International Criminology World

World : Africa : Nigeria

Before the colonial period, the area which comprises modern Nigeria had an eventful history. More than 2,000 years ago, the Nok culture in the present Plateau state worked iron and produced sophisticated terra cotta sculpture. In the northern cities of Kano and Katsina, recorded history dates back to about 1000 AD. In the centuries that followed, these Hausa kingdoms and the Bornu empire near Lake Chad prospered as important terminals of north-south trade between North African Berbers and forest people who exchanged slaves, ivory, and kola nuts for salt, glass beads, coral, cloth, weapons, brass rods, and cowrie shells used as currency.

In the southwest, the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was founded about 1400, and at its height from the 17th to 19th centuries attained a high level of political organization and extended as far as modern Togo. In the south central part of present-day Nigeria, as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, the kingdom of Benin had developed an efficient army; an elaborate ceremonial court; and artisans whose works in ivory, wood, bronze, and brass are prized throughout the world today. In the 17th through 19th centuries, European traders established coastal ports for the increasing traffic in slaves destined for the Americas. Commodity trade, especially in palm oil and timber, replaced slave trade in the 19th century, particularly under anti-slavery actions by the British Navy. In the early 19th century the Fulani leader, Usman dan Fodio, promulgated Islam and that brought most areas in the north under the loose control of an empire centered in Sokoto.

Following the Napoleonic wars, the British expanded trade with the Nigerian interior. In 1885, British claims to a sphere of influence in that area received international recognition and, in the following year, the Royal Niger Company was chartered. In 1900, the company's territory came under the control of the British Government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. In 1914, the area was formally united as the "Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria." Administratively, Nigeria remained divided into the northern and southern provinces and Lagos colony. Western education and the development of a modern economy proceeded more rapidly in the south than in the north, with consequences felt in Nigeria's political life ever since. Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative, increasingly federal, basis. Nigeria was granted full independence in October 1960, as a federation of three regions (northern, western, and eastern) under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government. Under the constitution, each of the three regions retained a substantial measure of self-government. The federal government was given exclusive powers in defense and security, foreign relations, and commercial and fiscal policies. In October 1963, Nigeria altered its relationship with the United Kingdom by proclaiming itself a federal republic and promulgating a new constitution. A fourth region (the midwest) was established that year. From the outset, Nigeria's ethnic, regional, and religious tensions were magnified by the significant disparities in economic and educational development between the south and the north. On January 15, 1966, a small group of army officers, mostly southeastern Igbos, overthrew the government and assassinated the federal prime minister and the premiers of the northern and western regions. The federal military government that assumed power was unable to quiet ethnic tensions or produce a constitution acceptable to all sections of the country. In fact, its efforts to abolish the federal structure greatly raised tensions and led to another coup in July. The coup related massacre of thousands of Igbo in the north prompted hundreds of thousands of them to return to the southeast, where increasingly strong Igbo secessionist sentiment emerged.

In a move that gave greater autonomy to minority ethnic groups, the military divided the four regions into 12 states. The Igbo rejected attempts at constitutional revisions and insisted on full autonomy for the east. Finally, in May 1967, Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, the military governor of the eastern region, who emerged as the leader of increasing Igbo secessionist sentiment, declared the independence of the eastern region as the "Republic of Biafra." The ensuing civil war was bitter and bloody, ending in the defeat of Biafra in 1970.

Following the civil war, reconciliation was rapid and effective, and the country turned to the task of economic development. Foreign exchange earnings and government revenues increased spectacularly with the oil price rises of 1973-74. On July 29, 1975, Gen. Murtala Muhammed and a group of fellow officers staged a bloodless coup, accusing the military government of Gen. Yakubu Gowon delaying the promised return to civilian rule and becoming corrupt and ineffective. General Muhammed replaced thousands of civil servants and announced a timetable for the resumption of civilian rule by October 1, 1979. Muhammed also announced the government's intention to create new states and to construct a new federal capital in the center of the country. General Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, in an abortive coup. His chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, became head of state. Obasanjo adhered meticulously to the schedule for return to civilian rule, moving to modernize and streamline the armed forces and seeking to use oil revenues to diversify and develop the country's economy. Seven new states were created in 1976, bringing the total to 19. The process of creating additional states continued until, in 1996, there were 36.

A constituent assembly was elected in 1977 to draft a new constitution, which was published on September 21, 1978, when the ban on political activity, in effect since the advent of military rule, was lifted. Political parties were formed, and candidates were nominated for president and vice president, the two houses of the National Assembly, governorships, and state houses of assembly. In 1979, five political parties competed in a series of elections in which a northerner, Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was elected president. All five parties won representation in the National Assembly. In August 1983, Shagari and the NPN were returned to power in a landslide victory, with a majority of seats in the National Assembly and control of 12 state governments. But the elections were marred by violence and allegations of widespread vote rigging and electoral malfeasance led to legal battles over the results. On December 31, 1983, the military overthrew the Second Republic. Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari emerged as the leader of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), the country's new ruling body. He charged the civilian government with economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, election fraud, and a general lack of concern for the problems of Nigerians. He also pledged to restore prosperity to Nigeria and to return the government to civilian rule but proved unable to deal with Nigeria's severe economic problems. The Buhari government was peacefully overthrown by the SMC's third-ranking member, Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, in August 1985. Babangida cited the misuse of power, violations of human rights by key officers of the SMC, and the government's failure to deal with the country's deepening economic crisis as justifications for the takeover. During his first few days in office, President Babangida moved to restore freedom of the press and to release political detainees being held without charge. As part of a 15-month economic emergency, he announced stringent pay cuts for the military, police, and civil servants and proceeded to enact similar cuts for the private sector. Imports of rice, maize, and later wheat were banned. President Babangida demonstrated his intent to encourage public participation in government decisionmaking by opening a national debate on proposed economic reform and recovery measures. The public response convinced Babangida of intense opposition to an economic recovery package dependent on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

President Babangida promised to return the country to civilian rule by 1990; this date was later extended until January 1993. In early 1989, a constituent assembly completed work on a constitution for the Third Republic. In the spring of 1989, political activity was again permitted. In October 1989 the government established two "grassroots" parties: the National Republican Convention (NRC), which was to be "a little to the right," and the Social Democratic (SDP), "a little to the left." Other parties were not allowed to register by the Babangida government. In April 1990, mid-level officers attempted to overthrow the Babangida government. The coup failed, and 69 accused coup plotters were later executed after secret trials before military tribunals. The transition resumed after the failed coup. In December 1990 the first stage of partisan elections was held at the local government level. While turnout was low, there was no violence, and both parties demonstrated strength in all regions of the country, with the SDP winning control of a majority of local government councils. In December 1991, gubernatorial and state legislative elections were held throughout the country. Babangida decreed in December 1991 that previously banned politicians would be allowed to contest in primaries scheduled for August 1992. These were canceled due to fraud and subsequent primaries scheduled for September also were canceled. All announced candidates were disqualified from again standing for president once a new election format was selected. The presidential election was finally held on June 12, 1993, with the inauguration of the new president scheduled to take place August 27, 1993, the eighth anniversary of President Babangida's coming to power. In the historic June 12, 1993 presidential elections, which most observers deemed to be Nigeria's fairest, early returns indicated that wealthy Yoruba businessman M.K.O. Abiola had won a decisive victory. However, on June 23, Babangida, using several pending lawsuits as a pretense, annulled the election, throwing Nigeria into turmoil. More than 100 persons were killed in riots before Babangida agreed to hand power to an "interim government" on August 27, 1993. Babangida then attempted to renege on his decision. Without popular and military support, he was forced to hand over to Ernest Shonekan, a prominent nonpartisan businessman. Shonekan was to rule until new elections, scheduled for February 1994. Although he had led Babangida's Transitional Council since early 1993, Shonekan was unable to reverse Nigeria's ever-growing economic problems or to defuse lingering political tension. With the country sliding into chaos, Defense Minister Sani Abacha quickly assumed power and forced Shonekan's "resignation" on November 17, 1993. Abacha dissolved all democratic political institutions and replaced elected governors with military officers. Abacha promised to return the government to civilian rule but refused to announce a timetable until his October 1, 1995 Independence Day address. Following the annulment of the June 12 election, the United States and other nations imposed various sanctions on Nigeria, including restrictions on travel by government officials and their families and suspension of arms sales and military assistance. Additional sanctions were imposed as a result of Nigeria's failure to gain full certification for its counter-narcotics efforts. In addition, direct flights between Nigeria and the United States were suspended on August 11, 1993, when the Secretary of Transportation determined that Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport did not meet the security standards established by the FAA. The FAA in December 1999 certified security at MMIA, opening the way for operation of direct flights between Lagos and U.S. airports. Although Abacha's takeover was initially welcomed by many Nigerians, disenchantment grew rapidly. A number of opposition figures united to form a new organization, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which campaigned for an immediate return to civilian rule. The government arrested NADECO members who attempted to reconvene the Senate and other disbanded democratic institutions. Most Nigerians boycotted the elections held from May 23-28, 1994, for delegates to the government-sponsored

On June 11, 1994, using the groundwork laid by NADECO, Abiola declared himself president and went into hiding. He reemerged and was promptly arrested on June 23. With Abiola in prison and tempers rising, Abacha convened the Constitutional Conference June 27, but it almost immediately went into recess and did not reconvene until July 11, 1994. On July 4, a petroleum workers union called a strike demanding that Abacha release Abiola and hand over power to him. Other unions then joined the strike, which brought economic life in around Lagos area and in much of the southwest to a standstill. After calling off a threatened general strike in July, the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) reconsidered a general strike in August, after the government imposed "conditions" on Abiola's release. On August 17, 1994, the government dismissed the leadership of the NLC and the petroleum unions, placed the unions under appointed administrators, and arrested Frank Kokori and other labor leaders. Although striking unions returned to work, the government arrested opponents, closed media houses, and moved strongly to curb dissent. The government alleged in early 1995 that some 40 military officers and civilians were engaged in a coup plot. Security officers quickly rounded up the accused, including former Head of State Obasanjo and his erstwhile deputy, retired Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua. After a secret tribunal, most of the accused were convicted, and several death sentences were handed down. The tribunal also charged, convicted, and sentenced prominent human rights activists, journalists, and others-- including relatives of the coup suspects--for their alleged "anti-regime" activities. In October, the government announced that the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC--see below: Abubakar's Transition to Civilian Rule) and Abacha had approved final sentences for those convicted of participation in the coup plot. In late 1994 the government set up the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal to try prominent author and Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and others for their alleged roles in the killings of four prominent Ogoni politicians in May 1994. Saro-Wiwa and 14 others pleaded not guilty to charges that they procured and counseled others to murder the politicians. On October 31, 1995, the tribunal sentenced Saro-Wiwa and eight others to death by hanging. In early November Abacha and the PRC confirmed the death sentence. Saro-Wiwa and his eight co-defendants were executed on November 10. In an October 1, 1995 address to the nation, Gen. Sani Abacha announced the timetable for a 3-year transition to civilian rule. Only five of the political parties which applied for registration were approved by the regime. In local elections held in December 1997, turnout was under 10%. By the April 1998 state assembly and gubernatorial elections, all five of the approved parties had nominated Abacha as their presidential candidate in controversial party conventions. Public reaction to this development in the transition program was apathy and a near-complete boycott of the elections. On December 21, 1997, the government announced the arrest of the country's second highest-ranking military officer, Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya, 10 other officers, and eight civilians on charges of coup plotting. Subsequently, the government arrested a number of additional persons for roles in the purported coup plot and tried the accused before a closed-door military tribunal in April in which Diya and eight others were sentenced to death.

