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Department Seal




General Sani Abacha, who seized power in a palace coup on 
November 17, 1993, remained Head of State throughout 1994.  
Under Abacha, the main decisionmaking organ is the 
military-dominated Provisional Ruling Council (PRC), which 
rules by decree.  The PRC oversees the 32-member Federal 
Executive Council composed of some of Nigeria's most prominent 
politicians.  Like previous military regimes, Abacha and the 
PRC claimed they would eventually hand over power to a civilian 
government, but the PRC did not reveal a timetable, although it 
initiated a "constitutional conference" over which it had 
strong influence.  Pending a new constitution, some provisions 
of the 1979 Constitution were observed, although the decree 
suspending it was not repealed.  The regime failed to clarify, 
however, which aspects of the Constitution remained in effect.  
Although the regime occasionally made reference to rights or 
guarantees outlined in the Constitution to suit a particular 
purpose, it just as often reminded the public of the continued 
suspension of constitutional rights.

Despite several positive initial steps, the PRC showed little 
respect for human rights after its first month in power, and 
the political and economic climate steadily deteriorated 
throughout 1994.  New political forces steadily gathered in 
support of Chief Moshood K. O. Abiola, who on June 12, l993, 
had won the presidential election, in what national and 
international observers characterized as the most free and fair 
election in Nigeria's history, but which was quickly annulled 
by then military head, General Ibrahim Babangida.  In 
particular, opposition figures united in a new organization 
called the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which 
campaigned for an immediate return to civilian rule through a 
"sovereign" national conference.  Abiola declared himself 
President of Nigeria on June 11, 1994.

The Government continued to enforce its authority through the 
Federal Security System (the military, the state security 
service, and the national police--all of whom were responsible 
for serious human rights abuses) and through decrees blocking 
action by the opposition in the courts.  Starting in May and 
June, the Government cracked down hard on the opposition, 
arresting NADECO members.  With Abiola in prison awaiting 
trial, General Abacha convened a constitutional conference, but 
the labor movement, led by the National Union of Petroleum and 
Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the National Labor Congress 
(NLC), responded with massive strike action, demanding that 
General Abacha release Abiola and hand over power to a civilian 
government.  The ensuing strikes brought economic life in Lagos 
and much of the southwest to a standstill for almost 8 weeks.

By the middle of September, the military Government became 
increasingly confident, escalating further the crackdown on its 
opponents.  In the face of the Government's tough actions, most 
striking workers, fearing arrest and dismissal, soon returned 
to work, and most of the fight went out of organized labor.  At 
the end of the year, the economy continued its downward slide.  
While Nigerian elites continued to prosper, unemployment, 
underemployment, and inflation increased markedly.  Nigeria 
depends on oil exports for over 90 percent of its foreign 
exchange earnings and 75 percent of its budget revenues.  In 
order to cope with reduced oil revenues, Nigeria implemented an 
indigenous structural adjustment program (SAP) from 1986 to 
1991.  While the SAP was a success in some respects, economic 
conditions for the average Nigerian remained very difficult, 
and successive military governments increasingly abandoned 
reform by printing money that fueled inflation.

Nigeria's human rights record remained dismal in 1994.  General 
Abacha's policies heightened episodic civil unrest in urban 
areas.  Security forces used excessive force to control the 
situation, killing and wounding a number of persons, including 
peaceful protesters.  The Abacha Government regularly relied on 
arbitrary detention and mass arrest as a means of silencing its 
many critics.  To consolidate its hold on power, the regime in 
August announced a series of harsh decrees restricting press 
freedom and civil liberties which, like other military decrees, 
contained clauses prohibiting judicial review of any government 
action.  Security services stepped up routine harassment of 
human rights and prodemocracy groups, including labor leaders, 
journalists, and student activists.

Other human rights problems throughout the year included 
extrajudicial killings; police torture; dangerous and 
unsanitary prison conditions with many deaths; violence and 
discrimination against women; and infringements on freedom of 
speech, press, travel, and political and labor affiliation.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

As in previous years, police and security services commonly 
engaged in extrajudicial killings and excessive use of force to 
quell antimilitary and prodemocracy protests.  The most deadly 
incidents occurred in July and August after the Government 
deployed police and military units to put down protests in 
Lagos and other cities in the southwest.  There were credible 
reports that security forces may have killed from 20 to 50 
people in the Lagos area alone.  Government reports of deaths 
resulting from the riots were much lower, and the Government 
asserted that security forces intervened only when confronted 
by violent criminals.  While the victims included hoodlums and 
looters, who used the protests as cover to engage in violent 
criminal activities, eyewitness accounts indicated that 
security forces often fired randomly into crowds, killing 
innocent bystanders and peaceful demonstrators.

Nigerian human rights groups maintain that scores of people die 
annually while in police custody, though there are no 
definitive statistics, and the claims are difficult to 
substantiate.  They are, however, accepted by the Nigerian 
public and remain consistent with other credible reports of 
police abuse, including the use of torture to extract 
confessions.  The Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), a 
nongovernmental organization (NGO), publicized the case of 
Anthony Imo, who died while in police custody in February.  
Police arrested Imo, a "patent medicine" seller, in Kano and 
accused him of selling fake pharmaceuticals.  Reportedly 
tortured by police while in custody for several hours, Imo was 
taken by police to a local hospital where he later died, 
apparently from brain damage.

The Government seldom holds police and security services 
accountable for the use of excessive, deadly force or the death 
of individuals while in custody; it made no effort to 
investigate the conduct of security forces during the July and 
August prodemocracy protests and denied that protesters died at 
the hands of government forces.  The Government has thus 
fostered a climate of impunity in which these abuses flourish.

