resources under Nigerian law. A CSO may conduct business activities directly, but where incorporated with trustees or limited by guarantee they must apply the proceeds of such economic activity to the purposes of such organization. Registered CSOs are free to compete for government funds if this accords with the purposes for which they were established.
While there is no restriction barring CSOs from receiving foreign funding, it would strengthen civil society if there were some incentive for Nigerian citizens to contribute to or fund CSOs and obtain tax relief for doing so. However, there is some indication that even though the Nigerian government itself receives foreign funding support, it finds it convenient to berate or criticize civil society as being “sponsored” by foreign interests, with the underlying suggestion that such organizations are unpatriotic and – by criticizing government – are being paid to act contrary to Nigeria’s interests.
In October 2011, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Civil Society and Donor Agencies, stated that its duties included the formulation of policies and guidelines for the coordination and regulation of the activities of external donor agencies in Nigeria and expressed concern at the lack of coordination of foreign development assistance and the possibility of duplication. It also stated its intention to track and monitor foreign assistance.
Barriers to Assembly
The Nigerian Constitution, in Section 40, protects the freedom of assembly: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely …” The Public Order Act regulates assemblies. Since coming into force in 1990, the Public Order Act has been the subject of litigation. In 2007, the Court of Appeal quashed several sections of the Public Order Act; the Court’s decision, however, has not yet been reflected in legislative changes.
Previously notification was required, but this is no longer the case. Now if event organizers notify the police, it is for the purpose of arranging police protection. In 2007 the Court of Appeal quashed several sections of the Public Order Act, including one section relating to advance notification in All Nigeria Peoples Party v. Inspector-General of Police. In the lead judgment, Adekeye JCA held:
“The Public Order Act should be promulgated to compliment sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution in context and not to stifle or cripple it. A rally or placard carrying demonstration has become a form of expression of views on current issues affecting government and the governed in a sovereign state. It is a trend recognized and deeply entrenched in the system of governance in civilized countries – it will not only be primitive but also retrogressive if Nigeria continues to require a pass to hold a rally. We must borrow a leaf from those who have trekked the rugged path of democracy and are now reaping the dividend of their experience (italics added for emphasis).”
In his contribution Mohammed JCA said:
“In present day Nigeria, clearly a Police Permit has outlived its usefulness. Certainly in a democracy, it is the right of citizens to conduct peaceful processions, rallies or demonstrations without seeking and obtaining permission from anybody. It is a right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and any law that attempts to curtail such right is null and void and of no consequence (italics added for emphasis).”
Time, Place and Manner Restrictions
The surviving portion of Section 1 of the Public Order Act empowers a State Governor to prescribe the route by which and the times at which any procession may pass. In addition, while the use of uniforms in general is not prohibited, and indeed, is specifically permitted by section 7 of the Public Order Act, section 7 does prohibit the wearing of any uniform if the Commissioner of Police in the state is of the opinion that wearing it is offensive or is likely to provoke a breach of the peace.
In practice the State sometimes uses force to break up assemblies even where these are peaceful. The basis for allowing some assemblies to go ahead while preventing others appears arbitrary, but can usually be traced to the political interests of the government in power, since the Nigeria Police Force – although ostensibly a service for the entire Federation – is answerable to the President, and thus more likely to do his bidding, either express or anticipated.
Where political issues are at stake, the police response may be dictated by the political interests of those in power. In January 2010, when then-President Umaru Yar’Adua was absent without explanation, demonstrations calling for a proper resolution of the crisis and formal handover of power to then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan were well policed in major cities. But in January 2012, when Nigerians demonstrated against a fuel price increase under the rubric #OccupyNigeria, the police initially provided protection but then changed strategy toward the continuing demonstrations, which were broken up or prevented by a show of force from the police and the armed forces. The reason given for the volte face was said to be intelligence reports that Boko Haram was planning to take advantage of the demonstrations and protests to foment trouble in Nigeria. The excuse about the fear that protests are going to be hijacked is frequently resorted to by Nigerian authorities.
Problems with enforcement and prohibitions on freedom of assembly resurfaced in 2015. In the northern part of the country, following clashes between the Nigerian Army and a Shiite group (Islamic Movement in Nigeria-IMN), which led to as many as 700 civilian deaths, several governors banned protests. In 2019, at least six IMN protesters were also killed in clashes with Nigerian police in Abuja.
In 2015, in Rivers State in the south of the country, pro-Biafra marches were banned by the state governor. In the run-up to gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa State, also in the south, protests were similarly banned by the Nigeria Police. In January 2017, the police also broke up a protest in favor of US President Donald Trump by the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), which led to the death of a protestor.
Two weeks after the abduction by Boko Haram of more than 250 schoolgirls from the Federal Government Girls College at Chibok in Borno State on the night of April 14, 2014, some concerned citizens began to gather daily at 3 pm at the Unity Fountain in Abuja to express their concern at the apparent indifference of the authorities to the fate of the girls and to demand action by the government.
