Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

November 5, 1996

Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

10 Revoke the Federal Military Government (Supremacy and Enforcement of Powers) Decree, No. 12 of 1994, which effectively places the government above the law by
prohibiting legal challenges to any of its military decrees or to any action which violates
the human rights provisions of the Constitution

This military decree is the ultimate expression of the present Nigerian government´s contempt for the rule of law. It gives it complete immunity from judicial scrutiny of its actions, including alleged human rights violations. While this decree remains in effect, any claim by the government that it respects human rights is meaningless. It should be revoked with immediate effect.


Nigeria was propelled to the top of the international agenda during 1995. The secret treason trials and executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP supporters brought widespread international condemnation. The international community´s role during 1995 is summarized in Amnesty International´s March 1996 report, Nigeria: A Summary of Human Rights Concerns (AI Index: AFR 44/03/96).

This section of the report begins with a survey of the respective roles between January-August 1996 of the UN, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the African Commission on Human and Peoples´ Rights and the Commonwealth. It suggests that the political will to take concerted action to persuade the Nigerian government to improve its human rights record is in danger of fading. During that period, agreement failed to emerge across the international community on common and specific measures which the present Nigerian government should implement without delay in order to establish respect for human rights in that country. The absence of a coordinated approach increases the risk that piece-meal human rights reforms may be given more credibility than they deserve.

But the international community is not just made up of governments. Transnational companies also have an significant role to play. Amnesty International believes that transnational companies have a responsibility to do all they can to uphold human rights, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This applies to transnational companies everywhere, including Nigeria. Accordingly, this section also surveys the role in recent years of transnational companies with regard to human rights in Nigeria. It suggests that there is much more that they could do to uphold human rights in that country.

This section of the report concludes by setting out the steps which governments and transnational companies with signficant investments in Nigeria should urgently take to discharge their responsibility to do all they can to end contempt for human rights in Nigeria.

The UN