According to the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights 
(CDHR) and the CLO, in January a police patrol in Delta state 
shot seven men they suspected of being armed robbers.  The 
police maintain the seven fired upon them while trying to run a 
checkpoint near Warri.  In an exchange of fire, the police shot 
two of the men and arrested the rest of the party.  The police 
then reportedly executed all seven prisoners soon after, 
including a 70-year-old man.

Extrajudicial killing remained common in eastern Nigeria, 
particularly as conflict between members of the Movement for 
the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and government forces 
escalated throughout the year.  In April, spurred by increased 
violence in the oil-producing area, the Government deployed 
large numbers of police and military to Ogoniland.  Credible 
reports of increased killings and beatings at police 
checkpoints and other areas accompanied the deployment.  To 
quell the upsurge of violence in the area, the military 
administration of Rivers state promulgated a draconian decree 
imposing the death sentence for "civil disturbances occasioning 
death," and also for crimes such as "attempted murder."  The 
administration set up a special court, the Civil Disturbances 
Tribunal, to try such cases.

Human rights groups and the press corroborated MOSOP claims 
that hundreds of people died in the violence which continued 
unabated despite the military presence and the actions of the 
Rivers state government.  The commander of the military forces 
in Ogoniland, Major Paul Okuntimo, admitted publicly his forces 
killed six people from June to August, stating that two were 
shot when they fired on soldiers, one while trying to escape 
from detention, and "the remaining a deterrent to 
their like."

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; 
however, government detention practices have the effect of 
causing many detainees to be "missing" for extended periods 
(see Section 1.d.).

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The 1979 Constitution (suspended) and the 1989 Constitution 
(never implemented) prohibit torture and mistreatment of 
prisoners and provide criminal sanctions for such excesses, and 
the Evidence Act of 1960 prohibits the introduction of evidence 
obtained through torture.  Nevertheless, detainees frequently 
die while in custody (see Section 1.a.), and there were 
credible reports that police seeking to extract confessions 
regularly beat and torture suspects.  For example, reports 
circulated in September that the military beat and nearly 
tortured to death detained NADECO members.  Detainees are 
regularly kept incommunicado for long periods of time (see 
Section 1.d.).

In its early months in power, the Abacha regime formed the 
Lagos State Environmental Task Force as part of its "war on 
indiscipline and corruption."  Under the direct supervision of 
the Lagos state administrator, Colonel Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the 
Task Force grew increasingly brutal in its attempts to rid 
Lagos of illegal street traders and mountains of garbage.  Task 
Force soldiers routinely beat and arrested anyone they 
perceived as being "undisciplined," usually unarmed market 
women and traders, but also including jaywalkers, errant 
drivers, children, and young traders who hawk goods on Lagos 
streets.  The Constitutional Rights Project publicized the case 
of one of its lawyers, Kolawole Olaniyan, who was beaten and 
horsewhipped after protesting being pressed into a work gang by 
Task Force soldiers on March 16.  Armed soldiers reportedly 
stopped the bus in which he was commuting and forced the 
occupants to clean up piles of refuse nearby.  Soldiers also 
targeted young women in short skirts or trousers, humiliating 
them and sometimes stripping them naked for wearing "immodest 
clothing."  The Government neither acknowledged nor denied that 
such practices occurred; the perpetrators went unpunished.

Conditions in Nigeria's prisons remain life threatening.  Lack 
of potable water, sewage facilities, and medical supplies 
contribute to deplorable sanitary conditions.  Disease runs 
rampant in the cramped, poorly ventilated facilities.  Prison 
inmates are seldom allowed outside their cells for recreation, 
and many must provide their own food.  In those cases, only 
those with money or whose relatives bring food regularly have 
something to eat.  Poor inmates rely on handouts from others to 
survive.  There are credible reports that prison officials and 
police deny inmates food and medical treatment as a form of 
punishment or to extort money from them.  For example, the 
prison authorities denied Ken Saro-Wiwa, leader of MOSOP, who 
suffers from a heart condition, access to medical care and food 
appropriate to his medical condition during his detainment in 
January and again during his subsequent detention, while 
ignoring continued requests by Saro-Wiwa's personal physician 
to see him (see Section 1.d.).  There were also credible 
reports that prison officials kept Saro-Wiwa in chains for at 
least part of his detention.

Severe overcrowding in Nigerian prisons remains a serious 
problem.  For example, Ikoyi prison in Lagos, built to house 
about 800 inmates, holds over 2,000.  The CDHR estimated that 
2,000 people die each year in prisons from disease, although 
the Government admits only to a much lower mortality rate.  A 
correspondent for the Vanguard newspaper reported the death of 
40 inmates from tuberculosis in the Warri federal prison since 
the end of 1993.  The Ita Oko detention camp was most likely 
reopened to ease the burden on other overcrowded facilities.

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

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, and Exile

The regime repeatedly engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention 
(see below).  Police are empowered to make arrests without 
warrants if there is reasonable suspicion of an offense and 
often abuse this power.  Nigerian law requires the arresting 
officer to inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest 
and take him or her to the station for processing within a 
reasonable time.  Suspects must be given the opportunity to 
engage counsel and to post bail.  However, police do not 
generally adhere to these safeguards.  They often hold suspects 
incommunicado under harsh conditions for extended periods 
without charge; arbitrary detention occurs frequently.  Police 
also commonly place relatives and friends of wanted suspects in 
detention without charge in an effort to induce the accused to 
turn themselves in.

