Countries at the Crossroads 2004

Accountability and Public Voice: 

Nigeria has had two elections since 1999, the first of which marked the return to civilian rule. Both elections have been marred by fraud and violence. In the election on April 19, 2003, official results declared that 60 percent of Nigerians voted for incumbent President Obasanjo, while the American NGO International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) reported 55 percent of voters supporting the president. In the 1999 election, Obsanjo received 63 percent of the votes.[26] Although the election was officially declared legitimate, the opposition and international election monitors complained to Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) regarding allegations of intimidation at polls, thugs stealing ballot boxes, rigging and ballot-box stuffing, and other electoral fraud.[27] It does not appear that these irregularities determined the presidential election's overall outcome, but many Nigerians and other observers argue that some state and local government contests were far less legitimate. Much of the violence, intimidation, and irregularity was in relation to bitterly contested state gubernatorial voting and national assembly elections.

While electoral laws are generally fair in theory, they are not applied consistently. The INEC registered most political parties only after court intervention. As a result, the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) enjoyed more campaigning time than most other political parties. Political parties that meet specified conditions receive public funds. There is no ceiling on private contributions.

Although opposition parties are quite active, and 20 eventually contested the election, on the national level Nigeria is currently in a dominant party situation; the PDP received 61.94, 54.49, and 53.69 percent of the votes respectively in the last three national elections.[28] There is often not a solid issues-based platform for political groupings, and politicians sometimes appear to change parties for monetary or other gain. There is also a national psychology that supports the winning side, thus discouraging votes for those parties perceived to be losing.

Yet the most troubling aspect of the 2003 presidential contest was that results were largely defined on clear ethnoreligious lines corresponding to the country's north - south Muslim - Christian divide. Even in some states that have mixed populations, ethnic groups appear to have voted strongly in favor of the candidate of their religion rather than on the basis of party or policy.

The legislature sought to assert its voice in several areas, although the executive remained the strongest and at times least accountable branch of Nigeria's government. Parliament tried to impeach President Obasanjo in September 2002. Obasanjo was accused of failing to implement budgets passed in the preceding three years according to the appropriation law and also of not adequately addressing concerns about military operations in which hundreds of people were killed, first at Odi in 1999 and then at Zaki Biam in 2001.[29]

Although there are entrance exams for the civil service, recruitment is influenced by nepotism and corruption. However, the federal character principle ensures representation of all states in civil service, which helps protect the interests of ethnic minorities as Nigerian states are polyethnic.

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression. The government has a healthy respect for civil society in Nigeria, and civic groups often testify regarding pending government bills. However, their capacity to influence the process remains limited. The Nigerian state also accepts media criticism of its officials. Libel laws are fashioned after those in the United Kingdom, and they are not applied onerously.

While the government generally does a good job of protecting free expression in Nigeria, a trend of hostility toward reporters appears to be growing. Police continue periodically to attack or seek to intimidate journalists - for example, by inviting reporters or editors in "for a chat."[30] The severe beating of a photographer with the Daily Independent by the security detail attached to the vice president of Nigeria on June 30, 2003, received extensive media coverage. But certain non-state actors may be more dangerous to free expression in Nigeria than the state. For example, journalist Isioma Daniel was forced to flee abroad in November 2002 when Islamic extremists pronounced a "death sentence" on her for blasphemy (even though she is a Christian).

Although private radio and television stations exist, the state itself owns most major media outlets. The government is usually given positive coverage by these outlets. Government media frequently lead with news about the president, and reporting is often slanted in the government's favor. For example, during the June fuel-price strike, the government-owned Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) showed the president being implored by market women to maintain the price increase. It reported little on massive demonstrations against the price hike because, according to its director general, the role of NTA was to "calm things down" rather than stir them up.[31]

The quality of journalism is certainly also affected by the widespread practice of bribing journalists. "Some media houses [print and electronic] are said not to pay their staff, or to pay in arrears, because they expect staff to 'live off the land'"[32] - that is, journalists are expected to supplement their income with bribes. Such corruption means that even reporting by independent media cannot always be trusted to be unbiased or honest.