Under the general appellation ‘Women for Peace and Justice’ and the twitter slogan/hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, the campaign spread across Nigeria with marches and demonstrations in several major Nigerian cities, but with a particular focus at the Unity Fountain. Despite complaints from the Presidency that the protests were sponsored by the opposition APC party in a plot to bring down the Jonathan administration, the National Police Force (NPF) generally facilitated the operations of the #BringBackOurGirls marchers. Organizers informed the authorities of their intentions to hold rallies, and the NPF provided logistical support, including diverting traffic where required.
Nonetheless, on May 28, 2014 “thugs” who were rumored to be sponsored by the then PDP-led government attacked protesters, smashing their chairs and snatching their bags and mobile phone handsets. There was not appropriate police intervention to restrain or arrest the attackers. The rumors were that the attackers received 3,000 naira (approximately $18.50) each and arrived in government buses, which, in addition to the lack of police response to their aggression and the wife of the President’s orders to arrest leading protesters, is why the attackers are seen as being government-sponsored. The attackers operated under a separate hashtag #ReleaseOurGirls, a name intended to be directed at Boko Haram, who kidnapped the schoolgirls, rather than the government for its perceived inaction. Some of the attackers later admitted to having been paid 3,000 naira after meeting a team of Ministers and Special Advisers to the President and said that they were transported to the Unity Foundation to replace the #BringBackOurGirls protesters.
Since the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory’s July 2014 ruling that the Nigeria Police Force had no power to ban rallies and protests, #BringBackOurGirls have continued to meet daily in Abuja, and weekly in Lagos. However, attempts by the group to stage marches and protests outside their daily meeting venue are often met with resistance by the police. For example, in November 2018 members of the group were stopped from a protest march to Aso Rock over the continued failure to rescue the Chibok Girls and other hostages of the insurgents. Nonetheless, in Lagos #BringBackOurGirls was able to stage marches and rallies, while in Abuja the group also held events to mark the fifth anniversary of the girls’ abduction in April 2019.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Universal Periodic Review: Nigeria (2009)|
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders (2006)|
Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (2007)
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||Nigeria|
|U.S. State Department||2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria|
|Fragile States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index|
|Human Rights Watch||2018 Report|
|IMF Country Reports||Nigeria and the IMF|
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Nigeria|
Social Media Bill: Senate Fixes Date for Public Hearing (February 2020)
The Senate has fixed March 9 for the public hearing of the Social Media bill. Having passed first and second reading, the public hearing is one of the final stages of the bill, after which the legislation will be considered and possibly passed into law – if the lawmakers vote unanimously for the bill.
Kano Govt Sets Up Committee to Check ‘Media Excesses’ (January 2020)
Kano State’s executive council has sanctioned the constitution of a technical committee to look into the issue of professional misconduct and abuse of privilege by media organisations in the state. The state’s commissioner for information, Muhammad Garba, said this while briefing journalists on the outcome of the state executive council meeting.
We Released Sowore, Dasuki On Compassionate Grounds (November 2019)
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has explained that the release of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, from detention was due to the Federal Government having compassion for the duo. Dasuki spent more than four years in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) while Sowore, the convener of #RevolutionNow protests, was held for almost five months.
Hate Speech Bill’s Sponsor Buckles, Proposes Removal of Death Penalty (November 2019)
The sponsor of the Hate Speech Bill at the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, has bowed to public criticism of the bill and expressed his readiness to expunge the clause that provided for death by hanging as the ultimate penalty for violators of the bill.
Detained Nigerian journalist charged with treason (September 2019)
A Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, who has been in police detention for over a week over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River governor, has been charged with treason. Mr Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, a Cross River State-based newspaper, was arrested and detained over a petition by the government’s owned microfinance bank following the report in his newspaper.
Why we shut down Bobrisky’s birthday party venue (August 2019)
The Lagos State Police Command have explained why they invaded and sealed off the venue of the birthday party of popular cross-dresser, Bobrisky. The spokesperson of the police in Lagos, Bala Elkana, said ”Yes we sealed off the venue of Bobrisky’s birthday party today based on some credible information.” About 50 policemen stormed the venue of Bobrisky’s birthday party which was said to have been attended by some celebrities as well as cross-dressers and homosexuals.
SSS confirms arresting Sowore, Gives Reasons (August 2019)
The State Security Service (SSS) confirmed that its operatives took Omoyele Sowore into custody. Mr Sowore, a social critic and publisher of Sahara Reporters, was violently arrested in Lagos at midnight on Saturday. He was taken into custody because he called for a revolution in Nigeria, SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, told reporters in Abuja Sunday afternoon. Mr Afunanya was unable to say whether or not the SSS has any credible intelligence that confirmed Mr Sowore has the capacity to execute a takeover of government in Nigeria.
Six Shiite protesters dead in clashes with Nigerian police (July 2019)
At least six Shiite protesters were killed in clashes with Nigerian police in the capital Abuja, witnesses told AFP. Hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) — a Shia sect — marched in the capital before being met with tear gas from police, the AFP journalist witnesses. Protesters then threw petrol bombs, setting a local fire station ablaze. “The police responded and started shooting live ammunitions,” the journalist said. ” I saw six people dead in different places, one of them was a teenager.”
