1. The Committee considered Nigeria's initial report (E/1990/5/Add.31)
at its 6th to 9th meetings held from 29 April to 1 May 1998 and
adopted the following concluding observations:
2. The Committee welcomes the presentation of Nigeria's initial
report as well as the presence before the Committee of a delegation
drawn from Nigeria's Permanent Mission at Geneva. The Committee
regrets that no expert delegation could come from the capital
and also the fact that Nigeria's initial report did not conform
with the guidelines the Committee has established and that the
additional information was received too late to enable its translation.
Furthermore, the Nigerian Delegation acknowledged that it was
not equipped with the detailed and up-to-date facts and statistics
required to satisfactorily answer the list of issues submitted
by the Committee to the Nigerian Government eleven months earlier.
Additional information promised by the Delegation during the dialogue
was never received.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
3. The enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is hindered
by the absence of the rule of law, the existence in Nigeria of
military governments, the suspension of the Constitution in favor
of ruling by military decrees, and the concomitant resort to intimidation
and the negative effects that widespread corruption has on the
functioning of governmental institutions.
4. The Nigerian people are deprived of the necessary judicial
protection of their human rights since the judiciary is being
undermined by "ouster clauses" attached to many military decrees
as well as by the Military Government's refusal to implement the
5. The negative attitude of the Government of Nigeria in respect
to the promotion and protection of human rights in general and
economic, social and cultural rights in particular, is further
illustrated by its refusal to cooperate with the United Nations
human rights mechanisms, particularly with the Special Rapporteur
of the Commission on Human Rights and the Secretary-General's
C. Positive Aspects
6. The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Nigerian Human
Rights Commission, although it notes that the powers and independence
of the Commission have been the subject of criticism. The Commission
has made salutary recommendations in the field of human rights
and has recommended the creation of prison inspection committees.
Many of the Commission's recommendations however have gone unheeded.
7. The Committee welcomes the establishment of a Ministry for
Women's Affairs which is now responsible for the welfare of women
and children. Small improvements have also been made in women's
participation in the political process. Three women have been
included in the current Cabinet.
8. It also welcomes, the establishment of the National Child Rights
Implementation Committee and the preparation of a National Child
Plan of Action.
9. The Committee takes note of the statement by the delegation
to the effect that Nigerian education and health sectors have,
as from 1998, received more attention and larger budgetary allocations
with substantial increases for infrastructure, health and education.
D. Principal subjects of concern
10. The Committee notes with regret that the Special Rapporteur
of the Commission on Human Rights (report E/CN.4/1998/62) had
not been permitted to visit the country and that the Nigerian
Government had failed to heed the appeals and concerns expressed
by the U.N. Secretary-General's fact-finding mission, the decisions
of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the statements
of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, those of the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group, and of the International Labor Organization.
11. The Committee expresses its regret that the Nigerian authorities
deemed it fit to expel an estimated half a million Chadian and
other nationality workers in inhuman and undignified circumstances,
even those among them who had been legally established for many
years with residence permits in Nigeria and had participated in
and contributed to the social security system. No adequate compensation
is known to have been made to the majority of them.
12. In the light of the foregoing, and substantiated by the report
of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights and
by the latter's Resolution 1998/64 of 21 April 1998 regarding
the human rights situation in Nigeria, as well as by the many
other reports of independent international organizations and NGO's
(all the above material having been made available to Nigeria's
delegation before and throughout the dialogue), the Committee
therefore draws the conclusion that the rule of law is absent
in Nigeria, with the attendant extensive violations affecting
all aspects and domains of economic, social and cultural rights
in the State party.
13. The Committee is concerned about the high percentage of unemployment
and underemployment among Nigerian workers, particularly among
agricultural workers, due to the neglect of agricultural sector.
This has led to massive migrations in search of work by agricultural
workers into the cities, where they live in poverty and degrading
14. The Committee expresses its concern that women suffer discrimination
in the workplace, particularly in access to employment, in promotion
to higher positions and in equal pay for work of equal value.
15. The Committee is concerned that the Executive Councils of
the NLC, NUPENG, and PENGASSAN were dissolved in 1994 by military
decree and that military administrators have been appointed to
run these workers' unions since then. The Committee further notes
with concern that the military government has also decreased the
number of labour unions from 42 to 29 and has prevented unions
from associating with international federations of labour unions.