Civil Liberties: 

The current democratic government has respected the rights of Nigerians better than prior military regimes. However, protections of the individual from government maltreatment are a mixed record of good intentions, poor implementation, and occasionally unremedied official disregard of law and violations of basic rights. For example, the 1999 constitution prohibits both detention without trial and torture (Chapter IV), and other provisions require those arrested to be brought before a court of law within a reasonable period, which depends on the nature of the alleged crime. However, these rights are rarely upheld. There are many cases of arbitrary arrest, and suspects are frequently not brought to court within the time stipulated by the constitution. The fundamental rights provisions of the constitution allow Nigerians to seek redress in the form of damages or apology from the government when their rights are violated. But despite many complaints of torture and other abuse raised by prisoners and people under police custody, few Nigerian police or security officers have been prosecuted for these offenses under any administration.[1] According to the Nigeria-based Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), pathologists have sometimes been unwilling to confirm the cause of death of people allegedly killed by police in order to shield the police from civil suits.[2] Only rarely have citizens won civil cases against police brutality.

The Niger Delta region continues to suffer turmoil, with clashes in 2003 that killed at least 200 people. At issue is the exploitation of the region's oil wealth by government dictators, military rulers, and international oil companies present in the region, with very little of this wealth redistributed to the local communities. Local factions have responded with nonviolent and violent methods, from arranging peaceful occupation of companies' properties and the sabotage of oil production lines to taking oil companies' staff hostage. In the process, local residents face serious human rights abuses from government security forces, such as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, and severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association, with the oil companies' security forces often implicated as well. In addition, interregional violence is common as local leaders and military personnel, in line with senior officials' corrupt behavior, compete for resources and wealth. [3]

Physical violence is also often used against political opponents in Nigeria, mostly in conjunction with the usually fierce struggle for power within and between political parties. For example, questions remain about the murder of former Attorney-General Bola Ige in 2001 and the death in September 2003 of a former president of the senate and former vice-presidential candidate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. The government's record in protecting against such killings is dismal. Political violence in Nigeria is related to the high premium placed on political power as a principal source of patronage and financial gain. There is an alarming proliferation of private armies and vigilantes used to harass or kill political opponents, which national and local authorities have markedly failed to curb and appear sometimes to condone. Generally, however, political killings are not state sanctioned.[4]

Gender rights in Nigeria are little respected in practice . Although the constitution affirms freedom from gender discrimination, the state shows little interest in implementing this right. Sharia law and practice in the public and criminal spheres, imposed in 12 northern states with Muslim majorities, clearly discriminates against women. To date, the federal government has been unwilling to take a strong stand against official adoption of Sharia statutes.

Throughout Nigeria, women are subjected to prejudice by tradition and custom with little legal recourse. However, the level of the protection of women's rights varies from state to state. There is officially no active discrimination in employment against women. But few governments in Nigeria's three-tier federation have taken affirmative steps to right the wrongs of many years of discrimination against women. A positive note is the government's recent efforts to fight trafficking in women and children. The Nigerian police have proposed training women officers for this particular function. The government has also taken some measures against traditions that discriminate against women, particularly with respect to the rights of widows.

Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups. The three largest are the Hausa (who are predominantly Muslim and reside mostly in northern Nigeria), the Igbo, and the Yoruba (who are mostly Christian and inhabit the country's southeast and southwest, respectively).[5] Generally, the Nigerian state does not practice or condone ethnic discrimination, which is barred by the constitution. The Nigerian constitution includes a unique federal character principle, which ensures minority access to federal offices and related rights. However, only the languages of the three largest groups are the official languages of the national assembly; other ethnic groups consider this arrangement discriminatory.