Channels TV reporter dies from injuries (July 2019)
Nigerian authorities should immediately investigate the death of Precious Owolabi, a reporter for the privately owned Channels TV, who was shot during a protest in Abuja on July 22, and ensure those responsible are held to account.
NBC shuts AIT, Raypower indefinitely (June 2019)
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has suspended the licence of DAAR Communications Plc, owners of African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower “until further notice”. Modibbo Kawu, director-general of NBC, announced the shut down at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday evening. He said the action was taken for failure of the stations to abide by the broadcasting code.
Facebook bans Israeli-based fake accounts for interfering in Nigerian elections (May 2019)
Facebook has removed a total of 265 accounts, pages, groups and events involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior which aimed to influence elections in Nigeria and other countries. The social media giant disclosed that some of the suspected activity was linked to Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm.
National Assembly management issues new guidelines for journalists (May 2019)
On Monday, the management of Nigeria’s National Assembly issued a new guideline for accreditation of journalists covering the parliament. The new guideline allows television, independent producers and online media to present only one reporter for accreditation. Each of them could present another as cameraman or photographer.
Abuja residents, activists march, demand end to arrest of women (May 2019)
A group of human rights activists, women organisations and residents of the Federal Capital Territory has called for an end to the unlawful arrest of women in Abuja. The group made the call in Abuja on Friday during a protest to demand justice for women that were detained and allegedly sexually harassed by some police officers.
Attacks on media, observers, INEC mar polls (March 2019)
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) condemned attacks on ad hoc staff, media, observers and other electoral participants during the supplementary polls. In Kano State, violence and disruption of polling were widespread as an army of assailants reportedly took over polling activities in several local government areas, including Nasarawa, Dala, Karaye and Gaya.
Twitter tells us why it suspended influencers’ accounts ahead of elections (February 2019)
Ahead of Saturday’s general election in Nigeria, Twitter, a micro-blogging platform has suspended the accounts of some social media influencers, Business Insider SSA by Pulse can confirm. The platform says the effort is to help amplify election-related information from legitimate sources. Twitter says it is collaborating with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and domestic political party stakeholders to “ensure they have clear reporting channels to bring potentially problematic accounts or content to our attention.”
Military speaks on invasion of Daily Trust offices (January 2019)
John Agim, defence headquarters (DHQ) spokesman, says Daily Trust offices were shut down because of a story published by the newspaper which revealed “the military’s plan on the fight against insurgency”. Speaking on a Channels TV programme on Sunday, Agim said by publishing the report, the media house portrayed itself to be “sympathetic” to Boko Haram terrorists.
Army launches operation python dance nationwide (December 2018)
In order to ensure hitch free 2019 general elections, the Nigerian Army is set to conduct a military exercise code named Ekwu eke (Python Dance) III across the six geopolitical zones of the country. Briefing journalists in Maiduguri at the Headquarters of Theater Command Operation Lafiya Dole, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tulkur Buratai, said the exercise, which will commence from January 1 to February 19, 2019, is aimed at combating criminality and other security challenges as the elections draws closer.
Nigerian army lifts ban of UNICEF after spy accusations (December 2018)
The Nigerian military on Friday lifted a ban on UNICEF operations in the country’s northeast, after having initially accused the aid agency of training “spies” supporting Boko Haram jihadis. Earlier on Friday, the military said the United Nations children’s agency had this week held workshops in the northeast city of Maiduguri, in which it trained people for “clandestine” activities that were “sabotaging” counterterrorism efforts.
Get out of Nigeria, Army warns Amnesty International (December 2018)
The Nigerian Army has called for the closure of the Amnesty International offices in Nigeria, alleging there is credible evidence the organisation is working hard to destabilise the country.
Abuja Court Sets Deji Adeyanju Free (December 2018)
A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja has ordered the immediate release of Deji Adeyanju, Convener of Concerned Nigerians. Adeyanju was taken to Kano a few days ago to stand trial for an old case, for which he had been discharged and acquitted by a court in Kano years ago.
Activist Deji Adeyanju faces 10-year imprisonment (December 2018)
Detained activist Deji Adeyanju may be facing a ten- year jail term for his alleged rabid criticism of the Federal Government and top functionaries, it has been learnt. Top sources within the security and intelligence system confided Adeyanju is likely to be arrested and taken before a Federal High Court for allegedly contravening aspects of The Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015.
Group Protests Plateau Killings (June 2018)
Protesters from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) from the northern senatorial district of Plateau State destroyed property at the Government House in Little Rayfield on Wednesday. The demonstrators forced their way into the Government House in Jos, the state capital after they were denied access to the premises. They staged the protest in condemnation of the attack on some villages allegedly by herdsmen, which left at least 100 persons dead and many displaced. The protesters who were dressed in black attire had taken the protest to the Governor’s Lodge where they could not get the governor’s attention before proceeding to the Government House.