In spite of repeated ILO recommendations, violations continue
to persist. In this regards the Committee regrets that the Nigerian
government has refused to receive a visit of a direct contacts
mission of the International Labor Organization to discuss these
16. The Committee is greatly concerned with the fate of the NUPENC
General Secretary, Frank Kokori, and PENGASSAN General Secretary,
Milton Dabibi, who have been imprisoned for four and two years
respectively, without being charged or tried. The Nigerian delegation
could not explain why they have not been charged or tried until
17. The Committee expresses its deep concern over repeated violations
of the right to strike, where workers' industrial actions for
better salaries have been repressed by the Government, under the
pretext of state security.
18. The Committee expresses its concern about the Government's
policy of retrenchment aimed at expelling up to 200,000 employees
in the public sector, without adequate compensation. The Committee
notes with concern that in 1997 the military Governor of the State
of Kaduna issued a decree expelling 22,000 workers of Kaduna State
Civil Service when they went on strike.
19. It also expressed its dissatisfaction with the implementation
of the inadequate social security system. The Nigerian Delegation
indicated that the Nigerian Government does not interfere with
the private sector where most workers are now engaged. No statistics
or other information were provided about the degree of enjoyment
by employees of the private sector of their social security rights.
Nor are there any statistics about the Government's attempts to
spread the social security net over the heads of the majority
of the unemployed poor. The National Nigerian Insurance Trust
Fund does not cover all the needy. In the private sector, social
security benefits are voluntary, depending on the employers' whims.
20. The Committee deplores the failure of the government of Nigeria
to abolish female genital mutilation, a practice which is incompatible
with the human rights of women and in particular with the right
to health. According to UNICEF, the prevalence of female genital
mutilation in Nigeria is estimated to be 50 % of the female population.
21. The Committee condemns the continuing existence of legal provisions
which permit the beating ("chastisement") of women by their husbands.
22. The Committee notes with concern that polygamy, a practice
which is very often incompatible with the economic, social and
cultural rights of women, is widespread in Nigeria.
23. The Committee expresses its deep concern about the rising
number of homeless women and young girls, who are forced to sleep
in the streets where they are vulnerable to rape and other forms
24. Children are not much better off. Many resort to prostitution
to feed themselves. The rate of school drop-outs at the primary
school age is over 20 percent. Twelve million children are estimated
to hold one job or another. For those who go to school, up to
80 or more are crammed in dilapidated classrooms meant originally
to take only a maximum of 40. They are the first to suffer the
results of broken marriages. Nigerian law does not provide equal
treatment to children born in wedlock and those born out of wedlock.
Most alarming is the widespread problem of children suffering
from malnutrition. Almost thirty percent of Nigerian children
suffer malnutrition and its damaging consequences. According to
UNICEF, all available evidence shows that hunger and malnutrition
are prevalent in Nigeria.
25. The Committee is greatly disturbed that 21 % of the population
of Nigeria live below the poverty line in spite of the country's
rich natural resources. The Committee further notes with concern
that due to economic and administrative mismanagement, corruption,
runaway inflation and the rapid devaluation of the Naira, Nigeria
now ranks among the world's twenty poorest countries.
26. According to the World Bank estimates at least 17 million
Nigerians are undernourished, many of whom are children. The gap
is widening between the rate of the population growth and the
demand for food on the one hand, and the rate of the (falling)
food production, on the other hand. Nigeria moved from an exporter
of food items to a net importer.
27. The Committee is appalled at the great number of homeless
people and notes with concern the acute housing problem in Nigeria
where decent housing is scarce and relatively expensive. The urban
poor, especially women and children, are forced to live in make-shift
cheap dumps or shelters in appalling and degrading conditions
representing both physical and mental illnesses hazards. Safe
treated pipe-borne water is available to about fifty percent of
urban dwellers but only to 30 percent of rural inhabitants. By
and large only 39 percent of Nigeria's population has adequate
access to clean drinking water.
28. The Committee notes with concern that gross under-funding
and inadequate management of health services led during the last
decade to rapid deterioration of health infrastructures in hospitals.
