Nigeria

Partly Free
47
100
PR Political Rights 22 40
CL Civil Liberties 25 60
Last Year's Score & Status
50 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

While Nigeria has made significant improvements to the quality of its elections since the transition to democratic rule in 1999, the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections, which saw President Muhammadu Buhari reelected and the All Progressives Caucus (APC) regain its legislative majority, were marred by consistent irregularities. Corruption also remains endemic in the petroleum industry, a key sector of the economy. Security challenges, including the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram militant group, kidnappings, and communal and sectarian violence in the restive Middle Belt region, threaten the human rights of millions of Nigerians. The response by the military and law enforcement agencies to the widespread insecurity often involves extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses. Civil liberties are also undermined by religious and ethnic bias, and discrimination against women and LGBT+ people remains pervasive. The vibrant media landscape is impeded by criminal defamation laws, as well as the frequent harassment and arrests of journalists who cover politically sensitive topics.

header2 Key Developments in 2019

  • President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won reelection in February in a contest marred by violence, the intimidation of electoral officials, and a one-week delay in the poll that weakened voter confidence. Turnout in the presidential election stood at 35.7 percent, the lowest ever recorded in a Nigerian electoral contest. The APC also secured a majority in both houses of the National Assembly in a contest held concurrently with the presidential election.
  • Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group, intensified its activities in the northeast throughout the year, leading to at least 1,000 civilian deaths in the country by December.
  • The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), a Shiite Muslim group calling for a religious government in Nigeria, was classified as a terrorist organization and banned, after followers clashed with security forces in the capital city of Abuja in July.
  • Efforts to reform the vital oil sector remained in limbo throughout the year, after President Buhari’s veto of legislation in 2018. The reform bill, which was first introduced in the National Assembly in 2001, remained under consideration by legislators as the year closed.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 2.002 4.004

The president can serve a maximum of two four-year terms, and is elected by a qualified majority vote. In addition, the president must win at least 25 percent of the votes cast in 24 states. President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was reelected in February 2019, winning 53 percent of the vote. His challenger, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won 39 percent. Other candidates shared 8 percent of the vote.

The federal election was marred by a one-week delay in voting, which was announced the morning of the election, undermining confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). International election observers noted serious irregularities when the election was held, including election-related violence, vote buying, and the intimidation of election officials and voters. Turnout for the presidential election, at 35.7 percent, was the lowest ever recorded in Nigeria. Abubakar legally challenged the election results in March; the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal in October and recognized President Buhari’s reelection.

Nigerian voters returned to the polls in early March to elect governors and assemblies in 29 states; these local races were also marred by pervasive intimidation efforts. A supplementary election was held to resolve five gubernatorial and 40 local legislative races later that month as a result. The European Union (EU)’s Election Observation Mission (EOM) reported that INEC officials were often targeted in the federal and state elections, with the observers noting incidents of sexual assault, abduction, and murder.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to significant deficiencies in the electoral process, including a last-minute postponement of voting, delays at polling places that disenfranchised voters, insufficient transparency surrounding vote counting, the obstruction of observers, and violence and intimidation, including by the security forces.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 2.002 4.004

Members of the bicameral National Assembly, consisting of the 109-seat Senate and the 360-seat House of Representatives, are elected for four-year terms.

The APC won 217 seats in the House of Representatives, with the PDP winning 115, candidates from other parties winning 20, and 8 going undeclared. In the Senate, the APC won 65 seats, while the PDP won 39 and the Young Progressives Party (YPP) won 1. Three seats went undeclared in the upper house.

