|The Government of Nigeria during
1998 went from an authoritarian dictatorship to a transitional
government that at year's end was in the process of implementing a
program of democratic transition to democratic civilian government in
the first half of 1999. For the first half of the year, the Government
was dominated by General Sani Abacha, and committed serious human rights
abuses systematically in order to retain political power. In June Abacha
died and was succeeded by General Aboulsalami Abubakar, who launched a
program intended to restore decentralized constitutional democracy in
the form of a federal republic. Formally, the Government remained a
The presumed winner of the annulled 1993 Presidential election, chief Moshood Abiola, died of natural causes in July on the eve of his expected release from prolonged detention on charges of treason. However, during the second half of 1998 the Government conducted a broad national discussion of constitutional issues, on the basis of which it then prepared to promulgate a new constitution based closely on the suspended 1979 Constitution, which prescribed a democratic federal state. In August the Government formed an Independent National Election Commission (INEC), which swiftly relaxed restrictions on the formation and operations of political. The December elections for local government officials, although marred by scattered violence and local irregularities, were generally free, fair, and open, and the INEC improved its electoral procedures following the local elections.
During the last months of the Abacha regime, the Government continued to enforce its arbitrary authority through the federal security system (the military, the State Security Service (SSS), the national police, and other national and subnational regulatory and law enforcement agencies). The PRC continued to control and coordinate these diverse forces. The security forces continued to commit numerous serious human rights abuses; however, during the latter half of the year, following Abubakar's consolidation of his authority within the armed forces and the PRC, human rights abuses by the security forces diminished significantly.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and the United States' fifth largest oil supplier. Nigeria's crucial petroleum sector provides the government with over 90 percent of all foreign exchange earnings and about 60 percent of budgetary revenue. It offers investors a low-cost labor pool, abundant natural resources, and the largest domestic market in sub-Saharan Africa. However, it also suffers from an autocratic military government, inadequate infrastructure, confusing and inconsistent regulations, and endemic corruption.
Security forces commit extrajudicial killings and use excessive force to quell antigovernment protests as well as to combat crime, resulting in the death or injury of many individuals, including innocent civilians. Security forces torture and beat suspects and detainees. There are many reports of sexual abuse of female suspects and prisoners by security forces. Prison conditions remain life threatening; many prisoners die in custody. The Government repeatedly engages in arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. Security services routinely harass human rights and prodemocracy groups, including labor leaders, journalists, and student activists. The Government also infringes on citizens' right to privacy.
Security forces commit extrajudicial killings and use excessive force to quell antigovernment and prodemocracy protests and civil unrest. Credible reports by domestic human rights groups indicate numerous deaths of suspects in the custody of security forces. These reports are consistent with other credible accounts of abuse, including the use of torture to extract criminal confessions. The Government seldom holds security forces accountable for their use of excessive, deadly force or for the death of individuals in custody. The Government's inaction fosters a climate of impunity in which these abuses flourish. Widespread violent crime has prompted a proliferation of supplemental security forces, including state organized paramilitary forces, personal security teams, special squads, civil-military task forces, and quasi-governmental vigilante groups. Security forces employ roadblocks and checkpoints where extortion, violence, and lethal force are common. Accounts of security officers shooting at individuals who refused to pay bribes, comply with security orders, or who simply appeared "suspicious" have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.
Violent crime, practiced by persons in police and military uniforms, as well as by ordinary criminals, is an acute problem throughout the country. For the most part, the Government neither acknowledges nor denies that security force abuses occur, and has left perpetrators unpunished. Those security force officials who are punished faced, at the worst, dismissal from service and, more often, demotion or a "stern reprimand."
Security forces sometimes turn against each other, and as many as 80 people were injured and 1 policeman was killed in the northern city of Kano in April 1997after fighting broke out between soldiers and policemen. Reportedly, the clash was caused by policemen arresting off duty soldiers suspected of marijuana possession. In May 1997 a confrontation between Federal Aviation Authority security agents and members of the Air Force Presidential Task Force turned violent as members of the two security forces fired on each other. Although no one was killed, a third security force (the police) had to intervene to end the shooting.
