U.S. government report says significant human rights abuses took place in Nigeria in 2020

The United States Department of State on Tuesday released its 2020 Country Reports on human rights practices around the world, revealing that last year “significant human rights abuses” took place in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.

The report was released through the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. It covers internationally recognized individual, civil and worker rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other International agreements.

Around this time every year, the U.S. Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress.

On Nigeria, the report identified “significant human rights abuses”, including unlawful and arbitrary killings by both government and nonstate actors; forced disappearances by the government, terrorists, and criminal groups; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government and terrorist groups.

They also included harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention by government and nonstate actors; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in an internal conflict, including killing and torture of civilians; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, in particular for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons; severe restrictions on religious freedom; serious acts of corruption; trafficking in persons; inadequate investigation and accountability for violence against women; the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and the worst forms of child labor.

Below are some key aspects in the report

Boko Haram

The insurgency in the Northeast by the militant terrorist group Boko Haram has been a deep rooted issue causing a major variety of human rights violations far and wide and at every level of society throughout Nigeria and other African Nations . The Nigerian government has and continues to investigate attacks by Boko Haram. Human rights violations executed by the Boko Haram include but are not limited to:

  • Subjecting many women and girls to sexual and gender-based violence, including forced marriages, sexual slavery, and rape.
  • Recruiting and forcefully conscripting child soldiers; and carried out scores of person-borne improvised explosive device attacks–many by coerced young women and girls
  • Boko Haram continued to employ indiscriminate person-borne improvised explosive device (PIED) attacks targeting the local civilian populations
  • According to a 2017 study by UNICEF, children, forced by Boko Haram, carried out nearly one in five PIED attacks. More than two-thirds of these children were girls
  • Boko Haram continued to kill scores of civilians suspected of cooperating with the government.
  • Boko Haram conducted mass abductions of men, women, and children, often in conjunction with attacks on communitie
  • Those abducted by Boko Haram were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, forced labor, and forced religious conversions
  • Women and girls were subjected to forced marriage and sexual abuse, including rape and sexual slavery
  • Boko Haram also used women and girls to lure security forces into ambushes, force payment of ransoms, and leverage prisoner exchanges.
  • Boko Haram kidnapped a group of women and cut off their ears in retaliation for perceived cooperation with Nigerian and Cameroonian military and security services.


Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, the government restricted these rights at times, especially through the victimization of Journalists. Journalist  who seem to expose the corruption and human rights violations of their government, received both explicit and indirect systemic punishment. 

A large and vibrant private domestic press frequently criticized the government, but critics reported being subjected to threats, intimidation, arrest, detention, and sometimes violence.

At times civilian leaders instructed security forces to harass journalists covering sensitive topics such as human right abuses, electoral malpractices, high-level public corruption, and the government’s war against terrorism

Security services detained and harassed journalists, sometimes for reporting on sensitive problems such as political corruption and security. Security services including the DSS and police occasionally arrested and detained journalists who criticized the government. Moreover, army personnel in some cases threatened civilians who provided, or were perceived to have provided, information to journalists or NGOs on misconduct by the military. On at least six occasions, journalists were charged with treason, economic sabotage, or fraud when uncovering corruption or public protests.

Journalists and local NGOs claimed security services intimidated journalists, including editors and owners, into censoring reports perceived to be critical of the government. 

Civil society organizations and journalists expressed concern regarding the broad powers provided by the law on cybercrime. Some local and state governments used the law to arrest journalists, bloggers, and critics for alleged hate speech

This just a fraction of the variety of Human Rights violations found within Nigeria. For a full and detailed report see the 2020 Country Report: Nigeria . After careful analysis, it is clear that Nigeria suffers from a lack of government accountability in terms of upholding the laws that seemingly apply human freedoms and rights. Journalists face unique victimization as a result of exposing the shortcomings of their governments; exposing their corruption and systemic issues. Boko Haram remains a serious and deep rooted threat for Nigeria and many other African nations. Nations such as the U.S and multilaterals such as the U.N that typically uphold human rights internationally should take major steps to enforce the  accountability of governance and disband terrorist groups like the Boko Haram. 

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