Abacha, widely expected to succeed himself as a civilian president on October 1, 1998, remained head of state until his death on June 8 of that year. He was replaced by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who had been third in command until the arrest of Diya. The PRC, under new head of state Abubakar, commuted the sentences of those accused in the alleged 1997 coup in July 1998. In March 1999, Diya and 54 others accused or convicted of participation in coups in 1990, 1995, and 1997 were released. Following the death of former head of state Abacha in June, Nigeria released almost all known civilian political detainees, including the Ogoni 19. During the Abacha regime, the government continued to enforce its arbitrary authority through the federal security system--the military, the state security service, and the courts. Under Abacha, all branches of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses. After Abubakar's assumption of power and consolidation of support within the PRC, human rights abuses decreased. Other human rights problems included infringements on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and travel; violence and discrimination against women; and female genital mutilation. Worker rights suffered as the government continued to interfere with organized labor by restricting the fundamental rights of association and the independence of the labor movement. After it came to power in June 1998, the Abubakar government took several important steps toward restoring worker rights and freedom of association for trade unions, which had deteriorated seriously between 1993 and June 1998 under the Abacha regime. The Abubakar government released two imprisoned leaders of the petroleum sector unions, Frank Kokori and Milton Dabibi; abolished two decrees that had removed elected leadership from the Nigeria Labour Congress and the oil workers unions; and allowed leadership elections in these bodies.

During both the Abacha and Abubakar eras, Nigeria's main decisionmaking organ was the exclusively military Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) which governed by decree. The PRC oversaw the 32-member federal executive council composed of civilians and military officers. Pending the promulgation of the constitution written by the constitutional conference in 1995, the government observed some provisions of the 1979 and 1989 constitutions. Neither Abacha nor Abubakar lifted the decree suspending the 1979 constitution, and the 1989 constitution was not implemented. The judiciary's authority and independence was significantly impaired during the Abacha era by the military regime's arrogation of judicial power and prohibition of court review of its action. The court system continued to be hampered by corruption and lack of resources after Abacha's death. In an attempt to alleviate such problems, Abubakar's government implemented a civil service pay raise and other reforms. In August 1998, the Abubakar government appointed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections for local government councils, state legislatures and governors, the national assembly, and president. NEC successfully held these elections on December 5, 1998, January 9, 1999, February 20, and February 27, 1999, respectively. For the local elections, a total of nine parties were granted provisional registration, with three fulfilling the requirements to contest the following elections. These parties were the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the All Peoples Party (APP), and the predominantly Yoruba Alliance for Democracy (AD). Former military head of state Olusegun Obasanjo, freed from prison by Abubakar, ran as a civilian candidate and won the presidential election. Irregularities marred the vote, and the defeated candidate, Chief Olu Falae, challenged the electoral results and Obasanjo's victory in court. The PRC promulgated a new constitution based largely on the suspended 1979 constitution, before the May 29, 1999 inauguration of the new civilian president. The constitution includes provisions for a bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, consisting of a 360-member House of Representatives and a 109-member Senate. The executive branch and the office of president will retain strong federal powers. The legislature and judiciary, having suffered years of neglect, must be rebuilt as institutions.

The emergence of a democratic Nigeria in May 1999 ended 16 years of consecutive military rule. Olusegun Obasanjo became the steward of a country suffering economic stagnation and the deterioration of most of its democratic institutions. Obasanjo, a former general, was admired for his stand against the Abacha dictatorship, his record of returning the federal government to civilian rule in 1979, and his claim to represent all Nigerians regardless of religion. The new President took over a country that faced many problems, including a dysfunctional bureaucracy, collapsed infrastructure, and a military that wanted a reward for returning quietly to the barracks. The President moved quickly and retired hundreds of military officers who held political positions, established a blue-ribbon panel to investigate human rights violations, ordered the release of scores of persons held without charge, and rescinded a number of questionable licenses and contracts let by the previous military regimes. The government also moved to recover millions of dollars in funds secreted in overseas accounts. Most civil society leaders and most Nigerians see a marked improvement in human rights and democratic practice under Obasanjo. The press enjoys greater freedom than under previous governments. As Nigeria works out representational democracy, there have been conflicts between the Executive and Legislative branches over major appropriations and other proposed legislation. A sign of federalism has been the growing visibility of state governors and the inherent friction between Abuja and the various state capitols over resource allocation. Problems of communal violence have confronted the Obasanjo government since its inception. In May 1999 violence erupted in Kaduna State over the succession of an Emir resulting in more than 100 deaths. In November 1999, the army destroyed the town of Odi, Bayelsa State and killed scores of civilians in retaliation for the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang. In Kaduna in February-May 2000 over 1,000 people died in rioting over the introduction of criminal Shar'ia in the State. Hundreds of ethnic Hausa were killed in reprisal attacks in southeastern Nigeria. In September 2001, over 2,000 were people were killed in inter-religious rioting in Jos. In October 2001, hundred were killed and thousands displaced in communal violence that spread across the Middle-Belt states of Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa. On October 1, 2001, President Obasanjo announced the formation of a National Security Commission to address the issue of communal violence. Currently, Nigeria has three major political parties. National elections and state gubernatorial elections are slated for 2003. Local government elections are scheduled for 2002.

Today, Nigeria is a federal republic composed of 36 states and a capital territory, with an elected president and a bicameral legislature. On May 29, 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was inaugurated to a 4-year term after winning elections in February 1999 that were marred by fraud and irregularities perpetrated by all contesting parties. However, most observers agreed the elections reflected the will of the majority of voters. These elections marked the end of 16 years of military-led regimes. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judicial branch remains susceptible to executive and legislative branch pressure, is influenced by political leaders at both the state and federal levels, and suffers from corruption and inefficiency.


During the year 2001, lethal interethnic, intra-ethnic, and interreligious violence continued to escalate. Communal violence in the Niger Delta decreased during the year, but ethnic rivalries and disputes between local communities over resources still led to deadly clashes.

During the year 2001, members of student organizations, commonly known as cults, occasionally killed students from rival organizations.

In the numerous ethnic clashes that occurred throughout the year, thousands of persons were beaten or injured severely. Police and security forces failed to respond to these and most other criminal acts in a timely manner and were slow to protect Christians and Muslims caught in ethno-religious conflicts in Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, and Benue states. The police generally lacked the resources to control criminals and mobs fomenting civil unrest.



The economy, which had been in decline for much of the last 3 decades, grew 3.8 percent during the year 2001. Further economic growth was hindered by inadequate infrastructure, endemic corruption, and general economic mismanagement. Most of the population of approximately 120 million was rural and engaged in small-scale agriculture. The agricultural sector employed more than 65 percent of the workforce but accounted for less than 36 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The agriculture and manufacturing sectors deteriorated considerably during the oil boom decades and years of military rule. The collapse of market agriculture contributed significantly to the country's urbanization and increased unemployment. Although the great bulk of economic activity is outside the formal sector, recorded GDP per capita was $250 (28,000 naira). Much of the country's wealth continued to be concentrated in the hands of a small elite due to: corruption; nontransparent government contracting practices; and other systems that favor the wealthy, including a banking system that impedes small and medium investors and regulatory and tax regimes that are not always enforced impartially. The country's ports and roads are in disrepair, and the water and power infrastructure is inadequate. However, the Federal Government and various states began improving infrastructure with some success, such as the privatization of the telephone company (NITEL), the auction of two licenses for mobile telephones, and the rehabilitation of power plants. Chronic fuel shortages, which afflicted the country for several years, mostly have been alleviated by improvements in domestic refineries and partial deregulation of prices. Food production improved during the year 2001 due in part to record rainfalls; however, much of the agricultural produce was lost due to poor transportation infrastructure and road closures caused by ethno-religious violence. A significant percentage of the country's population live in poverty and are subject to malnutrition and disease. During the year 2001, the Government reduced controls on the private sector and increased budget allocations for education and health care.


Nigeria was previously a British Colony. Therefore, the basis of the Nigerian criminal law is the English law. (Nigeria's capital territory of Nigeria-Lagos was annexed by the British in 1849. Later, other regions of Nigeria were declared protectorates and administered by the Royal Niger Company Chartered and Limited. In 1899 the charter granted to the Royal Niger Company Limited was revoked, and the British Government took over direct administration of Nigeria by 1900. In 1861, after the colonization of the Colony and Protectorate of Lagos, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, the British Consuls and the Royal Niger Company, Ltd., set up a legislative council to make laws to control the masses and regulate business activities involving many European countries and Africans). The British consuls and the Royal Niger Company Chartered and Limited (chartered by Britain to administer Nigeria until 1900) established Courts of Justice and an armed constabulary to enforce laws and regulations. From 1861 to 1874, ten different courts were created, with only four devoted to criminal matters: the Supreme Court/Police Magistrate Court, the Court of Civil and Criminal Justice, the West African Court of Appeal (WACA), and The Privy Council. The laws enacted by the colonial legislative council were based on the laws, values, and customs of the English people. When the British government took over direct administration of Nigeria in 1900 from the Royal Niger Company Chartered and Limited, it retained all of its courts, laws, and regulations.