The State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree of 1984 
(Decree Two) provides that the Government may detain without 
charge persons suspected of acts prejudicial to state security 
or harmful to the economic well-being of the country.  When 
invoked by the Vice President, the decree suspends the 
detainee's civil liberties and precludes judicial review.  Many 
Nigerians still consider Decree Two the main threat to their 
basic freedoms because the judicial ouster clause encourages 
arbitrary detention and fails to define what constitutes acts 
prejudicial to state security or the nation's economic 

During the year, the Government expanded its authority to 
detain opponents by promulgating a series of new decrees.  One 
of them, Decree 11, authorizes the PRC Vice Chairman or the 
Commissioner of Police to detain persons for up to 3 months.  
Another, Decree 14, forbids courts to order the Government to 
produce prisoners in court, effectively suspending the right of 
habeas corpus.  The PRC relied heavily on arbitrary arrest and 
detention throughout the year in an effort to silence its 
critics.  In February, after the Government announced a ban on 
regional political organizations, security forces arrested and 
detained without charge retired general and former presidential 
candidate Shehu Musa Yar'Adua.  In March the Government cracked 
down on human rights groups' activities throughout the nation.  
The authorities arrested Femi Falana, chairman of the National 
Association of Democratic Lawyers and two members of the 
Campaign for Democracy (CD) in Lagos on March 11, but never 
charged them.  Security operatives earlier in the month 
arrested Oyo state chairman of the CD, Gbenga Awosode, and 
Kwara state CDHR chairperson, Josephine Okei.  Security forces 
broke up an antiwar rally organized by the CD on March 15 and 
arrested and detained eight CD members, including Femi Falana 
and founding member Frederick Fasehun.

In the wake of protests against the constitutional conference 
in May and June, the Government expanded its crackdown, 
arresting hundreds of prodemocracy agitators.  In the wave of 
arrests, the Government detained and charged with treason 
several former senators, who declared they had reconvened the 
disbanded National Assembly, including Senate President Ameh 
Ebute and Senators Bola Tinubu, Polycarp Nwite, N.A. Okorofor, 
and Abu Ibrahim.  They were released on bail, but the charges 
against them remained pending.  The authorities also arrested 
and released Tokunbo Afikuyomi, member of the disbanded House 
of Representatives and former aide to General Abacha's Minister 
of Foreign Affairs Baba Gana Kingibe, and a number of NADECO 
members, such as former governor of Plateau state Air Commodore 
Dan Suleiman; former governor of Benue state Air Commodore 
Jonah Jang; former governor of Anambra state C.C. Onoh; former 
governor of Oyo state Bola Ige; and the highly respected 
politician and statesman, Anthony Enahoro.  The authorities 
detained human rights figures around the country, including CD 
chairman and NADECO member Beko Ransome-Kuti, who went on a 
hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention.

The Government arrested on charges of treasonable offenses in 
late June Chief Moshood K.O. Abiola, widely believed the winner 
of the annulled June 12, 1993, elections, who declared himself 
President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of 
Nigeria.  The Government kept Abiola in isolation for weeks 
before moving him to Abuja and commencing his trial (see 
Section 1.e.).  Credible reports emerged that Abiola had been 
humiliated while in custody, and that his family and doctor 
were only sporadically allowed access to him.  In September the 
regime allowed Abiola's personal physician and other doctors to 
examine him.  Despite the doctors' findings of a serious heart 
condition, the regime refused pleas from his family and others 
that he be released for urgent tests that could be performed 
only in Lagos or abroad.

In August and September the regime continued to silence 
opposition to its rule.  It arrested again Chief Anthony 
Enahoro on August 18, jailing him in the Port Harcourt prison.  
His family complained that security forces refused them access 
to see him and that his doctor was unable to assess the 
75-year-old Enahoro's medical condition.  Enahoro was released 
without charge in late December after being moved to the Port 
Harcourt military hospital.  Beko Ransome-Kuti was again 
arrested without charge on September 15, after security 
operatives entered the offices of the CDHR with a warrant and 
seized a number of documents.  After holding Ransome-Kuti 
incommunicado for 1 week, the Government charged him with 
writing threatening letters to the managing directors of Agip 
and Shell oil companies and released him on bail.  In early 
November, the federal High Court in Lagos ruled that only the 
federal Attorney General could prosecute cases of treasonable 
felony, and that because the Government's case against 
Ransome-Kuti had been filed at the state court level, it was 
invalid.  The Government ignored the ruling, rearresting 
Ransome-Kuti on November 9, this time also accusing him of 
receiving 6 million Naira from Abiola to "bomb government 
installations and strategic buildings."  The new Attorney 
General of the Federation, Michael Agbamuche, defended the 
Government's actions, saying that the Government had the right 
to overturn judicial decisions "in certain circumstances."  
Ransome-Kuti was released on bail soon after, and the case 
continued at year's end.  Noted civil rights activist and 
lawyer Gani Fawehinmi was arrested on October 1 after 
announcing the formation of a new political party, the National 
Conscience (NC).  He was released several days later.

Throughout the year, government forces harassed and detained 
from time to time other members of MOSOP, including Ken 
Saro-Wiwa's brother, Owens Wiwa.  Saro-Wiwa also remained in 
prison at year's end, without access to a lawyer, his family or 
a doctor.  In November the Government announced the formation 
of a military tribunal to try Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP members 
for complicity in the murders of four Ogoni chiefs (see Section 

The labor movement confirmed that the following labor leaders 
were in detention at year's end:  Frank Kokori, General 
Secretary of NUPENG; R. Addo, first president of the Petroleum 
and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN); P. 
Aidelomon, a PENGASSAN branch chairman; Wariebi Kojo Agamene, 
president of NUPENG; and Olu Aderibegbe, Chairman of the Edo 
state NLC.