Freedoms of conscience and belief are officially well respected in Nigeria. The free practice of religion is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is no evidence that the government has tried to restrict this important freedom. Still, the state tends to limit de facto religious recognition to Islam and Christianity. While indigenous faiths enjoy more official acceptance than atheists, there is little state provision for them. In many Nigerian courts, it is not unusual to have nonbelievers swear by the Koran or the Bible, although more progressive judges keep a cutlass in the witness box so adherents of indigenous religions can swear by the God of Iron. Some Nigerian Muslims believe that the organization of the working week in Nigeria (a legacy of colonialism) favors the Christian religion. Meanwhile, in the Sharia states, Christians claim they face many state-imposed obstacles. For example, they frequently complain that policies governing building permits for churches and schools in these states are discriminatory.[6]

The Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom of association, and no citizen can be forced by the government to join any organization. However, there appears to be a sometimes violent and unpunished disregard for freedom of assembly. For example, in November 2002 members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were attacked and injured by the Nigerian police at Onitsha in Anambra state, and on March 29, 2003, many members of the MASSOB were killed by the mobile police in another raid.[7]

In 2003, the government increased the price of fuel by approximately 82 percent on the basis that heavy government subsidies were keeping the price of petroleum products too low. The working poor in Nigeria are inordinately affected by the price of fuel, and this immediately provoked nationwide protests and an eight-day general strike by the trade unions in June. The official reaction to the oil price strike showed little respect for human rights. During the general oil price strike called by the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and civil society groups, Nigerian police fired on demonstrators in the federal capital of Abuja and arrested the president of NLC, Adams Oshiomole.[8] In Lagos, a rally on the first day of the strike was violently dispersed. Ultimately, however, the government agreed to reduce the price increase to 54 percent above former levels.

Although the state generally respects the right of individuals to form and join trade unions, it uses legislation to limit the number that can be recognized and does very little to moderate the behavior of some strongly anti-union companies and institutions in the country. In late 2002, the ASUU called a strike to demand improved educational facilities, library materials, laboratory provisions, pay, and living conditions, and increased research funds for professors. When the government was unable to meet the ASUU demands, a strike began that ran from December 2002 to July 2003 and resumed in late September 2003. The ASUU strike is emblematic of the failure of successive Nigerian governments, both civilian and military, to curb the gross corruption that has led to underfunding of education, health, and other social services in Nigeria.

The constitution allows the existence of many civic, business, and political organizations, but only registered political parties can participate in elections. For years, the nongovernmental organization(NGO) registration process was so rigorous and expensive that few Nigerians could afford it. Registration is now much less onerous. NGO directors do not have to register at all unless the group desires to own real estate, in which case specific provisions of the Companies Act apply.

Rule of Law: 

Nigeria has had four constitutions since regaining its independence in 1960. The latest constitution, of 1999, was meant to provide a temporary basis for the transition from military rule to civilian rule. Thus, there has been widespread demand for further negotiations on a new constitution that will strengthen Nigeria's federal system. Current criticisms of the constitution claim that it concentrates too much power in the central government, perpetuating the cycle of strong rulers dominating the political landscape. However, the constitution does guarantee personal freedoms that were absent during the years of military rule.[9]

In 1999, Zamfara, a state in northern Nigeria, adopted Sharia as its official legal system. Today, 12 of the country's 36 states have adopted this Islamic legal system, thereby abandoning the national policy of limiting Sharia and other traditional systems to personal and family law, and violating section 10 of Nigeria's constitution, which explicitly forbids the adoption of an official religion by the federal or state governments. Given that only Muslim citizens who commit adultery in Sharia law states are sentenced to death, and only Muslims convicted of thievery in Sharia law states are subject to the cruel and unusual punishment of amputation, the federal government's inaction against Sharia also breaches the country's constitutional tenet of equality before the law. The quiet acquiescence of the national government in this clear violation of the country's secular constitution contradicts its responsibility to uphold the rule of law and has helped to increase religious divisions, boding ill for Nigerian unity.