Mourning for Victims of Killings (May 2018)
Nigerians from all walks of life on Monday converged on the Unity Fountain, Abuja, to mourn victims of killings across the country. The mourners were clad in black shirts with the inscription #OneDeathTooMany. Civil society groups, human rights activists, and family members of some victims were in attendance.
Elombah Brothers Plead Not Guilty (April 2018)
Daniel and Timothy Elombah, the two journalist brothers sued by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, have pleaded not guilty to four counts of defamation charges against the police chief. The brothers, Publisher and Editor of Elombah.com, were arrested on January 1 on allegations that they published an article critical of the IGP who immediately deployed officers and public resources to track them down.
Police Lock Down Unity Fountain, Prevent Shiites, BBOG from Meeting (April 2018)
The police ocked down the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja and prevented members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the Bring Back Our Girls coalition from accessing it for their usual rally and sit-out. The policemen claimed that they were acting on the orders from their superiors and refused to allow the two groups to use the venue.
Why we Arrested 115 Shiite Protesters in Abuja (April 2018)
The Shiites took to the streets in Abuja to demand release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, whom the Nigerian government has kept in custody for over two years, without trial and despite court orders for his release. A social media footage showed protesters hurling stones at police water cannon vehicles near Unity Park and Transcorp Hilton Hotel. The police had on Friday banned any demonstration at the park, an order that has been condemned by rights activists as autocratic and illegal.
MRA calls for Speedy Presidential Assent to Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (March 2018)
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill into law as soon as he receives it from the National Assembly, saying it is the most practical way for his Administration to demonstrate its support for Internet freedom for Nigerians. The Bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives on December 19, 2017, was similarly passed by the Senate earlier this week on March 13, 2018. Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of MRA, described the proposed Bill as “a strong piece of legislation that seeks to effectively protect the rights of Nigerians on the Internet and in the digital environment in accordance with the global norms and standards that Nigeria has helped to establish.”
DSS Demands Source of Story to Free Detained Journalist (March 2018)
In an interview with Premium Times, Okere said Ezimakor was detained over a report detailing how the federal government allegedly paid Boko Haram millions of dollars to secure the release of 82 Chibok girls. The bureau chief was invited to the DSS headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday and since then he has not been released.
Oby Ezekwesili leads fresh BBOG protest to Aso Rock (January 2018)
Former minister of education and convener of the BringBackOurGirls group, Oby Ezekwesili, led members of the members of the BBOG on another a peaceful protest on Wednesday, January 24, but the protesters were restricted from gaining access to the presidential villa, where they had intended to meet President Muhammadu Buhari to present their letter of protest to him.
Court Adjourns Trial of Senator Accused of Injurious Falsehood (January 2018)
A Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Maitama has adjourned to January 29, 2018 commencement of the trial of Senator Isah Misau, who was charged with injurious falsehood contrary to the provisions of Section 393 (1) of the Penal Code. The senator at a press conference on August 25, 2017 in Abuja, among other things, accused the Inspector-General of Police, (IGP) Ibrahim Idris, of pocketing about N10 billion monthly.
Nigeria Police to hold journalist for days over publication on IG (January 2018)
The police have released Andrew Elombah, a London-based Nigerian journalist, who was arrested by their operatives. But Mr. Elombah’s brother, Timothy, who was also arrested, would be kept in custody for another seven days based on a warrant signed by a magistrate. Mr. Elombah said “an opinion piece that denigrated the Inspector-General of Police was published on opinionnigeria.com, which is not our own website.”
FG clamps down on online newspapers, others (November 2017)
The Federal Government has begun secret moves that will see a number of online newspapers, blogs and websites perceived to constitute a “threat to national security” permanently shut down. Social media and Internet users may also not be exempted from the clampdown which will begin any moment from now.
Media coalition condemns Saraki’s antics against Sahara Reporters (November 2017)
The Coalition for Press Freedom and Whistleblower Protection (CPFWP), a group of media and civil society organisations, has condemned the use of violence with impunity against the online media organisation, Sahara Reporters.
Freedom Of Information Act Applicable To Lagos, Court Rules (November 2017)
A statement issued by Mrs Mosunmola Olanrewaju said the court ruled that the FOI Act does not require “domestication” by the state to have an effect. Justice Beatrice Oke-Lawal held that the National Assembly had validly enacted the zAct, saying it was applicable to the Federal and state governments. She gave the ruling after dismissing a preliminary objection raised by the Lagos State Ministry of Health in a suit instituted against the ministry and the state government by MRA, over its failure to disclose records and information requested by the organisation under the act.
Human rights groups drag National Assembly to court over NGO regulation bill (November 2017)
Nigerian human rights non-governmental organizations under the umbrella of the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) dragged National Assembly to Federal High Court in Abuja over NGO regulation bill. According to Sahara Reporters, in a suit filed on Friday, November 3, at the court, the plaintiffs, comprising of 23 of them sought an order of court to declare unconstitutional and unlawful the NGO regulation bill which has currently passed second reading at the House of Representatives.