Corruption is rampant at all levels of government in Nigeria. This corruption facilitates narcotics trafficking and money laundering and hinders counternarcotics efforts. The government continues to conduct publicity campaigns against corruption but has achieved few concrete results. There is no concerted government effort to eliminate corruption. As with money laundering and narcotics trafficking, Nigerian decision-makers appear to view drug addiction as "somebody else's problem," and a crime having little impact on Nigeria. The Government of Nigeria denies the existence of significant domestic drug abuse and continues to portray Nigeria's narcotics problems as the result of demand in the US and Europe.
Provisional Ruling Council (PRC)
|The Government of Nigeria enforces its arbitrary authority through the Federal Security System (the military, the State Security Service (SSS), the national police, and other regulatory and law enforcement agencies), a variety of official and quasi-governmental security forces, and through decrees blocking action by the opposition in the courts. All branches of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses. The main decision making organ of the Nigerian government is the exclusively military Provisional Ruling Council (PRC), which rules by decree. The PRC oversees the 33-member Federal Executive Council composed of military officers and civilians. Pending the promulgation of the Constitution written by the Constitutional Conference in 1995 and subsequently approved by the Head of State, the Government observes some provisions of the 1979 and 1989 Constitutions. The decree suspending the 1979 Constitution was not repealed and the 1989 Constitution was not implemented. General Sani Abacha, who seized power in a palace coup in November 1993, remained Head of State until his death in June 1998. The transition timetable announced by Abacha in 1995, which purports to return the country to democratically elected civilian government by October 1, 1998, underwent significant revisions in July 1997. The judiciary's authority and independence are significantly impaired by the military regime's arrogation of judicial power and prohibition of court review of its action.|
Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO)
|Between 1976 and 1986, internal
security responsibilities in Nigeria were divided among the Nigerian
Security Organisation (NSO), a central state security organ reporting to
the president; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the national police
force; and the Ministry of Defence. The army was called upon to suppress
domestic disorders on several occasions. The NSO was the sole intelligence service for
both domestic and international security during its ten-year existence.
It was charged with the detection and prevention of any crime against
the security of the state, with the protection of classified materials,
and with carrying out any other security missions assigned by the
president. Until the late 1970s, when military rulers
deprived many citizens of their rights through detention without trial,
physical assault, torture, harassment, and intimidation, the issue of
human rights was not a major concern. The fact that Nigeria did not
become a one-party state as most other African states did immediately
after independence forestalled the emergence of repressive measures,
such as the preventive detention acts prevalent in Africa. By the early
1970s, however, the days of "innocence" in relation to human
rights were over. As Major General Yakubu Gowon's popularity
declined, especially after he reneged on his promise to hand over power
to civilians in 1976, criticisms of him and his cohorts increased. He
reacted by detaining these critics for indefinite periods. This trend of
abuse of the rights of regime opponents continued under the Muhammad/Obasanjo
government and, after the creation of the Nigerian Security Organisation
in 1976, human rights violations became frequent. The return of
constitutional government in the Second Republic (1979-83) reduced the
violations, although the human rights record was poor because of the
increasing powers of the police force and the NSO and the constant
harassment of political opponents.
Under the Buhari regime military security was the criteria for judicial action, often in the form of military tribunals. The government not only gave the NSO greater powers but also promulgated decrees that directly violated human rights. The most notable were State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree Number 2 of 1984, which empowered the chief of staff at Supreme Headquarters to detain anyone suspected of being a security risk indefinitely without trial (detention was for three months initially, and then renewable), and Decree Number 4, which made the publication of any material considered embarrassing to any government official a punishable offense. Under Decree Number 2, many people considered "enemies" of the government were detained in NSO cells and allegedly tortured. Second Republic government officials, whom the Buhari regime held collectively responsible for the economic mess, were detained without trial or were tried by special military tribunals. At these tribunals, the accused was assumed guilty until proved innocent rather than innocent until proved guilty. Journalists and media organizations were regularly harassed by security agents; organized interest groups whose members dared to criticize the government openly or engage in demonstrations or strikes were proscribed. Under the Buhari administration, the NSO engaged in widespread abuses of due process, including detention without charge and trial, arrests without pretext, and wiretapping. The NSO's performance was bluntly criticized after the 1980 uprisings by the Maitatsine movement. It had penetrated the movement but failed to prevent it from instigating bloody riots. The Maitatsine follow the teachings of Maitatsine Marwa, an Islamic leader from Cameroon whose activities in Nigeria led to his expulsion from Kano in 1960 and a series of bloody uprisings in the 1980's in which more than 4,000 persons are believed to have died.