As of October 2002, 10 Nigerians were awaiting amputation for theft in Bauchi, one of the Sharia states.[10] In Katsina, a Sharia court sentenced Amina Lawal to death by stoning on charges of adultery in 2001. After much international attention, she was acquitted of all charges on September 25, 2003, when appeal judges held that her pregnancy outside marriage was not sufficient evidence to prove adultery and that her alleged confession was "no confession in law."[11] The case, and Sharia law more generally, gained further international attention in the fall of 2002, when deadly riots broke out during the Miss World pageant, which was being hosted by Nigeria. An editorial published by ThisDay newspaper, responding to some Muslims' claims that it was immoral to host an event that presented women "immodestly," had suggested that the Prophet Muhammad, were he on earth today, might have chosen one of these women as a wife. Muslim youths reacted by attacking the newspaper's offices in Kaduna and rioting throughout the city. As many as 200 people were killed, and the pageant was evacuated to Britain.

Even these events, which alarmed the international community, have not persuaded Nigeria's federal government to move against the official use of Sharia law in northern Nigeria. Although the government could almost certainly win a case in the Supreme Court against the official imposition of Sharia law, half of Nigeria's population is Muslim, and there is strong sentiment in many Muslim-majority states for using Sharia as their criminal code. It is feared that extremists would be likely to defy a court ruling against the use of Sharia law, which could lead to widespread communal violence and perhaps result in civil war.

By law, the judiciary is impartial and independent of the government, but in practice the executive branch uses its control of judicial funding to exert political influence. The Nigerian Bar Association and others are pressing the federal government to allow funds voted by parliament for the judicial branch to come directly from federal accounts rather than through a politically controlled office.

Many Nigerians believe that their criminal justice system is deeply tainted by political influence. Given the sometimes subtle character of such pressures, it is hard to ascertain the extent to which elected and appointed officials interfere with the affairs of Nigeria's courts. But some cases are more flagrant. For example, then-governor, Chimaroke Mbadinuju, released suspects in the political murder of Barnabas Igwe, Anambra state chair of the Nigerian Bar Association, and his three-months pregnant wife, Abigail. The governor, a ruling party member, was not sanctioned in any way. Many other political killings remain unsolved. At the national level, the federal government's case in the killing of former Attorney?General Bola Ige has faltered in the face of judicial intimidation. Some judges handling the trial of former Osun state deputy?governor Iyanda Omisore, accused of Ige's murder, have withdrawn after threats to their lives.[12] The case is currently in the hands of a fourth judge, Akin Sanda.

Nigerian judges are generally honorable, highly qualified in law, and appointed on merit. However, judges' integrity will continue to be threatened by both corruption and political manipulation as long the judiciary is poorly funded and the executive branch controls its operating budget. On the functional level, lack of resources often means that judicial processes move very slowly, especially at the magistrate and lower-court levels. Exacerbated by corruption and inefficiency, the slow administration of justice frequently amounts to a denial of due process and regularly results in very lengthy periods of pretrial detention.

The executive branch in Nigeria has ignored court rulings on occasion, and in cases in which a member of the government has been accused of wrongdoing, judicial decisions are sometimes treated as recommendations rather than as commands. For example, after the April 2002 Supreme Court ruling that all special accounts operated by the federal government were illegal, the executive branch ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria not to honor any garnishee proceedings against the federal government. The head of the central bank, a presidential appointee, defied the court by refusing to close a special account for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).[13]

The general disrespect for court orders by powerful institutions in the country erodes the credibility of the judicial system, and judicial integrity is frequently compromised in political cases. Justice Samuel Wilson Egbo?Egbo of the Federal High Court in Abuja is particularly identified in this regard. One of his most contentious rulings involved the case of the abduction of the Anambra state governor, Chris Ngige, on July 10, 2003. The justice issued an injunction preventing the abducted (and, later, reinstated) governor from acting as governor. Several days later, upon a general condemnation in the press of his ruling, which revealed an apparently strong political bias, he blamed the order he had signed on a mistake by the court registrar.[14]

