University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Nigeria, U.N. Doc. A/50/18, paras. 598-636 (1995).



Forty-seventh session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination


598. The thirteenth periodic report of Nigeria (CERD/C/263/Add.3 and CERD/C/283) was considered by the Committee at its 1115th and 1117th meetings, held on 10 and 11 August 1995 (CERD/C/SR.1114 and 1116).

599. The report was introduced by the representative of the State party who said that one of the major tasks facing the present administration which assumed power in November 1993 was the restoration of law and order among the diverse cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups existing in Nigeria. In doing so, the administration ensured that the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution of 1979 were not unduly tampered with. It also intended to announce a programme of transition to democratic rule on 1 October 1995. The representative also referred to the ethnic composition of his country and to the constitutional provisions devoted to the recognition, promotion and enforcement of the rights of groups and individuals. He stated that the Federal Government had made provision for direct funding of the Local Government Councils, that it had established an Oil Mineral-Producing Areas Development Commission and that the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Decree of 1995 was designed to attract foreign investment into the country.

600. The representative further referred to measures taken by its Government in the educational field and for the advancement of women, and stated that under Section 39 of the 1979 Constitution, Nigerian citizens were guaranteed the enjoyment of political and civil rights without discrimination. The various rights enshrined in the Constitution were justiciable and many Nigerians sought redress in the courts of law when those rights were violated. They were entitled to legal aid to initiate proceedings. Finally, he stated that measures to ensure compliance with article 7 of the Convention included the establishment of the Technical Aid Corps Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whereby young graduates volunteered to serve in developing countries for a given period.

601. Members of the Committee expressed appreciation for the readiness of the State party to continue the dialogue with the Committee, for its timely submission of the report, and for the high level of representation participating in the discussion. It was observed, however, that Nigeria's reporting record showed a lack of continuity in that questions asked in connection with one report had not been answered in subsequent reports. In addition, the Committee had received considerable information on the legal framework but rather little on actual practice; it was stressed that, in reporting, States parties should go beyond a list of legislative measures and should provide information on their application in practice.

602. In connection with article 1 of the Convention, members of the Committee took note of the difficulties encountered by the Federal Government of Nigeria in its efforts to promote harmony among the 250 ethnic groups living in the country, and welcomed the special measures taken or planned by the Government in that regard. They also noted that section 39 (1) of the 1979 Nigerian Constitution provided for the protection of citizens against discrimination, but did not cover non-citizens or provide protection against discriminatory actions or practices outside the governmental sector. In addition, it was observed that it was not clear which constitutional provisions were currently in force.

603. With regard to article 2 of the Convention, reference was made to numerous allegations of discrimination and other violations of human rights on grounds of ethnic origin which had been brought to the attention of the Committee by non-governmental organizations. According to those allegations, the Nigerian security forces would have committed a series of human rights abuses, including killings, torture and massive arrests, particularly against the Ogoni ethnic group; the Federal Government was alleged to have fomented ethnic antagonism and to tolerate a situation of impunity with respect to the perpetration of human rights abuses. It was, therefore, asked whether there had been any investigation on whether in Ogoniland unlawful orders had been given, what measures the Government had taken to consult ethnic groups about their grievances, whether there was a problem of "tribalism" in the country and, if so, what policy the Government was undertaking to mitigate it. Detailed information was also requested on the action taken recently against the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and, in particular, against Mr. Ken Saro-Wiva, leader of the Movement arrested in May 1994, and against other members of the Movement arrested in August 1995. In addition, further details were requested as to how national integration was being actively encouraged, how the Government viewed the aspirations of the various ethnic groups and the movements for their survival and what it was doing or intended to do to accommodate their views. It was further asked what measures were being taken to preserve the identity of the ethnic groups affected by the changes and deterioration of their environment, how the distribution of revenue was actually regulated and why the benefits from the use of natural resources were not equitably shared among the population as a whole and, more particularly, among the people from whose land they were extracted. It was also asked why the Nigerian Government had refused to authorize a non-governmental organization to conduct an investigation into the situation in Ogoniland in 1994. It was pointed out, in this connection, that a glaring discrepancy existed between information on the situation in Nigeria contained in the report and that provided by reliable non-governmental sources.