The 1996 budget capital allocation to health and social services
was N. 1,7 billion, only 3,5 percent of total capital allocations
to federal ministries. Frequently, hospital patients not only
have had to buy drugs but have also had to supply needles, syringes
and suture threads, in addition to paying for bed space. As a
result many Nigerian doctors have chosen to migrate abroad.
29. The Committee notes with alarm the extent of devastation that
oil exploration has done to the environment and quality of life
in the areas such as Ogoniland where oil has been discovered and
extracted without due regard to the health and well-being of the
people and their environment.
30. The Committee regrets the fact that the Government's social
and health allocations have consistently diminished up until 1998
and that the authorities have reintroduced primary school fees
in certain States, and has imposed hospital charges where they
did not exist before.
31. School children often have to carry with them their desks
and chairs from their homes to the school. According to reports
by UNICEF there has been a marked reduction in school age children
going to school as parents cannot afford to pay the new drastically
increased school fees imposed on primary and secondary school
pupils. Recent poor educational quality is due partly to little
teacher attention being devoted to school work because of poor
salaries, leading to incessant strikes and school closures.
32. University fees increased dramatically in 1997 and students
in some universities, especially in southern Nigeria, were required
to pay ten times as much as other students. In addition, satellite
campuses were forced to close for no particular reason.
33. The military authorities have found in intellectuals, journalists,
university professors and university students an easy target for
their repression or persecution under the pretext that they constitute
the most vociferous and dangerous political opposition. One of
the major university campuses has been put under military guardianship.
Universities have suffered repetitive and long periods of closure.
There is also a brain drain in academia, as a result of political
and academic instability as well as the extremely low salaries
of university professors.
E. Suggestions and Recommendations
34. The restoration of democracy and the rule of law are prerequisites
for the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights in Nigeria. Elimination of the practice
of governing by military decree, the strengthening of the authority
of the Nigerian judiciary and the Human Rights Commission are
necessary first steps to restore confidence in the regime's intentions
to reinstitute democratic civilian rule.
35. The Committee urges the Nigerian Government to open-up to
international organizations, U.N. organs and Specialized Agencies
and to conduct constructive dialogues with them in openness and
transparency as a necessary step towards the restoration of confidence
in Nigeria's intentions to implement its human rights obligations,
including those under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
36. The Committee calls upon the Nigerian Government to restore
a democratic political system and respect for the rule of law
which is a prerequisite to the development of a system of government
which promotes the full respect for economic, social and cultural
rights. Respect for trade union freedoms and academic freedom
should also be urgently restored.
37. The Committee urges in the strongest terms that Union leaders
and their rank and file members, including in particular those
named in para. 17 above, who have been imprisoned without being
charged or tried, be freed immediately. Harsh prison conditions
should be alleviated and political prisoners freed and pardoned.
The rights of labor unions and syndicates should be restored and
38. The rights of minority and ethnic communities -including the
Ogoni people -should be respected and full redress should be provided
for the violations of the rights set forth in the Covenant that
they have suffered.
39. The Committee calls on the Government to cease and prevent,
in law and in practice, all forms of social, economic and physical
violence and discrimination against women and children, especially
the continuous, degrading and dangerous practice of female genital
40. Likewise, the Nigerian Government should enact legislation
and ensure by all appropriate means protection against the many
negative consequences which ensue from child school drop-outs,
child labor, child malnutrition and from discrimination against
children born out of wedlock.
41. The Nigerian Government should take steps to meet the targets
it has accepted in relation to the Education for All by the year
2000 and should enforce the right to compulsory free primary education.
42. The Committee urges the Government of Nigeria to cease forthwith
the massive and arbitrary evictions of people from their homes
and take such measures as are necessary in order to alleviate
the plight of those who are subject to arbitrary evictions or
are too poor to afford a decent accommodation. In view of the
acute shortage of housing, the Government of Nigeria should allocate
adequate resources and make sustained efforts to combat this serious
43. The Committee recommends that more positive and open dialogue
between the Committee and the Nigerian Government can be undertaken,
and maintained. This dialogue need not await the passage of the
next five years. The Committee calls upon the Government to submit
a comprehensive second periodic report, prepared in conformity
with the Committee's guidelines, by 1 January 2000.
44. The Committee urges the State party to disseminate widely
the present Concluding Observations adopted by the Committee following
its consideration of the State party's initial report.