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Blog Post #5

Cover photo: Nigerians protesting kidnappings carried out by Boko Haram. Source: https://www.amnesty.ca/our-work/priority-countries/nigeria

Hi there and welcome to blog post #5 everyone! In this post, we’ll discuss some human rights issues in Nigeria and how they intersect with previous topics.

This post pulls on themes we have talked about in all of the other posts, a true testament to how globalization is not simply an economic, political, technological, or cultural phenomenon. In the first week we mentioned how Nigeria was split about 50/50 between Islam in the north and Christianity in the south. In addition, there is a similar, equal, split between citizens in rural and urban living centers. Week Two discussed the incredible variety of languages spoken in Nigeria and its influences on Nigerian nationalism. Week Three talked about environmental issues in Nigeria and efforts to stop pollution. Finally, Week Four was focused on international organizations—UN, IMF, and WTO—and their influences on the Nigerian Economy. What I hope you will take away from this post is that human rights, be it though the issues themselves or solutions to them, are connected with all of these other posts.

Human rights legislation in Nigeria since independence have been dynamic. From 1960 to 1998, the country had 7 coups d’etat. Rights then were not plentiful, but in 1984 a general in power repealed a law prohibiting publication of any material that could be considered against the interest of the government [1]. However, the regime shortly began jailing critics and banned more newspapers than any other government. Regimes have repeatedly infringed on the right to free speech, closing newspapers and media outlets.

Currently, the Nigerian government does not immediately accept international treaties it signs as law. For an agreement to actually influence Nigerian policy, it must not only be ratified by the country but also be specifically written into the code of law. Thus, it can sign treaties, such as the African Charter [2], but not be bound to them in any way. Nigerian courts often will look to the Constitution instead of any international charter, so expansion of human rights from any treaty is limited.

Infringements often involve corruption of government officials, Human Rights Watch says, “Countless ordinary Nigerians…are accosted on a daily basis by armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting money.” The cause of this could be a combination of (1) local officers not receiving enough pay and (2) local officers are willing to extort citizens because those citizens may not belong to the same ethnic, linguistic, or religious group as they do–this problem is an economic and cultural issue. As discussed in Post One, corruption and embezzlement is a serious problem in Nigeria, with an estimated $400 billion taken from the government in 1960-2012. In addition, there are many opportunities for boundaries to be drawn and prejudices to be taken towards another group in Nigeria. Violence aimed towards specific groups is not uncommon in Nigeria: just in 2015, the military killed 300 Shia Muslims, accusing them of trying to assassinate an army general. Upon further investigation, Human Rights Watch Africa said, “At best it was a brutal overreaction and at worst it was a planned attack on the minority Shia group” [4].

Nigeria is lacking in rights for the LGBTQ community. This is an interesting case because it is not due to an error in political process—the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 97 percent of Nigerians believe homosexuality is unacceptable—it is simply an opinion of the country. A later survey claimed the number to decrease to 94% in 2015. In Farish Noor’s chapter of Beyond Eurocentrism, he makes the point that cultures that Europeans view as backwards, including many native religions and Islam, actually do have many human rights attitudes included in them; thus, incorporating western methods of attaining these rights is a harmful approach. He highlights this with Islam in Malaysia. This is an excellent example of where an established culture does not cater to the rights of others even in the absence of Western input. A discussion as to how Nigerians feel about the LGBTQ community fits with his argument in Beyond Eurocentrism would certainly be interesting. One could argue that the history of colonialism in Nigeria may have, and currently does, put Eurocentric pressures on the country.

LGBTQ activists in Nigeria.
Source: https://africlaw.com/2013/06/11/same-sex-marriage-prohibition-bill-in-nigeria-any-human-rights-implications/

Globalization also has an effect on Nigeria’s languages. As mentioned in Post Two, Nigeria is a hotbed for diversity, languages and cultures. But organization, industrialization and westernization will cause the variety of languages to decrease. 27 of Nigeria’s languages are close to extinction [5]. Dr. Lindsey’s [6] and Wade Davis’s [7] talks about vanishing cultures and languages highlight how this could be a human rights issue. Different peoples see the world in different ways, certain cultures do not distinguish between blue and green because of their religious views about the sky and the tree canopy they live under. Western views on government and rights might not work well in practice in such a diverse country (Although I am still curious about the LGBTQ problem).

Nigeria currently sits on the UN Human Rights Council and, “abstained from voting on a resolution on the human rights situation in Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Burundi; and another resolution urging states to respect and protect basic human rights and civil society space.” [3] This would be worth more research.

Just as youth and women were at the center of creating a less polluted environment for Nigeria (see Post Three), they are also at the center of human rights activist groups. The Youths for Human Rights Protection and Transparency Initiative (YARPTI) has denounced candidates that they claim are corrupt [8]. Women in Nigeria (WIN) is an organization which educates women about their rights and provides loans. Women suffer from human rights violations frequently too, with female genital mutilation practiced the most in Nigeria out of the world [9].

Traditional cultural values may sometimes be backwards, for example the Nigerian opinion on LGBTQ rights and practice of female genital mutilation, but if the author of Beyond Eurocentrism and speakers from Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World and Dreams from endangered cultures are correct, there is often wisdom and even ideas of human rights found within cultures where westerners might not see it. This does not condone any Nigerian human rights violations, but just serves as a reminder that change and globalization should be a narrow line to walk between preservation of culture and exchange of ideas. Change may not always be good.

“You all have watches, but you have no time”

Sources:

[1] Shepherd, George W, Eileen McCarthy-Arnolds, David Penna, and Debra J. C. Sobrepeña. Africa, Human Rights, and the Global System: The Political Economy of Human Rights in a Changing World. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1994. Print.

[2] http://www.humanrights.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/African-Charter-on-Human-and-Peoples-Rights.pdf

[3] https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/08/17/everyones-game/corruption-and-human-rights-abuses-nigeria-police-force

[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35168211

[5] https://www.pulse.ng/lifestyle/food-travel/indigenous-languages-why-are-nigerians-shying-away-from-their-mother-tongue/g1mb9bz

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrmZUqcVdow

[7] https://www.ted.com/talks/wade_davis_on_endangered_cultures

[8] https://www.newsexpressngr.com/news/detail.php?news=11447&title=Corruption-Dont-make-Uwajumogu-a-Minister-Group-tells-Buhari-Im-innocent-Imo-Speaker

[9] Okeke, Tc et al. “An overview of female genital mutilation in Nigeria.” Annals of medical and health sciences research vol. 2,1 (2012): 70-3. doi:10.4103/2141-9248.96942

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