Other branches of government have also ignored court rulings with apparent impunity. In May 2003, the national assembly ignored a court order requiring it to end deliberations on an amendment to an anticorruption bill that was expected to weaken Nigeria's anticorruption commission and leave it powerless to investigate or prosecute. A month later, the NLC ignored an ex parte injunction from a Lagos high court for it to cease an indefinite national strike over an increase in fuel prices. None of this disregard for court rulings evoked any real sanctions or penalties. Government officials' cavalier approach to the rule of law contributes to the perception of a lawless society, despite the fact that most Nigerians are law abiding, especially the millions who live in villages.

The constitution provides that people accused of crimes be presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, many suspects are denied bail and can be detained for years without trial. The government has a legal aid program to provide counsel to indigent people, but this program often lacks adequate funding. In some states, lawyers employed by the government serve as public defenders for the poor. Most hearings are open and fair, although corruption and political influence sometimes distort decisions. There have been reports of poor people being beaten until they confess, with no government response under any recent leader.[15] Often, these ills result from the limited capacity of the judiciary, which persists despite the fact that most judges are competent and strive to be independent.

Under the new administration, prosecutors are generally more independent. However, powerful government officials are rarely convicted for crimes or the abuse of power to the full extent of the law. Sometimes, the threat of indictment rather than actual prosecution is applied, mostly in cases of embarrassing crimes involving high government officials. With the exception of some high-profile murder cases, action against government officials is often limited to removal from office or transfer.

The Land Use Act of 1978 gives the government the right to acquire land it deems to hold interest for the common benefit of Nigerians, particularly in regard to natural resource extraction such as oil exploration and mining. While procedures prescribed by the Land Use Act are generally officially respected, the public is poorly informed about how this power is properly exercised and how to file complaints if it is not.[16]

Nigeria has greatly improved its civil - military relations. A program designed to professionalize the military appears to be working, and there is little fear that the military will disrupt the new democracy in the near future. All security forces now accept civilian supremacy, and a civilian was appointed as minister of defense in June 2003.

The police force is effectively under the civilian-dominated police service commission. The commission provides administrative, monitoring, and disciplinary oversight of the police force, but as with many government services, a paucity of resources limits the commission's capacity and hampers its supervisory and oversight functions. The police, which were by design degraded under several military regimes, are often accused of corrupt and politically motivated behavior, as well as regularly using excessive force, and could become a concern in the future. In some cases, police officers have apparently served as instruments of political bosses, who use them in combination with other security forces for partisan ends. For example, police in Anambra state abducted the state governor in July 2003, allegedly at the behest of a wealthy political opponent, thus effecting the first police coup in Nigeria's political history.

Anti-Corruption and Transparency: 

Nigeria's corruption is rightfully legendary. In 2003 it retained its position as the second most corrupt of 133 countries in Transparency International's Global Corruption Index. President Obasanjo's first civilian administration came into office in 1999 on an anticorruption platform, and Obasanjo himself was a leader of Transparency International. However, his government's anticorruption record is mixed at best. Although Obasanjo has put in place the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to lead efforts against corruption, as well as rules against conflict of interest, corruption is apparently little diminished under his presidency.[17]

The state's heavy involvement in the national economy provides ample opportunity for misallocation of resources through patronage or other political influence. The state controls all petroleum products. In the 1990s, oil accounted for roughly 30 percent of Nigeria's GDP, over 90 percent of its export earnings, and over 80 percent of the government's fiscal revenue.[18] Its administration of public works such as electricity is highly inefficient. However, the country is taking serious steps toward the privatization of public enterprise. The government has constituted a national council on privatization under the country's vice president and announced its intent to privatize public holdings such as the National Electric Power Authority.

