Nigeria, the challenges of the new government on human rights: protecting civilians, respecting freedom of the press and dealing with social security

Nigeria, the challenges of the new government on human rights: protecting civilians, respecting freedom of the press and dealing with social security

ROME - Nigeria's newly elected President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should ensure that human rights are at the heart of all policies both at home and abroad, he writes Human Rights Watch in an analysis outlining human rights priorities for the new administration. At home by strengthening rights in five key areas, abroad by promoting constitutional democracy, especially in West African countries.

The five crucial areas for human rights. The organization analyzes the five sectors that deserve particular attention from the government, because they are most at risk: the protection of civilians in conflict zones; respect for freedom of the press and the right to free expression; the fight against poverty and inequalities by strengthening a policy aimed at social justice; promoting and protecting the rights of internally displaced persons; the adoption of a foreign policy focused on respect for human rights.

The election of Tinubu. Declared the winner in the presidential elections of February 2023, the new President takes office on Monday 29 May for a four-year term. The elections were characterized by many irregularities, including episodes of violence at the polls and the impossibility of uploading the electoral results in real time by the various polling stations organized in the country. Among other things, his inauguration tomorrow takes place in a context of turmoil in which an investigation into the regularity of the vote is also underway at the Court of Appeal.

The election manifesto of Tinubu. During the electoral campaign, the new President has repeatedly said that the "security of life and property" will be at the center of his political action. And he specified that this goal can only be achieved by improving the living conditions of Nigerians living in poverty, regardless of region, tribe and religion.

Poverty. Nigeria has failed to secure economic and social rights for all citizens, including the right to a decent standard of living, writes Human Rights Watch. According to National Bureau of StatisticsSome 133 million people in the country live in multidimensional poverty, meaning they lack access to several key sectors such as sanitation, health care, food and safe housing. Inequality has also reached extreme levels as the gap between rich and poor continues to grow at an alarming rate. Furthermore, the country does not have a good social security system, which supports people when they have no income or face severe economic crises, nor does it have assistance tools for old age, unemployment, sickness, childbirth or charged.

The violence. In the Northwest, gangs of criminals whom Nigerians commonly refer to as "bandits" routinely carry out large-scale murder, kidnapping, rape and looting. In the Northeast, the conflict between the Islamist armed group Boko Haram, its separatist factions, and the Nigerian security forces has killed an estimated 350,000 civilians and created a humanitarian crisis of such magnitude that over 2 million people are displaced across the country. inside Nigeria and another 280,000 between Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In the southeast, anti-government groups clamoring for secession are threatening people to stay at home, as they aim to close all public places, including businesses and schools.

Violations of rights by the police. The security forces that are supposed to tackle social insecurity across the country are complicit in gross human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions and extrajudicial killings. The police also often use excessive force to suppress the citizens' right to protest and the authorities do not prosecute the agents responsible for the abuses, in a sort of tacit sharing of their work.

Government abuses. To date, there has been a constant attempt by the government in the country to limit freedom of expression and the media. This is demonstrated, for example, by the blocking of Twitter for over seven months: the social network was accessible again in January 2022. And again the attempt to introduce a bill on social media aimed at criminalizing, among other things, anyone who criticizes the authorities, arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists and the sanctions of the press critical of power. In the ranking of Reporters Without Borders on press freedom, Nigeria ranks 123 out of 169.

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