604. With reference to article 3 of the Convention, members of the Committee acknowledged the leading role of Nigeria in the struggle against apartheid and in its dismantling. In this connection, information was requested on what Nigeria was currently doing at the international level to honour its commitment to combat racial discrimination, and, in particular, to provide assistance in many areas of Africa for the solution of ethnic conflicts.

605. With regard to article 4 of the Convention, members of the Committee pointed out that specific penal provisions should be enacted by Nigeria in order to fully comply with the provisions of that article, and that precise information on the progress made in this regard should be included in Nigeria's next periodic report. It was asked, in particular, whether the Government had concluded its review of how to unify the Criminal Code that operated in the south and the Penal Code that operated in the north of the country, what was the status of the Convention in Nigerian domestic law and whether its articles could be invoked directly before the court.

606. With reference to article 5 of the Convention it was asked how the verdict was determined in criminal trials, whether there were complaints of ethnic bias in court proceedings, whether threats were ever made to the security of persons because of their ethnic origin and how effective was the remedy obtained in the case of discrimination in general, and discrimination in employment, in particular. More information was requested on the establishment and functioning of civil disturbances special tribunals to try certain types of offences, the judgements of which were without appeal. It was observed that because there was no avenue of appeal from the decisions of such tribunals their operation might infringe the right to equal treatment provided for by article 5 (a) of the Convention. Information was also requested on the reply of the Nigerian Government to the International Labour Organization with regard to the expulsion of Chadian workers, and on any measures that prohibit political activities and limit press freedom. Information was further requested on any plans affecting ethnic relations that might feature in the restoration of civilian rule.

607. Referring to article 6 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to receive examples of judgements passed in application of section 39 of the 1979 Constitution relating to measures to combat racial discrimination. They also wished to know more about the circumstances in which persons had applied to a court for the redress of alleged violations of fundamental human rights, what action the Government had taken in that regard, and what was the relationship between the Federal Court of Appeal and the Shariah Court of Appeal. Information was requested on the Legal Aid Scheme and the modifications made in it. In addition, members of the Committee wished to receive details of decrees, other enactments and court rulings relating to the punishment of violations of civil liberties and acts of racial discrimination and description of remedies available.

608. With regard to article 7 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know how, in practice, law enforcement officials were trained to face situations of ethnic conflict, how ethnic discrimination was avoided in their recruitment and whether they were given training in the area of human rights and the prevention of discrimination. They also wished to know how the Government intended to foster the idea of tolerance, responsibility and cooperation among ethnic groups and what was the legal status of associations representing ethnic groups.

609. In their replies, the representatives of Nigeria stated that the allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces against the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People in general were groundless. Those members of the Movement who had been arrested were charged with criminal offences. They were part of a group which had transformed the originally peace-loving and constitutionally minded Movement into a violent one. No representatives of any organization, national or international, had been prevented from visiting Ogoniland. With regard to the question on revenue distribution, the representatives indicated that the trend was for the Federal Governments's share of revenue to decrease while that of states and local governments increased. They also referred to various measures introduced by the Government to minimize environmental degradation in the areas where hydrocarbons were extracted.

610. With regard to article 4 of the Convention, the representatives referred to the committee set up by the Federal Government to review and reform the Criminal Code and assured the Committee that it would be informed of the results of the review and reform procedure.

611. Referring to article 5 of the Convention, the representatives enumerated the fundamental human rights enshrined in the 1979 Constitution which had not been suspended under military rule. They also stated that the establishment of the civil disturbances Special Tribunal had been prompted by the level of damage and the nature of the crimes committed in the north of the country. They added that the rights of the defendant were the same in all tribunals without exception. The representatives further stated that political associations recently created would have an opportunity to transform themselves into political parties in preparation for future elections, and that freedom of the press was guaranteed in the country.