The Criminal Code was originally introduced to the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1904 by the Colonial Governor of the Northern Protectorate, Lord Lugard. It was modeled after a code that was introduced into the State of Queensland, Australia in 1899 by Britain. (The Queensland Criminal Code was based on a Criminal Code drafted in Jamaica by a British Criminal Law attorney, Sir James Fritzstephen, in 1878). After the uniting of the Southern Protectorates in 1906 and the subsequent uniting of the Southern Protectorates with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1914, Lord Lugard made the Criminal Code of 1904 applicable to all the Protectorates in Nigeria. In 1959, the Criminal Code which was used throughout Nigeria did not apply to Northern Nigeria. Throughout the Colonial era, the courts in the Northern region of Nigeria had lacked professionally trained personnel in criminal law. In addition, the British judges were uncertain how to deal with the Emirs in regard to various offenses and punishment under the Islamic (Maliki) Law. (The Emir is the Head of a group of Moslem counties. The Emirs are the traditional rulers of the Moslem areas).

As a solution, a panel of jurists was set up to introduce a Penal Code that would take into account Moslem interests, values, and standards. Since Sudan was an Islamic State where the Muslim laws were similar to those of Northern Nigerian Moslems, the jurists modeled the Penal Code law after the Sudanese Penal Code.

The Northern Nigerian Penal Code law applies to all persons living in Northern Nigeria. Occasionally a non-Moslem is brought before a Muslim Court (Alkali Court), where Muslim laws are applied. Although the defendant may not know the illegality of an act in the Emirated, he/she must still stand before the Muslim Court Judge. (An Emirate is a Moslem country ruled by an Emir). The Northern Nigerian Penal Code, therefore, was introduced to account for the differences between Muslim and non-Muslim laws, making the region's laws applicable to everyone. The guiding principle under the Code's provisions was that since the majority of the people living in the region were Moslem, the Penal Code law should not be in conflict with the dictates of the Holy Koran.

While the Nigerian Criminal Code was applicable to the whole of Nigeria in 1916, most criminal cases were still governed by "Native Law and Custom." This created problems, especially in Northern Nigeria because the Maliki Law contained many rules which were not acceptable under English Law. (The offense of homicide, punishable by death, includes any assault ending in death, regardless of intent. In effect, the crime of manslaughter under the Nigerian Criminal Code is prosecuted as murder under the Maliki Law.)

Due to the confusion occurring in the administration of dual systems of criminal laws--one by the British or Colonial courts which applied the Nigerian Criminal Code, and the other by the customary courts which applied Maliki Law, an attempt was made to abolish the customary law in 1933. However, the British administrators abandoned this idea, and instead introduced Section 10 of the Native Courts Ordinance which stated that the Native Courts could administer customary law provided that the punishment did not involve mutilation or torture and was "not repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience."

Today, Nigeria uses a tripartite system of criminal law and justice: the Criminal Code (based on English Common Law and legal practice); the Penal Code (based on Maliki Law and a Muslim system of law and justice); and Customary Law (based on the customs and traditions of the people). In Southern Nigeria, the native laws are informal, unwritten agreements. In Northern Nigeria, laws are written.

Nigeria achieved independence in 1960. Since then, both the Nigerian Criminal Code and the Northern Nigerian Penal Code have added many amendments to reflect the norms, values, and standards of the Nigerian people. (One result of having the Nigerian Criminal Code based on the English Common Law tradition was the criminalization of some of the Nigerian customs. For example, Section 370 of the Nigerian Criminal Code prescribes a seven year prison sentence for any person who marries another while his/her marriage partner is still living. According to this section, "Bigamy is the contracting of a second marriage during the lifetime of one's "first" wife or husband. Section 35 of the Marriage Act declares such a second marriage as void, and there [are] penalty provisions in Section 47 and 48 of the Marriage Act. Such normative standards in Nigeria that were criminalized by the colonial administration have since been revoked. For example, in 1970, by decree, the bigamy law in Nigerian Criminal Law was declared null and void.

Crimes in Nigeria are classified by the severity of the offense into felonies (very serious) and misdemeanors (less serious). Examples of felonious offenses are armed robbery, arson, auto theft, burglary, child-stealing, counterfeiting, conspiracy, drug offenses, forgery, fraud, kidnapping, murder, rape, smuggling contraband, theft of an object of high value, and treason. All other offenses are considered misdemeanors. The Nigerian police also classify crimes into offenses against persons, offenses against property, other offenses (crimes without victims), and offenses against local ordinances.

Any person seventeen years or older is considered an adult. Persons 12 to 16 years-old are treated as juveniles while 7 to 11 year-olds are considered children. The offenses of both children and juveniles are handled at the juvenile courts. Juvenile courts are generally ad hoc and informally administered. They are presided over by the county magistrate, a layman and a laywoman.

Drug offenses in Nigeria include the possession or selling of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Barbiturates and amphetamines are legal drugs which can be purchased as over-the-counter medicines.


The crime statistics provided below are based on the number of crimes reported to the police (which includes crimes reported by citizens, crimes observed by citizens, and crimes observed by the police) and are compiled by the Nigerian Police Force. (Systematic record keeping of crime data in Nigeria is still very cumbersome for the Nigerian Police Force, although the NPF Headquarters is making some effort to improve. The amount of robbery and burglary recorded by the Nigerian police captures only about 30% of the number of robberies or burglaries actually committed because many of the crimes are not detected or reported. Additionally, over 60% of the crimes that should be kept in police records are disposed without being recorded at the informal, customary courts. These facts and biases in police crime records should be considered when analyzing Nigerian crime data).

All crime rates are computed from the police reports, using Nigeria's 1991 population census report as its base (total population=88,569,226). Generally, the definitions of the crimes are similar to those of England. In 1989, there were 928 cases of murder reported to the police, at a rate of 1.07 per 100,000 population. Attempts are not included. (The number and rate of reported murders per 100,000 population for previous years, are as follows: 984, rate=1.23 (1986); 849, rate=1.04 (1987); and 838, rate=1.00 (1988)).

In 1989, there were 69,454 cases of theft reported to the police, at a rate of 80.82 per 100,000 population. Attempts are not included. (The number and rate of reported thefts per 100,000 population for previous years are as follows: 68,322, rate=85.57 (1986); 69,767, rate=86.09 (1987); and 72,368, rate=86.73 (1988)).

In 1989, there were 1,032 cases of rape reported to the police, at a rate of 1.20 per 100,000 population. Attempts are not included. Date rape or the rape of a wife by her husband is not a crime. (The number and rate of reported rapes per 100,000 population for previous years are as follows: 1,238, rate=1.55 (1986); 1,116, rate=1.37 (1987); and 963, rate=1.15 (1988)).

In 1989, there were 588 cases involving drug offenses reported to the police, at a rate of .68 per 100,000 population.

The Nigerian police annual reports have no records of crimes according to regions, states or cities. However, it is generally known in Nigeria that property crimes are perpetrated more in the Southern states than in the Northern states. This may be due to greater business activity in the South.



The legal system of Nigeria is based on English common law, Islamic Shariah law (only in some northern states), and traditional law Nigeria inherited the English common law tradition. However, since Nigeria has a tripartite judicial system, the common law tradition applies only at the English law (Colonial) based courts. The common law does not apply to the Islamic and customary law courts of Nigeria. Nigerian criminal procedure is based on an adversarial approach with the burden of proof most commonly placed on the accused. The Islamic (Muslim) courts and customary courts use an inquisitorial approach in their criminal procedures.



The Nigerian police organization follows the hierarchical British pattern. At the head of the Nigerian police force is the Inspector-General. Other ranks exist in the following order, from highest to lowest: Deputy Inspector-General, Assistant Inspector-General, Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Chief Superintendent of Police, Superintendent of Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Chief Inspector, Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Cadet Sub-Inspector, Sergeant Major, Sergeant, Corporal, Constable, and Recruit. The ranks from the Inspector-General to the Assistant Superintendent are considered Senior Officers, while the lower ranks are considered Junior or Non-Commissioned officers. The Nigerian Police force is divided into five departments (A, B, C, D, and E), each performing specific functions and each headed by a Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or Assistant Commissioner.

The Nigerian Police is a national and unified force. Its organization and administration are the responsibility of the federal government. A squadron of the force is stationed in each of the 30 states under the command of a Commissioner of Police. The Commissioner of Police is subject to the authority of the Inspector-General of Police. The Inspector- General has command over all of the police squadrons in Nigeria and the maintenance and security of public order and safety. The Inspector-General is accountable to the Minister of Internal Affairs and, ultimately, to the President of Nigeria. The Commissioner of Police in each state is similarly subject to the authority of that state's Governor.

The Independence Constitution and subsequent Constitutions have not authorized the establishment of local government police. Those previously established by the British in the Northern and Western states were disbanded during occupation by the military regime (1966-1979). Rather, the Commissioner of Police in each state administers the squads at provincial, county, and divisional levels. Daily and monthly reports of police operations are transmitted from the police units in the divisions and counties to provincial headquarters and then to state headquarters. These reports are then sent to the police headquarters in the national capital of Lagos.

An important branch of the Nigerian police force is the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Most of the CID personnel in the 1960s had received their training from Britain's Scotland Yard. The CID of the Nigerian police force is the major unit for crime detection and prevention. Squads of CID agents exist in every state. The CID also has sub-units such as the anti-fraud squad, anti-burglary squad, and anti-narcotics squad.

The Nigerian Mobile Police Unit is a paramilitary branch of the Nigerian police force. Unit members operate under a strategic law enforcement system. They are well-trained in tracking down hardened criminals, such as highway robbers and international smugglers.

Two other major Nigerian police force auxiliaries are the Special Constabulary and the Traffic Warden Service. The Special Constabulary help the Nigerian police fight crime and assist with law and order maintenance. In 1975, the Traffic Warden Service was initiated in Lagos for traffic control duties. Today, many states have established similar units to aid the Nigerian police force in traffic control.

Central responsibilities of the Nigerian police include the arrest, prosecution, and escorting of convicts to prison.

Police recruits undergo a six to nine month training session at one of the police colleges located in each of the four geographic regions of Nigeria (north, east, west, and midwest) and the national capital of Lagos. (Editor's note: In 1991, the capital of Nigeria was transferred to Abuja. Most criminal justice agencies originally located in Lagos have remained there.) Most recruits are expected to have a high school diploma in order to be admitted into the Recruit grade of the police force. However, some recruits have first school learning certificates (equivalent to an 8th Grade education in the U.S.) or a West African school certificate (equivalent to a high school diploma).

