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Responses to Information Requests (RIRs) cite publicly accessible information available at the time of publication and within time constraints. A list of references and additional sources consulted are included in each RIR. Sources cited are considered the most current information available as of the date of the RIR.            

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4 August 2015


Nigeria: Whether the police in Nigeria detain family members or friends of wanted persons, and, if so, the manner in which they are treated; whether this includes persons wanted for breaking laws related to same-sex sexual conduct (2013-July 2015)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Arrest of Family Members of Wanted Persons

Sources indicate that the Nigerian police force have arrested and detained relatives of wanted persons (NOPRIN 26 July 2015; International Business Times 1 Nov. 2014; The Guardian 6 May 2014). Other sources further report that this act is often undertaken with the intent of drawing a wanted person from hiding and forcing their surrender to law enforcement authorities (TIERs 29 July 2015; CLEEN 24 July 2015). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the National Coordinator of the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a coalition of 46 Nigerian civil society organizations committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights (NOPRIN n.d.), stated that NOPRIN is aware of “many” cases in which the Nigerian police detained both family members and friends of wanted persons, including a recent one "in which a man was wanted by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Lagos state police command. In his absence, his sister and her visitor were arrested and detained until he returned home from a journey and voluntarily went to the police station" (ibid. 26 July 2015). The same source notes that the detainees were released only after the wanted man turned himself in and a large sum of "“bail”" money was extorted from them (ibid.). The New York-based International Business Times reports that according to human rights groups, both Nigeria's military and police are detaining family members of wanted people, even though it is against the law (International Business Times 1 Nov. 2014). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of the Centre for Law Enforcement Education Nigeria (CLEEN), a Nigerian NGO that promotes public safety, security and accessible justice (CLEEN n.d.), likewise indicated that "[t]here are allegations and reports made by members of the public and … NGOs concerning the fact that police unlawfully arrest and detain relatives of wanted persons" (ibid. 24 July 2015). However, the same source notes that the practice of detaining family members of wanted individuals "is not encouraged by the police institution and hierarchy" and that there have been reports of police "disciplining officers that have been found to have been involved in such practices" (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the Guardian, "[f]rom December 2011, the Nigerian police began to detain the wives and children of militant leaders - possibly to put pressure on the group [Boko Haram], possibly to bring about negotiations" (6 May 2014). The International Business Times also reports that a leader of Boko Haram claims the military is detaining members of Boko Haram families (1 Nov. 2014).

2. Treatment of Detainees

The National Coordinator of NOPRIN stated that the police “often harass, ill-treat, torture and sometimes kill … detainees in a bid to intimidate or force them or their relatives to pay [a] huge bribe or to disclose the whereabouts of their wanted relatives or friends" (NOPRIN 26 July 2015). Other sources also report on the police’s use of torture (Human Rights Watch 2015; US 25 June 2015, 4).

A 2014 Amnesty International (AI) report on torture in Nigeria states that rape by police is a "common method of torture" used against women and girls, noting that "women detained for criminal offences, relatives of criminal suspects, and sex workers who cannot pay bribes are often targeted for rape and other abuse by police officers" (AI Sept. 2014, 31). A joint report by NOPRIN and Open Society Foundations, an American NGO based in New York that funds various programs around the world to build “tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people” (Open Society Foundations n.d.), also indicates that ex-female detainees who were interviewed for their study reported being raped by police personnel and having "pepper spray used on their genitals" (NOPRIN and Open Society Foundations 2010, 21).

Sources state that, by law, individuals can only be detained for 48 hours before being brought before a court (US 25 June 2015, 10; CLEEN 24 July 2015) or released on bail (ibid.). However, according to the US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, "[g]overnment and security officials did not adhere to this regulation without being bribed" (US 25 June 2015, 10). The National Coordinator of NOPRIN likewise stated that the duration of detention of family members of wanted persons varied depending on "whether or not the wanted persons turn in and/or whether the detained person is willing and/or able to provide the money usually demanded by the police for their 'bail'" (NOPRIN 26 July 2014). According to Country Reports 2014, there is no functioning bail system in many regions and thus, "suspects remained incarcerated indefinitely under investigative detention within the prison system" (US 25 June 2015, 10). The same source states that police have been known to hold individuals “who happened to be in the vicinity of a crime” for interrogation for varied lengths of time ranging from "a few hours to several months" (ibid.).