The 2019 National Assembly election took place concurrently with the presidential race, and election observers reported similar irregularities, including violence, intimidation of voters and officials, vote buying, and other forms of interference and coercion; election observers noted incidents where political party officials directed some voters on how to cast their ballots at polling stations. INEC declined to certify winning candidates in two Assembly races because their local returning officers operated under duress.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to significant deficiencies in the electoral process, including a last-minute postponement of voting, delays at polling places that disenfranchised voters, insufficient transparency surrounding vote counting, the obstruction of observers, and violence and intimidation, including by the security forces.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 2.002 4.004

The 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010 provide the legal framework for the country’s elections. In 2018 and 2019, the National Assembly passed amendments to the 2010 legislation designed to strengthen equal airtime obligations for broadcasters, make the voter register and election results more accessible to voters, and extend federal electoral regulations to local races. President Buhari vetoed the legislature’s reform bill four times during this period, citing inconsistencies with existing law; no electoral reform package was enacted in time for the 2019 election.

The EU’s observers reported that the 2019 Nigerian elections were administered in general accordance with existing procedures, but also warned that the last-minute delay to presidential and congressional races in February affected voter turnout, confused voters, and undermined their confidence in the electoral process. Other observers also noted INEC’s apparent lack of preparedness to fulfill some of its obligations; the organization’s electoral security committee, which is co-chaired by Nigeria’s national security advisor, was not in operation by election day.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because the last-minute postponement of the presidential elections and attempts to change electoral laws created confusion among voters and candidates, and undermined public confidence in the electoral process.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3.003 4.004

Nigerians generally have the right to organize in different political parties. There were 91 registered political parties and 73 candidates for president in the 2019 contest, the largest number of parties and candidates since the country’s 1999 transition to democracy.

A constitutional amendment signed by President Buhari in May 2018 allowed independent candidates to compete in federal and state elections for the first time. The president also signed a “Not Too Young to Run” bill that same month, lowering the age of eligibility to run for political office from 40 to 35 years. However, a lack of internal party democracy and high fees make it difficult for prospective candidates to vie for major party nominations.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 3.003 4.004

Nigeria’s multiparty system provides an opportunity for opposition parties to gain power through elections, as demonstrated by President Buhari’s victory over his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015. Buhari’s election marked the first time in Nigerian history that a sitting president was peacefully replaced. Opposition parties can also gain influence when legislators cross the aisle; a wave of APC legislators defected to the PDP during the 2015–19 legislative session, ultimately depriving that party of its majority.

New political parties have successfully entered the National Assembly in recent years; the new YPP won its first Senate seat in 2019. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which was formed in 2003, won nine seats in the lower house in 2019. However, two parties—the APC and PDP—still overshadow their competitors, occupying most elected offices in the country.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2.002 4.004

Citizens’ political choices remain impaired or undermined by vote buying and intimidation, the influence of powerful domestic and international economic interests, and the local domination of either the Nigerian military or illegal armed groups in certain regions of the country. Powerful “godfathers,” or wealthy political sponsors, often dispense patronage and use their considerable influence to cultivate support for the candidates they back, and in return, winning candidates use their political offices to further enrich their backers.

Military personnel and armed gangs have also been known to interfere in the voting process. INEC reported that voting stations in Rivers State were invaded by soldiers and gangs during the gubernatorial election in March 2019, and local officials were unlawfully arrested. This led to the suspension of vote counting, and another election was held in Rivers later that month.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2.002 4.004

Nigeria’s legal framework generally provides for equal participation in political life by the country’s various cultural, religious, and ethnic groups. However, politicians and parties still often rely on voters’ ethnic loyalties, and the interests of a given group may be poorly addressed in areas where it forms a minority or when affiliated parties are not in power.

Women enjoy formal political equality, but restrictive societal norms limit their participation in practice. The number of women elected to the National Assembly declined after the 2019 election. Seven women were elected in the Senate, the same number as in the 2015 election. Only 12 women were elected to the House of Representatives in 2019, a decline from 20 in 2015. Women are also poorly represented in the president’s cabinet, holding only 7 of its 43 seats after President Buhari named his cabinet in July 2019.