When Babangida toppled Buhari in August 1985, one of his main arguments was the need to restore civil liberties. The new regime prided itself on being a defender of human rights, and many of Babangida's initial acts justified his human rights posture. He released most of the politicians detained without trial and drastically reduced the jail terms of those already convicted. Fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president, Babangida in June 1986 issued Decree Number 19, dissolving the NSO and restructuring Nigeria's security services into three separate organizations under the Office of the Co-ordinator of National Security. The new State Security Service (SSS) was responsible for intelligence within Nigeria, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence, and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for military-related intelligence outside and inside the country. This reorganization followed a formal investigation of the NSO by former director Umaru Shinkafi.
National Intelligence Agency (NIA)
|Fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president, Babangida in June 1986 issued Decree Number 19, dissolving the NSO and restructuring Nigeria's security services into three separate organizations under the Office of the Co-ordinator of National Security. The new National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was responsible for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. This reorganization followed a formal investigation of the NSO by former director Umaru Shinkafi.|
State Security Service (SSS)
|Fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president, Babangida in June 1986 issued Decree Number 19, dissolving the NSO and restructuring Nigeria's security services into three separate organizations under the Office of the Co-ordinator of National Security. The new State Security Service (SSS) was responsible for intelligence within Nigeria. Babangida scrapped Decree Number 4 and reduced the punishment for drug traffickers from public execution to jail terms and he annulled the proscription of "radical" groups such as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Although the notorious NSO was dissolved, the new security establishment in 1990 continued to act arbitrarily and with impunity. The government proscribed radical interest groups like NANS and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the central body of all university professors and lecturers. Several innocent citizens were subjected to physical assault without government reparations. Human rights remained substantially circumscribed. Decree Number 2 remained in place, and numerous citizens had been incarcerated under it, although the allowable period of detention without charge was reduced from six months to six weeks in January 1990. With the aid of this and other decrees that restricted freedom, usually promulgated retrospectively, such radical and outspoken critics of the government as Gani Fawehinmi, Tai Solarin, and Balarabe Musa were regularly detained. Despite having annulled Decree Number 4, the government had several brushes with media organizations. In 1988 Newswatch was proscribed for six months, and journalists, academics, and civil rights activists continued to be harassed by state security agents. Government security forces frequently harass, arrested, and detain editors and reporters from journals critical of the regime. On November 4, 1997 Aoetokunbo Fakeye, defense correspondent for The News, was arrested. On November 8, Jenkins Alumona, editor of The News, was arrested by SSS agents at a Lagos television station. On November 9, Onome Osifo-Whiskey, managing editor of Tell magazine, was arrested by SSS agents in Lagos while driving to church with his children. On October 29, Osifo-Whiskey had warned that the magazine had received a written death threat, which listed the names of 27 staff members. On November 16, SSS agents arrested Babafemi Ojudu, editor of the News/Tempo. Rafiu Salau, an administration editor for the News/Tempo, was also arrested in mid-November. Former chairman of the editorial board of the daily The Guardian and a visiting professor of journalism at a US university, Olatunji Dare, was detained overnight and his passport seized upon his arrival from the United States on 02 June 1997. He was told to report to the SSS to retrieve his passport. After being interrogated on 17 June by SSS officials about his activities abroad, his passport was returned. The Government represses the political activities of opposition groups. Public meetings are arbitrarily canceled or prevented, including cultural events, academic conferences, and human rights meetings. On 25 September 1997, police and SSS agents broke up a Human Rights Africa (HRA) seminar for students in Jos, arrested HARA director Tunji Abayomi and 4 others, and briefly detained some 70 students. Abayomi and the others were held for 10 days and then released on bail. A 01 May 1998 workshop on conflict management in Port Harcourt was canceled when the SSS warned local coordinators that such a meeting could not be held on Workers Day, a local holiday. Similar workshops elsewhere proceeded unimpeded despite the holiday.|
