Nigeria Society

Nigeria Society and Human Rights


Population and society

Among Nigeria’s more than 250 ethnicities, the largely Muslim Hausa-Fulani are the most prominent group in the north of the country alongside nupe, tiv and kanuri. The Yoruba, Christians and Muslims, are the main ethnic group in the south-west, while the igbo, largely Catholic, are predominant in the south-east along with efik, ibibio, ijaw. In addition to English, which is used in education and business, the most widely spoken languages ​​are: Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani and Ijaw. At least 50% of the population is Muslim, Christians are divided into Protestants (26%) and Catholics (14%) and the remaining 10% follow traditional religions. In the central regions, the clashes for the control of land and water resources between shepherds and farmers also take on ethnic and religious connotations, which manifest themselves in confrontations between Muslim Hausa-Fulani and Christian Berom. The violence is concentrated in the vicinity of Jos, in the state of Plateau, and is fueled by the ongoing desertification process in the northern regions.

Despite the country’s significant natural resources, around 60% of the population lives below the poverty line. 20% of the residents control almost 50% of the resources, revealing a situation of profound inequality. The north and partly the south-east are the most backward areas, so much so that the country appears divided in two: the southern regions are growing and improving their conditions, especially thanks to oil, while the northern ones remain characterized by strong inequalities and high unemployment. The differences also affect other social indicators, such as health and literacy, and also involve the electoral results, with the north voting for the Muslim candidate and the south for the Christian one. However, the latest votes have seen greater unity in the country, with Buhari also winning in several southern states. One of the most controversial issues in Nigerian politics is the allocation of federal resources on the basis of the revenues provided by each state. Modernization has spurred chaotic urbanization processes, but more than half of the population still lives in rural areas. The spread ofHIV, malnutrition and the high infant mortality rate negatively affect life expectancy (52.5 years in 2013).

Elementary education is compulsory and free, given in English and in other languages ​​of the Federation. There are over fifty public and private universities. The great universities of the north are among the most renowned centers of Islamic studies in the world. There are several specialized institutes operating in the mining sector, thanks to funding from foreign investors.

Freedom and rights

The transition from military to multi-party regime, which began in the late 1990s, is far from over. The army has not completely abandoned the role of mediator and solver of crises and the use of the state of emergency, with the relative suspension of some primary rights, is more the norm than the exception to the rule. Freedoms of opinion, press and assembly are continually restricted. In the northeastern regions, the army’s operations against Boko Haram have resulted in gross human rights violations, such as to lead part of the population to sympathize with the movement, in reaction to the brutality with which the armed forces have extorted confessions and carried out arrests and arbitrary killings. In a June 2015 report, Amnesty International called for an investigation into the heads of the Nigerian army.

Corruption and the lack of transparency of public finances remain two crucial problems in the country. About 100,000 barrels of oil are stolen daily to be sold on the black market. Such trafficking cannot fail to take place without the connivance of people who hold important positions in institutions or in the business world. Reports of bribes or theft of public funds are on the agenda and the perpetrators often go unpunished, even if recently the country has begun to resort to exemplary penalties, precisely to restore a compromised international image, which among other things harms the Doing Business index (Nigeria ranks 169 out of 189).

According to LOVERISTS.COM, the different levels of the legal order combine the Common Law norms of the former colonial power with the customs dating back to the pre-colonial era and the norms of Islamic derivation. At the top of the judicial system are the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal. Between 1999 and 2002, sharia law was officially introduced into the judiciary of 12 northern states (Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara): a decision that it has exacerbated tensions on an ethnic-religious basis, emphasizing the fractures between north and south and multiplying the perception of central states as areas of conflict.

Nigeria Society