Police officer cadets are trained at the Nigerian Police Academy in Lagos. Some cadets are trained in England, the United States, India, and Pakistan. The length of training at the police academy ranges from one to three years, depending on the cadet's previous level of education. Persons with a university degree such as a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science spend less than three years in training before they are commissioned Assistant Superintendent. Officers of the Nigerian police force are presently recruited among university graduates.

It is not unknown for police to use deadly force when attempting to arrest a suspect. The Nigerian police have wide discretion in the apprehension of offenders. The police operate via a static law enforcement system by which victims report crimes to the nearest police station. Police will arrest a suspect only when they have solid grounds to believe that the individual has committed a crime. While there are situations under the law in which the police have to obtain a warrant from a magistrate before arresting a suspect, the Nigerian police normally arrest without a warrant. Cases brought to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) are considered to be very serious and usually involve a felony offense where the offender is caught in the act by the police, victim or bystanders. At this point, the DPP decides whether to prosecute the crime. If there are no witnesses to the offense, the police can give a warning and release the suspect, even when it seems clear that the individual committed the offense. The police can search and seize property without a warrant. Involuntary confessions are not officially condoned.

General supervision of the organization and administration of the police force is conducted by a Police Council. The power of appointment, dismissal, and disciplinary control of police force members is vested in a Police Service Commission. The Commission consists of a chairman and two other members who must not be ministers or members of any legislative house of the civil services. However, the Commission does not fulfill the role of policing the police. There are no people or organizations charged with this responsibility.

Today, the Federal Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is tasked with law enforcement. The Constitution prohibits local and state police forces. Internal security is the duty of the State Security Service (SSS). "Rapid Response Teams," staffed by police, remained intact in most states, but these teams had a reduced role and a less menacing presence than in previous years. The police were unable to control ethno-religious violence on numerous occasions during the year 2001, and the Government increased its reliance on the army to quell internal disorder. The degree of government control over the Rapid Response Teams and the national police force continued to improve during the course of the year. Members of the security forces, including the police, anticrime squads, and the armed forces committed numerous, serious human rights abuses. The national police, army, and security forces committed extrajudicial killings and often used excessive force to quell several incidents of ethno-religious violence. In the year's most egregious case, army soldiers reportedly killed approximately 200 unarmed civilians and destroyed much of the town of Zaki Biam in Benue State in apparent retaliation for the killing of 19 soldiers. Army, police, and security force officers regularly beat protesters, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners; however, there were no reports of torture of political dissidents. In most cases, neither the state anticrime task forces, the police, nor the armed forces were held accountable for excessive, deadly use of force or the death of persons in custody. Police and security forces continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention.

National police, army, and security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used excessive force to quell several incidents of ethno-religious violence during the year 2001. The Government did not use lethal force to repress nonviolent, purely political activities; however, lethal force was used when protests or demonstrations were perceived as becoming violent or disruptive, or in the apprehension and detention of suspected criminals. State anticrime task forces remained the most frequent human rights offenders. However, in most cases in which abuses were committed, neither the state anticrime task forces, the police, nor the armed forces were held accountable for excessive, deadly use of force or the deaths of persons in custody. They operated with impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and sometimes execution of criminal suspects. Since taking office, President Obasanjo has preferred to let the police deal with civil disturbances, sending in military reinforcements only when the police were unable to restore order. However, the Government deployed the army numerous times during the year 2001 to restore order after civil unrest, and the army committed numerous abuses while performing this role, in part due to a lack of training. For example, in October army soldiers killed approximately 200 unarmed civilians, primarily ethnic Tiv, and destroyed much of the town of Zaki Biam in Benue State in the apparent retaliation for the killing of 19 soldiers. Multinational oil companies and domestic oil producing companies subcontract police and soldiers from area units particularly to protect the oil facilities in the volatile Niger Delta region. Freelance security forces and former security forces accounted for a significant portion of the violent crime during the year 2001.

The police, military, and anticrime taskforce personnel committed numerous extrajudicial killings in the apprehension and detention of suspected criminals. Police were instructed to use deadly force against suspected vandals near oil pipelines in the Niger Delta Region, against the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) vigilante group in Lagos State, and allegedly against participants in the Jos and Kano riots that took place in September and October, respectively. A police raid aimed at apprehending armed robbers resulted in the deaths of at least four unarmed Igbo traders.

Police and military personnel used excessive and sometimes deadly force in the suppression of civil unrest, property vandalization, and interethnic violence, primarily in the oil and gas regions of the Delta states and in eastern Benue State. According to Human Rights Watch, soldiers, naval personnel, and paramilitary Mobile Police deployed across the Niger Delta carried out summary executions, assaults, and other abuses on an ongoing basis. Confrontations between increasingly militant "youths" (who tend to be unemployed males between the ages of 16 and 40), oil companies, and government authorities continued during the year 2001. In June in the Khana local government area, mobile police shot and killed an allegedly unarmed Ogoni man. In July a police officer protecting oil contractors in Bayelsa State killed a local youth, reportedly after the youth tried to disarm him; no action was taken against the police.

The Government deployed the army numerous times during the year 2001 to restore order after ethno-religious violence, which increased during the year 2001, became violent. There were credible reports that soldiers on occasion used excessive force while attempting to end such violence. In September the military was deployed in Jos, Plateau State, to quell a major outburst of ethno-religious violence; approximately 2,300 persons were killed before the military restored order. By October army troops were maintaining order in Kaduna, Jos, Tafawa Balewa, Kano, and a significant part of eastern Benue, eastern Nasarawa, and western Taraba states.

Other organized vigilante groups in large cities, particularly Lagos, Kano, and Onitsha, committed numerous killings of suspected criminals. These vigilante groups engaged in lengthy and well-organized attempts to apprehend criminals after the commission of the alleged offenses. In Lagos State, the vigilante group known as the OPC clashed repeatedly with the police over their protection of Yoruba neighborhoods and over political issues. The OPC continued to function as a vigilante anticrime force despite President Obasanjo's "shoot-on-sight" order issued against them in 1999. During the year 2001, there were fewer OPC vigilante killings than in previous years; however, on August 16, the OPC reportedly beheaded four suspected robbers and set their bodies on fire in Lagos State. The OPC also reportedly crucified a man in the Surelere district of Lagos.

There also were numerous reports of street mobs apprehending and killing suspected criminals during the year 2001. The practice of "necklacing" criminals (placing a gasoline-soaked tire around a victim's neck or torso and then igniting it, burning the victim to death) caught in the act occurred in several cities.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year 2001; however, in 2000 the OPC charged that the police were responsible for the disappearance of at least two of its members.

Members of minority ethnic groups in the oil-producing areas kidnaped foreign and local oil company employees to press their demands for more redistribution of wealth generated by joint ventures with the state-controlled petroleum corporation and for specific projects in their areas. In all instances, the victims were released unharmed after negotiations between the captors and the oil firms; the firms usually paid ransoms and promised improved conditions.

There also were numerous instances of strictly criminal kidnaping, in which the perpetrators' sole objective was ransom for the release of the victims. During the year 2001, there were a greater number of kidnapings by criminals to extort money than for "political" reasons. Some kidnapings, particularly in the Delta, appear to have been part of longstanding ethnic disputes over resources. Due to limited manpower and resources, the police and armed forces rarely were able to confront the perpetrators of these acts, especially in the volatile Delta region. A lack of resources prevented judicial investigations from taking place so that kidnapings routinely were not investigated.

The Constitution prohibits such abuses, and the law provides for punishment for such abuses; however, during the year 2001, army, police, and security force officers regularly beat protesters, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners. Police regularly physically mistreated civilians in attempts to extort money from them. The law prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence obtained through torture.

Different versions of criminal Islamic Shari'a law were in place in 12 northern states by year's end 2001. Shari'a courts delivered "hadd" sentences such as amputation for theft, caning for fornication and public drunkenness, and death by stoning. The appellate courts have yet to decide whether such punishments constituted "torture or... inhuman or degrading treatment" as stipulated in the Constitution. Caning as a punishment under common law, the Northern Nigerian Penal Code, and Shari'a law has not been challenged successfully in the court system as a violation of the cruel and inhuman punishment clause in the Constitution. Stoning and amputation also have not been challenged under the Constitution. There were two amputations carried out during the year 2001 despite a larger number of sentences. Shari'a courts handed down their first death sentences during the year 2001. In both common law and Shari'a courts, indigent persons without legal representation were more likely to have their sentences carried out immediately upon being sentenced; however, all accused persons have the right to appeal. The Federal Government has instituted a panel of legal scholars to draft a uniform Shari'a criminal statute for all northern states to replace divergent Shari'a statutes adopted by the states.

The Constitution prohibits such actions; however, although government authorities generally respected these prohibitions, authorities at times continued to infringe on these rights.

Police and security forces continued the practice of placing relatives and friends of wanted suspects in detention without criminal charge to induce suspects to surrender to arrest. Human rights groups called for the police to end the practice.

Although the expanded Shari'a laws technically do not apply to Christians, the Christian minority, especially in Zamfara and Sokoto states, was subjected to many of the social provisions of the law, such as the separation of the sexes in public transportation vehicles (a law that was repealed after only 2 weeks), and in health facilities, the segregation by gender of school children, and bans on the selling of alcohol. At least one Christian was punished for violating Shari'a laws.

Purdah continued in parts of the country leading to continued restrictions on the freedom of movement of women.



The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces generally did not observe these prohibitions. Police and security forces continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention.

Police and security forces are empowered to make arrests without warrants if they believed that there was reason to suspect that a person had committed an offense; they often abused this power. Under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedures Rules of the Constitution, police may arrest and detain persons for 24 hours before charging them with an offense. The law requires an arresting officer to inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest and to take the accused persons to a station for processing within a reasonable amount of time. By law police must provide suspects with the opportunity to engage counsel and post bail. However, police generally did not adhere to legally mandated procedures. Suspects routinely were detained without being informed of the charges, denied access to counsel and family members, and denied the opportunity to post bail for bailable offenses. Detainees often were kept incommunicado for long periods of time. The provision for bail often was arbitrary or subject to extrajudicial influence. In many parts of the country, there was no functioning system of bail, so many suspects were held in investigative detention for sustained periods of time. Numerous suspects alleged that police demanded payment before they were taken to court to have their cases heard. If family members attend court proceedings, police often demand an additional payment.

Security forces detained journalists on a few occasions during the year 2001. Students in general no longer are singled out for arrest because of political activities; however, many students were detained during the year 2001 for allegedly taking part in cult or criminal activities on university campuses.

