Useful Information


UN Human Rights Report 2019 UN Human Rights Report 2019
OHCHR Management Plan 2018-2021 OHCHR Management Plan 2018-2021
Brochure: Human Rights in action Human Rights in Action (PDF)
Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: A Handbook for Civil Society A Handbook for Civil Society (PDF)

OHCHR in Nigeria (2019)

Human rights context

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with about 200 million people and has the largest economy with a GDP of over 375 billion.  It is Africa’s largest crude oil supplier. It has more than 250 ethnic groups with three dominant tribes – the Ibo, Hausa-Fulani and Yorubu.  The major religions are Christianity and Islam (about 50-50) with sharia law imposed in the northern states.  Since its return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria has made some progress on strengthening government institutions and fighting corruption.

Nigeria faces numerous and complex challenges, including armed conflict, communal violence based on tribal and religious lines, a large population of internally displaced persons, a severe humanitarian crisis in the northeast, and human rights violations including torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, forced evictions, gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, and a shrinking civil society space, for example.   It also faces insecurity, increasing poverty, escalating unemployment and bad governance which undermine Nigeria’s constitutional democracy and its potential as a major economic and diplomatic power. 

Nigeria has the highest number of people in the world living in extreme poverty. Despite various efforts and concerns show by local and international human rights groups, women, who account for almost half of the entire population, generally lagged behind in all aspects of life (economically, socially, politically and intellectually). Despite some progress, Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and the third highest infant mortality rate.   Literacy rate is about 61% with a lrage number of children and young adults with limited literacy and numeracy skills.  Education indicators are poor nationwide.  Less than one third of children will proceed to senior secondary school. Non-school attendance is highest in the Northeast and Northwest.  There are over 9.5 million itinerant children under Koranic instruction in the North that are forced into street begging.  For girls, basic access to education remains low, especially in the North. As few as 20% of women in the North are literate and have attended school.  Non-attendance by girls is due to poverty, economic issues, and early marriage, for example.  Malnutrition is the direct or underlying cause of 45% of all deaths under 5.  Domestic violence is very high with 23% of women reporting being victims of physical or sexual violence. Violence against children is also high and occurs in all settings. There is also a high rate of sexual violence against children. Nigeria has the highest number of child brides – more than 23 million girls and women were married as children – but these numbers have been declining since 2003.

The farmer-herder conflict has become Nigeria’s gravest security challenge, now claiming far more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency. It has displaced hundreds of thousands and sharpened ethnic, regional and religious polarisation. Thousands have been killed, and many more displaced.   Attacks have also included rape against women and girls.     The majority of the attacks are retaliatory in nature and have an ethnic/tribal component. Resource scarcity appears to be at the heart of the crisis.  Government response appears to be inadequate in terms of investigating, arresting and prosecuting perpetrators.  

Some 1.8 million people are internally displaced and new high levels of displacement are ongoing due to violence in the Boko Haram conflic, creating one of the mose severe humanitarian crisis in the world today.  The crisis is characterized by massive and widespread abuse against civilians, including killings, rape and other sexual violence, abduction, child recruitment, arbitrary detention and the use of explosive hazards.  Since January 2019, some 40,000 Nigerians, originally from Rann, fled to Goura, Cameroon following deadly attacks by Boko Haram. 

OHCHR has a Human Rights Adviser (HRA) deployed in Nigeria to support and assist the Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team.  The Human Rights Adviser provides support to the humanitarian response in the Northeast linked to the Boko Haram insurgency. The deployment in the Northeast has focussed, inter alia, on leading advocacy on the rehabilitation and reintegration of women victims of conflict-related sexual violence and facilitated access to the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and the Voluntary Trust Fund on contemporary forms of slavery for national NGOs working in the region.   The Human Rights Adviser also supports the intervention in the Middle Belt in response to the farmer-herder clashes. An 18 month project funded by United Nations Peacebuilding Fund will include the deployment of staff to enhance preventive capacities by promoting dialogue and proactive engagement; building mutually beneficial economic relations between herders and farmers; and improving the effectiveness of the security response through strengthened human rights monitoring and accountability.

The Human Rights Advisor works with the security agencies and national authorities on developing a legal and institutional framework for human rights compliant counter-terrorism action.  The Human Rights Advisor is working with the National Human Rights Commission  to assist in addressing human rights issues and challenges in the Northeast and in the Middle Belt, Nigeria. The Human Rights Advisor continues to work with Parliament and national authorities to support legal reform, domestication of international human rights treaties and investigations of human rights violations by the security agencies. Additionally, the Human Rights Advisor has strived to strengthen engagement between the national authorities and the human rights mechanisms, and is currently supporting the development of a national human rights action plan with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals, as a successor document to the first national action plan 2009-2013.

Nigeria is party to all 9 core human rights treaties. It also issued a standing invitation to all thematic special procedures.  There have been recent visits by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking, the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons and a joint visit by the Special Rapporteurs on sale of children; on health; and on slavery.  Visits have been accepted for the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression; on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on housing; on privacy; and on independence of judges.  Outstanding requests include those from the Special Rapporteurs on water and sanitation; on human rights and counter terrorism; on toxic waste; the Independent Experts on albinism; and on foreign debt; and the Working Group on mercenaries. 

UPR (Third Cycle)

Contact Information


Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (FOTCD)
Contact in Geneva, Switzerland.

Africa Branch
Tel. +41 22 917 9220

External Links

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OHCHR in the field

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Action 2

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