Nigeria: After six months in office, President Tinubu has failed to uphold human rights

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu’s administration has failed to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law after six months in office, Amnesty International said today, as it launches a human rights agenda for the government following a period in which Tinubu unveiled new government policies that did not address rampant human rights violations across the country.

Tinubu’s new administration still has the chance not only to ensure that everyone is able to fully and effectively enjoy their human rights, but also to hold perpetrators of past rights violations to account. The Nigerian authorities must ensure that human rights are at the centre of their  policies, implement findings of previous investigation panels on human rights violations, and promptly, thoroughly, impartially, independently, effectively and transparently investigate human rights violations under the past government to ensure justice and accountability.

President Bola Tinubu and his administration must publicly commit to ending decades of human rights violations by ensuring that suspected perpetrators of past violations are brought to justice and implementing safeguards that drastically improve respect for human rights. President Tinubu’s government must unveil a blueprint for addressing the gross human rights violations that have been committed across the country.

Isa Sanusi, Director Amnesty International Nigeria.

“Amnesty International has prepared a detailed human rights agenda for the Nigerian authorities. The government must now respond not by paying lip service to human rights, but by ensuring that their words are matched with concrete actions to protect and uphold the rights of everyone in the country.”

A human rights agenda for Nigeria

Although the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) contains provisions on human rights and Nigeria has ratified several human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the country has been plagued by decades of human rights violations and abuses, perpetrated by both state and non-state actors.

Amnesty International has previously documented numerous human rights violations in the country — yet victims continue to be denied access to justice and effective remedies. Now, the organization is recommending concrete measures that the authorities must take to ensure that human rights in the country are effectively respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled:

President Tinubu’s administration must guarantee and ensure respect for the human rights of everyone in the country. In Nigeria, the rights to freedom of expression and media freedom are routinely violated. Occasionally, security forces threaten, arrest and detain journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and activists simply for doing their work. During the 2023 general elections, at least 42 journalists were attacked, harassed, beaten or denied access to cover the elections.

The Nigerian government must conduct a thorough, impartial, independent, effective and transparent investigation into the counter-insurgency operations carried out in the northeast of the country by security forces. Since 2009, the Nigerian military has committed gross human rights violations and crimes under international law, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and incommunicado detention, in the northeast.

The authorities must also fully implement findings of the investigation of the killings of peaceful #EndSARS protesters by the military and police at Lekki Toll Gate on 20 October 2020. All atrocities committed by the police before and after the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) must be investigated. Victims must also receive compensation, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

The Nigerian authorities have failed to address rising cost of living triggered by the removal of fuel subsidy and increasing taxation amidst unprecedented inflation. This has plunged millions of struggling families into more poverty, with more families unable to meet the cost of food, education and healthcare.

The killing of civilians in Southern Kaduna has also remained unresolved for several years. The Nigerian authorities have failed to bring an end to these deadly attacks. Since December 2022, gunmen have killed over 100 people in southern Kaduna.

The perennial violent clashes between farming and herding communities in some regions of Nigeria over access to resources, such as water and pasture land, also remain unaddressed. At least 3,641 people were killed between January 2016 and October 2018. Deadly clashes between farmers and herders remain commonplace in central Nigeria, with attacks in Benue and Plateau recently claiming dozens of lives. All incidents must be investigated thoroughly, effectively and impartially.

In December 2015, the Nigerian military carried out a mass slaughter of men, women and children in Zaria and attempted to cover up their shocking crime. The military also burned people alive, razed buildings and dumped victims’ bodies in mass graves, demonstrating an utter contempt for human life. Authorities must thoroughly, impartially, independently, effectively and transparently investigate these human rights crimes and bring suspected perpetrators justice in fair trials.

Gunmen, known locally as bandits, have frequently been carrying out attacks on rural communities and travelers in Zamfara and many other areas of Sokoto state in the North-west region. Last week, gunmen abducted at least 100 people in Zamfara state in another round of ruthless attacks on rural communities. Also, gunmen continue to abduct and kill people in the rural areas of Katsina state. These gunmen have been blamed for killings of thousands of people in homes, farms, mosques and markets. This violence must be halted, and suspected perpetrators brought to justice in fair trials.

Grave human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions continue to be committed with impunity. More than 23,000 people have been reported missing since the beginning of the insurgency in the northeast. Abubakar Idris aka Dadiyata, a government critic who was abducted by gunmen from his home in Kaduna on 2 August 2019, is still missing after more than four years.

The authorities must also end the rising insecurity in the southeast, where rampaging gunmen have repeatedly carried out violent attacks. During security operations in Southeastern Nigeria, Nigerian security forces have committed human rights violations and used excessive force, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture against civilians and suspected members of the IPOB/ESN.

“President Bola Tinubu’s administration must thoroughly, impartially, independently, effectively and transparently investigate these human rights violations and bring suspected perpetrators to justice in fair trials,” said Isa Sanusi