3. Arrest of Relatives of Those Wanted for Same-Sex Sexual Conduct

According to the National Coordinator of NOPRIN, there is no "category of offences for which the police detain family members or friends of wanted persons. The police in Nigeria arbitrarily arrest people for any real or imagined offence at the slightest excuse" (NOPRIN 26 July 2015). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), a Nigerian NGO that works to protect the rights of sexual minorities in Nigeria (TIERs n.d.), stated that while relatives of LGBT Nigerians are not arrested frequently, they have dealt with a case in which an LGBT "individual's brother was detained while the rest of the family were asked to provide the wanted person before the brother would be released" (TIERs 29 July 2015). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Director of Queer Alliance Nigeria, a Nigerian NGO that promotes equality and human rights for Nigeria's LGBT community through advocacy, education and research (Queer Alliance Nigeria n.d.), indicated that there have been arrests of individuals on the grounds of perceived same-sex conduct, and that while he is not aware of cases of detention of family members in connection with the sexual orientation of another family member, such case would not be impossible “given the circumstances under which [they] live and operate,” further noting that his organization have recorded “cases of human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation” by the Nigerian police (ibid. 27 July 2015).

For further information on filing complaints against the Nigerian police and recourse against impunity in the security sector, see Response to Information Request NGA104979.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). September 2014. “Welcome to Hell Fire”: Torture and Other Ill-treatment in Nigeria. (AFR 44/011/2014)<> [Accessed 22 July 2015]

Centre for Law Enforcement Education Nigeria (CLEEN). 24 July 2015. Correspondence from the Executive Director to the Research Directorate.

_____. N.d. "About CLEEN." <> [Accessed 24 July 2015]

The Guardian. 6 May 2014. Elizabeth Pearson and Jacob Zenn. "How Nigerian Police Also Detained Women and Children as Weapon of War." <> [Accessed 21 July 2015]

Human Rights Watch. 2015. "Nigeria." World Report 2015: Events of 2014. <> [Accessed 20 July 2015]

International Business Times. 1 November 2014. Fiona Keating. "Nigeria: Boko Haram Refuses to Return 200 Kidnapped Schoolgirls Who 'Have Been Married off'." <> [Accessed 23 July 2015]

Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN). 26 July 2015. Correspondence from the National Coordinator to the Research Directorate.

_____. N.d. "Welcome to Noprin Foundation." <> [Accessed 24 July 2015]

Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) and Open Society Foundations. 2010. Criminal Force: Torture, Abuse, and Extrajudicial Killings by the Nigeria Police Force. <> [Accessed 21 July 2015]

Open Society Foundations. N.d. "About Us." <> [Accessed 20 July 2015]

Queer Alliance Nigeria. 27 July 2015. Correspondence from the Director to the Research Directorate.

_____. N.d. "Who We Are." <> [Accessed 24 July 2015]

TIERs, The Initiative for Equal Rights. 29 July 2015. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. N.d. "About TIERs." <> [Accessed 28 July 2015]

United States (US). 25 June 2015. Department of State. "Nigeria." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014. <> [Accessed 20 July 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Civil Liberties Organization of Nigeria; Courage Nigeria; Global Rights Nigeria; Human Rights Law Service; Human Rights Monitor Nigeria; Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law; International Centre for Reproductive and Sexual Rights; Legal Defense and Assistance Project Lagos; Ogunsola Shonibare Law Firm; Professor of criminology and socio-legal studies, University of Alberta; Professor of criminology and sociology of law, University of Jos, Nigeria.

Internet sites, including: Africa Confidential; Africa Research Bulletin;; Agence France-Presse; Al Jazeera; BBC; Brookings Institution; Canada – High Commission to Nigeria; CNN;; Factiva; Freedom House; The Globe and Mail; Grassroot Empowerment Initiative Nigeria; Huffington Post; Human Rights Law Service Nigeria; Human Rights Monitor Nigeria; Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Nigeria; International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences; INTERPOL; Leadership; Nigeria – National Human Rights Commission, National Police Force; The New York Times; Punch Nigeria; Reuters; United States – Central Intelligence Agency; Transparency International; The Washington Post; The Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.