While the state officially demands the separation of the private interests of public office holders from public office, there is little practical enforcement. Public officers are required to declare their assets before being sworn in, but this process has yet to expose any conflicts. Worse, if the declaration of assets does take place, it is rarely published, thereby preventing the monitoring of conflicts of interest by journalists and civil society. When it was revealed in March 2002 that the former governor of Kogi state owned a mansion in the USA worth close to $2 million, the government refused to release his declaration of assets.[19] In 2003, lucrative contracts for the recent All-Africa Games in Abuja were awarded to members of the president's own family.[20]

Anticorruption laws are often not enforced. For example, the Ondo state government, controlled by the opposition Alliance for Democracy, sought to prosecute a former commissioner of finance under its state laws. However, before it could do so, the federal ICPC, controlled by the ruling PDP, took the man to Abuja and nothing was heard of the case again.[21]

Individuals who reveal corruption in Nigeria risk official repercussions, despite the ICPC's responsibility to protect whistle-blowers. For example, when Auditor-General Vincent Azie submitted an unflattering report in February 2003 alleging governmental financial abuse, the president replaced him with one of his own allies.[22] In another case, in September 2003 Mallam el-Rufai, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, named senators who allegedly demanded bribes from him before his confirmation to the post; in response, the senate demanded that he render a public apology.[23]

There is a widespread impression among Nigerians that the ICPC pursues only cases that the presidency wants investigated. Frequently, political enemies of the president have been targeted. Last year, Senate President Pius Anyim, who fought bitter political battles with the president, was investigated by the ICPC. Meanwhile, none of the federal ministers suspected of corruption was investigated. The outgoing national assembly reacted by seeking to amend the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Act of 2000 and reduce the ICPC's powers. But this proved to be very unpopular, both at home and abroad, and the parliamentarians' true motives were questioned, as many members of the national assembly are themselves suspected of corruption.

Thus, the country's premier anticorruption body is widely seen as no more than a means for threatening or punishing political enemies of the government. As a result of this reputation, few people report corruption cases to the ICPC. Allegations of high-level corruption attract intensive media attention, but this is rarely sustained, in part because investigative journalism is little developed in Nigeria. On July 13, 2003, The News, a weekly news magazine, detailed grave allegations of corruption against the country's inspector general of police (IGP). The IGP's response was generally seen as unconvincing. The Nigeria police council, composed of the president, state governors, chair of the police service commission and the IGP, quickly declared the IGP cleared of all the allegations,[24] and coverage of the case died down. This is a characteristic example of apparent government protection for favored political appointees accused of corruption.

Nevertheless, some Nigerians in powerful government positions maintain a reputation for incorruptibility. The National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), under the leadership of Director?General Dr. Dora Akunyili, has achieved high marks for integrity. Under her leadership, dangerous counterfeit drugs are steadily being driven out of the Nigerian market. This may have contributed to a rise in the value of shares of Nigerian pharmaceutical companies. In May 2003, Dr. Akunyili was honored by Transparency International at its 11th Anti?Corruption Convention in Seoul, South Korea.

There are official mechanisms to ensure that victims of corruption have their situations reviewed by the courts, but, like other court proceedings, these are not always impartial. Also, the significant costs in time and money in pursuing a case may be more onerous than the direct cost to the victim of the corruption involved. Bribery, the most common form of corruption in Nigeria, is very difficult to prove, but even the very open variety demanded of millions of poor Nigerians every day by traffic police is rarely prosecuted. Some sectors of Nigerian life, such as higher education, are much less affected by corruption. All students who perform well on admission examinations can enroll at a university with few obstacles. Still, unexceptional students whose parents are rich, influential, or connected to admission officials can also gain admission.