The above cases were not isolated.  The Government routinely 
detained human rights monitors, journalists (see Section 2.a.), 
and political opponents throughout the year for making or 
publishing statements critical of the Government.  Most often 
the authorities did not charge the detainees with a crime, held 
them for brief periods, and questioned them about their 
activities and statements.  Nigeria's total prison population 
is estimated at 65,000.  Human rights groups estimate that as 
much as 46 percent of this population awaits trial.  A precise 
figure for the number of persons detained without charge is 
unavailable, and there are no credible estimates of the number 
of political detainees.

There were no known instances of forced exile as a means of 
political control, although several NADECO members were in 
self-imposed exile in the United States and the United Kingdom 
at year's end.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

In its efforts to suppress opposition to its rule, the regime 
first bypasssed the regular courts in favor of "tribunals" and 
then declared itself above the law by prohibiting court review 
of any government action (see below).

Decree One of 1984, the Basic Constitution (Modification and 
Suspension) Decree, the first decree promulgated by the 
military officers who overthrew the civilian regime of 
President Shagari in 1983, left the institutional framework of 
the judiciary relatively intact.  However, it established a 
parallel system of military tribunals with sole jurisdiction 
over certain offenses, such as coup plotting, corruption, armed 
robbery, and illegal sale of petroleum.  A 1991 decree amended 
Decree One by providing that only sitting or retired civilian 
judges may preside over tribunals hearing nonmilitary cases.  
The PRC retained the tribunal framework.

In most cases before the tribunals, the accused have the right 
to legal counsel, bail, and appeal, though some tribunals 
substitute a presumption of guilt for the presumption of 
innocence, and conviction rates in the tribunals reportedly 
exceed conviction rates in the regular courts.  Sentences are 
generally severe.  The Government's reliance on tribunals, 
which operate outside the constitutional court system, 
seriously undermines the judiciary's independence and often 
results in legal proceedings that deny defendants due process.

The Government's frequent refusal to respect court rulings also 
undercuts the independence and integrity of the judiciary.  In 
November the federal Government circumvented a ruling by the 
Kaduna High Court granting Abiola bail by filing an appeal to 
the Supreme Court, further calling into question the relevance 
of judicial decisions.  The Government ignored court orders in 
July requiring that it allow Punch, a daily newspaper closed 
down by security forces, to reopen.  In August a federal High 
Court ruled the Government in contempt of court for ignoring 
the ruling.  The Court declared the closure of the paper 
illegal and unconstitutional and ordered the police to vacate 
the premises, which they did after an additional 11 days.  
Within 2 weeks, the Government shut down Punch by decree.

Seriously damaging the shred of credibility the judiciary 
retained, the regime in August declared itself above the law.  
Decree 12 of 1994, enacted on August 18, states that "no act of 
the federal military government may be questioned henceforth in 
a court of law," and "divests all courts of jurisdiction in all 
matters concerning the authority of the federal government."  
When Attorney General Olu Onagoruwa criticized the decrees as 
being unconstitutional, the PRC fired him.

The regular court system is composed of both federal and state 
trial courts, state appeals courts, the federal Court of 
Appeal, and the federal Supreme Court.  Under the 1979 
Constitution, courts of the first instance include magistrate 
or district courts, customary or area courts, Shari'a (Islamic) 
courts, and for some specified cases, the state high courts.  
The nature of the case usually determines which court has 
jurisdiction.  In principle, customary and Shari'a courts have 
jurisdiction only if both plaintiff and defendant agree to it.  
In practice, fear of legal costs, delay, and distance to 
alternative courts encourage many litigants to choose these 

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

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

There are no legal provisions barring women or other groups 
from testifying in civil court or giving their testimony less 
weight.  The testimony of women is, however, accorded less 
weight in Shari'a courts.  There is a widespread perception 
that judges are easily bribed, or "settled," and that the 
courts cannot be relied upon to render an impartial judgment.  
An internal government report submitted to General Abacha in 
June, later printed in the press, called the judiciary a 
"disaster institution" and recommended that the federal 
Government correct the institution's lack of independence and 
funding, as well as put an end to corruption and bribery among 

The number of political prisoners (as distinct from political 
detainees) held by the Government was also unknown.  At year's 
end, M.K.O. Abiola remained in prison, despite a November 
ruling by the Kaduna federal High Court of Appeals granting him 
bail on the condition that he "not disturb the peace."  The 
regime refused to honor the ruling, however, and appealed the 
decision to the Supreme Court.  Abiola's trial on treason 
charges remained suspended indefinitely on orders from the 
regime.  Other long-term political detainees, such as Ken 
Saro-Wiwa, continued to be held without trial.

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

Provisions of the 1979 and 1989 Constitutions provide for the 
rights to privacy in the home, in correspondence, and in oral 
electronic communications.  However, the military Government 
regularly interfered in the lives of its citizens, and if the 
authorities desired to use a warrant in a particular search 
case, they often secured it from a military tribunal rather 
than a regular court.  Human rights leaders reported that 
security agents regularly followed them and cut or tapped their 
organizations' telephones.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

There is a large and vibrant press, which is frequently 
critical of the Government.  Nonetheless, the Government 
directly owns or controls many newspapers and has shut down 
several others.  The Government granted broadcasting rights to 
private radio stations for the first time in 1994.  
Constitutional provisions providing for freedom of speech and 
the press are not enforceable since no constitution is in 
effect.  The Abacha regime often publicly declared its support 
for these freedoms; however, the Government attempted to 
confine public political dialog to the constitutional 
conference.  The regime also increased its systematic 
intimidation of the press through legal and extralegal means 
throughout 1994.