Same-sex relationships were criminalized and LGBT+ advocacy groups were banned in 2014, when former president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. LGBT+ people are deterred from openly running for office or working to advance their political interests.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 2.002 4.004

Elected officials generally make and implement policy in Nigeria, but their ability to do so is impaired by factors including corruption, partisan conflict, poor control over areas of the country where militant groups are active, and the president’s undisclosed health problems, which have caused him to seek treatment outside the country in recent years.

In addition, the president has demonstrated a willingness to obstruct government bodies while in office. In September 2019, President Buhari appointed an economic advisory council that superseded a constitutionally mandated economic management body chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. In November, Nigerian media reported that Buhari dismissed 35 of Osinbajo’s aides, and the vice president had been bypassed on several presidential decisions.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 2.002 4.004

The Nigerian government has attempted to reduce corruption in public and private institutions, but the practice remains pervasive, particularly in the oil and security sectors. A whistleblower policy introduced in 2016, which rewards Nigerians who provide information on government corruption, led to the recovery of 594 billion naira ($1.6 billion) in stolen funds by November 2019, according to the finance ministry.

Nigerian politicians have been locked in an effort to curb corruption in the oil sector since at least 2001, when legislators first considered an expansive Petroleum Industry Bill. Since then, legislators have split the massive bill into three components in an effort to secure its passage. The National Assembly passed the first of these items, the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), in 2018, but President Buhari refused to sign it, objecting to large budgetary allocations for the proposed Petroleum Regulatory Commission (PRC). The Senate passed the bill again in April 2019, removing the PRC budget mechanism in an effort to resolve the impasse. Efforts to pass the bill were still ongoing at the end of the year.

Anticorruption groups have voiced concern over President Buhari’s commitment to keep corrupt individuals from the cabinet after he appointed Timipre Sylva as a deputy petroleum minister in July 2019. Sylva, a former governor of Bayelsa State, was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges of fraud in 2013. The EFCC alleged he stole 19 billion naira ($53 million), but the case was dismissed in 2015, with the Federal High Court ruling that Sylva was denied due process by the EFCC.

Nigerian customs officials have also been susceptible to corruption, allowing smuggled goods to enter the country through porous customs checks in return for bribes. In response, Nigeria took the step of closing its borders with neighboring Benin in August 2019 and with Niger in September. The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), an umbrella organization for private businesses in the country, criticized the decision and called for a campaign to improve customs practices instead. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which counts all three countries as members, also objected to the move, warning that the border closure would hamper the region’s free trade agreement. The land border remained closed at the end of 2019.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

The 2011 Freedom of Information Act guarantees the right to access public records, but nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have criticized government agencies for routinely refusing to release information sought through the law. The law has also encountered resistance in some states. In 2018, Lagos State declined to make its education budget public in response to a freedom of information request. In 2019, a court in Edo State ruled that the federal act did not apply in states that did not adopt it.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2.002 4.004

Freedoms of speech, expression, and the press are constitutionally guaranteed. However, these rights are limited by laws on sedition, criminal defamation, and publication of false news. Sharia (Islamic law) statutes in 12 northern states impose severe penalties for alleged press offenses. Internet service providers sometimes block websites at the request of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This is particularly true for websites advocating for independence for Biafra, a secessionist state in the eastern reaches of the country that rebelled against the government from 1967 to 1970, when it collapsed. The government has also accused journalists of undermining its national security when reporting on operations against Boko Haram.

Government officials also restrict press freedom by publicly criticizing, harassing, and arresting journalists, especially when they cover corruption scandals, human rights violations, separatist and communal violence, or other politically sensitive topics. Amnesty International reported that at least 19 journalists suffered verbal abuse or physical assaults through September 2019, and were subject to indiscriminate arrest and detention.

In January 2019, the military raided offices of the Daily Trust, a daily newspaper, in the capital city of Abuja and in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. The newspaper’s northeast regional bureau chief, Uthman Abubakar, and reporter Ibrahim Sawab were detained during the raid, and the newspaper was accused of publishing classified information involving operations against Boko Haram. Abubakar was held for two days, but neither journalist was charged with an offense. In November, security forces fired live rounds into a protest in front of Department of State Security (DSS) headquarters in Abuja, and shot at journalists who covered the event. One reporter later stated he was assaulted by DSS personnel during the fracas.

