The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Nigeria

By Vexen Crabtree 2019


#equality #freedom #human_rights #nigeria #politics #tolerance

Federal Republic of Nigeria

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Land Area 910 770km21
Population166.6m (2011)2
Life Expectancy53.06yrs (2017)3
GNI$5 443 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesNG, NGA, 5665
Internet Domain.ng6
CurrencyNaira (NGN)7

Nigeria is very poor at ensuring human rights and freedom compared to the rest of the world, and it has cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Nigeria does worse than average in commentary from Human Rights Watch9, supporting press freedom10, eliminating modern slavery11, fighting corruption12 and in LGBT equality13. And finally, it falls into the bottom 20 in supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms14 and in its Global Peace Index rating15. Homosexuality is illegal and the LGBT community is explicitly discriminated against in law, effectively authorising abuse and persecution16. In addition, in "the Sharia penal code adopted by 12 northern Nigerian states [stipulates] death by stoning [for men], and whipping and/or imprisonment for women"16, and is fundamentally opposed to other human rights, especially freedom of belief and gender equality17.

1. Politics and Freedom

#antisemitism #burundi #corruption #eritrea #france #freedom #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #mass_media #Nigeria #peace #politics #slavery

The ongoing Boko Haram conflict in the northeast, cycles of communal violence between pastoralists and farmers, and separatist protests in the south defined Nigeria´s human rights landscape in 2017. [...]

Nigeria´s eight-year conflict with Boko Haram has resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 civilians and a large-scale humanitarian crisis. [...] While the Nigerian army made considerable gains against Boko Haram, the toll of the conflict on civilians continued as the extremist group increasingly resorted to the use of women and children as suicide bombers.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)16

Twelve northern provinces of Nigeria formalize the use of Islamic Sharia Law, which is fundamentally opposed to human rights, especially freedom of belief, gender equality and LGBT tolerance.18

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)19
Pos.Lower is better
World Avg36.8
Corruption (2012-2016)12
Pos.Higher is better
Avg Score12
2New Zealand90.6
World Avg43.05
Global Peace Index (2012)15
Pos.Lower is better15
2New Zealand1.24
World Avg2.02

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)9
Pos.Higher is better
World Avg-1.9
Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)20
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
94Congo, DR16
99San Marino16
World Avg15.1
Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)14
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
139Congo, (Brazzaville)139
World Avg79.7

Press Freedom (2013)10
Pos.Lower is better10
World Avg3249

"Nigerian press, bolstered by strong civil society, remains largely free. Journalists,however, face harassment, and the implementation of a 2015 Cyber Crime Act threatens to curtail freedom of expression"16.

Slavery (2018)11
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims11
136Timor-Leste (E. Timor)0.77
142Congo, (Brazzaville)0.80
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory21. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends22. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life23. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves24.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery25. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity26. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.27. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi11, Eritrea11, Indonesia28) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery29.

2. Gender Equality

#Nigeria #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote30
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
120Burkina Faso1958
World Avg1930

The 1950s saw a late rush of 43 countries, including Nigeria and many developing nations, move to cease preventing women from voting.


3. LGBT Equality and Tolerance

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #Nigeria #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)13
Pos.Higher is better
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence31. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws32. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries31. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

The passage of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (SSMPA) in January 2014 effectively authorized abuses against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in 2017. The law has undermined freedom of expression for members of the LGBT community, human rights organizations, and others. In July, authorities arrested over 40 men attending an HIV awareness event at a hotel in Lagos and accused them of performing same-sex acts, a crime that carries up to 14 years in jail. In April, 53 men were arrested for celebrating a gay wedding, and charged with “belonging to a gang of unlawful society.”

In addition to the SSMPA, under the Nigeria Criminal Code Act of 1990, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. The Sharia penal code adopted by several northern Nigerian states prohibits and punishes sexual relations between persons of the same sex, with the maximum penalty for men being death by stoning, and whipping and/or imprisonment for women.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)16

4. Nigeria Overall National and Social Development

#human_development #Nigeria

Social & Moral
Development Index
Pos.Higher is better
179Papua New Guinea39.9
181Congo, (Brazzaville)39.1
World Avg53.8

The Social and Moral Development Index concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, public health, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism, and on some technological issues. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#christianity #islam #nigeria

Twelve northern provinces of Nigeria formalize the use of Islamic Sharia Law, which is fundamentally opposed to human rights, especially freedom of belief, gender equality and LGBT tolerance.18. Polling shows that "sizable percentages" of Christian and Muslim adherents both consider that "their own religious freedom is more important than religious freedom for others. Neither group trusts people from other religions"34.