The regime used a variety of methods to muzzle its many 
critics.  In January it seized the entire print run of the 
weekly newsmagazine Tell, and soon after indicted the editor in 
chief of Razor magazine for sedition and three Newswatch 
magazine executives on other spurious charges.  During the week 
building up to the anniversary of the June 12 election, the 
Government detained and otherwise harassed dozens of 
journalists, along with prodemocracy activists.  Security 
forces on June 11 occupied the offices of M.K.O. Abiola's 
Concord group newspaper Punch, charging that the buildings were 
used to store weapons.  On August 14, security forces occupied 
the offices of the Guardian, Nigeria's most respected daily 
newspaper, disrupting its production.

Following a number of court decisions favoring the press over 
the summer, in August the Government issued a series of decrees 
proscribing for 6 months three newspaper publishing houses.  
These new decrees granted the Abacha regime and its agents 
legal immunity from challenges to any actions taken to 
implement the decrees, even when the action predated the decree 
itself.  In December the Government extended the decrees 

The Government also summarily deported foreign journalists, 
including two correspondents of Cable News Network.

The military Government used a number of other means to 
intimidate the press.  These included a regulation banning 
government offices from advertising in nongovernment media, 
periodic directives to government offices forbidding the 
purchase of certain publications, personal attacks in 
government-controlled media against journalists and others who 
challenged government policies, and threats of harassment 
against potential advertisers and financial backers of 
antigovernment newspapers and magazines.

While academic freedom is generally respected, the military 
Government closed universities sporadically due to continued 
social unrest and strikes by the Academic Staff Union of 
Universities and other university unions calling for 
implementation of the June 12, 1993, elections, a return to 
civilian democracy, and improved funding for the university 
system.  Some student groups believe university authorities 
follow government directives to suspend or expel activist 

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The two Constitutions provide citizens the right to assemble 
freely and associate with other persons in political parties, 
trade unions, or other special interest associations.  However, 
the Government proscribed all political activity one day after 
coming into power in 1993.  On August 17, General Abacha 
announced that "individuals or groups may henceforth canvass 
political ideas, but they cannot form political parties for 

Permits are not normally required for public meetings indoors, 
and permit requirements for outdoor public functions are often 
ignored.  However, the Abacha Government retained the authority 
of Decree Five of the Babangida government, which banned 
gatherings whose political, ethnic, or religious overtones 
might lead to unrest.  Open-air religious services away from 
places of worship remain prohibited in most states due to 
religious tensions in various parts of the country.

Religious, professional, and other organizations need not 
register with the Government and are generally permitted free 
association with other national and foreign bodies.  The PRC 
retained a ban on several political organizations which it 
contended were founded primarily along ethnic, tribal, 
religious, or other parochial lines for the purpose of 
sponsoring various political candidates.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Decree One (suspending most of the 1979 Constitution) and the 
suspended 1989 Constitution prohibit federal and state 
governments from adopting an official state religion.  The PRC 
reaffirmed the secular nature of the State in its instructions 
to the constitutional conference.  The 1979 and 1989 
constitutional provisions for freedom of belief, practice, and 
education in regard to religion are generally respected.  The 
Government instituted a ban in 1987 (which is still in effect) 
on religious organizations on campuses of primary schools, 
though individual students retain the right to practice their 
religion in recognized places of worship.

Distribution of religious publications is generally 
unrestricted.  There is a lightly enforced ban on published 
religious advertisements, and religious programing on 
television and radio remains closely controlled by the 
Government.  Both Christian and Muslim organizations allege 
that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration 
Department continue to restrict the entry into the country of 
certain religious practitioners, particularly persons suspected 
of proselytizing.  While it has not officially outlawed the 
practice, the Government discourages proselytizing in the 
belief that it stirs up religious tensions, particularly in the 

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

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

Those Constitutions also prohibit expulsion or the denial of 
exit or entry to any Nigerian citizen.  However, women must 
often provide permission from a male family member before they 
are granted a passport, and the Government, like its 
predecessors, occasionally prevented travel for political 

For example, in July the Government seized the passport of an 
opposition leader, Chief Sobo Sowem Imo, as he attempted to 
exit the country through the Lagos airport.  In September the 
Government confiscated the national passport of noted social 
critic and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, who, a few days before, 
had filed a suit against the Abacha regime challenging its 
legal right to rule.  In October immigration authorities again 
prevented Soyinka from leaving the country, seizing the U.N. 
laissez-passer issued to him as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador.  
Soyinka subsequently left the country clandestinely.  In 
November the Government seized Bar Association President 
Priscilla Kuye's passport, preventing her from traveling after 
she had already boarded an international flight.

Journalists reported harassment at the nation's airports by 
security officials throughout the year, including having to 
fill out a special exit and entry form detailing their 
movements abroad, reasons for making their trip, and friends 
and associates overseas.  Security officials temporarily 
confiscated the passports of journalists who refused to 
complete the form.

Nigerian law and practice permit temporary refuge and asylum 
for political refugees from other countries.  The Government 
cooperates with the Lagos office of the United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in dealing with  an estimated 
3,000 Liberian and an undetermined number of Chadian refugees.  
There were no reported cases of forced repatriation of refugees 
in 1994.

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

Citizens could not exercise this right in 1994, and there was 
little indication that General Abacha's military regime was 
willing to permit them to do so on any basis other than a 
process tightly controlled by the regime.  Throughout the year, 
the regime committed numerous, repeated, and egregious human 
rights abuses in its effort to prevent citizens from opposing 
it by peaceful political means.

