Partly Free
PR Political Rights 21 40
CL Civil Liberties 24 60
Last Year's Score & Status
47 100 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 1999 transition to democratic rule, 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 irregularities. Corruption remains endemic in the key petroleum industry. Security challenges, including the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram militant group, kidnappings, and communal and sectarian violence in the Middle Belt region, threaten the human rights of millions of Nigerians. The military and law-enforcement agencies often engage in extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses. Civil liberties are undermined by religious and ethnic bias, while women and LGBT+ people face pervasive discrimination. 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 2020

  • In July, acting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chief Ibrahim Magu was questioned by a presidential tribunal over allegations of ethics breaches. Magu was suspended that month, but no permanent chairperson was selected by year’s end.
  • Widespread protests were held in October, after a recording of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officers killing an individual in Delta State was made public. Some protests were reportedly hijacked, leading to clashes and deaths. Soldiers and police indiscriminately fired into a crowd of protesters camped near a Lagos toll gate in late October, killing at least 12.
  • Insurgent violence continued throughout the year—in June, a Boko Haram splinter group abducted five aid workers in Borno State and claimed responsibility for killing them in July; the same group made four unsuccessful assassination attempts against the state’s governor during the year. Boko Haram also continued its campaign, killing at least 50 soldiers in Yobe State in March and over 70 people in Borno in November.
  • Nigerian states imposed COVID-19 lockdowns in March and April and a nationwide curfew was introduced in May. Security forces were excessive in their enforcement, with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reporting 18 extrajudicial killings by mid-April. Some 86,576 cases and 1,278 deaths were reported to the World Health Organization by year’s end.

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. The president must also win at least 25 percent of the votes cast in 24 states. President Buhari of the APC was reelected in February 2019, winning 53 percent of the vote. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar won 39 percent. Other candidates shared 8 percent of the vote.

A one-week voting delay, announced on the morning of the election, undermined confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). International observers noted serious irregularities when the election was held, including election-related violence, vote buying, and the intimidation of election officials and voters. Turnout, recorded at 35.7 percent, was the lowest ever recorded in Nigeria. Abubakar legally challenged the results that March, but the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal that October.

Gubernatorial and assembly elections, held in 29 states in 2019, were marred by reports of intimidation. Gubernatorial contests in Edo and Ondo states, held in September and October 2020, respectively, were relatively well conducted. However, domestic observers reported incidents of violence and intimidation in both contests. PDP candidate Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki won in Edo, while Ondo governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the APC was reelected.

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.

Legislative elections were held concurrently with the February 2019 presidential election. According to INEC, the APC won 212 seats, while the PDP won 127, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won 10, and another 7 parties won the remainder. In the Senate, the APC won 63 seats, while the PDP won 44 and the Young Progressives Party (YPP) won 1. One Senate seat was reported vacant.

Observers reported irregularities including violence, intimidation of voters and officials, and vote buying; observers noted incidents where party officials directed some voters on how to cast ballots at polling stations. INEC declined to certify winning candidates in two races because local returning officers operated under duress.

By-elections for 6 Senate seats and 9 local races that were originally scheduled for October 2020 were held in December. Turnout for these races was reportedly low.

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 Nigeria’s legal electoral framework. In 2018 and 2019, the National Assembly passed Electoral Act amendments 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 bill four times during this period, citing inconsistencies with existing law. The bill remained under consideration in the lower house as recently as November 2020.

European Union observers reported that the 2019 national elections were administered in general accordance with existing procedures, but warned that the delay to presidential and congressional races that February affected voter turnout, confused voters, and undermined confidence in the electoral process. Other observers noted INEC’s apparent lack of preparedness to fulfill some of its obligations; its electoral security committee, cochaired by the national security adviser, was not in operation by election day. Domestic observers considered the 2020 gubernatorial elections relatively well conducted, but those contests were affected by INEC’s decision to postpone them.

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 parties and 73 presidential candidates in 2019, the largest number of parties and candidates since the 1999 transition to democracy. INEC removed 74 parties from the register in February 2020, citing their inability to win the support of a sufficient number of voters and lack of representation nationwide. After 22 parties won an appeals-court judgment in August, INEC vowed to bring its case to the Supreme Court. That case remained pending at year’s end.

A constitutional amendment signed by President Buhari in 2018 allowed independent candidates to compete in federal and state elections. 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 2015 victory over predecessor Goodluck Jonathan. 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, depriving that party of its majority.

New political parties have successfully entered the National Assembly in recent years; the YPP won its first Senate seat in 2019. The APGA, which was formed in 2003, won 10 lower-house seats in 2019. However, the APC and PDP still overshadow their competitors, occupying most elected offices in Nigeria.