Why we attacked anti-Buhari protesters – Police (September 2017)
The police gave reasons why officers attacked participants at a rally protesting President Muhammadu Buhari’s indefinite medical vacation in London. An entertainer and rights activist, Charlie Boy, and Uyi Amadin, a security correspondent with Silverbird Television, as well as his cameraman, sustained injuries during the clampdown. Anjuguri Manzah, spokesperson for the FCT Command, said officers moved to disperse “some miscreants, hoodlums and other criminal elements that have infiltrated the protest.” Mr. Manzah accused the protesters of “blocking major roads” adjoining the area”, thereby preventing citizens from free passage. But those who witnessed the attack contradicted the police’s account.
Nigerian Court grants injunction proscribing IPOB (September 2017)
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday granted the Nigerian Government an interim injunction proscribing the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Governors of the Southeast states took the first step to ban the activities of the group after the military had declared it a militant terrorist group.
Nigerian army denies declaring IPOB terrorist organisation (September 2017)
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, Monday evening, stated that the Defence Headquarters did not declare the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a terrorist organization in the country. According to Buratai, the action of the Federal government concerning IPOB was right and that the military did not over-step its bound towards the protection of lives and properties in the country.
Drama in court as assistant police comissioner admits arresting peaceful protesters (September 2017)
There was a melodrama at the Chief Magistrate’s Court of Akwa Ibom State in the Uyo Magisterial District as the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Deina Abibo, contradicted himself on the arrest of next-of-kin to late primary school teacher. It was learnt that Abibo, who ordered the arrest of the protesters on January 23, 2017 for constituting themselves into nuisance and breach of public peace, contradicted himself in the court on the issue of whether the protest was peaceful and devoid of any public disturbance or not. Abibo, cross-examined by the defence counsel, Mr. Inibehe Effiong, added that the placards which the protesters bore did not contain any inciting statements that could provoke violence.
House Of Reps Clears the Air On NGO Regulation Bill (September 2017)
The House of Representatives has cleared the air on the controversy which has trailed the proposed bill for the establishment of the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Regulatory Commission. Former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu had in a video raised alarm that the NGO bill – if passed – would silence opposition and bestow more powers on the federal government civil servants. In a statement by the deputy majority, Umar Buba Jibril, the House noted that churches, mosques Churches, Mosques, Esusu, Market Women Associations are not NGOs and they would not be affected if the bill is passed.
House of Reps member insists on law to regulate NGOs (September 2017)
Deputy Majority Leader of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Umar Buba Jibril, insisted on the need to pass a controversial Bill for an Act to regulate Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), saying the fraudulent activities of some of the NGOs and their other excesses necessitated a law to put them in check. Former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, believed that there are existing laws that only need to be implemented and that the Act was designed to muscle NGOs and CSOs. But Jibril in a statement stated that recent developments had shown that some Nigerians had registered NGOs, solicited funds and disappeared, while some NGOs had been used to fund the activities of terrorist and insurgents. He said many NGOs operating in Nigeria do not have a definite reason for being in existence other than using their names to fleece international donor agencies of huge sums of money on behalf of Nigeria.
Stop military from tracking Nigerians on social media, groups tell Buhari (August 2017)
President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to prevail on the military to halt its ongoing monitoring of Nigerians on the Internet. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, was joined by another civic group, Concerned Nigerians, in a recent demand for the president to respect the freedom of Nigerians on all social media platforms.
We Now Monitor Social Media For Anti-Government And Anti-Military Information (August 2017)
The activities of Nigerians on the social media are now being monitored for hate speech, anti-government and anti-security information by the military. Director of Defence Information, Major-General John Enenche, told Channels Television that the move became necessary in the light of troubling activities and misinformation capable of jeopardizing the unity of the country. His comments come less than 48 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari said in his national broadcast that some of the discussion on social media in his absence crossed the line and left him distressed.
National Broadcasting Commission Moves To Censor Phone-In Programs (August 2017)
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has announced that it would fine broadcast stations a sum of N500,000 for any perceived hate speech expressed by callers during phone-in programs. The new rule, which will take effect on October 1, 2017, was communicated to media houses on August 10 during a meeting held at the commission’s zonal office at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos.
Hate speech: Nigerian govt vows to deal with culprits (August 2017)
The Federal Government has vowed to deal decisively with any person or group involved in hate speech or inciting the public to cause break down of law and order. The Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, gave the warning at a media briefing in Abuja. Mr. Dambazau said the warning became necessary following series of threats and counter-threats directed at ethnic groups and the need to maintain law and order.
Nigerians tell absent Buhari: ‘Resume or resign’ (August 2017)
Nigerian protesters in Lagos and Abuja are demanding President Muhammadu Buhari either resume his job as president or resign, after more than 90 days of absence. Demonstrators have rallied in Abuja for three days, demanding action by the government, with many claiming Buhari’s absence is unacceptable and harmful for the country.