In August, Nigerian security forces detained activist and journalist Omoyele Sowore, who organized the #RevolutionNow protests over election irregularities, ahead of a protest scheduled to take place in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. Sowore, who is also the publisher of news website Sahara Reporters, was accused of threatening public safety and social harmony in the country for his call to protest. Protesters who took part in the August 2019 event were arrested by security forces, along with Sahara Reporters journalist Victor Ogungbemiro. Amnesty International, which called for Sowore’s release, was subsequently placed on a watch list by the Nigerian government, which accused it of repeating a message advocating for insurrection from the group on its Twitter account.

Sowore was eventually charged with treason, money laundering, and the cyberstalking of President Buhari; he was released on bail in early December 2019 but was rearrested within hours of his release, sparking renewed criticism. Prosecutors released Sowore on bail on Christmas Eve, after his mother pleaded for his release in an interview broadcast by CNN.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 1.001 4.004

Religious freedom is constitutionally protected in Nigeria, but the government has also embarked on crackdowns against religious groups that have questioned its authority. Nigeria has also been locked in a long struggle against Boko Haram, the militant group that has itself targeted civilians based on their religious affiliation. State and local governments have also been known to endorse de facto official religions in their territory, placing limits on religious activity.

The Nigerian government’s conflict with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) escalated in August 2019, when a court in Abuja banned the Shiite Muslim organization and labeled it a terrorist organization. The move came after July clashes between the IMN and security forces in Abuja, which began with a protest in front of the foreign ministry and ended with the deaths of at least 11 of the movement’s members as well as a journalist witnessing the event. The IMN, which advocates for Islamic rule in Nigeria, considers its leader, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, to be the ultimate source of authority in the country, and the IMN does not recognize the government in Abuja.

The government has responded violently, with security forces cracking down on IMN activities. In late 2015, security forces raided el-Zakzaky’s compound, arresting him and his wife, and killing at least 300 members of the organization before burying them in a mass grave. Dozens of IMN members were killed in another army operation in late 2018.

Despite a 2016 court order to release him, el-Zakzaky and his wife were only freed in late August 2019 to seek medical attention in India. El-Zakzaky refused treatment and returned to DSS custody in Nigeria, claiming his medical team was altered without his permission, and that he was placed under excessive restrictions by Indian security personnel.

Nonstate actors have also attempted to limit religious freedom. The militant group Boko Haram has deliberately attacked Christians and moderate Muslims during its armed campaign, along with their respective houses of worship.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3.003 4.004

The federal government generally respects academic freedom. However, some state governments mandate religious instruction in elementary and secondary curriculums, and student admission and faculty hiring policies are subject to political interference. Boko Haram’s assault on secular education has included the closure or destruction of primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions. UNICEF estimated in 2018 that Boko Haram had abducted over 1,000 children since 2013, and the insurgency had left some three million children in northern Nigeria without access to a school.

In late September 2019, authorities rescued 300 men and boys from an Islamic school in the northern city of Kaduna, many of whom were found in chains; many freed students subsequently reported physical torture and sexual abuse at the hands of school staff. Police arrested the principal and six teachers as a result. These unregulated schools, which focus on Islamic religious instruction, have operated for decades, but some parents have also patronized these schools for corrective services for lack of a robust juvenile rehabilitation system in much of the country.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 3.003 4.004

Nigerians are generally free to engage in discussions on politics and other topics, though expression of critical views on political leaders or sensitive subjects like the military, religion, and ethnicity occasionally leads to arrests or violent reprisals. By 2018, both houses of the National Assembly had passed the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, which would expand freedom of expression online by regulating government surveillance and prohibiting the suspension of internet services. The bill was sent to the president in February 2019, but Buhari declined to sign the bill in March, stating that it covered too many technical subjects and did not address them extensively. A revised version of the bill was making its way through the National Assembly as 2019 ended.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 2.002 4.004