|A paramilitary National Guard was established in 1989 of directly under the president. This new security force, set up by decree to combat crime and terrorism, became controversial because its mission overlapped both the police and the army, and it could be used for political witch-hunting and intimidation. Apparently, only a few police mobile units bore the guard's insignia before the government decided to reconsider its formation. The matter was under review in 1990.|
Special Bodyguard Unit
|The Special Bodyguard Unit, headed in 1998 by Abacha's top security aide Maj. Hamza Mustapha, is a force numbering 2,000 to 3,000 men who are based at the presidential villa and who served as Abacha's political enforcers and palace guard.|
Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA)
|Fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president, Babangida in June 1986 issued Decree Number 19, dissolving the NSO and restructuring Nigeria's security services into three separate organizations under the Office of the Co-ordinator of National Security. The new Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) was responsible for military-related intelligence outside and inside the country. This reorganization followed a formal investigation of the NSO by former director Umaru Shinkafi. Government security forces frequently harass, arrested, and detain editors and reporters from journals critical of the regime. On 28 December 1997 armed soldiers reportedly from the Directorate of Military Intelligence arrested for unknown reasons four journalists in Lagos from the Diet newspaper, including editor Niran Malaolu. Three were released after one day and instructed to report to DMI office weekly, while editor Malaolu remained in detention at year's end.|
Ministry of Internal Affairs
|The public security functions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs included passport and immigration control, prison administration, fire service, and oversight of compliance with certain commercial and civic regulations. Immigration control was regarded as important and such steps as expulsions, expanded border controls, and acquisition of surveillance and communications equipment, and of weapons for immigration officers had been taken to enforce immigration laws. Immigration offices training schools were located in Kano, in Lagos, and at state headquarters. In 1983 the main ministry staff consisted of about 5,300 persons; the Immigration Department employed about 2,900, the Fire Service Department 900, and the Nigerian Prisons Service 23,000. In August 1988, the authority to arrest and detain suspects without trial, formerly assigned to the chief of General Staff and to the inspector general of police, was extended to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The ministry also had a paramilitary Security and Civil Defence Force, whose size, mission, and organization were unknown. In August 1989, it was announced that this unit was to be reorganized. Nigeria had a dual prison system for more than a half century until the consolidation of the federal and local prisons in 1968. The Nigerian Prison Service, a department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was headquartered in Lagos and headed by a director responsible for administering nearly 400 facilities, including regular prisons, special penal institutions, and lockups. All of these facilities since 1975 came under federal control. Nigeria's prison system, as in most Third World countries, is grossly inadequate. Most prisons have no toilet facilities, and cells lack water. Mistreatment of inmates is common, abuse frequent, and torture occasional.|
Nigeria Police Force (NPF)
|In the 1980s, serious crime grew to
nearly epidemic proportions, particularly in Lagos and other urbanized
areas characterized by rapid growth and change, by stark economic
inequality and deprivation, by social disorganization, and by inadequate
government service and law enforcement capabilities. Published crime
statistics were probably grossly understated, because most of the
country was virtually unpoliced--the police were concentrated in urban
areas where only about 25 percent of the population lived--and public
distrust of the police contributed to underreporting of crimes. In the
late 1980s, the crime wave was exacerbated by worsening economic
conditions and by the ineffectiveness, inefficiency, and corruption of
police, military, and customs personnel who colluded and conspired with
criminals or actually engaged in criminal conduct. Violent crime affecting foreigners is an
extremely serious problem, especially in Lagos and the southern half of
the country. Visitors, as well as resident Americans, report widespread
armed muggings, assaults, burglary, carjackings and extortion, often
involving violence. Carjackings, roadblock robberies and armed break-ins
occur often, with victims sometimes shot by assailants for no apparent
reason. Reports of armed robberies in broad daylight on rural roads in
the northern half of the country appear to be increasing. Law
enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all, and
provide little or no investigative support to victims. A major and continuing problem is the
commercial scam or sting that targets foreigners, including many US
citizens. Such scams may involve U.S. citizens in illegal activity,
resulting in arrest, extortion or bodily harm. The scams generally
involve phoney offers of either outright money transfers or lucrative
sales or contracts with promises of large commissions or up-front