Human Rights Watch reported that the police arrested hundreds of MASSOB members and detained many without charge; MASSOB leader Ralph Uwazuruike was arrested several times during the year 2001.

In 2000 the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights reported that 302 OPC members were arrested following clashes with the police in Lagos. Of those detainees, 95 were released in 2000. The remaining detainees were not able to obtain legal representation and either could not make bail or were not eligible for bail due to the charges brought against them.

Ogoni activists who were arrested in 2000 were detained briefly and released by the end of 2000.

Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. According to the Constitution, persons charged with offenses have the right to an expeditious trial; however, in practice this right was not respected. Serious backlogs, endemic corruption, and undue political influence continued to hamper the judicial system. The Controller-General of prisons estimated that two-thirds of prisoners are detainees awaiting trial who have not been charged. The NHRC urged the courts, the Ministry of Justice, and the police to expedite cases awaiting trial. In January the Minister of State for Internal Affairs reportedly said that there were 45,000 inmates in the prison system, 75 percent of whom were awaiting trial. Many of the pretrial detainees held without charge had been detained for periods far longer than the maximum allowable sentence for the crimes for which they were being held. Police cited their inability to securely transport detainees to trial on their scheduled trial dates as one reason why so many of the detainees were denied a trial.

Persons who happen to be in the vicinity of a crime when it is committed normally are held for interrogation for periods ranging from a few hours to several months. After their release, those detained frequently are asked to return repeatedly for further questioning. Police continued the practice of placing relatives and friends of wanted suspects in detention without criminal charge to induce suspects to surrender to arrest. There were reports that Imo State prison officials work with some pretrial detainees to blackmail those who knowingly or unknowingly purchased stolen goods from the detainees. These persons, usually prominent individuals residing in larger cities such as Abuja and Lagos, are remanded to Imo State custody and told that they also will be prosecuted for the transfer of stolen goods; however, if they pay a bribe, they are released, as is the pretrial detainee who colluded with the prison officials.

There were no reports of political detainees during the year 2001.

The Constitution prohibits the expulsion of citizens, and the Government does not use forced exile. Many citizens who had lived abroad due to fear of persecution under previous military regimes continued to return to the country during the year 2001.



There has been no jury trial in Nigeria since the decline of the colonial administration of justice. The accused is provided a public defender to protect him/her from self-incrimination. When the accused is an indigent and incapable of providing his own defense attorney, the state will provide a public defender.

After arrest, the highest ranking police officer at the police station thoroughly investigates the case. If the investigation report reveals that the suspect committed the offense, all case information is then transferred to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). If the DPP finds inadequate evidence to charge the accused, the case can be dismissed. However, if there is enough evidence to bring charges against the accused, the DPP will prosecute the suspect before a magistrates court.

Most criminal prosecutions are conducted by the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions and his department prosecutes the more serious cases, such as murder, armed robbery, narcotics, and drug trafficking. However, there are certain persons that can discourage the police or DPP from bringing charges against an offender. For instance, top officials or politicians can order or lobby the police or DPP to drop a case, even when it has already resulted in formal charges before the court.

No plea bargaining exists in Nigeria. Minor criminal cases that require negotiated settlements are referred to the customary court by the presiding magistrate. If an accused is brought before a magistrates court for questioning and, subsequently, offers an unsolicited guilty plea, the court will immediately refer the accused to a psychiatrist to determine whether he/she is mentally competent. (The defendant in a criminal trial may claim murder in self-defense or insanity as defenses. Intoxication cannot be used as a defense unless the defendant was intoxicated under duress)

If the accused's mental capacity is found to be normal, the magistrate will impose a sentence according to law. There is no sentencing benefit (e.g. leniency) to pleading guilty. Finally, the police officer investigating the case can take the following three actions, each of which would avoid a trial: 1) Dismiss the case because of insufficient evidence; 2) Warn and discharge the suspect on the grounds that: the suspect has no prior criminal record, the offense is a victimless crime, or the offender agrees to compensate the victim; and 3) refer the case to a juvenile court or discharge the accused if the suspect is a juvenile (less than 17 years-old).

The investigating police officer can detain the suspect if there are grounds to do so. If the offender is denied bail, the court can require an offender to be remanded into custody, where the offender awaits trial in a medium or maximum security prison designed for this purpose. By law, magistrates can detain a suspect for up to 30 days. In practice, detainees may be held longer.

A person charged with a misdemeanor is entitled to bail unless the DPP and the court have valid reasons why bail should be denied. The court has full discretion to grant bail in felony cases. Bail can be granted by the court with or without sureties. That is, if it is clear that the offender will appear for trial and will not leave the area, bail can be granted regardless of whether a bail bondsman is involved. However, if a bondsman is retained and the offender fails to appear for trial, the bondsman is held liable to the court. The court can deny bail on the following grounds: a) the suspect refused arrest; b) the suspect has committed previous crimes; c) the suspect committed a separate crime while on bail; d) the suspect is arrested for murder, rape, armed robbery, drug smuggling, counterfeiting, or another heinous crime; e) the suspect poses a danger to the public; f) there is a need to protect the offender; or g) the suspect is an unruly juvenile. Approximately 25% of the prison inmate population are being held in prison while awaiting trial.

There are two levels of courts in Nigeria: federal courts and state courts. All of the courts, except some Northern states' district courts, have criminal jurisdiction. The Federal Supreme Court, established under the 1960 Constitution of the Federation Order-in-Council, was revised by the Republican Constitution of 1963. While the 1963 Constitution had not ensured the independence of the Judiciary, the 1979 Constitution made the Supreme Court and its judges independent of the President and the legislature. The Supreme Court acts as the Final Court of Appeal and a Superior Court of Records. It is not a court of original jurisdiction. The Federal High Court/Federal Court of Appeal is composed of the Chief Justice and, at least five other judges. The Federal High Court is a Superior Court of records. It hears cases where the federal government is a party against states or individuals. Appeals are brought to the Supreme Court. The Federal High Court may be held in any of the states, especially in cases where the parties live in the same state (e.g. an Assize Court). A case involving persons of different states may be filed in a Federal High Court in Lagos. Criminal offenses involving the violation of federal laws such as smuggling contraband, counterfeiting, or the possession of marijuana or narcotic drugs, are usually tried in a Federal High Court, although sometimes drug and currency offenses are tried by special tribunals.

There is a variety of courts in the states. The State High Court is the highest court in each state, although some states have a Court of Appeal which sits above the High Court.

The Constitution empowers all of the states to establish a State Court of Appeal for the handling of appeal cases brought from a State High Court. In states that have established a Court of Appeal, decisions from the High Court must be brought to the Court of Appeal before they are taken to the Nigerian Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal Edict of 1967 established a Court of Appeal in the Western states. The provisions of the Edict were given effect under Section 127(2) of the Constitution of the Federation by the Constitution Order of 1967. The Western states' Court of Appeal hears cases deriving from the High Court of a Western state. It has jurisdiction on questions relating to the interpretation of the State Constitution.

The Sharia Court of Appeal was established in 1960 in the Northern states for the purpose of hearing appeals from customary courts where Moslem Personal Law was involved. Appeals for cases involving Moslem Personal Law are brought from an upper court to the Sharia Court of Appeal. Appeals from the decision of the Sharia Court of Appeal that concern questions of the interpretation of the Constitution of the Federation, or a state constitution, or questions involving the application of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation relating to fundamental rights, are brought to the Nigerian Supreme Court.

The Court of Resolution of Northern Nigeria was established by the Court of Resolution Law, 1960. This court was established in 1960 for the purpose of resolving any conflict of jurisdiction between the State High Court and the Sharia Court of Appeal. The decision of the Court of Resolution is final; there is no appeal.

The Federal Constitution of 1954 empowered the Regional Legislatures to establish courts for their respective regions. It resulted in the regions establishing a High Court, Magistrates Courts, and Native or Customary Courts in 1955. When the regions were broken down into 30 states, every state was granted the power to establish its own courts in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

Each State's High Court is a Superior Court of Record having original and appellate jurisdiction. In the Eastern states that have abolished customary courts, the High Courts of those states have original jurisdiction in land cases and matters arising under customary law. (The abolition of customary courts in those two states resulted from the Nigerian Civil War which destroyed most of the court buildings. No federal aid has been provided for their reactivation).

There are different grades of Magistrates Courts from state to state, as well as different grades of magistrates. For instance, in the Northern states, the Customary Courts are known as Area Courts. There are four types of Area Courts: Upper Area Court, Area Court Grade I, Area Court Grade II, and Area Court Grade III. The Chief Justice of each Northern state establishes the Area Courts. Appeals can be brought from an Area Court Grade I, II or III to the Upper Area Court that has jurisdiction in the geographic area where the Area Court is located. In cases involving Moslem Personal Law, appeals from Upper Area Court go to the Sharia Court of Appeal. For other cases, appeals from an Upper Area Court are brought to the State High Court.

In Bendel State, all Customary Courts are now of the same grade. Customary Courts are established by the Chief Justice subject to the approval of the State Governor. In the Western states, Customary Courts are graded as A, B, C, and D.

Positioned under the customary courts are informal courts of elders and councils of elders who handle minor criminal offenses in areas located far from formalized courts and police stations.

Some crimes are tried at special tribunals designed for handling specific offenses. These special tribunals are: The Armed Robbery and Firearms Tribunal (1970), The Currency Offenses Tribunal (1974), and The Illegal Drugs and Narcotics Tribunal (1986). The Nigerian government originally set up the Special Criminal Offense Tribunals in order to prevent offenders from escaping conviction because of legal loopholes or corrupt criminal justice agents, including attorneys. (At the end of the Nigerian Civil War, many hand-guns circulated throughout the country. This resulted in a high rate of armed robbery and firearms offenses. However, it was common for offenders to escape penalty because of deals made with the attorneys). Each one of the Special Criminal Offense Tribunals is composed of five to seven retired court judges, senior military officials, retired senior police officers, and retired senior civil servants. Most of these tribunal judges do not have law degrees. Today, the Tribunals are considered more effective in obtaining convictions than the regular criminal courts.

The defendant is allowed to have a defense attorney although there is no formal prosecutor present at these cases. Rather, at the trial, the defendant and defense attorney face a panel of unbiased judges. Witnesses may be called by the defendant. A conviction is rendered only when the evidence proves that the accused committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

After World War II, the juvenile courts were introduced by Britain into the Western, Eastern, and Northern regions. (The juvenile court in Nigeria is a product of British Colonial influence. Juvenile Courts did not exist in Nigeria until the 1940s. Before the end of World War II, the only juvenile court was located in the capital city of Lagos). The juvenile court was modeled after the British juvenile justice system. Today, the court is composed of a magistrate, a layman and a laywoman.