The right to peaceful assembly is constitutionally guaranteed. However, federal and state governments frequently ban public events perceived as threats to national security, including those that could incite political, ethnic, or religious tension. Rights groups have criticized federal and state governments for prohibiting or dispersing protests that are critical of authorities or associated with controversial groups, including the IMN and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist group. In July 2019, President Buhari announced a ban on IMN activities after an Abuja court upheld his government’s request to classify it as a terrorist organization.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

Nigeria has a broad and vibrant civil society. However, members of some organizations face intimidation and physical harm for speaking out against Boko Haram, or encounter obstacles when investigating alleged human rights abuses committed by the military against Boko Haram suspects. Groups operating in the restive Niger Delta region face similar impediments.

In September, the military ordered the closure of the offices of two international NGOs, Mercy Corps and Action against Hunger, over allegations that they were aiding and abetting Boko Haram. The suspensions were temporarily lifted in October.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3.003 4.004

Under the constitution, workers have the right to form and join trade unions, engage in collective bargaining, and conduct strikes. Nevertheless, the government forbids strike action in a number of essential services, including public transportation and security.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

Judicial independence is constitutionally and legally enshrined. The judiciary has achieved some degree of independence and professionalism in practice, but political interference, corruption, and a lack of funding, equipment, and training remain important problems.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Walter Onnoghen, was himself suspended from office after he was accused of failing to disclose assets in foreign bank accounts in February 2019. The suspension was announced only weeks before the presidential election, sparking fears of a politically motivated effort to remove Onnoghen from office ahead of the contest. Onnoghen was convicted of falsely declaring his assets in April, and was banned from holding public office for 10 years, despite an attempt to tender his resignation in February.

The former judge appealed his conviction, with an appeals court ruling that the suspension order violated Onnoghen’s right to a fair hearing later in the year. Despite this, Onnoghen’s passport was seized in December 2019, amid speculation that the president was angered by the judge’s appeal.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 1.001 4.004

There have been numerous allegations of extortion and bribe taking within the police force. Federal and state authorities have been criticized for disregarding due process, with prolonged pretrial detention of suspects even after courts ordered their release on bail. Former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki, who was arrested in 2015 on corruption charges, was only granted bail in December 2019, despite four court rulings ordering his release on bail.

According to a September report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), thousands of children suspected of supporting Boko Haram remained in military detention. According to HRW, children held in detention received no education, and were sometimes subjected to abuse by the soldiers present in detention facilities.

The United Nations (UN) reported that between January 2013 and March 2019, the military arrested and detained over 3,600 children, including 1,617 girls, who were suspected of involvement with non-state armed groups. HRW subsequently reported that 2,200 minors were subsequently released, but many of these minors were ostracized by their communities because of their assumed support of Boko Haram.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 0.000 4.004

The military has been repeatedly criticized by local and international human rights groups for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses, including during counterinsurgency efforts in the northeast and operations against separatist movements in the southeast.

The northeast has been affected by a resurgence in Boko Haram activity in 2019. In January, the militant group killed at least 60 people in the town of Rann in Borno State, according to Amnesty International. In April, a faction of Boko Haram loyal to the Islamic State militant group attacked a military base in Mararrabar Kimba, on the outskirts of the city of Maiduguri, killing five soldiers. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reported that Boko Haram was responsible for 1,136 deaths in Nigeria in 2019, compared to 872 in 2018.

A rolling conflict between farmers and the Fulani, a semi-nomadic Muslim ethnic group, has continued to destabilize the north of the country in 2019. The Fulani have abandoned degraded grasslands in the north, coming into increased conflict with farmers as they travel south to find new grazing lands for their herds.

