(London, February 26, 2007) – Candidates in Nigeria’s April 2007 elections should address the country’s pervasive human rights problems and propose needed reforms, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. Many of Nigeria’s most widespread and serious abuses have not been addressed since the end of military rule in 1999.

“Nigeria needs leaders who will tackle the country’s appalling human rights problems” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Candidates serious about improving the lives of Nigerians should put human rights at the very heart of their campaigns.”

In 1999, many Nigerians expected that the end of military rule would bring rapid progress in governmental efforts to address fundamental human rights concerns, from access to education and health care to improving the criminal justice system. Nearly eight years on, those hopes remain largely unfulfilled.

“Unless those elected in the April elections take sustained steps to uphold the rule of law, reform the security services, and combat corruption and impunity, Nigerians’ basic rights and quality of life will remain at an unacceptable level,” said Takirambudde.

The briefing paper outlines some of the key questions that candidates should consider if they are to tackle the human rights situation in the country: corruption; ethnic and political violence; reform of the security services; and reform of the electoral machinery.

Among the recommendations presented in the paper, Human Rights Watch calls on candidates to:

  • publicly propose measures to address abusive conduct by government security forces;
  • articulate the steps necessary to hold accountable those responsible for past incidents of violence or abuse;
  • commit to ensuring that the conduct of their own electoral campaigns is free from violence, intimidation and other abuses;
  • present specific measures to address Nigeria’s corruption epidemic; and
  • explain what steps they would take, if elected, to make Nigeria’s political system more genuinely accountable and open.