The problem of capacity acutely affects government budget making as well. While the government claims significant transparency in its budget making, the process is in fact usually chaotic and opaque. The budget regularly arrives too late to be approved before the beginning of the financial year. Worse, approved budgets are rarely implemented to the letter, and the executive often resorts to so-called supplementary budgets with little regard for the legislature's decisions. With limited oversight experience and capability, the national assembly, which is dominated by the ruling party (PDP), is unable to check the executive adequately in this regard. The function of legislative budgetary review and oversight, especially in the 36 states, is limited at best. Some Nigerian groups are pushing hard for more openness, including the Committee of Nigerian Political Parties, which has threatened legal action against the federal government over constitutional violations in budget management.[25]

The government has also failed to demonstrate its commitment to transparency with respect to freedom of information. In fall 2003, a coalition of Nigerian NGOs presented a freedom of information bill to the national assembly, which failed to enact the measure. The federal government, after declaring its strong support for the bill, refused to sponsor it, thereby reducing its chances for passage.

Public access to government information exists more in theory than in practice. While there is relatively easy access to judicial proceedings, and the proceedings of the national assembly are conducted in public, it is very difficult to obtain records of the acts of public officials and related public documents. There is a long lag between government expenditures and the publication of expenditure reports, many of which are available only years after all relevant actors are retired or dead. These problems are at least in part due to limited capacity for information dissemination rather than a concerted effort to restrict access to information, but a disinclination toward governmental openness lingers.

On paper, there is a clear policy of open bidding and competition for the awarding of government contracts. However, in practice, bidding is usually by invitation, rendering the process neither open nor competitive.

The June 2003 government increase in the price of petroleum was justified with questionable claims. The government claimed that its policy was to use the revenue from the price increase for investments in health, education, and other social services. Past experience with similar pledges unfulfilled by successive governments diluted public belief in this promise. Many ordinary Nigerians know, for example, that funds collected at toll gates on the nation's expressways have not been used to improve the condition of the interstate roads as promised by the government. Still, the new minister of works appointed by the president appears to be determined to make positive changes in the construction and maintenance of Nigerian roads. The recent decision to fire the government engineer responsible for overseeing the Ibadan - Ijesha road may be a positive sign of things to come.

NGOs may receive and administer foreign aid in Nigeria; the government has no role in its distribution, nor has it ever attempted to forbid the receipt of foreign funds by Nigerian NGOs. Specific organs of the government may receive foreign aid directly as well. For example, the Constitutional Review Committee received $2 million from the Ford Foundation during Obasanjo's first term. The Nigerian police and the ministry of justice have both directly benefited from capacity-building funds from foreign governments.

  • The Independent National Electoral Commission should enjoy genuine autonomy and be funded adequately through an autonomous budget to administer elections properly and ensure that the Nigerian people's electoral will is properly recorded and respected.
  • State-controlled media must be accessible to all electoral candidates on an equitable basis and should be permanently controlled by an autonomous broadcast authority to guard against partisan bias.
  • Licenses for private broadcasting should be made more easily available and provision for community radio stations established.
  • Efforts to enhance the capacity of Nigeria's vibrant media and civil society should be pursued domestically and through international assistance, especially in the area of civic education.
  • Implementation of constitutional and legal provisions must be improved, especially in the handling of protests, strikes, and related forms of group political expression, in treatment of detainees and prisoners, and regarding women's rights.
  • The government must act forcefully at all levels to curb political militias and related political vigilantism and end official impunity for acts of violence by security forces.
  • Official and NGO efforts to educate citizens regarding their rights, and remedies if those rights are not respected, should be increased. Particular emphasis should be placed on vernacular publications and broadcasts for ordinary Nigerians.
  • The government must end Nigeria's legal dualism and ensure equality of all citizens before the law by restricting Sharia to its traditional civil rather than criminal jurisdiction.
  • The judicial branch should be financially independent of the executive, receiving funds directly from the federal budget, and be adequately funded to allow the proper administration of justice.
  • Members of the government cannot be allowed impunity for legal transgressions and must abide by court decisions.
  • Workshops and seminars to instill these values should include high government officials. Independent civilian oversight of police must be strengthened to ameliorate abuses and political manipulation of police. 
  • The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission must be made truly independent and take up its prescribed role as watchdog over malpractice from any sector.
  • The capacity of the executive's budgetary process needs to be strengthened, including the capacity of the auditor?general's office, to help increase accountability and public knowledge and voice.
  • Legislative staff training should be increased, and offices should be modernized (including computerizing the offices of the budget, appropriations, and related committees with oversight responsibilities) to help keep the executive branch honest and accountable.
  • The office of the auditor general should be independent of the presidency and the legislature, in terms of both appointment and funding. Its budget should derive directly from the federal accounts.
  • Robust freedom of information laws easily enforceable in the courts should be adopted to ensure the public's access to government information.
  • Decentralization of political power and the diversification of the national economy may help reduce corruption.
  • Any sale of state assets should be closely monitored to ensure that benefits accrue to the Nigerian people and not unduly to well-connected private individuals.