The 1999 constitution also laid the groundwork for the northern states to expand the role of Sharia law from civil to criminal matters (see box) by permitting states to address areas not prohibited in the constitution, so long as the rulings didn't violate rights promised in the constitution. But as the domain of Sharia law expanded, the contradictions between constitutional assurances and local practices have been many. [...]

Accommodating the dominant religions and allowing them to restrict religious freedoms did not result in more security and less violence, but in reduced security and more violent religious persecution.

"The Price of Freedom Denied" by Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke (2011)35

The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report in 2012 entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)36, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Nigeria states:

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. The constitution mandates that local, state and federal government "shall not adopt any religion as State Religion." However, some state governments have a record of abusing freedom of religion or belief. There is significant hostility and violence between religious communities, especially Christians and Muslims, in many parts of the country. Some outbreaks of communal violence have resulted in hundreds of deaths. Yet, a climate of impunity exists, as authorities rarely prosecute and punish those responsible for violent attacks.

The constitution provides that states may establish courts based on the common law or customary law systems. Twelve northern states - Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, Zamfara, and Gombe - maintained Sharia courts, which adjudicated both criminal and civil matters, along with common law and customary law courts. Non-Muslims had the option to try their cases in the Sharia courts if involved in disputes with Muslims. If non-Muslims did not agree to go to Sharia courts, common law courts would hear their cases. Although the constitution does not explicitly allow Sharia courts to hear criminal cases, they have done so in the past. In Zamfara State, the first state to adopt Sharia, a Sharia court must hear all criminal cases involving Muslims. No laws barred women or any groups from testifying in common law courts or gave less weight to their testimony; however, Sharia courts usually accorded less weight to the testimony of women and non-Muslims.

Both federal and state governments regulate mandatory religious instruction in public schools; however, the constitution mandates that students do not receive religious instruction in any religion other than their own. In theory students can request a teacher of their own beliefs to provide alternative instruction, but in practice many schools lack teachers capable of doing so.

Although the jurisdiction of Sharia technically does not apply to non-Muslims in civil and criminal proceedings, certain social mores inspired by Sharia, such as the separation of the sexes, affected non-Muslim minorities in the north. Many non-Muslims perceive that they lived under the rule of a Muslim government and often feared reprisals for their religious affiliation. The Hisbah - Sharia enforcement groups funded by state governments in Bauchi, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, and Kano - enforce, sometimes violently, some Sharia statutes.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)36

Current edition: 2019 Jan 01
Parent page: Nigeria (Federal Republic of Nigeria)

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#antisemitism #burundi #christianity #corruption #equality #eritrea #france #freedom #homosexuality #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #intolerance #islam #mass_media #Nigeria #peace #politics #sexuality #slavery #tolerance #women

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References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Anti-Defamation League. (ADL)
(2014) ADL Global 100, Executive Summary. Accessed on on 2017 Jan 02. The numbers given are of those who state that racist stereotyped statements about Jews are true; they have to agree to 6 or more of the 11 statements to be counted. An example statements is "Jews are hated because of the way they behave". The data was collected from 53,100 interviews across 101 countries plus the West Bank and Gaza. The global average is 26%.

Casely-Hayford, Gus
(2012) The Lost Kingdoms of Africa. Published by Bantram Press. A hardback book.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2019) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2019). Accessed 2019 Jan 13.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

The Fraser Institute
(2016) The Human Freedom Index. Published by The Cato Institute, The Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Covers data up to 2014. On

Grim & Finke. Dr Grim is senior researcher in religion and world affairs at the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C, USA. Finke is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.
(2011) The Price of Freedom Denied. Subtitled: "Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century". Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Cambridge University Press, UK. An e-book.

Human Rights Watch
(2018) World Report 2018. Covering the events of 2017.

IHEU. International Humanist and Ethical Union.
(2012) Freedom of Thought. A copy can be found on of Thought 2012.pdf, accessed 2013 Oct 28.

Klein, Naomi
(2004) No Logo. Originally published 2000, HarperCollins, London, UK. A paperback book.

McCall, Andrew
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. 2004 edition. Published by Sutton Publishing. A paperback book.

Thomson, Oliver
(1993) A History of Sin. Published by Canongate Press. A hardback book.

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2017) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. Data for 2015. Available on

Walk Free Foundation
(2018) Global Slavery Index. Published on


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  32. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p289. According to a 1992 ruling of the Human Rights Committee, which declared that 'it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of privacy' when discussing Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See Human Rights Committee, Communication 488/1992, paragraph 8.2.^
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