All the judges of the Federal High Court/Federal Court of Appeals are appointed by the President of Nigeria with the approval of the Senate. Ten years of experience on the bench is required before a lawyer is appointed judge to this court.

The Chief Justice of the state High Court is appointed by the State Governor. The other judges are appointed in the same manner as the Chief Justice but the appointments have to be made in accordance with the advice of the appropriate Judicial Service Commission. During the military regime (1966-1979), the Chief Justice of the Federal and each State High Court, as well as other court judges, were appointed by the Supreme Military Council after consultation with the Advisory Judicial Committee. During that time, the Nigerian Supreme Court was suspended and the Federal High Court was positioned as the highest court.

The judges for the Sharia Court of Appeal are appointed by the president after consultation with the Advisory Judicial Committee. The judges of all customary courts, including Sharia Courts, are all lay-judges with no formal legal training. The Public Service Commission of each state has the authority to appoint magistrates for the Magistrate Courts. The magistrates are all certified lawyers with at least five years of experience on the bench. The judges of the Area Courts in the Northern States are also appointed by the State's Public Service Commission.

In Bendel, the Chief Justice is empowered to appoint persons as presidents or members of a Customary Court upon the recommendation of the Advisory Judicial Committee.

With the abolition of the Judicial Service Commission, the Local Government Service Board is empowered to appoint, dismiss, and exercise disciplinary control over all members of Customary Courts. Previously, the Judicial Service Commission had been able to appoint the presidents of grade A and B Western state Customary Courts.

In Islamic courts, the Emirs and persons versed in Islamic law serve as judges in criminal cases which involve the violation of Islamic tradition. In customary courts, traditional chiefs serve as judges in misdemeanor offenses and some cases that involve more serious offenses (e.g. larceny, theft, aggravated assault).

The judge determines the sentence. There is no pre-sentencing hearing. If the suspect is found guilty of the offense, the magistrate or a State High Court judge can sentence an offender to prison on the same day that the case is tried. Only in rare cases will the judge or magistrate postpone sentencing.

Psychiatrists and social workers may be involved in pre-trial investigations and are involved in administering the penalty. However, psychiatrists, social workers, and victims do not have any influence or role in the sentencing process.

Persons found guilty of misdemeanor offenses may be fined, warned, granted probation, given corporal punishment or ordered to perform community service. Persons found guilty of felony offenses may be imprisoned either in a maximum security or medium security prison depending on the gravity of the offense. Offenders convicted of less serious felony offenses are sent to either a minimum security prison or a labor camp. In addition, house-arrest may be imposed on political dissidents. As there is no parole system in Nigeria, life imprisonment without parole is a viable punishment. The penalty for crimes brought to a Special Criminal Offense Tribunal is established by legislative decree. The judges exercise very little discretionary power in the sentencing for these crimes. For a person convicted of any of these crimes (e.g. armed robbery, firearms, currency offense, and treason), the penalty is death by a firing-squad. It was only in November 1992 that the Nigerian Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida changed the death penalty sentence into life imprisonment for any person convicted of narcotics drug smuggling or possession.

(Persons convicted of narcotic drug smuggling can not use the absence of a prior criminal record as a mitigating circumstance. The sentence for this crime is always life imprisonment). Nigeria uses the death penalty for murder, armed robbery, treason, and currency offenses. Capital punishment is carried out publicly with the use of a firing squad.

As of year 2001, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary remained subject to executive and legislative branch pressure, was influenced by political leaders at both the state and federal levels, and suffered from corruption and inefficiency. Understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency, and corruption continued to prevent the judiciary from functioning adequately. Citizens encountered long delays and frequent requests from judicial officials for small bribes in order to expedite cases.

Under the Constitution, the regular court system is composed of federal and state trial courts, state appeals courts, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Federal Supreme Court. There also are Shari'a (Islamic) and customary (traditional) courts of appeal for each state and for the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja). Courts of the first instance include magistrate or district courts, customary or traditional courts, Shari'a courts, and for some specified cases, the state high courts. The nature of the case usually determines which court has jurisdiction. In principle customary and Shari'a courts have jurisdiction only if both plaintiff and defendant agree. However, in practice fear of legal costs, delays, distance to alternative venues, and individual preference caused many litigants to choose the customary and Shari'a courts over the regular venues. Shari'a courts, which have begun to function in 12 northern states, carried out 2 amputations during the year 2001.

Criminal justice procedures call for trial within 3 months of arraignment for most categories of crimes. Understaffing of the judiciary, inefficient administrative procedures, petty extortion, bureaucratic inertia, poor communication between police and prison officials, and inadequate transportation continued to result in considerable delays, often stretching to several years, in bringing suspects to trial.

Trials in the regular court system are public and generally respect constitutionally protected individual rights in criminal cases, including a presumption of innocence, and the right to be present, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to be represented by legal counsel. However, there is a widespread perception that judges easily are bribed or "settled," and that litigants cannot rely on the courts to render impartial judgements. Most prisoners are poor and cannot afford to pay the costs associated with moving their trials forward, and as a result they remain in prison. Wealthier defendants employ numerous delaying tactics and in many cases used financial inducements to persuade judges to grant numerous continuances. This, and similar practices, clogged the court calendar and prevented trials from starting.

Many courts are understaffed, and personnel are paid poorly. Judges frequently fail to appear for trials, often because they are pursuing other means of income. In addition court officials often lack the proper equipment, training, and motivation to perform their duties, again due primarily to their inadequate compensation.

There are no legal provisions barring women or other groups from testifying in civil court or giving their testimony less weight; however, the testimony of women and non-Muslims usually is accorded less weight in Shari'a courts.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the Saro-Wiwa family continued to petition President Obasanjo, the Minister of Justice, and the Oputa Human Rights panel to reverse the verdict of the Auta Tribunal that convicted Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni-9 in October 1995. At year's end 2001, the Government had not responded to the 2-year-old appeal to clear the names of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni activists, who were executed by the regime of Sani Abacha in November 1995.

There were no reports of political prisoners.



There are maximum, medium, and minimum security prisons and some "open" prisons in many metropolitan cities of Nigeria. (Pre-colonial Nigeria did not employ prisons as penalties. Punishment took the form of fines, mutilation, castration, excommunication, lynching, and dedication to the gods, whereby the offender became an untouchable. The British Imperial Government introduced the prison system in Lagos between 1861-1900. By 1960, there was a prison in every provincial headquarters in Nigeria; some District Headquarters established minimum security prisons). The largest prison complex in Nigeria, which has both medium and maximum security branches, is Kirikiri Prison, in Lagos.

As of 1983, there were a total of 123 prisons, 2 borstal homes, and 244 county lock-ups in Nigeria. (Borstal homes are categorized as between a minimum and maximum security prison. Most offenders in these homes are young and have not committed very serious offenses). The only women's prison in Nigeria is located at Kirikiri, Lagos. It is a medium security prison and is located adjacent to the only maximum security prison in the country.

In response to the severe economic problems of Nigeria and the over-crowding in Nigerian prisons, community-based corrections exist for offenders convicted of trivial crimes. These community-based programs include labor camps, open prison incarceration, and community service.


Most of these convicted prisoners are incarcerated in county jails, minimum security prisons, or what used to be called provincial prisons. (In July 1980, there were 837 convicted inmates in Kirikiri maximum security prison, 832 convicts in Ikoyi medium security prison, and 510 convicts in Maiduguri medium security prison. There are few female prisoners. In 1988, female prisoners in Nigeria numbered 298.

There are no systematic records kept of Nigerian inmates by type of offense. However a study of 450 prisoners in four Nigerian prisons, including the only maximum security at Kirikiri, conducted in 1980, revealed the following: drug crimes - 1%, violent crimes - 11%, property crimes - 70%, and other crimes - 18%.

Nigeria has a centralized system of prison administration. In effect, every prison in Nigeria is a federal prison. Similar to the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigerian prisons fall under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a department which is reminiscent of the Home Office in England. At the top of the organizational hierarchy of the Nigerian prisons is the Director of Prisons. He is appointed by the President of Nigeria only with approval of the Public Service Commission. The overall chain of command in the Nigerian Prison Service, from the highest to the lowest, is the following: Director of Prisons, Deputy Director of Prisons, Assistant Director of Prisons, Chief Superintendent of Prisons, Superintendent of Prisons, Assistant Superintendent of Prisons, Cadet Superintendent of Prisons, Chief Warden Grade I, Chief Warden Grade II, Assistant Chief Warden, Sergeant, Corporal, and Warden.

There is a Deputy Director of Prisons for each of the thirty states. The maximum security prison and every medium security prison are placed under the leadership of a Chief Superintendent of Prisons or a Superintendent of Prisons.

Prison wardens must hold at least a First School Learning Certificate prior to their training. The minimum qualification for entrance into the prison cadet school is a high school diploma. In addition, university graduates have begun to join the Nigerian prisons service.

Nigeria has no parole system. Persons convicted of political crimes and inmates serving a life sentence can be granted a pardon by the Nigerian President. Inmates can also gain time off for good behavior or lose time for bad conduct. Inmates in all prisons are allowed to work on community programs or projects of the Nigerian Ministry of Works. They can also attend classes to obtain a primary school or high school diploma. Some inmates are allowed to participate in correspondence programs with schools in Nigeria and Great Britain in order to obtain an ordinary or advanced General Certificate of Education. Prisons do not have organized university degree programs.

All prisons have visiting days. Only minimum security and open prisons have weekend leave programs. Vocational education is considered central to offender rehabilitation in maximum and medium security prisons. Group therapy and medical care is available to all prisoners.

As of year 2001, prison and detention conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Most prisons were built 70 to 80 years ago and lack functioning basic facilities. Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities, and severe overcrowding resulted in unhealthy and dangerous sanitary conditions. Many prisons held 200 to 300 percent more persons than they were designed to hold. The Government acknowledged the problem of overcrowding as the main cause of the harsh conditions common in the prison system. According to government sources, approximately 45,000 inmates were held in a system of 148 prisons and 83 satellite prisons, with a maximum designed capacity of 33,348 prisoners. Some human rights groups estimate a higher number of inmates--perhaps as many as 47,000. Several times in 2000, authorities attempted to ease congestion in some smaller prisons. For example, in honor of the Eid-El-Kabir in March 2000, the Governor of Kano State released 159 prisoners, 52 of whom were pretrial detainees held without charge. Those released also were provided with travel funds to return to their homes. During the year 2001, the Governor of Kaduna State, on the recommendation of a state court judge, made a similar release of prisoners.