After coming to power, the Provisional Ruling Council headed by 
General Abacha promised a return to civilian, democratic rule 
but did not provide a timetable.  The regime instead announced 
the convening of a constitutional conference to prepare a 
transition program.  Citizens were not to be given the 
opportunity peacefully to change their government at any level 
until the constitutional convention completed its work.  As 
protests against the regime mounted in May and June, the 
Government arrested a number of ex-politicians who attempted to 
reconvene disbanded democratic institutions.  Those arrested 
included Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 
aborted June 12, 1993, election, who declared himself President 
on June 11.

In July the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers 
called a strike demanding that General Abacha release Abiola 
and hand over power to a civilian government.  Other unions 
joined NUPENG, and the ensuing strikes brought life in Lagos 
and much of the southwest to a standstill for almost 8 weeks, 
while rioting and civil disobedience erupted throughout the 
country, particularly in the southwest.  By September the 
regime cracked down on its opponents, and most elements of 
resistance dissolved.  As noted, it committed numerous, 
repeated, and egregious human rights abuses in its effort to 
prevent citizens from opposing it by peaceful political means.

At the end of the year, the regime continued to consolidate its 
hold on power, although General Abacha indicated that he might 
lift the ban on political activity early in the new year.  He 
also repeated his commitment to "respect the decision of the 
constitutional conference" regarding a transition to civilian 
rule, but stated that the Government "reserved the right" to 
review any decision made by the conference.  His promises 
encouraged many members of the so-called political class to 
form associations and quasi-political parties in anticipation 
of another transition program.  However, most Nigerians, 
preoccupied by increasing economic hardship and ethnic 
polarization, and weary of repeated military promises of 
democratic rule, remained politically impassive.

Nigerian politics remain dominated by men.  However, there are 
no legal impediments to political participation or voting by 
women or any other minority group.  One woman served in the 
91-member Senate, and 6 women served in the 589-member House of 
Representatives.  There is one woman in the PRC's Federal 
Executive Council.

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

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

Notwithstandng the Government's hostile attitude, human rights 
groups remained engaged in a vocal and public campaign for the 
promotion of human rights.  Among the most active are:  The 
Civil Liberties Organization; the Committee for the Defense of 
Human Rights; the Campaign for Democracy; the Constitutional 
Rights Project; the National Association of Democratic Lawyers; 
Human Rights Africa; the Legal Research and Resource 
Development Center; the National Association of University 
Women; the International Federation of Women Lawyers; and the 
Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association.  A 
number of prominent authors, including Nobel Laureate Wole 
Soyinka, artists, educators, and jurists, in addition to 
professional and labor organizations, spoke out frequently on 
human rights issues as well.

The Government sometimes prevented foreign human rights 
monitoring groups and individuals from visiting Nigeria or 
mistreated them while they were there.  For example, in April 
the Government refused visa requests by representatives of the 
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, invited by 
Shell Oil and MOSOP to investigate the situation in Ogoniland.  
In June security agents beat and detained for 4 days Nick 
Ashton-Jones, a representative of the British environmental 
awareness group Pronatura, and two Nigerian human rights 
activists, Oronto Douglas and Uche Onyeagocham, reportedly for 
meeting with detained MOSOP secretary Leedum Mitee in Port 
Harcourt.  The Government admitted Amnesty International 
representatives to the country in December but denied them 
access to detainees.

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

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


There are no laws barring women from particular fields of 
employment, but women often experience discrimination because 
the Government tolerates customary and religious practices 
which adversely affect them.  While the number of women in the 
formal sector increases every year, women do not receive equal 
pay for equal work and often find it extremely difficult to 
acquire commercial credit or obtain tax deductions or rebates 
as the heads of households.  While some women have made 
considerable individual progress, both in the academic and 
business world, most are underprivileged.  Though women are not 
legally barred from owning land, under customary land tenure 
systems in some parts of Nigeria only men own land, and women 
gain access to it through marriage or family.  In addition, 
many customary practices do not recognize a woman's right to 
inherit her husband's property, and many widows are rendered 
destitute when their in-laws take virtually all of the deceased 
husband's property.  In other areas, the widow herself is 
considered part of the property, and she too may be "inherited" 
by the husband's eldest male relative.  Polygyny is widely 
practiced among all ethnic groups in both Christian and Islamic 

Reports of wife abuse are common, especially wife beating in 
polygynous families.  Police do not normally intervene in 
domestic disputes, and they are seldom discussed publicly.  In 
more traditional areas, it is questionable whether the courts 
and police actively intervene to protect women who formally 
accuse their husbands if the level of alleged abuse does not 
exceed customary norms in the area.  Purdah, the Islamic 
practice of keeping girls and women in seclusion from men 
outside the family, is prevalent in parts of Nigeria's far 
north.  Women also bear the brunt of attacks for social and 
religious reasons, particularly for "immodest" or 
"inappropriate" behavior.


The Government only occasionally condemns child abuse and 
neglect and makes little effort to stop customary practices, 
such as the sale of children into marriage.  It remains only 
sporadically committed to children's welfare.  While the amount 
of money spent on children's health projects has increased in 
recent years, laws designed to protect the rights of children 
are often obsolete, inadequate, and seldom enforced.  Although 
the law stipulates that "no child shall be ordered to be 
imprisoned," juvenile offenders are routinely denied bail and 
incarcerated along with hardened criminals.

There are credible reports that poor families often sell their 
daughters into marriage as a means of supplementing their 
incomes.  There are also reports that many young girls are 
forced into marriage as soon as they reach puberty, regardless 
of age, to prevent "indecency" associated with premarital sex.

