Status: Civil society or public discussion

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, largest economy, and top oil producer. Nigeria, ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse, is poised to be the third most populous country in the world by 2050, with a population projected to exceed 375 million, according to U.N. estimates.

President Bola Tinubu took office in May 2023, following elections marred by extensive administrative shortcomings and alleged vote rigging. President Tinubu has implemented a series of far-reaching economic reforms, but public discontent has mounted over rising costs and declining purchasing power, and prospects for his economic agenda are uncertain. As head of the West African regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Tinubu also took a strong initial stance against a military coup in neighbouring Niger, but faced domestic backlash for imposing economic sanctions and floating a possible military intervention[1].

Nigeria faces serious security challenges on several fronts. In the northeast, conflict between government forces and a long-running Islamist insurgency. In northwest and central Nigeria, an escalation of disputes between herders and farmers has fueled wider ethno-religious violence, mass abductions for ransom, and emergent Islamist extremist activity. In the southeast, conflict between security forces and armed separatists has killed hundreds since 2020, with a spike in violence surrounding the 2023 elections. The oil-rich Niger Delta, to the south, has been plagued by gang violence and episodic militancy for decades. The deterioration of security conditions in Nigeria over the past decade has strained the country’s military and police, and perpetrators of violence often evade arrest or prosecution. Security forces have reportedly committed extensive abuses, exacerbating local grievances[2].

Currently there is no law in Nigeria that protects human rights defenders and their right to defend human rights. At its 3rd UPR, the government of Nigeria supported a recommendation to protect and promote freedom of expression to create a safe and favourable environment for human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society[3]. Freedom of opinion and expression, however, continue to be restricted in the country[4]. 2022 saw several journalists physically attacked, arrested and judicially harassed in Nigeria. In several cases, the Cybercrime Act and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 has been used against journalists and bloggers[5].

While Nigeria has made strides in some areas, the country continues to grapple with significant human rights challenges. The government’s commitment to addressing these issues and implementing reforms is crucial for the advancement of human rights in the country. International scrutiny, along with active engagement from civil society, plays a vital role in pushing for positive change.

Under the premise that the government has a huge role to play in ensuring that all human rights defenders are protected, Human rights defenders gathered in Abuja on September 2023 to launch the Nigeria chapter of the Network of Human Rights Defenders (NHRD), a platform designed to strengthen actions on protection of human rights in Nigeria and Africa.

With reference to a future collaboration with authorities regarding the protection of human rights defenders, it was stated that it is expected that the National Assembly and the Executive should be able to come together and work with Civil society to come up with a bill on the defence of human rights in the country and pass it into law[6].


Updated: 30/11/2023






[1] Husted, T. F. (2023). “Nigeria: Overview and U.S. Policy.” Congressional Research Service Report No. R47052. Retrieved from

[2] idem

[3] A/HRC/40/7/Add.1 Recommendation 148.184 (Italy)

[4] Human Rights Watch. (2023, July 22). “Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Nigeria.” Retrieved from

[5] Nigeria. Civicus Monitor.

[6] Network of human rights defenders launches in Nigeria. (2023) The Sun



Nigerian Tribune
Human Rights Defenders in Nigeria have called on the Executive and Legislatures to work together in order to institute laws...
The Sun
From Fred Ezeh, Abuja Individuals involved in human rights defence in Africa gathered in Abuja, on Thursday, to launch the...