payments. Alleged deals frequently invoke the authority of one or more
ministries or offices of the Nigerian government and may even cite by
name the support of a Nigerian government official. The apparent use in
some scams of actual government stationery, seals, and offices is
grounds for concern that some individual Nigerian officials may be
involved in these activities.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is designated by Section 194 of the 1979 constitution as the national police with exclusive jurisdiction throughout the country. Constitutional provision also exists, however, for the establishment of separate NPF branches "forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for their protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields." One such branch, the Port Security Police, was reported by different sources to have a strength in 1990 of between 1,500 and 12,000. Nigeria's police began with a thirty-member consular guard formed in Lagos Colony in 1861. In 1879 a 1,200-member armed paramilitary Hausa Constabulary was formed. In 1896 the Lagos Police was established. A similar force, the Niger Coast Constabulary, was formed in Calabar in 1894 under the newly proclaimed Niger Coast Protectorate. Likewise, in the north, the Royal Niger Company set up the Royal Niger Company Constabulary in 1888 with headquarters at Lokoja. When the protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were proclaimed in the early 1900s, part of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary became the Northern Nigeria Police, and part of the Niger Coast Constabulary became the Southern Nigeria Police. Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914, but their police forces were not merged until 1930, forming the NPF, headquartered in Lagos. During the colonial period, most police were associated with local governments (native authorities). In the 1960s, under the First Republic, these forces were first regionalized and then nationalized. The NPF performed conventional police functions and was responsible for internal security generally; for supporting the prison, immigration, and customs services; and for performing military duties within or outside Nigeria as directed. Plans were announced in mid-1980 to expand the force to 200,000. By 1983, according to the federal budget, the strength of the NPF was almost 152,000, but other sources estimated it to be between 20,000 and 80,000. Reportedly, there were more than 1,300 police stations nationwide. Police officers were not usually armed but were issued weapons when required for specific missions or circumstances. They were often deployed throughout the country, but in 1989 Babangida announced that a larger number of officers would be posted to their native areas to facilitate police- community relations.
The NPF was under the general operational and administrative control of an inspector general appointed by the president and responsible for the maintenance of law and order. He was supported at headquarters in Lagos by a deputy inspector general and in each state by police commissioners. The 1979 constitution provided for a Police Service Commission that was responsible for NPF policy, organization, administration, and finance (except for pensions), In February 1989, Babangida abolished the Police Service Commission and established the Nigeria Police Council in its stead, under direct presidential control. The new council was chaired by the president; the chief of General Staff, the minister of internal affairs, and the police inspector general were members. As part of the government reorganization in September 1990, Alhajji Sumaila Gwarzo, formerly SSS director, was named to the new post of minister of state, police affairs. In late 1986, the NPF was reorganized nationwide into seven area commands, which superseded a command structure corresponding to each of Nigeria's states. Each command was under a commissioner of police and was further divided into police provinces and divisions under local officers. NPF headquarters, which was also an area command, supervised and coordinated the other area commands. The 1986 NPF reorganization was occasioned by a public eruption of tensions between the police and the army. A superintendent was suspended for a time for grumbling that the army had usurped police functions and kept police pay low, and there were fights between police and army officers over border patrol jurisdiction. The armed forces chief of staff announced a thorough reorganization of the NPF into the seven new area commands and five directorates (criminal investigations, logistics, supplies, training, and operations) under deputy inspectors general. About 2,000 constables and 400 senior police officers were dismissed by mid-1987, leaving senior police officers disgruntled. In mid-1989 another NPF reorganization was announced after the AFRC's acceptance of a report by Rear Admiral Murtala Nyako. In 1989 the NPF also created a Quick Intervention Force in each state, separate from the mobile police units, specifically to monitor political events and to quell unrest during the transition to civil rule. Each state unit of between 160 and 400 police was commanded by an assistant superintendent and equipped with vehicles, communications gear, weapons, and crowd control equipment, including cane shields, batons, and tear gas.