The Government publicly opposes female genital mutilation 
(FGM), and Nigeria cosponsored a resolution at the 46th World 
Health Assembly calling for the elimination of harmful health 
practices, including FGM.  However, it has taken no action to 
abolish the procedure, and nearly all ethnic groups subject 
young females to it.  Nigerian experts estimate that as many as 
50 percent of Nigerian women, primarily in the Christian south 
but less in the Muslim north, have undergone FGM, which varies 
from simple removal of the clitoral hood or labia minora to 
excision of the clitoris and the most painful and harmful form, 

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

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There is no official policy of discrimination against any of 
Nigeria's 250 ethnic groups, and laws do not favor one group 
over another.  However, Nigeria has a long history of tension 
among its diverse ethnic groups.  Clashes continued between 
rival ethnic groups in Delta, Rivers, Benue, Cross River, and 
Taraba states, often resulting in bloodshed.  Tradition 
continues to impose considerable pressure on individual 
government officials to favor their own ethnic group, and 
ethnic favoritism persists.  The Ogoni, an ethnic group 
indigenous to Rivers state in eastern Nigeria (Nigeria's 
oil-producing region), maintain that the Government continues 
to engage in a systematic campaign to deprive them of their 
land and its wealth.

The Ogonis claim that the Government seizes Ogoni property 
without fair compensation, ignores the environmental impact of 
oil production on Ogoni land, and fails to provide adequate 
social services, such as water and electricity.  MOSOP, which 
campaigns for greater Ogoni autonomy, often describes 
government policy towards the Ogoni as genocide.  The 
confrontation between the Government and the Ogoni has 
increasingly turned violent (see Section 1.a.), and Ogoni 
concerns about environmental degradation and the quality of 
social services in the oil-producing region have some merit.  
Despite this, accusations that the Government is engaged in a 
genocidal campaign against the Ogoni are unfounded.

Other ethnic minorities, particularly in Delta, Rivers, and 
Akwa Ibom states, have echoed Ogoni claims of environmental 
degradation and government indifference to their development.  
Groups such as the Ijaw, Itsekiri, and Urhobo have grown 
increasingly vocal in expressing their unhappiness, while the 
prevalence of ethnic conflict and confrontation with government 
forces increased in these areas.

     Religious Minorities

Nigerian law prohibits religious discrimination.  Nonetheless, 
it is commonly reported that government officials often 
discriminate against persons practicing a religion different 
from their own.  Religious tensions often lead to violence, as 
in April when clashes between Muslims and Christians in the 
northern city of Jos resulted in hundreds of deaths and the 
partial destruction of the city's main market.  A predominantly 
Christian city in a Muslim-dominated part of the country, Jos 
had long been championed as an example of Nigerian religious 
tolerance.  Residents in an overwhelmingly Christian part of 
the city rioted when the military administrator of Plateau 
state (a Muslim from Kano) chose a Muslim rather than a 
Christian for the position of local government administrator.  
In September Muslims attacked and killed some Christian 
residents of the northern town of Potiskum, capital of Yobe 
state.  In response, the Christian Association of Nigeria 
issued a strong statement condemning the killings and alleging 
official indifference to the incident.

     People with Disabilities

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

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Abacha Government has left basic labor legislation in 
place, essentially the 1974 Labor Decree.  However, there are 
no constitutional safeguards preventing the Government from 
interfering in the administration of labor unions, and the 
Government added new decrees further restricting worker 
rights.  Nigeria has signed and ratified the International 
Labor Organization's (ILO) Convention on Freedom of 
Association.  On November 3 and 4, the ILO Committee on Freedom 
of Association heard a complaint by the International 
Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the World Confederation of 
Labor, and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity 
against the Nigerian Government's labor policy.  The ILO ruled 
that the Government's interference in the administration of 
labor unions and its restriction of worker rights is in direct 
contravention of ratified conventions.  The Committee 
recommended that the Government remove appointed administrators 
from labor bodies, restore suspended union executives and allow 
them access to the premises of union headquarters, and restore 
dues check-off.  At year's end the Government had not responded.

Workers, except members of the armed forces and employees 
designated essential by the Government, may join trade unions.  
Essential employees include firefighters, police, employees of 
the central bank, the security printers (printers of currency, 
passports, and government forms), and customs and excise 
staff.  In May 1993, the Government promulgated the Teaching 
Essential Services Decree, declaring education an essential 
service.  The Decree did not, however, proscribe education 
sector unions.  The National Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria's 
umbrella labor federation, has repeatedly called on the 
Government to reinstate unions in all sectors of the economy 
except for the armed forces, firefighters, and the police.

The vast majority (approximately 72 percent) of the work force 
is employed in agriculture.  Agricultural workers are not 
unionized.  Most of the informal sector and practically all 
small industries and businesses remain nonunionized.  
Approximately 11.5 percent of the total work force belong to 

In contravention of the ILO Convention on Freedom of 
Association, the Government has decreed a single central labor 
body, the NLC, and deregistered other unions.  Government 
interference makes it difficult for the NLC to represent 
Nigerian workers effectively.  The NLC claims 3 million members 
out of a total work force of 30 million, but this figure is 
difficult to verify.  The Government continued to resist 
attempts by senior government staff to form and register as an 
independent labor association the Senior Staff Consultative 
Association of Nigeria (SESCAN).

The right to strike is recognized by law, except in the case of 
essential services.  There are no laws prohibiting retribution 
against strikers and strike leaders, but strikers who feel they 
are facing unfair retribution may submit their cases to the 
Industrial Arbitration Panel, whose decisions are binding on 
all parties.

