The human rights situation in Nigeria in 2019 remained highly complex with significant differences across regions. The year 2019 was characterised by deterioration of the insurgency in the Northeast, an escalation of conflict in the Northwest, a general worsening in violent crime and a perceived shrinking of civic spaces. In addition, continuing issues of violence by security forces, economic and social rights, the rights of women and girls, deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Northeast remain key challenges. The year 2019 also saw signs of growing religious tensions between Muslims and Christians. Security forces abuses such as beatings, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, extortion and extrajudicial killings remain issues of concern. Efforts to address the problem through official investigations have shown little results. Killings by nonstate armed actors remain the major cause of violent deaths in the country. 90% of Nigerian prisons are reportedly congested and in dire conditions. 136 The rights of women and girls in Nigeria have significant challenges and a lack of data. Official estimates of women and girls who have experienced sexual violence is 7%, but numbers and reports from civil society organisations point at a substantial shadow figure. Sexual and reproductive health and rights remain poor with a general low access to healthcare facilities, contraceptives and safe abortions, as well as a high prevalence of early pregnancies and child marriages. Nigeria hosts the largest number of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) cases on the African Continent. Sexual harassment in institutions remains prevalent. Lastly, Nigeria has the lowest level of women represented in politics on the African continent, with only 6% of elective positions occupied by women. Trafficking in persons continues, with many experiencing inhumane treatment – especially on the route from Nigeria, through the Sahara, across North Africa and to Europe. Especially women are victims of forced prostitution and sexual exploitation in connection with trafficking. Poor access to education and forceful recruitment of children by armed groups remain a problem, with an estimated 10.5 million children in the age between 5 and 14 out of school. Despite improvements to Nigeria’s democracy, the February 2019 election saw significant shortcomings in transparency, security and a low voter turnout with widespread violence and voter suppression witnessed in the states of Kogi and Bayelsa. Nigeria's civic space is reportedly shrinking due to increased arrests of journalists and attacks on media houses. Particular worries have been expressed about an apparent tendency by the government to allow arrests without trial and ignore court orders. LGBTI persons remain victims of laws against same-sex practices and widespread gender identity stigmas. Although court cases are few, LGBTI persons reportedly suffer widespread cases of violence, extortion and threats from both state and civil society actors. Despite passing a law in January 2019 to address discrimination against persons with disabilities, Nigeria's estimated 25 million persons with disabilities continue to face discrimination and a widespread lack of access to healthcare, housing, education and political representation.
2 EU action-key focus areas: The five strategic EU priorities for Nigeria remain: (i) human rights and conflict/post-conflict situations; (ii) strengthening the rule of law in compliance with international human rights instruments; (iii) elections; (iv) human rights of women; (v) rights of persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, children, LGBTI persons and ethno-religious minorities.
3 EU bilateral political engagement: The EU in close partnership with Member States has sought to promote and improve the respect for human rights in Nigeria through an integrated approach, combining political/diplomatic, development cooperation and public diplomacy tools to maximise impact and create synergy between the different tools and instruments. The EU delegation has been instrumental in mobilising the relevant authorities at the appropriate levels, in order to clarify the intentions of the Nigerian authorities, particularly in addressing humanitarian access. In September 2019, the military temporarily suspended operations of the international NGOs and EU-partners including Action Against Hunger (ACF) and Mercy Corps in north-eastern Nigeria. Swift and decisive engagement from the EU and 137 the Member States facilitated reaching an agreement on new mechanisms for dialogue. The EU delegation, including the Head of Delegation, made significant steps in the discussions during the suspension, and worked closely with the authorities to propose the written commitments issued after the suspension was lifted. The EU and Member States continue to jointly discuss upcoming Human Rights Council resolutions with the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to reduce divergence of voting on important resolutions. An EU-Nigeria human rights dialogue will be held in February 2020. The EUD and Member States have scaled up public diplomacy efforts in 2019 to amplify key human rights messages. A successful strategy has been cooperation with opinion leaders, press statements, press conferences and media interviews at strategic moments The EU delegation and Member States made significant efforts to support Nigeria's democratic progress. In addition to providing technical support, engaging with key stakeholders and supporting civil society organisations (CSOs), an Election Observation Mission (EOM) was deployed to observe Nigeria's general election in February. Election Observation missions from international partners such as the African Union, ECOWAS, The Commonwealth and NDI/IRI were also present. In its final report, the EU EOM noted severe operational and transparency shortcomings and electoral security problems and proposed 30 recommendations to improve future electoral processes. The systemic failings identified by the EOM show the urgent need for fundamental electoral reform. Diplomatic Watch Missions to the subsequent gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States were also deployed.
4 EU financial engagement: In terms of development cooperation, EU and Member States' support focused on both strengthening institutions, supporting capacity building of civil society organisations as well as targeted human rights interventions. Key examples include projects aimed at improving civilian-military relations and security forces' compliances with human rights, human rights training for security forces (military and police), reforming the civil society regulatory framework, support to the fight against corruption and the reform of the judiciary, assisting Nigeria to strengthen rule of law-based criminal justice response to terrorism, and the abolition of infanticide. On women's rights, efforts to operationalise the joint UN-EU Spotlight Initiative continued after Nigeria was selected as a beneficiary country with a EUR 25 million contribution. The EU and the Member States also continued supporting the deepening of democracy through election and support programmes. On the humanitarian side, the EU and the Member States have contributed substantial amounts to the humanitarian response. The EU has championed the ‘call for action’ on preventing GBV in emergencies with a particular focus on improving the situation in IDP sites in the Northeast.
5. Multilateral context: The EU and Member States are monitoring the follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) examination of Nigeria held in November 2018. Recommendations in areas of concern included the death penalty; improved accountability including for violations by government forces; trafficking and forced labour; sexual orientation and gender identity; children and youth; women's rights and gender equality; 138 application and implementation of existing legislation or ratification of international instruments; electoral processes; and torture, detention and due process.