Two journalists attacked in Abakaliki (June 2017)
Two journalists, Charles Otu of the Guardian newspaper, and Samuel Nweze, publisher of the People’s Leader, have been attacked in Abakaliki, Ebonyi. The Police Public Relations Officer, Jude Madu, confirmed the two incidents and said that the police have launched investigation to unravel the motive behind the attacks. “The reports of the attacks on two journalists are before the police and we have launched investigation to unravel the motive behind the attacks and identities of those involved,” Mr. Madu said. Mr. Otu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Abakaliki that suspected political thugs accosted him at about 6.p.m. on Friday at Vanco Junction in Abakaliki and started beating him with clubs and other dangerous weapons.
Demolition of Breeze 99.9 FM, Lafia shocking (May 2017)
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has described the demolition of the structures housing the Breeze 99.9 FM, Lafia as “shocking and unbelievable”. The structures were demolished on Saturday, May 20, 2017, by the Nasarawa State Urban Development Board (NUDB), over alleged violation of approved land laws. Mrs. Franca Ayetan, NBC Zonal Director for North-Central, who led a team on a verification visit to the destroyed station on Monday, said that the development was surprising because the station followed due process in obtaining its broadcast license.
Security forces must avoid repression of Biafra day protests (May 2017)
The Nigerian security forces must exercise restraint when policing demonstrations marking the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Biafra War on 30 May, and avoid a repetition of the bloodbath caused by their heavy-handed response last year when more than 60 people were gunned down, said Amnesty International today. “Last year’s heavy-handed response against pro-Biafra activists further stirred up tensions in the south east of Nigeria. The reckless approach to crowd control favoured by the security forces when policing peaceful pro-Biafra protests has left more than 150 dead since August 2015, not to mention cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful detention,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
Lagos set to review Media law (May 2017)
The Lagos State Government has said it has concluded plans to review the existing Media Law in the state to ascertain the true figure of the publishing media houses that operate in the state in order to effectively regulate their activities. State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde said Tuesday while briefing journalists in Alausa that the exiting Media law in the state has become obsolete, adding that the review was necessitated by the need to make the law more effective and in tune with modern day reality.
Nigerian journalist detained over WhatsApp comment granted bail (April 2017)
A journalist arrested by the Kaduna State command of the Nigeria Police for an alleged offence not related to his reportorial duties has been granted bail by a magistrate court. Midat Joseph, the Kaduna State correspondent of Leadership Newspapers, who is also the Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kaduna Council, was released on Friday evening, colleagues said. Mr. Joseph and one Eusebius Yayock were arrested over alleged incriminating contributions on a WhatsApp group chat. Mr. Joseph was actually arrested over a comment on a Southern Kaduna Victims Support WhatsApp Group,” his colleague said.
CSO Groups Decry Attack on Amnesty International (March 2017)
A group of civil society organisations finds the attack on Amnesty International, Abuja, very disheartening and considers it a huge set back, considering how much civil society organisations have fought to ensure the right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International reported issues of arbitrary arrests both in the North East and Niger Delta; death penalties carried out in a Benin prison in Edo State; the killing of over 100 members and supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). None of these have been disproved by the protesters.
Army denies killing eleven IPOB members, to focus on insurgents (February 2017)
The Nigerian Army has warned that it will no longer tolerate spurious and unfounded allegations by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that soldiers killed 11 of its members in Port Harcourt recently. The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations sixth division, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, described as baseless and unsubstantiated allegation by the Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful, that 11 of its members were killed by soldiers on January 20, 2017 in Port Harcourt during a solidarity rally to commemorate the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.
Journalist arraigned, sent to prison over Southern Kaduna report (February 2017)
A journalist has been arraigned before a magistrate court in Kaduna on allegation of falsifying a news report about the Southern Kaduna crisis. Luka Binniyat, a Vanguard newspaper Kaduna correspondent, was accused of falsely claiming that five students of the state College of Education were killed by Fulani herdsmen. The report was published on January 24. Mr. Binniyat, who was invited for questioning by the State Security Service, SSS, Kaduna Command, drove himself to the SSS office, and after interrogation was handed over to the police who later charged him to court. The Chief Magistrate, Emmanuel Yusuf, granted Mr. Binniyat bail on a N200,000 bond. A security source said the journalist’s report that five students were killed at a road block erected by Fulani herdsmen along Gidan Waya-Pasakori road in Jema’a Local Government, compounded security situation and created tension that almost plunged Southern Kaduna into another cycle of killings.
Police arrest Premium Times publisher, Olorunyomi, reporter (January 2017)
The Nigeria police raided the head office of an online medium, Premium Times in Abuja, and arrested the newspaper’s publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, alongside the judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu. Plain-clothes officers conducted a search at the office shortly after 5:00p.m. yesterday and said they were acting on a complaint filed by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. The arrests came days after Premium Times turned down the army’s demand to retract news stories about the Nigerian Army and its operations.
One killed, journalist, others injured as IPOB rally support for Trump (January 2017)
At least one person was killed and several others injured during a march by supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in solidarity of the inauguration of the American President, Donald Trump and also to expose the plight of Biafrans to the world. Also, a journalist with The Authority, Mr. Willie Etim, was brutalized by some soldiers allegedly detailed to stop the demonstration while trying to take photos of the protesting youths. Meanwhile, a sociologist and senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Sofiri Peterside has condemned the protest, saying Rivers State Government was not in support of the group, so, the protest should not have been allowed to take place.