The NPF operating budget between 1984 and 1988 remained in the N360 million to N380 million range, and in 1988 increased to N521 million. More notable were large capital expenditure infusions of N206 million in 1986 and N260.3 million in 1988, representing 3.5 and 2.5 percent of total federal capital expenditures in those years. These increases were used to acquire new communications equipment, transport, and weapons to combat the rising crime wave, such as 100 British Leyland DAF Comet trucks delivered in 1990. Despite these purchases, an NPF study in late 1990 concluded that the force's budget must double to meet its needs. Although generally considered an attractive career, the NPF experienced endemic problems with recruiting, training, inefficiency, and indiscipline, and it lacked expertise in specialized fields. Corruption and dishonesty were widespread, engendering a low level of public confidence, failure to report crimes, and tendencies to resort to self-help. Police were more adept at paramilitary operations and the exercise of force than at community service functions or crime prevention, detection, and investigation. During the Obasanjo period, an attempt was made to expand the NPF by reducing the recruitment age from nineteen to seventeen and by enrolling demobilized soldiers, but it failed. In mid-1980 the then federal police minister acknowledged that the police had recovered only 14 percent of the US$900 million worth of property reported stolen in the preceding six months, and that only 20 percent of the 103,000 persons arrested had been found guilty, a performance record about the same as that reported in the 1960s. The use of excessive violence in quelling student disorders led the AFRC in June 1986 to direct the police to use only rubber bullets in containing student riots. Reports of police collusion with criminals were common, as were official appeals to police officers to change their attitude toward the public, to be fair and honest, and to avoid corrupt practices. In an effort to reduce bribery and to make identification of offenders easier, police officers on beats and at checkpoints were not allowed to carry more than N5 on their person.
Police training was directed from headquarters by a deputy inspector general designated as commander. Recruits were trained at police colleges in Oji River, Maiduguri, Kaduna, and Ikeja, which also offered training to other security personnel, such as armed immigration officers. The Police College at Ikeja trained cadet assistant superintendents and cadet subinspectors. There were also specialized schools for in-service training, including the Police Mobile Force Training School at Guzuo, southwest of Abuja, the Police Detective College at Enugu, the Police Dogs Service Training Centre, and the Mounted Training Centre. The NPF inspector general visited Algeria in January 1988; as a result new training practices were under consideration. In August 1989, Babangida laid the foundation stone for a Nigeria Police Academy (NPA) in Kano State. The NPA was to be affiliated with Bayero University until adequate infrastructure was available for independent operation. Admission was to be regulated by merit, by the quota system, and by federal character. The commandant was to be at least an AIG and assisted by a provost who would oversee the academic program. Modelled after the Nigerian Military University in Kaduna, the NPA would offer a five-year academic and professional degree program for new cadets and an eighteen-month intensive course for college graduates aspiring to a police career. Babangida also disclosed plans to obtain technical assistance from Britain to establish a central planning and training program to modernize and upgrade police training.
Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB)
|In mid-1989 a National Police Force reorganization was announced after the AFRC's acceptance of a report by Rear Admiral Murtala Nyako. Under the new structure, a Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB) was to be set up as the successor to the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation; three directorates were established for operations, administration, and logistics, each headed by a deputy inspector general. The Directorate of Operations was subdivided into four units under a deputy director--operations, training, communications, and the police mobile force. The Directorate of Administration was composed of an administration unit headed by an assistant inspector general (AIG), and of budget and personnel units under commissioners. The Directorate of Logistics had four units--procurement, workshop/transport, supply, and work/maintenance--under AIGs. The zonal arrangements were retained. However, AIGs were authorized to transfer officers up to the rank of chief superintendent, to set up provost units, to deploy mobile units, and to promote officers between the ranks of sergeant and inspector.|
National Drug Law Enforcement Agency
|Nigeria is the hub of African
narcotics trafficking, and Nigerian poly-crime organizations continue to
expand their role in narcotics trafficking worldwide. Nigerian
trafficking organizations control the drug markets of Sub-Saharan
Africa, and operate drug distribution networks from strategic locations
throughout the world. Nigerians transport a large portion of the heroin
abused in the United States; they smuggle South American cocaine to
Europe and Africa, especially South Africa, and they export marijuana
the only narcotic cultivated in Nigeria to Europe and other
countries in West Africa. Nigerians participate heavily in international
drug trafficking. One study found that 65 percent of the heroin seizures
of 50 grams or more in British airports came from Nigeria, which was the
transit point for 20 percent of all heroin from Southwest Asia. Another
study disclosed that 20 percent of the hard drug cases in Britain
involved ships of the Nigerian National Shipping Line. By the late
1980s, Nigerians were arrested almost daily in foreign countries, and
hundreds languished in foreign jails for drug trafficking. Nigeria is the
centre for most narcotics
traffic in Africa and remains one of the highest volume transhipment points for narcotics trade between the Eastern and Western Hemisphere,
accounting for a significant portion of the heroin coming to the United
States. By shifting some operations to neighbouring countries and to
strategic locations worldwide, Nigerian criminal organizations have
succeeded in altering and expanding their smuggling networks. Nigerian money-launderers operate sophisticated
global networks to repatriate the illicit proceeds of narcotics
trafficking as well as from financial crimes and other criminal
activities. The Government of Nigeria , in 1995, enacted well-crafted
legislation to control money laundering, but enforcement of the laws has
been uneven and no convictions and relatively few seizures have been
Drug-related crime emerged as a major problem in the 1980s. At least 328 cocaine seizures were made between 1986 and 1989, and the number of hard drug convictions surged from 8 in 1986 to 149 in 1989, with women accounting for 27 percent of the 275 total convictions during this period. Drug-induced psychoses accounted for 15 percent of admissions to four psychiatric hospitals in l988. In a related development, the federal Ministry of Health reported in 1989 that about one-half of the drugs available in Nigeria were imitations, leading to a series of counterfeit and fake drugs decrees imposing increasingly higher penalties for violations. The Government of Nigeria (GON) counter-narcotics programs have failed to materialize or have been ineffective. Efforts by the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have been hindered by widespread corruption in law enforcement and other agencies and by the lack of clear policy guidance and substantive government support. Counter-narcotics legislation has been enacted, but has produced no prosecutions or convictions of major drug traffickers. Decree Number 48 of January l990 established a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to eliminate the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs, and the decree prescribed stiffer penalties for convicted offenders. Although Babangida had abolished the death penalty for convicted drug dealers, by the end of the decade there were public calls to restore it. Stricter security measures were introduced at Lagos International Airport in 1989 to curb a crime wave there, and a plan was instituted in August 1989 to control black market activities. The NDLEA maintains a presence at international airports, making regular seizures of heroin from individual couriers, and conducts raids at seaports and border checkpoints. Efforts to eradicate cannabis cultivation focused on the destruction of isolated plantings. The NDLEA has attempted to shift the focus of operations from the arrest of couriers to the prosecution of controlling members of narcotics and money laundering organizations. However, these nascent efforts are stymied by endemic corruption in other government agencies as well as lack of support, funding and skill.