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 military or illegal armed groups in certain regions of the country. Wealthy political sponsors, or “godfathers,” dispense patronage and use their considerable influence to cultivate support for candidates who, in return, use their political offices to further enrich their backers.

Military personnel and armed gangs have been known to interfere in the voting process. INEC reported that voting stations in Rivers State were invaded by soldiers and gangs during the 2019 gubernatorial election, and local officials were unlawfully arrested.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, 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 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. Only eight women held Senate seats after the 2019 legislative elections, while 21 women were present in the House of Representatives in December 2020. Women are poorly represented in the cabinet, holding 7 of 43 posts 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 Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. Openly LGBT+ people are deterred from 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 are impaired by factors including corruption, partisan conflict, poor control over areas where militant groups are active, and the president’s undisclosed health problems, which have caused him to seek treatment abroad in recent years.

President Buhari has demonstrated a willingness to obstruct government bodies while in office. In September 2019, Buhari appointed an economic advisory council that superseded a constitutionally mandated economic-management body chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. That November, Nigerian media reported that Buhari had dismissed 35 of Osinbajo’s aides, and that Osinbajo was bypassed on several presidential decisions. Access to the president was also tightly controlled by a powerful chief of staff, Abba Kyari, who died of COVID-19 in April 2020.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1.001 4.004

The 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) by late 2019, according to the finance ministry.

Nigeria has sought to recover funds reportedly stolen by late president Sani Abacha (1993–98), though members of his family have contested those efforts. In February 2020, over $300 million in funds laundered through the US financial system and held by a family member were returned.

Nigerian politicians have been locked in an effort to curb corruption in the petroleum sector since at least 2001, when legislators first considered an expansive Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). Legislators later split the PIB into several components to secure its passage. The National Assembly passed the first component, a Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, in 2018, which Buhari refused to sign. Buhari introduced a new PIB to the National Assembly in September 2020, which remained under legislative consideration at year’s end.

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 closed its borders with Benin and Niger in 2019. The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, an umbrella organization for private businesses, 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, warning that the border closure would hamper the region’s free-trade agreement. The Nigerian government reopened the borders in mid-December 2020.

In July 2020, acting EFCC chief Ibrahim Magu, who held the post since 2016, was reportedly arrested by security agents and compelled to attend a presidential tribunal over allegations that he sold seized assets and engaged in other ethics breaches. While the government denied that he was detained, Magu was suspended that month. EFCC operations chief Mohammed Umar was named acting chairman, though a permanent chairperson was not selected by year’s end.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because the chairman of the country’s financial crimes commission was suspended on suspicion of corruption in July.

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 (FOIA) 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, an Edo state court ruled that the federal act did not apply in states that did not adopt it. In April 2020, the Premium Times reported that 16 states had not adopted the FOIA or developed a parallel transparency mechanism.

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 sedition, criminal defamation, and so-called false-news laws. Sharia (Islamic law) statutes in 12 northern states impose severe penalties for alleged press offenses. Internet service providers (ISPs) sometimes block websites at the request of the Nigerian Communications Commission, particularly those advocating independence for the secessionist state of Biafra, which collapsed in 1970. The government has accused journalists of undermining national security when reporting on operations against Boko Haram. Officials restrict press freedom by publicly criticizing, harassing, and arresting journalists, especially when they cover corruption, human-rights violations, separatist and communal violence, or other politically sensitive topics.

At least two Nigerian journalists were killed in 2020. In January, Regent Africa Times editor Alex Ogbu died while covering an Abuja protest organized by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN). While the authorities claimed Ogbu accidentally died, news site Sahara Reporters reported that Ogbu was shot by police. In October, Gboah TV reporter Onifade Emmanuel Pelumi died in Lagos State; Pelumi, who was covering an attempted robbery, was reportedly shot by police and was taken into custody before he was later found dead.

Nigerian authorities also used COVID-19 measures to detain journalists or impede their work. In April 2020, police in Ebonyi State arrested Sun correspondent Chijioke Agwu, who the governor accused of publishing “false and damaging” information. Agwu was later released without charge.

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, but the government has also embarked on crackdowns against religious groups that have questioned its authority. Nigeria has been locked in a long struggle against Boko Haram, a militant group that has itself targeted moderate Muslims and Christians along with their respective houses of worship. State and local governments have been known to endorse de facto official religions in their territory, placing limits on religious activity.