Hundreds of policemen storm BBOG protest ground (January 2017)
Officers of the Nigeria police in their hundreds have stormed the Unity Fountain meeting ground of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement. The BBOG movement issued a statement announcing its intention to resume its protests demanding the release of the remaining 195 of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014. They said they would embark on daily marches to presidential villa entrance.
Nigerian governor apologizes to UN over aid criticism (January 2017)
The governor of Nigeria’s embattled Borno state has apologized to the United Nations, saying his accusations that aid agencies are profiting from funds for people fleeing Boko Haram were aimed at local charities. “Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, we are grateful to the United Nations for all it has been doing toward rehabilitation and resettlement of our displaced people,” Gov. Kashim Shettima said. He spoke as senior U.N. officials including Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon flew to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, to meet with him to discuss his damaging comments. Shettima has told state legislators that only eight of 126 registered aid agencies were doing good work, including the U.N. World Food Program and Population Fund. He criticized UNICEF, among others, though he included the children’s agency on that list of praiseworthy groups.
Buhari accuses UN, others of exaggerating crisis in North-east Nigeria (January 2017)
President Muhammadu Buhari said the reports by local and international humanitarian agencies detailing the high level of deprivation in the war-ravaged north-east Nigeria were exaggerated. The president said the United Nations and other private humanitarian groups are deliberately hyping the level of the crisis for financial gains. The reproach came two days after the United Nations warned that more than five million victims of Boko Haram face serious food shortages in the coming year. “A projected 5.1 million people will face serious food shortages as the conflict and risk of unexploded improvised devices prevented farmers planting for the third year in a row, causing a major food crisis,” the U.N. Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Lundberg, said in a statement.
Petroleum Minister Kachikwu Uses DSS to Arrest Magazine Publisher (November 2016)
Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, recently instigated the arrest of an Ughelli-based publisher of a local tabloid, Ughelli Times Magazine, Mr. Daniel Ekiugbo. Mr. Ekiugbo’s colleagues said the DSS arrested him in Ughelli over an alleged libelous report against the Minister. The publisher, who belongs to the Urhobo Media Group, has been neglected by his union members as well as the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the state, since his arrest.
MDAs Not Complying With Provisions of FOI Act (September 2016)
Ministries, departments and agencies are not complying with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, a new report released yesterday by the Right to Know, a civil society organisation, has said. The report, which was released to mark the first celebration of the Universal Access to Information Day, said that the National Assembly which passed the bill that eventually became the FOI Act five years ago had never complied with the provisions of the Act. The Act requires all public institutions to proactively disclose certain information including how many staff they have, their salaries, grade levels and many more. However, the report found that this provision of the Act was not being complied with.
EFCC releases blogger, Abubakar Usman, from detention (August 2016)
Blogger Abubakar Usman has been released by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after spending more than 36 hours in custody for alleged ”cyberstalking”, his lawyer said. Michael Bello said his client was released on an administrative bail with conditions that he must make himself available to the EFCC whenever he received an invitation to such effect.
Why we arrested blogger Abubakar Usman (August 2016)
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it arrested a pro-government blogger, Abubakar Usman, for alleged cyberstalking. In a statement by its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, on Monday, the EFCC said Mr. Usman, a blogger and social media strategist known for his strong pro-APC views, was picked from his home in the Abuja suburb of Kubwa and was being quizzed by anti-graft agents. The EFCC said Mr. Usman’s activities contradicted sections of the Cyber Crime Act, but that he had been granted administrative bail and would be released after successfully providing sureties.
EFCC ‘arrests’ blogger over ‘online publication’ (August 2016)
Abubakar Sidiq, a political blogger, has been arrested by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a publication on his website. Michael Bello, Sidiq’s lawyer, disclosed this to TheCable on Monday but did not give the full reason for the arrest, only saying it was because of “an online publication”.
70 MDAs fail FOI compliance test (May 2016)
Despite its remarkable contribution to the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in May 2011, the Federal Ministry of Information, alongside other 70 public institutions, have failed the FOI compliance and transparency test conducted by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC). The Abuja-based non-governmental body devoted to using FOI law to drive the demand and supply of publicly held information released its 2015 FOI Compliance Rankings for 116 Public Institutions at the weekend. Only 45 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) scored above the average in all the three benchmarks upon which the ranking is based.
Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters (DHQ) issues warning to Social Media Users (May 2016)
Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has issued a warning to individuals using social media to spread distorted information. Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, spokesman of the Defence Headquarters, stated that recent posts of videos, pictures and information on social media tend to threaten Nigeria’s diplomatic interests with other nations. “DHQ hereby warns that it will not condone any unwholesome acts by persons or group seeking to engage in acts that are capable of causing breaking down of law and order in any part of the country”, said Brigadier General Abubakar.
Journalist Arrested, Charged Over Report On Kaduna Governor, El-Rufai (May 2016)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Nigerian Government to drop all criminal charges against journalist Jacob Dickson and release him without delay. According to a statement made available to the press in Dakar on Wednesday by the CPJ, Dickson has been held in pre-trial detention on incitement charges.