Despite counternarcotics efforts by the NDLEA, increasingly large quantities of drugs pour through Nigeria's land and sea borders. Nigeria's extensive land borders are poorly patrolled and relevant law enforcement agencies are rife with corruption; Nigeria's ports are poorly managed and plagued by corruption. Although NDLEA efforts have created at least some risk that couriers may be caught at the airport, traffickers continue to use air cargo and express mail services. Nigerian trafficking networks rely increasingly on bulk shipments by land and sea to smuggle drugs into and out of the country. The US DEA office in Lagos remained in contact with the NDLEA operations throughout the year, primarily through the US-Nigeria Joint Narcotics Task Force, reactivated in November, 1995. However, the GON has not made a concerted effort to move forward with its narcotics control strategy and has not allocated significantly greater resources to law enforcement agencies. Effective cooperation continues to be hampered by corruption and the impasse on extraditions. Until the GON takes concrete steps to resolve these difficulties, cooperation beyond limited working level contacts is unlikely. Security forces employ roadblocks and checkpoints where extortion, violence, and lethal force are common. On 26 June 1997, 37-year-old bus driver Bassey Paul was killed after security forces, including members of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), police, military, customs, and immigration, stopped his bus at a checkpoint. During an argument between competing security forces, the unarmed Paul was shot through the chest and died instantly. Similar accounts of excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings at checkpoints were recorded throughout the year. There has been no official reaction to the violence at checkpoints. Repeated fuel shortages often stimulated incidents, and armed security forces killed several people when special treatment was refused. In March 1997 the body of gas station manager Kehinde Ehindero was delivered to the Ondo state specialist hospital after armed men claiming to be NDLEA officials had arrested him earlier in the day. The station owner reported that the security men had become enraged after their request for fuel was denied because the station had only kerosene in stock. Hospital staff confirmed that the body was brought to the hospital by an NDLEA officer, who they then turned over to the police. According to police on duty, the officer was released upon orders from "above."
Laws and Regulations
|Decree One of 1984, the first
decree promulgated by the military officers who overthrew the civilian
regime of President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari in 1983, left the
institutional framework of the judiciary largely intact. However, it
established a parallel system of military tribunals with sole
jurisdiction over certain offenses, such as coup plotting, corruption,
armed robbery, and illegal sales of petroleum. A 1991 decree amended
Decree One by providing that only sitting or retired civilian judges
could preside over tribunals hearing nonmilitary cases.
The State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree of 1984 (Decree Two) allows the Government to detain without charge persons suspected of acts prejudicial to state security or harmful to the economic well-being of the country. When invoked, Decree Two suspends the detainee's civil liberties and precludes judicial review. Many citizens consider Decree Two to be the main threat to their basic freedoms, because the judicial ouster clause encourages arbitrary detention and fails to define what constitutes acts under the Decree's purview. Decree 11 of 1994 authorizes the PRC Vice Chairman or the Commissioner of Police to detain persons for up to 3 months without charge.
Decree 12 states that "no act of the federal military Government may henceforth be questioned in a court of law" and "divests all courts of jurisdiction in all matters concerning the authority of the federal Government."
In June 1996, in response to the report of a UN fact-finding team sent to investigate human rights and the transition process, the Government announced the repeal of Decree 14 of 1994, which had effectively suspended the right of habeas corpus by forbidding courts from hearing cases demanding that the Government produce in court those detained under Decree Two. However, despite this repeal, the Government still retains full legal authority under Decree Two and Decree 12 of 1994 to detain citizens arbitrarily and dispense with habeas corpus challenges, and the Government regularly defied court orders to produce detainees.
In June 1996 the Government also amended the Civil Disturbances (Special Tribunal) Decree of 1987 to remove members of the armed forces from the membership of the tribunal and allow for a right of appeal to the Special Appeals Tribunal. Military personnel convicted of coup plotting do not, however, enjoy the right of appeal to the Special Appeals Tribunal, and the decree remained silent regarding appeals for civilians convicted of coup plotting, but all indications are that the decree does not apply to them.
The June 1996 changes came in the wake of the international outcry after the November 1995 execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders who were convicted of murder by the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal (which included a military officer) and denied the right of appeal. Although there is a large and vibrant independent domestic press that is frequently critical of the Government, the Government also owns or controls many publications. All newspapers and magazines are required to register with the Government under the Newspaper Registration Board Decree 43 of 1993, and Minister of Culture and Information Walter Ofonagoro threatened to close newspapers not registered with the board. The registration fee is about $3,000, and the registration process requires editors to provide their home as well as office address. Although no newspaper had registered by the end of 1997, the Culture and Information Minister regularly threatened to close unregistered newspapers. The regime has, at various times, shut independent newspapers for offences, but there were no known cases of papers being prosecuted for failing to register.
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