In 1994 the labor movement engaged in large-scale strike 
action, including two general strikes, in support of K.O. 
Abiola and the prodemocracy movement.  In response, the 
Government enacted decrees dismissing the executives of the 
NLC, PENGASSAN, and NUPENG and prohibiting legal challenges by 
offended unions to these decrees.  The courts subsequently 
cited the latter in dismissing an NLC legal suit asking the 
courts to declare these decrees null and void.

The crippling strike by petroleum workers began on July 4 and 
officially ended on August 17, when the Government dismissed 
the petroleum unions' executives.  In the strike's aftermath, 
the Government continued to detain petroleum union leaders, 
including NUPENG General Secretary Frank Kokori and a number of 
other ranking labor leaders.  By September, petroleum workers, 
frustrated by a lack of support from other Nigerians, returned 
to their jobs.

Under the labor laws, any nonagricultural enterprise which 
employs more than 50 employees is obliged to recognize trade 
unions and must pay or deduct a dues checkoff for employees who 
are members.  The NLC has complained that some employers 
deliberately organize their industries into multiple units 
employing less than 50 workers to avoid unionization.  The 
Government threatened to withdraw the dues checkoff provision 
and make the payment of union dues completely voluntary if 
unions pursue strikes.  This was the case in August 1993 when 
the NLC called a general strike and again in September 1994 at 
the conclusion of the petroleum strike.

In August 1991, the Government's Decree 32 amended a policy in 
effect since 1975 that permitted international labor 
affiliation only with the Organization of African Trade Union 
Unity and affiliated pan-African labor federations.  Decree 32 
allowed affiliation with non-African international labor 
organizations, but only for training and educational 
assistance.  Since Decree 32, the NLC and SESCAN opened 
negotiations with the International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions seeking formal affiliation.  The removal of the NLC 
executive and the protracted political confrontation have 
precluded further progress on these applications.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The labor laws provide for both the right to organize and the 
right to bargain collectively between management and trade 
unions.  Collective bargaining is, in fact, common in many 
sectors of the economy.  Laws further protect workers against 
retaliation by employers for labor activity through an 
independent arm of the judiciary, the National Industrial 
Court, which handles complaints of antiunion discrimination.  
The NLC has complained, however, that the judicial system is 
often slow to handle labor cases and that this constitutes a 
denial of redress to those with legitimate complaints.

There have been no significant reforms in labor practice since 
January 1991, when the Government abolished the uniform wage 
structure for all government entities.  This allowed each tier 
of government--federal, state, local, and state-owned 
firms--freedom to negotiate its own level of wages, benefits, 
and conditions of employment.  As a result, negotiations 
previously conducted on a nationwide basis under the direct 
supervision of the Labor Ministry, are now conducted on a 
local, often plantwide, basis with less government involvement.

At year's end, there were no functioning export processing 

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The 1974 Labor Decree and the 1989 Constitution prohibit forced 
or compulsory labor.  While this prohibition is generally 
observed in practice, the Lagos Task Force soldiers used forced 
labor to clean up community streets (see Section 1.c.).  The 
ILO, noting that with the 1989 Constitution suspended Nigeria 
may not be able to enforce the ILO Convention against Forced 
Labor in the absence of constitutional guarantees, pressed the 
Government for its views on this point, but at year's end the 
Government had not replied.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The 1974 Labor Decree prohibits employment of children under
15 years of age in commerce and industry and restricts other 
child labor to home-based agricultural or domestic work.  The 
law further stipulates that children may not be employed in 
agricultural or domestic work for more than 8 hours per day.  
The Decree allows the apprenticeship of youths aged 13 to 15 
under specific conditions.  The Government does not 
specifically regulate service of apprentices over the age of 15.

Primary education is compulsory, though rarely enforced, and 
recent studies showed declining enrollment due mainly to the 
continuing deterioration of public schools.  This lack of 
sufficient primary school infrastructure has ended some 
families' access to education, forcing them to place their 
children on the employment market.  The ILO and the U.N. 
Children's Fund, in consultation with the NLC, have concluded 
that child labor, while not yet endemic, is increasing and 
could become a serious problem (see Section 5).

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The 1974 Labor Decree sets a minimum wage, which is reviewed on 
an ad hoc basis.  The last review in 1991 was undertaken by a 
tripartite group consisting of representatives of the NLC, the 
Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association, and the Ministry 
of Labor.  It raised the monthly minimum wage from 250 naira to 
450 naira per month, but the rapid fall in the true market rate 
of the naira (down to approximately 100 to the dollar by year's 
end), rendered the legislation essentially meaningless.  The 
minimum wage as currently stipulated does not keep pace with 
inflation and does not provide a decent living for a worker and 
family.  The deteriorating economy, coupled with a high 
inflation rate, has reduced the buying power of workers, 
leading to a marked decline in their standard of living.  The 
high inflation rate is a frequent cause of strikes demanding 
large wage increases.

The 1974 Labor Decree also establishes a 40-hour workweek, 
prescribes 2 to 4 weeks of annual leave, and stipulates that 
workers are to be paid extra for hours worked over the legal 
limit.  The Decree also states that workers who work on Sundays 
and statutory public holidays must be paid a full day's pay in 
addition to their normal wages.  There is no law prohibiting 
excessive compulsory overtime.

The 1974 Decree contains general health and safety provisions, 
some aimed specifically at young or female workers.  Employers 
must compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of 
those killed in industrial accidents.  The Labor Decree does 
not provide workers the legal right to excuse themselves from 
dangerous work situations without loss of employment.  The 
Labor Ministry, which is charged with enforcement of these 
laws, has been largely ineffective, and violations are common 
and go largely unpunished.  The Government has failed to act on 
various ILO recommendations since 1991 to update its moribund 
inspection and accident-reporting program.


[end of document]


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