Report raises concern over Cybercrimes Act (April 2016)
The African Media Barometer reviewing media landscape in Nigeria has raised concern that the recently enacted Cybercrimes (prohibition and prevention) Act is “emerging as a serious threat”.The law was passed only this year and three people have already been taken to court over thing they wrote or did on the internet, according to the latest AMB report presented in Abuja this week.The Cybercrimes Act earned Nigeria a poor score, compared with scoring on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act.Abdulwaheed Odusile, president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, said the jailing of the “three colleagues” took the media world by shock.
Senate bows to public pressure, withdraws anti-social media bill (April 2016)
The Senate has withdrawn the Frivolous Petition Bill sponsored by Bala Ibn Na’Allah.The controversial bill was seen as an attempt to restrict freedom of expression.The withdrawal of the bill followed the report of the upper chamber’s Committee on Human Rights and Legal Matters submitted by David Umar on Tuesday.The report made it clear the bill amounted to violation of citizens’ rights, and contradicted extant laws, imposing duty of investigation on petitioners and serving as stumbling block to the fight against corruption.
PDP member arraigned for social media postings on WhatsApp (March 2016)
A People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member, Deji Babington-Ashaye, was arraigned before a chief Magistrate court for calling a Senator representing Ogun East Senatorial district a drugs Baron and jail breaker. Babington-Ashaye was reported to have said abusive words on Kashamu on “PDP WhatsApp group”. He was alleged to have committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 249 (d) of the criminal code cap 29 Vol.11 laws of Ogun state of Nigeria 2006.
Public Hearing on “Anti-Social Media” Bill (March 2016)
At the Public Hearing of the Frivolous Petitions Bill (known as the “Anti-Social Media” Bill) on March 8, 2016, the Attorney-General criticized the proposed Bill as likely to hinder press freedom and violate the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. However, the Chief Justice of Nigeria in remarks delivered on his behalf expressed support for the Bill.
Government unveils first Freedom of Information web portal (March 2016)
Access to information received a boost when the Federal Government’s Bureau of Public Service Reforms launched a Freedom of Information web portal.
Professor arrested at university for political criticism (February 2016)
In the current climate, the line between political criticism and hate speech is not always clear. Dr. John Danfulani was arrested and detained for a comment posted on Facebook, and has also been suspended by the university where he teaches. The lecturer has since been released on bail.
El-Rufai inaugurates panel of inquiry on Zaria Massacre (February 2016)
The Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, inaugurated the Judicial Commission of Inquiry he set up recently, following a clash between the followers of Shiite cleric, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and the Nigerian Army. On December 17, 2015, Mr. El-Rufai announced the establishment of a state Judicial Commission of Inquiry, with membership cutting across the academia, media and civil society. The Shiite group recently released a list of 705 people missing or presumed killed by the Nigerian Army during the clash.
Popular blogger remanded in prison over alleged defamatory post (February 2016)
The police in Lagos arraigned a publisher of a news website, Naijahottestgist.com, before a Federal High Court, Lagos for allegedly publishing a defamatory story against the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc. The Prosecutor told the court that the accused committed the alleged offences sometime in June, in Lagos. Section 24 (1) of the Cybercrime Act provides that any person who intentionally or knowingly sends a message which is grossly offensive or obscene and found to be false, by means of computer network, is liable on conviction to a fine of N7, 000 or three years imprisonment or both.
Military React to Report of Human Rights Abuse and Extra Judicial Killing (February 2016)
The media has been inundated with reports of Amnesty International allegations of gross human rights abuse and extra judicial killing of civilians against the Nigerian military. The Amnesty International report was released on 3 June 2015. Therefore, the Nigerian Military as a responsible corporate organization is bound to respond to these allegations in order to put the records in proper perspective. The military requested Amnesty International to provide a member for the investigation panel to look into the allegations but the invitation was not honored byAmnesty International.
Blogger remanded in prison over alleged libel (November 2015)
Civil society groups ask UN to sanction Boko Haram sponsors (December 2014)
Police Ban Street Protests in Borno (August 2014)
#BringBackOurGirls protest march – Update (May 2014)
National Dialogue: Civil Society Sets Agenda (February 2014)
Nigeria arrests gay ‘suspects’ under new law banning homosexuality (January 2014)
Lagos, Civil Society to Analyse Budget Via Twitter (February 2013)
Presidency, Senate Set for Showdown Over Anti-Terrorism Law (January 2013)
When group takes FOI advocacy to community, grassroots (November 2012)
Thousands protest video in volatile Nigerian city (September 2012)
Jonathan meets civil society, pledges enduring Constitution (September 2012)
NGO wants internal funding for HIV/AIDS (June 2012)
Civil society wants investment in women (May 2012)
Nigerian government accused of human rights abuse (January 2012)
Nigeria reclaims ”A” status at ICC (January 2012)
Sustaining NGOs for effective service delivery (January 2012)
The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL Civic Freedom Monitor Partner in Nigeria, Ayo Obe