A global democracy rating agency, Freedom House, in its Freedom in the world 2020 report says Nigeria’s democracy is still ‘partly free’ with a below par rating of 47/100.
While it scores slightly above par in terms of political rights with a score of 22/40, Nigeria still has some way to go in being tolerant of civil liberties where it scored 25/60.
The report by the US-based agency, explained that even though “Nigeria has made significant improvements to the quality of its elections since the transition to democratic rule in 1999, the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections, which saw President Muhammadu Buhari reelected and the All Progressives Caucus (APC) regain its legislative majority, were marred by consistent irregularities.”
It goes on to say, “Corruption also remains endemic in the petroleum industry, a key sector of the economy.”
Freedom House said that security challenges, including the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram militant group, kidnappings, and communal and sectarian violence in the restive Middle Belt region, “threaten the human rights of millions of Nigerians”
“The response by the military and law enforcement agencies to the widespread insecurity often involves extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses.”
“Civil liberties are also undermined by religious and ethnic bias, and discrimination against women and LGBT+ people remains pervasive.
“The vibrant media landscape is impeded by criminal defamation laws, as well as the frequent harassment and arrests of journalists who cover politically sensitive topics.”
The report cited key issues that influenced its 2020 scoring to include “last-minute postponement of voting, delays at polling places that disenfranchised voters, insufficient transparency surrounding vote counting, the obstruction of observers, and violence and intimidation, including by the security forces.”
While it acknowledged that freedoms of speech, expression, and the press are constitutionally guaranteed, these rights are limited by laws on sedition, criminal defamation, and publication of false news.
“Sharia (Islamic law) statutes in 12 northern states impose severe penalties for alleged press offenses. Internet service providers sometimes block websites at the request of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).”
The report also said that even though judicial independence is constitutionally and legally enshrined and the judiciary has achieved some degree of independence and professionalism in practice, “political interference, corruption, and a lack of funding, equipment, and training remain important problems.”
“Implementation of the 2003 Child Rights Act, which protects children from sexual exploitation and other abuses, remains uneven; 11 northern states have not implemented the legislation during public remarks delivered 2019.” The report said.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world. It is the oldest pro-democracy organisation devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world. It was formally established in New York in 1941.