The United States government on Friday released a damning human rights report on Nigeria, saying grave violations continued to increase in 2017 while officials who perpetrated them were almost never prosecuted by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Why it matters: President Buhari is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on April 30, and both men would likely discuss further U.S. military assistance to Nigeria against the backdrop of serious human rights violations by security forces who use the same weapons to kill civilians.
The U.S. annual report on global human rights violations, released in Washington D.C. on Friday afternoon, said the administration of President Buhari “took steps to investigate alleged abuses, but fewer steps to prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government”.
“Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government. The government did not adequately investigate or prosecute most of the major outstanding allegations of human rights violations by the security forces or the majority of cases of police or military extortion or other abuse of power,” the report said.
It said the most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial and arbitrary killings; disappearances and arbitrary detentions; torture, particularly in detention facilities, including sexual exploitation and abuse; use of children by some security elements, looting, and destruction of property.
There were also civilian detentions in military facilities, often based on flimsy evidence; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement
This was in addition to official corruption; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women and children, including female genital mutilation/cutting and sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in persons; early and forced marriages; criminalization of status and same-sex sexual conduct based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and forced and bonded labor.
The report recognized that Boko Haram terror group also committed a myriad of human rights violations, killing and torturing and imprisoning women and children and bombing entire villages.
“The groups conducted numerous attacks on government and civilian targets that resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, widespread destruction, the internal displacement of approximately 1.8 million persons, and external displacement of an estimated 205,000 Nigerian refugees to neighboring countries, principally Cameroon, Chad, and Niger,” the report said.
Boko Haram’s numerous attacks often targeted civilians. The group, which recruited and forcefully conscripted child soldiers, carried out scores of suicide bombings–many by young women and girls forced into doing so–and other attacks on population centers in the Northeast and in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
“Abductions by Boko Haram continued. The group subjected many abducted women and girls to sexual and gender-based violence, including forced marriages and rape. The government investigated attacks by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA and took some steps to prosecute their members, although the majority of suspected insurgent group supporters were held in military custody without charge,
“In its response to Boko Haram and ISIS-WA attacks, and at times in response to crime and insecurity in general, security service personnel perpetrated extrajudicial killings and engaged in torture, sexual exploitation and abuse, arbitrary detention, mistreatment of detainees, use of children by some security elements, looting, and destruction of property. The country also suffered from ethnic, regional, and religious violence,” the report added.