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Most Cases of Human Rights Violation in Nigeria Go Unreported

Abuja, Nigeria. November 2nd, 2016 – Latest public opinion poll results released by NOIPolls Limited has revealed that most victims (76 percent) of human rights violation in Nigeria do not report incidents of violations committed against them. As such, these rights are frequently violated and these situations remain overlooked. To address human rights infractions, the constitution empowers “any person who alleges any infraction “in relation to him” to apply to the High Court for redress. However, during the course of this survey, respondents disclosed that they do not report such cases due to lack of trust in the judicial system and law enforcement agencies.

Further findings also showed freedom of movement as the highest mentioned human right enjoyed by Nigerians with (57 percent), other rights cited include right to life (39 percent), right to peaceful assembly and association (26 percent), right to freedom of expression and the press (22 percent), amongst others.

In addition, the poll revealed the Nigerian Police as the biggest culprits of human rights violation as attested by 30 percent of the (50 percent) respondents who had personally experienced or know someone who has been the victim of human rights violation. This is further corroborated by the Amnesty International Report of 2015 that over a period of three years, almost 1 billion naira (US$5 million) has been paid out as compensation to victims of human rights violations by the Nigerian police.[1] Like every other law enforcement body in the world, the Nigerian Police has been entrusted with the responsibility of protecting lives and properties, but in performing these duties, many have been accused of human rights violation, ranging from extorting motorists who end up losing their lives on some occasions, to arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions. Therefore, violators should be diligently prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others, this could be achieved rapidly by putting modalities in place for the proper enforcement of the laws that ensure that human rights are protected and promoted. These were some of the key findings from the Human Right Snap Poll conducted in the week of October 24th, 2016.

Brief Background

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms such as right to life, liberty, freedom of thought and expression and equal treatment before the law, among others, which all humans should enjoy unhindered.The United Nations in 1987 described human rights as those rights without which we cannot function as human beings.[2] These rights are enshrined in chapter four of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 as amended. Although, in Nigeria, it is perceived that some citizens seems not to know about the country’s laws until certain circumstances compels them to, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. This perceived ignorance has led to citizens falling victim to frequent human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, etc.

The Legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti once portrayed human rights idea in his 1989 ‘Beast of No Nation’ song as human rights na my property, so therefore you can’t dash me my property’ meaning that human rights are inherent rights that belong to the people and cannot be handed down to them by anyone but rather to be freely enjoyed.[3] Several events have proven that most Nigerians really do not know their rights and those who do, are too scared to fight for it. Human rights violations and infractions, if not checked, could devalue a country’s cherished values and impair it’s diplomatic relations with the rest of the world.

However, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has made concerted efforts at enlightening Nigerian masses about their rights;[4] the effectiveness of every law lies in the hands of those authorities that are saddled with the responsibility of enforcing such laws as well as the masses abiding by it. The length of military rule is alleged to have contributed majorly to the factors that allowed human rights violations linger for so long, but the advent of democracy has tempered the situation to a certain degree and thus, more people and different organizations are getting actively involved in human rights issues and those who cannot get involved directly, speak out on social media frequently without fear of attack or stigmatization as the information bill protects them.

In view of the above, NOIPolls conducted this survey to ascertain the awareness of Nigerians about their fundamental human rights, their perception about the rights they enjoy as citizens and if any has been violated as well as the action they took to seek redress.

Survey Findings

In gauging the level of human rights awareness in Nigeria, poll results revealed that most Nigerians (77 percent) are conscious of their rights as humans and as citizens of the country. This indicates that irrespective of ethnicity, religion or status in the society, an average Nigerian is aware of his or her rights as a human and citizen of Nigeria. On the other hand, 23 percent of the respondents showed total ignorance, claiming not to be aware that they had any form of rights.

Of the 77 percent who are aware of their human rights, right to freedom of movement was the most cited (57 percent) by Nigerian citizens as the human right which they enjoyed. Other mentions include ‘right to life’ (39 percent) and the North-East geo-political zone (63 percent) had the highest percentage of respondents in this category. This is indicative of the role that both the government and other international non-governmental agencies have been playing in giving orientation and protection to citizens and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region. Furthermore, the right to peaceful assembly (26 percent), right to freedom of expression and the press (22 percent), right to personal liberty (21 percent), right to vote and be voted for (21 percent), and right to private and family life (12 percent) were also mentioned amongst others.

Result also revealed an even split of 50 percent on each side when respondents were queried to find out if their rights or that of anyone they know have ever been infringed upon. More male (60 percent) than female (40 percent) respondents answered yes and the South-South region presented with the highest affirmative in this category.

An evaluation of the various rights of the citizens that have been violated revealed that the largest proportion (22 percent) claimed that their ‘right to dignity of human person’ had been trampled upon, while 21 percent asserted that their ‘right to freedom of movement’ had been violated in one way or another. In the same vein, ‘right to fair hearing’ was reported to have been infringed upon by 12 percent of the respondents, whereas 11 percent claimed that their ‘right to compensation for property compulsorily acquired’ was violated, among others.

Subsequently, 30 percent of the respondents who indicated that their rights had been previously violated further revealed that ‘the police’ is mainly responsible for violating these rights and residents from the South-East zone accounted for the largest proportion of respondents in this category. This could be attributed to the reported Police brutality during one of the protests by members of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB).[5] In addition, respondents between 18 – 35 years have the highest number of Nigerians who asserted to this. 17 percent of the respondents stated that their rights have also been violated by government officials and the North-East geo-political zone had the highest (30 percent) representation. This could also be ascribed to the alleged socio-economic neglect and poor living conditions caused by the insurgency in those states[6]. Other mentions include security officials (12 percent) and employers (10 percent), among others.

The poll sought to ascertain if these incidents were reported and results revealed that a staggering 76 percent of the respondents stated that they did not report the incident at all and this cuts across gender, geo-political zones and age-groups. Implying that despite setting up various bodies to check the violations of the human rights laws in Nigeria, either by the government or NGOs’, the situation has not really improved, as a majority still fail to report cases of violation of their rights. In addition, 5 percent of the respondents claimed that they took to their family members to seek redress and another 5 percent reported to the Police.

In conclusion, the poll results have shown that most (76 percent) victims of human rights violation do not report incidents of human rights violation, as in many cases, it involves perpetration by persons in the bodies which they are supposed to report the cases to. The report also revealed that almost 8 in 10 (77 percent) Nigerian mentioned that they are aware of their rights as citizens, freedom of movement (57 percent) and right to life (39 percent) are the top human rights mentioned by Nigerians.

Furthermore, some of the respondents who claimed that their right to dignity of human person (22 percent) and right to freedom of movement (21 percent)) had been violated prior, reported that the Police ranked highest (30 percent) among the people who violated these rights followed by government officials (17 percent).

Finally, there is a need for the sensitization of the citizenry on the fundamental human rights through seminars, academic work and books that portray such rights. Sensitization campaigns involving religious and traditional rulers, should at intervals be carried out to educate or enlighten their subjects on the existence of their rights and how to seek redress when such rights are violated. There should be a constant retraining and reorientation of the country’s law enforcement officers, across all cadres, on what constitutes human rights as part of efforts to protect the masses. Lastly, violators should be diligently prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others and this could be achieved rapidly by putting modalities in place for the proper enforcement of the laws that ensure that Human Rights are protected and promoted e.g. National Human Rights Act, 2010.

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of October 24th 2016. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at


This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

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