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Nigeria needs urgent action to end “pressure cooker” of violence claiming thousands of lives, says UN rights expert

GENEVA / ABUJA (3 September 2019) – Nigeria is a pressure cooker of internal conflicts and generalised violence that must be addressed urgently, with issues like poverty and climate change adding to the crisis, says UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard after visiting the country.

“The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern,” said Callamard presenting a preliminary statement at the end of her 12-day mission.

The absence of accountability is on such a scale that pretending this is nothing short of a crisis is a major mistake. If ignored, its ripple effects will spread throughout the sub-region if not the continent, given the country’s important role.

“Nigeria is confronting nationwide, regional and global pressures, such as population explosion, an increased number of people living in absolute poverty, climate change and desertification, and increasing proliferation of weapons. These are re-enforcing localised systems and country-wide patterns of violence, many of which are seemingly spinning out of control,” the UN expert said.

Callamard highlighted issues of concern including the armed conflict against Boko Haram in the northeast, insecurity and violence in the northwest, the conflict in the central area known as the Middle Belt and parts of the northwest and south between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities, organised gangs or cults in the south, repression of minority and indigenous groups, killings in the course of evictions in slum areas, and widespread police brutality.

The UN expert said some positive signs had been reported in the fight against Boko Haram and splinter groups, including a decreasing number of allegations of arbitrary killings and deaths in custody at the hands of the military forces over the last two years. However, she said there had been little progress in terms of accountability and reparations for massive human rights violations in the past.

“I particularly urge the Nigerian Government, and the international community, to prioritise as a matter of urgency accountability and access to justice for all victims, and addressing the conflicts between nomadic cattle breeding and farming communities, fuelled by toxic narratives and the large availability of weapons,” said Callamard.

“A number of high-profile cases of killings by police have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the officers responsible. Some cases relating to the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities have led to investigations in Benue State. However, such examples of accountability remain the exception,” Callamard said.

“In almost all of the cases that were brought to my attention during the visit none of the perpetrators had been brought to justice. It is unfortunate that most of the findings made in this regard by the then Special Rapporteur in 2006 remain accurate.

“The loss of trust and confidence in public institutions prompt Nigerians to take matters of protection into their own hands, which is leading to a proliferation of (vigilante) self-protecting armed militia and cases of ‘jungle justice’,” she said.

“I call on the Nigerian authorities to look carefully into my findings and I remain available for further cooperation,” Callamard said.

During her mission, Callamard met Government officials and local authorities as well as family members whose relatives had been brutally killed, people forced to move from their homes (internally displaced persons), civil society organisations, and the UN. She visited Abuja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Jos, Port Harcourt and Lagos.

The Special Rapporteur will present a final report containing her conclusions and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020.


Ms Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has a distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has advised multilateral organisations and governments around the world, has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published extensively on human rights and related fields.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page Nigeria

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