The government’s conflict with the IMN, a Shiite Muslim group that advocates for Islamic rule in Nigeria, escalated in August 2019, when an Abuja court banned it and labeled it a terrorist organization. The move came after the IMN and security forces in Abuja clashed that July. The IMN considers its leader, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, to be the ultimate source of authority in Nigeria, and does not recognize the government in Abuja.

The government has responded violently to IMN activity in recent years. In 2015, security forces raided el-Zakzaky’s compound, arrested him and his wife, and killed at least 300 IMN members. Dozens more were killed in a 2018 army operation. Despite a 2016 court order to release him, el-Zakzaky and his wife were only freed in 2019 to seek medical attention in India. El-Zakzaky elected to return to custody in Nigeria, claiming his medical team was altered without his permission and objecting to security restrictions in India. In November 2020, the Nigerian Guardian newspaper reported that a homicide trial against el-Zakzaky and his wife had begun in the Kaduna High Court.

Individuals who express nonbelief can face legal consequences. In April 2020, Mubarak Bala, a humanist, was arrested in Kaduna State for social media comments criticizing Islam. Bala, who was charged with blasphemy, was transferred to Kano State, and remained detained at year’s end.

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. In 2018, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that as many as three million children in the north were left without access to a school as a result. Boko Haram has continued targeting schoolchildren; in December 2020, it claimed responsibility for the disappearance of over 300 students in Katsina State, though they were released a week later.

Students have faced ill-treatment in unregulated Islamic schools, which have operated for decades. Some parents have patronized these schools for corrective services, as a robust juvenile-rehabilitation system is lacking in much of Nigeria.

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, the National Assembly passed a 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 2019, but Buhari declined to sign it, stating that it covered too many technical subjects and did not address them extensively. A revised bill was under legislative consideration at the end of 2020.

Legislators considered bills on hate speech and on the dissemination of purportedly false statements in 2020. The false-statements bill would impose fines, a one-year prison sentence, or both against offenders, while the hate-speech bill would allow the death penalty for speech that is linked to the death of another person. NGOs including Amnesty International and the Nigerian Union of Journalists harshly criticized the false-statements bill in front of the Senate judiciary committee in March. Both bills remained under consideration at year’s end.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 1.001 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 separatist Indigenous People of Biafra. IMN activities were banned in 2019 after an Abuja court classified it as a terrorist organization.

Nigerians held regular protests against police brutality in October 2020, days after a recording of SARS officers killing an individual in Delta State was made public. An early protest in Abuja was met with force, with officers using tear gas on participants. Government agencies also employed other methods to target protesters and organizers, with the Central Bank of Nigeria ordering a freeze on the accounts of NGOs and individuals suspected of involvement. While Inspector General Mohammed Adamu announced the dissolution of SARS on October 11th, widespread protests over police conduct continued.

While most protests held under the #EndSARS banner were peaceful, Amnesty International Nigeria reported that some were hijacked, leading to violent clashes and deaths. On October 20th, Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered a one-day curfew in response. That evening, soldiers and police opened fire on protesters camped near a toll gate in the city, killing at least 12 and injuring scores more; Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that protesters were indiscriminately shot, while Amnesty International reported that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras were removed in “a clear attempt to hide evidence.” In late November, Inspector General Adamu reported that 102 people died during the protests.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because the authorities responded to October demonstrations against the conduct of Nigerian police with force, using tear gas to disperse a protest, indiscriminately firing on a group of protesters later in the month, and working to hide evidence of their activities.

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. Aid workers operating in the northeast are additionally impeded by restrictions imposed by civilian and military officials. Groups operating in the restive Niger Delta region, meanwhile, also face intimidation.

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Boko Haram splinter group, announced that it would target humanitarian workers in June 2020, and abducted five aid workers in Borno State that month. The group claimed responsibility for killing them in July. ISWAP abducted two local officials and an aid worker in Borno in December.

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 some essential services, including public transportation and security. In February 2020, the Academic Staff Union of Universities launched a strike over the nonpayment of allowances and the implementation of a new payment system; the two sides reached an agreement in December. The National Association of Resident Doctors launched strikes in June and September over matters including pay and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

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, equipment, and training remain important problems.

Former Supreme Court chief justice Walter Onnoghen was suspended over his alleged maintenance of undisclosed assets in January 2019. His suspension was announced weeks before the presidential election, sparking fears of a politically motivated effort to remove Onnoghen. Onnoghen was convicted of falsely declaring assets that April, receiving a 10-year ban from holding public office. While an appeals court ruled that Onnoghen’s suspension violated his fair-hearing rights, his passport was seized that December. A lawyer acting as a concerned citizen sued over the seizure and the reported lack of severance, but that suit was dismissed in October 2020.