612. With reference to article 6 of the Convention, the representatives indicated that under the 1979 Constitution a Public Complaints Committee and a Code of Conduct Bureau had been established, both of which were still operating and had authority to enforce their decisions. The Public Complaints Committee had wide powers to deal with allegations of unfair treatment of members of the public by civil servants as well as grievances concerning both public and private enterprises and employers.

Concluding observations

613. At its 1125th meeting, held on 17 August 1995, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations:

(a) Introduction

614. The will and the readiness of the State party to continue the dialogue with the Committee are welcomed. The regularity of the submission of reports by the State party, in accordance with article 9 (1) of the Convention is appreciated. The attendance of a high-level delegation and the further information submitted are also welcomed.

615. It is noted that the State party has not made the declaration provided for in article 14, and some members requested that the possibility of such a declaration be considered.

(b) Positive aspects

616. The recognition by the delegation of the existence in Nigeria of more than 250 groups distinguished by ethnic origin and the preoccupation of the Government to assure harmonious and peaceful relations between these groups are well noted.

617. The leading part played by Nigeria in the struggle against apartheid is acknowledged with satisfaction.

618. The Nigerian educational programmes which implement the provisions of article 7 of the Convention are welcomed.

619. Since some ethnic tensions have been associated with ecological changes, the Committee welcomed the statement on the action taken to ameliorate the ecological and developmental situation in the oil producing areas of the country, including the establishment of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission and the direct allocation of compensatory payments.

(c) Principal subjects of concern

620. Concern is expressed that the record of Nigeria's reporting shows that many questions raised in connection with previous reports have not been fully answered in subsequent reports.

621. It is noted that not all the grounds of discrimination listed in article 1 (1) of the Convention are covered by the Constitution and legislation of the State party.

622. Concern is expressed at the delay in introducing legislation in implementation of the provisions of article 4 of the Convention.

623. Concern is expressed that while the report and the further information describe the legal framework for action against racial discrimination, little is said about the implementation in practice of the relevant provisions.

624. Concern is expressed that in circumstances such as those of Nigeria, in which political and religious differences may easily be associated with ethnic differences, any breakdown in law and order can exacerbate ethnic tension.

625. Concern is expressed over allegations that agents of the Government have contributed to ethnic antagonisms in the course of attempts to maintain law and order, particularly in the Rivers State.

626. Concern is expressed about the training of law enforcement officials in accordance with the Committee's General Recommendation XIII.

627. Particular concern is expressed that Decree 12 (Federal Military Government Supremacy and Enforcement Decree, 1994), that states "no act of the federal military government may be questioned henceforth in a court of law" and which ousts "courts of jurisdiction" can adversely affect proceedings invoking protection against racial discrimination.

628. Particular concern is also expressed that trial by Special Tribunals, some of them with no right of appeal, could counter the right to equality before the law, without distinction as to ethnic origin, in accordance with article 5 of the Convention.

(d) Suggestions and recommendations

629. The Committee recommends that in its next periodic report the State party should describe the actions it has taken against individuals or groups which cause disaffection against ethnic groups and to defend the rights of their members.

630. The Committee recommends that in the course of its current review of its legislation, the Government give the necessary attention to measures designed to meet the requirements of articles 1 (1) and 4 of the Convention.

631. The Committee recommends that the Government review the effectiveness of the protection it provides against racial discrimination in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in accordance with article 5 of the Convention.

632. The Committee recommends that the State party investigate situations of ethnic disorder and the causes thereof, including any possible unlawful orders, with a view to taking the necessary remedial measures in accordance with the Convention and to ensure that no one can act with impunity in these circumstances.

633. The Committee recommends that the Government, when promoting projects of economic development, undertake the necessary measures to effectively protect the identity of ethnic groups in the areas concerned.

634. The Committee recommends that the Government review the effectiveness of the recourse measures which should be available to all persons within their jurisdiction in accordance with article 6.

635. The Committee recommends that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, adopted by the fourteenth meeting of States parties.

636. The Committee recommends that the State party's fourteenth periodic report, due on 5 January 1996, will be submitted in due time.



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