In December five teenagers were released from Suleja prison, in Niger State, through the help of local NGO's.

Disease was pervasive in the cramped, poorly ventilated facilities, and chronic shortages of medical supplies were reported. Prison inmates were allowed outside their cells for recreation or exercise only irregularly, and many inmates had to provide their own food. Only those with money or whose relatives brought food regularly had sufficient food; petty corruption among prison officials made it difficult for money provided for food to reach prisoners. Poor inmates often relied on handouts from others to survive. Beds or mattresses were not provided to many inmates, forcing them to sleep on concrete floors, often without a blanket. Prison officials, police, and security forces often denied inmates food and medical treatment as a form of punishment or to extort money from them. Harsh conditions and denial of proper medical treatment contributed to the deaths of numerous prisoners. A reputable human rights organization estimated in 1999 that at least one inmate died per day in the Kiri Kiri prison in Lagos alone. According to the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) a nongovernmental organization (NGO), dead inmates promptly are buried on the prison compounds, usually without notifying their families. A nationwide estimate of the number of inmates who die daily in the country's prisons is difficult to obtain because of poor record keeping by prison officials. PRAWA and other NGO's alleged that prison conditions were worse in rural areas than in urban districts.

In practice women and juveniles are held with male prisoners, especially in rural areas. The extent of abuse in these conditions was unknown. In most cases, women accused of minor offenses are released on bail; however, women accused of serious offenses are detained. There is no formalized procedure regarding the separation of detainees and convicted prisoners, and the method of confinement solely depends on the capacity of the facility; as a result, detainees often are housed with convicted prisoners.

In March the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) visited Owerri Prison in Imo State. According to reporting, 90 percent of those in prison were awaiting trial. Multiple adjournments in some cases had led to serious delays.

In 2000 President Obasanjo directed the Ministry of Justice to create a judicial administration committee to address the questions of overcrowding, prison conditions, and rehabilitation. The NHRC began working with the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Resources Consortium during the year 2001 to draft a new prisons bill to conform with minimum standard rules of prisons practice and provisions of the U.N. The NHRC also has urged the Federal Government and police not to detain persons in civil cases.

During the year 2001, the Government allowed international and domestic NGO's, including PRAWA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), regular access to prisons; however, it did not allow them continuous access to all prisons. PRAWA and the ICRC published newsletters on their work. The Government admits that there are problems with its incarceration and rehabilitation programs and worked with groups such as these to address those problems. However, groups such as Rotary International report difficulties at the local level in gaining access to prisons and jails to do rehabilitation programs.

In August local media reported that the Inspector General of the police decided to transfer all current members of the Lagos-based Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) known as the "Scorpions." Reportedly there had been numerous allegations against SARS officers for corruption, including aiding and abetting criminal groups.



Domestic violence is a problem. Reports of spousal abuse are common, especially those of wife beating. Police normally do not intervene in domestic disputes, which seldom are discussed publicly. The Penal Code permits husbands to use physical means to chastise their wives as long as it does not result in "grievous harm," which is defined as loss of sight, hearing, power of speech, facial disfigurement, or other life threatening injuries. A women's rights group has estimated that spousal abuse occurs in 20 percent of adult relationships. In more traditional areas of the country, courts and police are reluctant to intervene to protect women who accuse their husbands formally if the level of alleged abuse does not exceed customary norms in the areas. Rape and sexual harassment continued to be problems.

The Federal Government publicly opposes female genital mutilation (FGM), which is condemned widely by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health; however, it has taken no legal action to curb the practice. There are no federal laws banning FGM; however, a federal law banning FGM was pending before the National Assembly at year's end 2001. Because of the considerable problems that anti-FGM groups faced at the federal level, most are refocusing their energies to combat FGM at the state and local government area (LGA) level. In 2000 Edo, Ogun, Cross River, Osun, Rivers, and Bayelsa States banned FGM. In Edo State, the punishment is a $10 (1,000 naira) fine and 6 months' imprisonment. In addition once a state legislature criminalizes FGM, NGO's have found that they must convince the LGA authorities that state laws are applicable in their districts.

The Women's Center for Peace and Development (WOPED) estimated that at least 50 percent of women undergo FGM. Studies conducted by the U.N. development systems and the World Health Organization estimated the FGM rate at approximately 60 percent among the nation's female population. However, according to local experts, the actual prevalence may be as high as 100 percent in some ethnic conclaves in the south. While practiced in all parts of the country, FGM is more predominant in the southern and eastern zones. Women from northern states are less likely to undergo FGM; however, those affected are more likely to undergo the severe type of FGM known as infibulation. WOPED believes that the practice is perpetuated because of a cultural belief that uncircumcised women are promiscuous, unclean, unsuitable for marriage, physically undesirable, or potential health risks to themselves and their children, especially during childbirth. The National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, The Nigerian Women's Association, and the Nigerian Medical Association worked to eradicate the practice and to train health care workers on the medical effects of FGM; however, contact with health care workers remains limited. Nevertheless most observers agree that the number of women and girls who are undergoing FGM is declining each year.

Indigenous forms of FGM vary from the simple removal of the clitoral hood or labia minora to excision of the clitoris and the most dangerous form, infibulation. The age at which women and girls are subjected to the practice varies from the first week of life until after a woman delivers her first child. The Ministry of Health, women's groups, and many NGO's sponsored public awareness projects to educate communities about the health hazards of FGM. The press repeatedly criticized the practice.

Prostitution is rampant, particularly in urban areas. A number of states have begun to enforce existing laws or to introduce new laws to combat prostitution. All states that have adopted Shari'a have criminalized prostitution, which is enforced with varying degrees of success. Prostitution is not illegal in Lagos State; however, authorities can use statutes that outlaw pandering as a justification for arresting prostitutes. The adoption of Shari'a-based legal systems by northern states resulted in the strong enforcement of laws against child prostitution. Southern states, such as Edo, also are criminalizing prostitution and raising the legal age for marriage from 16 to 18.

There is an active market for trafficking in women to Europe, and elsewhere.

In some parts of the country, women continue to be harassed for social and religious reasons. Purdah, the Islamic practice of keeping girls and women in seclusion from men outside the family, continued in parts of the far north.

While some women have made considerable individual progress both in the academic and business world, women remain underprivileged. Although women are not barred legally from owning land, under some customary land tenure systems only men can own land, and women can gain access to land only through marriage or family. In addition many customary practices do not recognize a women's right to inherit her husband's property, and many widows were rendered destitute when their in-laws took virtually all of the deceased husband's property. Widows are subjected to unfavorable conditions as a result of discriminatory traditional customs and economic deprivation. "Confinement" is the most common rite of deprivation to which widows are subjected, and it occurs predominately in eastern Nigeria. Confined widows are under restrictions for as long as 1 year and usually are required to shave their heads and dress in black. In other areas, a widow is considered a part of her husband's property, to be "inherited" by his family. Shari'a personal law protects widows' property rights. Polygyny continues to be practiced widely among all ethnic groups and among Christians, as well as Muslims and practitioners of traditional persuasions. Women are required by law to obtain permission from a male family member to get a passport. The testimony of women is not equal to that of men in criminal courts.

Women have been affected to varying degrees by the adoption of various forms of Shari'a law in 12 northern states. In Zamfara State, local governments instituted laws requiring the separation of Muslim men and women in transportation and health care. In apparent violation of traditional Shari'a jurisprudence, some Alkalis judges denied Shari'a criminal protections to women that they provide to men. For example, several women were subjected to harsh punishments for fornication or adultery based solely upon the fact of pregnancy, while men were not convicted without the requisite number of witnesses. In 1998 and 1999, a national network of women's rights NGO's described the Government's 1998 report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) for the period 1986-94 as "inaccurate" in its positive portrayal of the status of women; during the year 2001, there reportedly was not much progress made to rectify the problems described in the NGO report.



While the Government increased spending on children's health in recent years, it seldom enforced even the inadequate laws designed to protect the rights of children. Public schools continued to be inadequate, and limited facilities precluded access to education for many children. The Constitution calls for the Government, "when practical," to provide free, compulsory, and universal primary education; however, despite the President's commitment to compulsory education, compulsory primary education rarely was provided. In many parts of the country, girls are discriminated against in access to education for social and economic reasons. The literacy rate for men is 58 percent but only 41 percent for women. Rural girls are even more disadvantaged than their urban counterparts. Only 42 percent of rural girls are enrolled in school compared with 72 percent of urban girls. Many families favor boys over girls in deciding which children to enroll in secondary and elementary schools. When economic hardship restricts many families' ability to send girls to school, many girls are directed into commercial activities such as trading and street vending.

A number of states have adopted Islamic (Shari'a) law in varying degrees. While most schools in the north traditionally have separated children by gender, it is now required by law in Zamfara, Sokoto, and Kebbi state schools.

Cases of child abuse, abandoned infants, child prostitution, and physically harmful child labor practices remained common throughout the country. Although the law stipulates that "no child shall be ordered to be imprisoned," juvenile offenders are incarcerated routinely along with adult criminals. The Government criticized child abuse and neglect but did not undertake any significant measures to stop customary practices harmful to children, such as the sale of young girls into marriage. There were credible reports that poor families sell their daughters into marriage as a means of supplementing their incomes. Young girls sometimes are forced into marriage as soon as they reach puberty, regardless of age, in order to prevent the "indecency" associated with premarital sex.

FGM is performed commonly on girls.

There was evidence of trafficking in children.

Child labor, including forced child labor, remained a problem during the year 2001.


No law makes trafficking in persons a crime. There is an active and growing market for trafficking in women and children within the region and to Europe. Nigeria is a country of origin, transit, and destination for trafficked persons.

