In July 2013, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nigeria undertook its sixth visit to the country. The focus of the visit was governance and human rights, with a particular emphasis on women’s rights and gender equality.
- As a highly populous and culturally, religiously and linguistically diverse country with three tiers of government, Nigeria faces huge governance and democracy challenges. Despite the introduction of important legislation relating to women and children’s rights, it is a concern that the rate of implementation of the laws has been slow, and there are low levels of awareness amongst the population. Notwithstanding the complexities of government and cultural diversity, the need to empower women – also as a means to ensure children’s rights are respected – should be a priority for Nigeria’s government and the country’s international stakeholders.
- This visit has confirmed some of the concerns raised by APPG members during previous visits with regards to the situation of women and children in Nigeria, namely with reference to trafficking and child abuse. Government agencies such as NAPTIP are actively providing solutions to some of these problems, but its efforts need to be scaled up and supported more effectively, as they are currently only touching on what is a huge problem. The Human Rights Committee made some valuable recommendations in terms of increasing human rights awareness, especially of women’s rights, amongst the security services and of increasing judicial capacity. Both entities illustrate the will of the Nigerian government to tackle these issues.
- Better support for women to exercise their rights and be protected from abuse is a fundamental building block for Nigeria. For its young population, particularly girls, to progress, they need greater protection and opportunity. With the many challenges facing federal and state government it is important that human rights issues are not considered a lower priority.
The following are the recommendations of the APPG:
1. Initiatives such as the ‘Yellow Card for Child Abuse’ by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice could be replicated, so that more children – and their parents – are aware of their rights, and abusers are aware of the consequences of their actions.
2. Federal government should provide greater funding to NAPTIP so they can upgrade their capacity, improve level of care in their shelters, prosecute more traffickers and extend their remit across all states.
3. There needs to be more public awareness campaigns on trafficking, not just in Nigeria, but within the diaspora, for example through media outreach by international broadcasters such as ‘Ben TV’.
4. Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum could establish a State Governor’s Human Rights Committee that would act as a peer-review mechanism for monitoring the performance of states in human rights practice.
5. Nigeria’s police force needs more resources and funding from the government, especially with regards to improving its training and capacity to deal with cases from a human rights perspective. Small-scale initiatives such as DfIDs Justice for All Programme successfully address the deficiencies in the policing service and the issue of vigilantism, and should be replicated by the government where possible, and can be funded through public-private partnerships.
6. Private-sector actors – Nigerian and international – need to continue to work with local communities, while engaging state governments to ensure that successful community development projects, such as the Obio Cottage Hospital Health Insurance Scheme, are sustained or replicated.
7. The government of the United Kingdom, through DfID, should continue to provide support for access to education through its programmes in Nigeria.