Increasing banditry in the northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina, and Zamfara led to hundreds of deaths during the year. By the end of September 2019, more than 160,000 people were internally displaced by banditry across the northwest. Various vigilante groups are active in Nigeria, with the National Assembly attempting to give official recognition to one, the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), in 2017. President Buhari refused to sign legislation recognizing the group in 2018, though the Assembly attempted to secure recognition again in July 2019. By the end of the year, the VGN still lacked official recognition.

Kidnapping has become an acute concern in Nigeria in 2019, with 685 kidnappings recorded in the first quarter. While kidnapping has been a tactic of Boko Haram during its insurgency, the US Consulate General in Lagos noted its increasing use by criminals demanding ransom, as well as by factions in intercommunal conflicts elsewhere in the country.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 1.001 4.004

Despite constitutional safeguards against ethnic discrimination, many ethnic minorities experience bias by state governments and other societal groups in areas including employment, education, and housing.

Women are subject to widespread societal discrimination regarding matters such as education and employment. Many poor families choose to send sons to school while daughters become street vendors or domestic workers. Women also face significant legal disadvantages in states governed by Sharia statutes.

LGBT+ Nigerians face widespread discrimination by the government and society at large. Nigerians convicted of engaging in same-sex relationships can be imprisoned for as long as 14 years due to federal legislation enacted in 2014, while 12 northern states maintain the death penalty for same-sex relations. LGBT+ people are also subject to assault by police officers during arrests, extortion attempts, and discrimination when accessing public and private services. A 2017 survey of Nigerians showed widespread opposition to LGBT+ rights in the country, with 90 percent of respondents supporting the criminalization of same-sex relations. Only 39 percent of respondents said they believed LGBT+ people deserved equal access to public services.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 1.001 4.004

Freedoms of internal movement and foreign travel are legally guaranteed. However, security officials frequently impose dusk-to-dawn curfews and other movement restrictions in areas affected by communal violence or by Boko Haram activities. More than 2.5 million people remained internally displaced by the conflict in northeastern Nigeria by the end of 2019.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2.002 4.004

Nigeria’s poorly regulated property rights system hinders citizens and private businesses from engaging in the efficient and legal purchase or sale of land and other types of property. Bribery is a common practice when starting a business and registering property. However, the climate for private enterprise in recent years has benefited from advancements in credit accessibility, ease of starting a business, ease of paying taxes, and property registration.

Women belonging to certain ethnic groups are often denied equal rights to inherit property due to customary laws and practices.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

Despite the existence of strict laws against rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and child marriage, these offenses remain widespread, with low rates of reporting and prosecution. Women and girls in camps for displaced persons have reported sexual abuse by members of the military and other authorities. Boko Haram’s attacks on women’s rights have been particularly egregious, with victims often subjected to forced marriage and rape, among other acts.

Abortion is illegal unless the life of the mother is in danger. As a result, many women seek out dangerous illegal abortions, finding themselves at risk of medical complications. As many as 1.3 million women sought clandestine abortions in 2012, according to a 2015 study conducted by researchers at the University of Ibadan; 212,000 of them sought medical attention for complications, while another 285,000 suffered serious health consequences but did not receive further medical treatment.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

Nigerian organized crime groups are heavily involved in human trafficking. Boko Haram has subjected children to forced labor and sex slavery. Both Boko Haram and a civilian vigilante group that opposes the militants have forcibly recruited child soldiers, according to the US State Department.

Meanwhile, implementation of the 2003 Child Rights Act, which protects children from sexual exploitation and other abuses, remains uneven; a UNICEF child protection specialist noted that 11 northern states have not implemented the legislation during public remarks delivered 2019.

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) continues to rescue trafficking victims and prosecute some suspected traffickers, but its funding is reportedly inadequate, and there have been few prosecutions against labor traffickers. Survivors of trafficking operations often find their freedom of movement withheld by NAPTIP in poorly-managed shelters, and experience discrimination when seeking access to public services after their release.

On Nigeria

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  • Global Freedom Score

    47 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    64 100 partly free