Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

November 5, 1996

Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

Some of those named above - for example, Olatunji Abayomi, Abdul Oroh, Frederick Eno, Nosa Igiebor, Nnimmo Bassey - have been released during the course of 1996. Nevertheless, by detaining such prisoners of conscience, including many human rights activists, the Nigerian authorities violated the following international human rights standards, including legal obligations:

a) By arbitrarily arresting and detaining them for prolonged periods - Article 9(1) of the ICCPR; Article 6 of the ACHPR

b) By refusing to allow the courts to order the production of detainees before them, including by writ of habeas corpus - Article 9(4) of the ICCPR; Articles 6 and 7(1) of the ACHPR

c) By denying them access to their lawyers - Article 14(3)(b) of the ICCPR; Article 7(c) of the ACHPR

d) By denying or restricting access to essential medical treatment for those who require it - Articles 7 and 10(1) of the ICCPR; Article 5 of the ACHPR; Principle 24 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment; Rule 91 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

5 Robbery and Firearms Tribunals

The number of executions dramatically increased after the November 1993 coup and the resultant replacement of elected civilian State Governors in Nigeria´s 30 states by military administrators. At least 200 criminal prisoners have been executed since that date, many of them in public, following trials on charges of armed robbery by Robbery and Firearms Tribunals. For example, in July 1995, 43 prisoners were executed by firing-squad before a crowd of a thousand spectators in Lagos.

The Robbery and Firearms Tribunals do not allow the right of appeal against conviction to a court of higher jurisdiction. In failing to do so, the Robbery and Firearms Tribunals violate Article 14(5) of the ICCPR and Article 7(a) of the ACHPR. They also contravene the UN Economic and Social Council Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.

6 Alleged extrajudicial executions by the Nigerian security forces

There have have been a number of reports of extrajudicial executions of unarmed civilians by members of the Nigerian security forces since the present government took power.

At least 50 Ogoni are reported to have been killed and many wounded by the security forces in late May and June 1994 when soldiers attacked towns and villages in Ogoniland. Troops apparently fired at random killing several, and also reportedly killed others deliberately. They are also reported to have assaulted and raped civilians and to have destroyed homes. For example, the twin villages of Uegwere and Bo-ue were reportedly attacked at night several times between 4 and 9 June 1994. Ten people, including a 10-year old boy, were reportedly killed. In January 1996, there were reports that at least two boys had been shot and killed during demonstrations in Ogoniland.

Dozens of unarmed people were also reportedly killed by police during pro-democracy demonstrations in 1993 and 1994.

In June 1996, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the senior wife of Chief Moshood Abiola was shot and killed in Lagos in circumstances which led some to allege that her killers were acting on behalf of the state. Kudirat Abiola had long waged a campaign for the release of her husband. Her death confirmed a growing trend of physical attacks on supporters of the political opposition in Nigeria. For example, Chief Alfred Rewane, a financial backer of NADECO, was shot dead by gunmen at his home in November 1995. Police investigations have produced no results so far.

If alleged extrajudicial executions by Nigerian military and security officials were confirmed, the present Nigerian government would have violated Article 6(1) of the ICCPR and Article 4 of the ACHPR.