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Racial Discrimination in Nigeria: A UN Committee denounces the inertia of the Nigerian Government

6 September 2005

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Minority Rights Group International, present the alternative report submitted by FIDH affiliated member in Nigeria, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), at the occasion of the examination of Nigeria by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Committee) and welcome the concluding observations addressed by the Committee to the Government of Nigeria.

Indeed, the concluding observations issued by the Committee largely reflect the main areas of concern put forward by CLO in its alternative report to the Committee .

The Committee noted with concern the inadequacies of the system of protection against racial discrimination as it currently exists. The Nigerian legal system does not provide for a definition of racial discrimination. Furthermore, constitutional guarantees against racial discrimination do not extend to non-citizens . For example, regarding the acquisition of nationality, foreign men are unable to acquire Nigerian nationality in the same manner as a foreign woman. Finally, as the Nigerian Government has failed to implement ICERD into domestic law, victims of racial discrimination cannot directly invoke the provisions of the Convention.

The Committee expressed its concern over ‘active discrimination by people who consider themselves as the original inhabitants to their region against settlers from other States’ which led to many violations of the right to equal opportunities, in particular in the field of employment, education and housing. For that purpose, the State party is urged to develop wide-ranging information and public-awareness campaigns and strengthen its affirmative action policy.

With respect to discrimination based on work and descent, the experts took note of numerous allegations on the persistence of the Osu Caste system in Central and Southern parts of the country and urged the State party to set up effective programme to eliminate this form of discrimination.

Inter-ethnic, inter-communal and inter-religious violence and the Government’s response to it – which reportedly led to many cases of ‘ill-treatment, use of excessive force and extra-judicial killings as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions by law enforcement officials’ should be properly investigated in order to avoid the rule of impunity. The Committee urged the State party to make public the results of all investigations.

The experts expressed concern over the adverse effects on the environment of ethnic communities of large scale exploitation of natural resources in the Delta Region and other Rivers States, in particular Ogoni areas. All affected communities must be properly consulted and the Nigerian government must adopt a legislative framework setting forth ‘the obligation to abide by strict environmental standards as well as fair and equitable revenue distribution’. In addition, the State party must conduct investigation into the numerous allegations of human rights violations by law enforcement officials and private security personnel in these same areas.

In relation to the application of the sharia in Northern states, the Committee reiterated that Muslim women should not receive harsher sentences than other Nigerians. The State party must comply with the requirement of equal treatment before tribunals and all other organs administering justice.

CLO, FIDH, and Minority Rights Group International recall that all provisions of ICERD must be fully complied with by the Nigerian government. CLO, FIDH, and Minority Rights Group International also remind that the federal government is responsible for all practices of racial discrimination whether perpetrated at the federal, state or local level, both in the public and private sector. The Nigerian federal government must therefore launch proactive policies in order to combat prejudices and negative stereotypes conducive to marginalisation and discrimination. CLO, FIDH, and Minority Rights Group International take note of the Committee’s request to be informed by the State party of the implementation of its recommendations within one year.