The full nature and scope of the trade remained unknown, but immigration and police officials throughout Europe continued to report a steady flow of Nigerian women lured and sold into prostitution in Europe, particularly Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the Czech Republic. Italian authorities deported several hundred sex workers to Nigeria during the year 2001. Other European countries deported smaller numbers of Nigerian trafficking victims. Nigerian Interpol claimed that some women entered the sex trade independently, were not controlled by syndicates, and were economically motivated. However, Human Rights Watch reported that according to women's rights organizations, hundreds of women migrated to Europe in response to job offers as domestic workers or waitresses. Upon arrival many were forced into prostitution in order to pay off debts. In addition there is evidence that Nigerian crime syndicates may use indebtedness, threats of beatings and rape, physical injury to the victim's family, arrest, and deportation to persuade those forced into sex work from attempting to escape or from contacting police and NGO's for assistance. Unlike in the previous year, there were no police reports that the women's families often condoned their entry into the trade.

In January there were reports that hundreds of Nigerian girls are sold into sexual slavery and trafficked through England. The girls reportedly request asylum at British airports and are taken into the care of social services or foster care. A few weeks later the girls disappear and reportedly are trafficked to European countries, in particular Italy, where they are forced into prostitution.

During the year 2001, there was at least one documented case of trafficking in children reported in Lagos; however, incidents of trafficking in Lagos and other major Nigerian cities were suspected to be commonplace. There was evidence of trafficking of children to the U.S. and Europe, primarily to reunite children with their undocumented parents abroad. Child traffickers receive a monthly payment from the employer, part of which is to be remitted to the parents of the indentured child servant. Traffickers take advantage of a cultural tradition of "fostering," under which it is acceptable to send a child to live and work with a more prosperous family in an urban center in return for educational and vocational advancement. Often the children in these situations only work and do not get any formal education; however, families who employ children as domestic servants also pay their school fees. They are forced to serve as domestics or to become street hawkers selling nuts, fruits, or other items. There were credible reports that poor families sell their daughters into marriage as a means of supplementing their income.

According to ILO reports, there is an active and extensive trade in child laborers, some of whom are trafficked to Cameroon, Gabon, Benin, and Equatorial Guinea to work in agricultural enterprises. Other children are coerced into prostitution. Authorities also have identified a trade route for traffickers of children for labor through Katsina and Sokoto to the Middle East and East Africa. The eastern part of Nigeria and some southern states such as Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom have been the sites of trafficking of children for labor and, in some cases, human sacrifice. The country remains a destination for the trafficking of Togolese children.

According to the Women Trafficking and Child Labor Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF), an average of 60 Nigerian girls and women are repatriated every month. According to Titi Abubakar, the founder of WOTCLEF, many trafficking victims were involved in commercial sex, begging, menial jobs, or forced marriages.

The Government has conducted few investigations into the alleged involvement of government officials in trafficking; however, allegations of such involvement reportedly was widespread. Some returnees have alleged that immigration officials actively connive with syndicates; however, there were no arrests of immigration officials for trafficking offenses during the year 2001.

The Assistant Inspector General of Police was investigating allegations of the collusion of customs officials in trafficking.

Draft legislation was under review in the National Assembly that would make trafficking a crime; however, no action was taken on it by year's end 2001. There is government and societal acknowledgement that trafficking in women is a continuing problem, particularly to Europe. Police attempts to stem the trafficking of persons are inadequate and frequently focus on the victims of trafficking, who often are subjected to lengthy detention and public humiliation upon repatriation. Traffickers were identified and punished only in a few cases. Awareness campaigns, often conducted by spouses of prominent politicians or NGO's, only recently have begun to garner widespread attention. There were few statistics available to determine the success of antitrafficking campaigns. The development of a reliable statistical base for assessing the child trafficking problem began under ILO auspices. In November regional trafficking program of the national program of the ILO-International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) began operations after the ILO-IPEC completed an assessment of trafficking in persons in the country.

The Government prosecuted only a few persons for trafficking during the year 2001. Bisi Dan Musa, a prominent Lagos businesswoman and wife of a former presidential candidate, was arrested and charged with 19 counts of "child stealing" and "slave dealing;" 16 children between the ages of 1 and 4 reportedly were found in her custody. Her trial was ongoing at year's end 2001.

In August a total of 33 Nigerian women and children were repatriated from Conakry, Guinea, following the personal intervention of President Obasanjo. According to U.N. officials, trafficking agents offered the women between $184 and $1,802 (20,000 to 200,000 naira) and promised good jobs. Guinean authorities reportedly arrested 15 Nigerian trafficking suspects in the case, including a former police commissioner of Edo State. In October they were extradited, and their trial before the Federal High Court was ongoing at year's end 2001.

On August 12, a Nigerian man was detained in Sokoto State for the alleged trafficking of 10 girls between the ages of 10 and 16. One of the girls reportedly said the man was taking them to work abroad in hairdressing salons.



Nigeria remains the hub of African narcotics trafficking. Nigerian poly-crime organizations operate extensive global trafficking networks, control the sub-Saharan drug markets, and account for a large part of the heroin imported into the U.S. They also transport South American cocaine to Europe, Asia and Africa, especially South Africa, and export marijuana, the only narcotic grown in Nigeria, to Europe and West Africa.

The Nigerian government's counternarcotics effort remains unfocused and lacking in material support. General Abubakar's strong public stand against narcotics trafficking and financial crimes was a welcome change from past high-level indifference, but has not yet resulted in new actions or policies. 1998 saw the continuation of existing efforts limited largely to interdiction of low-level couriers and destruction of cannabis crops. Nigeria reaffirmed the existing bilateral basis for extradition, but was unable to conclude any of the 24 outstanding extradition cases sought by the U.S. Well-drafted counter-narcotics legislation is already on the books, but is largely unenforced. The 1995 National Drug Strategy, in particular the provisions calling for a living wage to law enforcement officers, remains unimplemented.

Nigerian law enforcement agencies did not significantly improve their counternarcotics performance In 1998. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) makes regular arrests of individual couriers, but no major traffickers were arrested or prosecuted. Total heroin seizures decreased. The NDLEA has signaled a willingness to increase its professional expertise, but institutional limitations make it difficult for Nigerian law enforcement to make progress against increasingly sophisticated criminals. Asset seizures did not become a useful counter-narcotics tool. Awareness of the local drug abuse problem appears to be growing, but initial demand reduction efforts have been limited.

Nigerian money launderers operate sophisticated global networks to repatriate illicit proceeds from narcotics trafficking, financial fraud, and other crimes. In 1995, the Nigerian government enacted a well-crafted decree to combat money laundering, but enforcement has been uneven, producing few seizures and no convictions.

Nigeria produces no precursor chemicals or drugs that have a significant effect on the United States. However, Nigeria is a major narcotics trafficking hub and the base for trafficking organizations.responsible for a significant amount of the heroin used in the United States. Nigerian traffickers maintain establishments in all of the opium-producing centers of Asia and the markets of many heroin-consuming nations around the world. They have links to South American cocaine producers and permanent distribution networks in Europe, the NIS, and East Asia. Nigerians dominate the African drug trade. The only illicit drug produced in Nigeria is cannabis, which is consumed locally and exported to other West African countries and Europe.

Interdiction efforts at Nigeria's airports have had an impact on traffickers' use of individual couriers. In 1998, NDLEA scored a key success by breaking up a well-organized ring at Lagos airport that had been smuggling heroin to the United States concealed in the wheelchairs of Nigerian Special Olympics participants. NDLEA's performance at the airport has increased traffickers' use of Nigeria's porous borders and bases in neighboring countries. Recently, Nigerian traffickers have relied less on individual couriers and more on increasingly sophisticated concealment methods and difficult to detect air, sea and land bulk shipments and express mail services. Traffickers' methods are moving beyond the capability of Nigerian law enforcement to detect or interdict.

As specialists in moving narcotics and other contraband, Nigerian criminal organizations are heavily involved in corollary criminal activities such as document, immigration, and financial fraud. Their ties to criminals in the United States, Europe, South America and South Africa are well documented. Nigerian poly-crime organizations exact significant financial and societal costs, especially in West African nations with limited resources for countering these organizations.

Asset seizures from narcotics traffickers and money launderers are permitted under Nigerian law, but were not used as an effective law enforcement tool in 1998. Despite some initial seizures, there were no prosecutions, and some of the seized assets were conditionally returned to their owners.

Corruption is widespread in Nigerian government and society. After resource constraints, lack of targeting of major traffickers, and inadequate inter-agency coordination, corruption is the most serious obstacle to effective counter-narcotics performance. Government publicity campaigns against corruption are perfunctory. However, the Drug Agent Corruption Decree of 1995 has served as the basis for the dismissal of some 1000 NDLEA staff, including 55 who are now reportedly awaiting prosecution.

The only illicit drug produced in Nigeria in any volume is cannabis, which is now cultivated in virtually all 36 states. Nigerian marijuana and marijuana resins are consumed in Nigeria and exported to neighboring countries and Europe. There is no evidence of significant Nigerian marijuana exports to the United States. The Nigerian government's eradication efforts focus on individual fields. There are no significant crop substitution programs.

Sizable quantities of ephedrine, both an amphetamine precursor and common ingredient in pharmaceuticals, are imported by Nigeria, but an illicit manufacturing link between the imports and some large amphetamine seizures has not been proved. Diversion of licit narcotics from the pharmaceutical industry appears to be common, and may explain the wide illicit distribution of sedatives in Nigeria and West Africa.

Nigeria is Africa's narcotics trafficking hub and a major transshipment point between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Nigerian traffickers account for a significant amount of the heroin transported to the United States. Nigerian criminal organizations have expanded and shifted some activities to neighboring countries and other strategic locations. Large quantities of drugs go though Nigerian ports and land borders, which are poorly managed and patrolled. NDLEA has made the airport transit of couriers more risky to the trafficking organizations, but traffickers use cargo and express mail services, as well as bulk land and sea shipments.

Demand Reduction. Abuse of psychotropic drugs (mostly cannabis) is rising in Nigeria, according to the NDLEA and Nigerian NGOs. Many government officials, however, deny Nigeria has a serious problem, and some still say narcotics is a foreign issue and responsibility. NDLEA has opened well-publicized anti-drug clubs at Nigerian universities, endowing them with anti-drug literature and videos. University officials state drug usage on campus is limited, but that student couriers were a serious problem until NDLEA began arresting them in large numbers several years ago. Efforts by UNDCP and Nigerian NGO's in the area of demand reduction remain rudimentary.

Criminology Links
Criminal Codes
Incidence of Crime
Drug Trafficking
Legal System
Juvenile Delinquency
Crime Prevention

Other Links
Online literature
Travel tips
International criminal justice agencies
Legal system
News and media
Correspondent email addresses
Distance learning courses
Comparative criminology-related sites

A Comparative Criminology Tour of the World
Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University