Funding is also a problem for the judiciary. In May 2020, President Buhari signed an executive order ostensibly giving state-level judiciaries and legislatures financial autonomy. The country’s 36 state governors sued the federal government in September, alleging that it sought to avoid its financial responsibilities through the order.

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.

According to a 2019 HRW report, thousands of children suspected of supporting Boko Haram were detained by the military; detained children reportedly received no educational services and were sometimes abused by soldiers. In July 2020, the United Nations reported that children with suspected Boko Haram ties still faced military detention, but UN staff could not report on how many children were held between January 2017 and December 2019 because they lacked access to detention facilities. The Nigerian military released nearly 1,600 children during that reporting period. Authorities released another 223 children in March 2020. A UN working group on children and conflict called on Nigeria to release all children in detention in December.

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. Police forces have been accused of similar behavior; in June 2020, Amnesty International reported that SARS was responsible for at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment, or extrajudicial killings between 2017 and May 2020.

Sharia courts that operate in Nigeria are known to impose the death penalty. In August 2020, a Sharia court in Kano State handed Yahaya Sharif-Aminu a death sentence over recorded comments that were considered blasphemous. Sharif-Aminu appealed the verdict in September, and a state appeals court was expected to hear the case in November.

Boko Haram continued to attack government forces and civilians in 2020. In March, Boko Haram killed at least 50 soldiers in an ambush in Yobe State. In November, over 70 people in Borno State, most of them farmers, were killed by Boko Haram fighters in an incident the United Nations called “the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians in Nigeria this year.” The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reported that Boko Haram was responsible for 2,720 deaths in Borno State alone in 2020, compared to 1,136 in 2019.

ISWAP also attacked officials and civilians in 2020. Borno state governor Babagana Zulum was targeted by the group four times during the year, surviving a July attack on his convoy, two attacks in September, and a late-November attack. ISWAP was also blamed for an attack in Borno State that killed as many as 81 people in June, along with twin attacks that killed dozens more several days later.

A rolling conflict between farmers and the Fulani, a seminomadic Muslim ethnic group, continued to destabilize northern Nigeria in 2020. The Fulani have abandoned degraded grasslands in the north, coming into increased conflict with farmers as they travel south to find new grazing lands. Banditry in the northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina, and Zamfara have also resulted in fatalities; at least 57 people died in a bandit attack on six villages in Katsina in June 2020. In May, the International Crisis Group reported that over 200,000 people have been displaced in the northwest since 2011, with some fleeing to Niger.

Various vigilante groups are active in Nigeria, with the National Assembly attempting to give official recognition to the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) in 2017. Buhari refused to sign legislation recognizing the group in 2018, though legislators attempted to secure recognition again in 2019. In September 2020, the VGN called on the federal government to incorporate it in a new community-policing initiative, but it still lacked official recognition at year’s end.

Kidnapping has become an acute concern in Nigeria. While Boko Haram is known to employ this tactic, the US Consulate General in Lagos also noted its increasing use by criminals demanding ransom, as well as by factions in intercommunal conflicts. In May 2020, a Nigerian consulting firm reported that as much as $18 million was paid in ransom since 2011.

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 2019 survey showed widespread opposition to LGBT+ rights, with 74 percent of respondents supporting prison sentences for those engaging in same-sex activity.

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

While the freedom of movement is legally guaranteed, security officials frequently impose dusk-to-dawn curfews and other movement restrictions in areas affected by communal violence or by Boko Haram activities. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, over 2.1 million people were internally displaced nationwide at the end of 2020.

Freedom of movement was also curtailed by COVID-19 measures, with states imposing lockdowns in March and April and a nationwide curfew being imposed in May. In mid-April 2020, the NHRC recorded 27 incidents of freedom-of-movement violations or unlawful arrests, along with 18 extrajudicial killings by authorities enforcing pandemic-related measures. A nationwide curfew remained in effect at year’s end.

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 property, including land. 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 (FGM), 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.

Governors in all 36 states declared a state of emergency over sexual violence in June 2020, after the May rape and murder of a woman in an Edo State church, the rape and murder of a woman in Oyo State in June, and the rape of a girl in Jigawa State triggered protests. In their declaration, the governors vowed to impose federal laws and establish sex-offender registries.

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. Women who face such complications often do 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; in 2019, a UNICEF child protection specialist noted that 11 northern states have not implemented the legislation.

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) continues to rescue trafficking survivors and prosecute some suspected traffickers, but its funding is reportedly inadequate, and few prosecutions against labor traffickers are uncommon. Trafficking survivors 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

    43 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    60 100 partly free