[1] Annual Report on Human Rights (Lagos: Civil Liberties Organisation [CLO], 1996).

[2] Direct communication from Ayo Obe, head of CLO. Ms. Obe's research support for this project has been indispensable.

[3] "The Price of Oil" (New York: Human Rights Watch [HRW], 1999); "Nigeria, The Niger Delta: No Democratic Dividend" (HRW, October 2002).

[4] "Nigeria: Cease Sponsoring Vigilante Violence," Joint Statement by Human Rights Watch and the Centre for Law Enforcement Education, Human Rights Watch News (HRW, 21 June 2002),

[5] CIA Fact Book (Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2003).

[6] Ebere Onwudiwe, "Critical Options for a United Nigerian State," in Eghosa E. Osaghae and Ebere Onwudiwe, The Management of the National Question in Nigeria (Ibadan: PEFS, 2001), 324.

[7] Vanguard (Lagos), 13 November 2002; HRW World Report, 2002 (HRW),

[8] "NLC Top Officials Arrested Over Breach of Public Order Act" (Washington, DC: Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2002),

[9] "Nigeria Risk: Government Effectiveness Risk," The EIU Risk Wire (London: The Economist Intelligence Unit), 15 January 2004.

[10] The Guardian (Lagos), 8 October 2002.

[11] "Women and Gender; New Zeal for Sharia Penalties Reflects Political Climate, Say Rights Activists," African News (AllAfrica, Inc.), 13 November 2003.

[12] Wada Nas, "A Nation in Distress," Weekly Trust (Lagos), n.d.

[13] Information from Ayo Obe, head of CLO.

[14] Onurah and Alifa Bmadu, "PDP Governors Say Anambra Crisis Is a 'Family Affair,'" The Guardian (Lagos), 15 July 2003.

[15] CLO Reports.

[16] "Compulsory Land Acquistion: Need to Review Land Use Act," ThisDay Newspapers (Lagos), 5 September 2003,

[17] Corruption Perceptions Index (Berlin and London: Transparency International).

[18] UNDP Nigeria Web page,

[19] Vanguard, 27 March 2002; Nehlah S. Nchami, "The Fleecing of Nigeria: The Case of Kogi State Governor Abubakar Audu,"

[20] "The Many Scandals of COJA," The News, 27 October 2003.

[21] Information from Ayo Obe, CLO president.

[22] Anza Philips, "Big Wahala for Azie," Newswatch Magazine, 28 February 2003.

[23] Kola Ologbondiyan, "Senate to Summon el-Rufai over Bribery Allegation," ThisDay News, 9 September 2003.

[24] Punch (Lagos), 13 July 2003.

[25] Balarabe Musa, Punch, 9 September 2003.

[26] Nigeria Election Results, Election Guide (Washington, DC: IFES, April 2003),

[27] "Observers Question Historic Nigerian Elections," NewsHour Extra, PBS, 23 April 2003,

[28] Ebere Onwudiwe, "Ndigbo and the dominant party idea," The Guardian (Lagos), 26 May 2003.

[29] "Nigeria: Focus on moves to impeach President Obasanjo" (New York and Geneva: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] Integrated Regional Information Network [IRIN], 6 September 2002.

[30] Interview with Nigerian journalist.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Direct communication from Ayo Obe, CLO president.


2004 Scores