Frontline World

NIGERIA - The Road North, January 2003

Synopsis of "The Road North"

A Chronicle of the Pageant's Troubles

Interview With Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka

Five Diverse Voices

Learn More about Nigeria

Sharia Law, Human Rights, the Role of Women




What the World Thinks

This report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, released in December 2002, asks citizens across the globe how they view their lives, countries, the world and America. Included in the extensive publication are findings on public opinion in Nigeria. Part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Links and Resources

• General Background
• Sharia Law and Human Rights
• The Miss World Fallout
• The Role of Women
• Civil Society
• Media Resources

General Background

The Federal Republic of Nigeria
The official Web site of the Nigerian federal government includes information about public offices as well as background on the country's economy, population, tourism and business opportunities. There are also descriptions of the country's 36 states with messages from each state chief.

Interview With President Olusegun Obasanjo
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, who returned the country to civilian rule when he was elected in 1999, answers questions about Nigeria's previous military dictatorship, corruption, his leadership and plans for the country's future in a special call-in show, Talking Points. (BBC, February 18, 2002)

Independent Corrupt Practices Commission
This official Web site of the Nigerian government's first-ever anticorruption commission includes information on the pervasiveness of corruption and press releases on current cases against offenders.

Library of Congress Country Study
The Federal Research Division of the U.S. Library of Congress produced this country study, which examines Nigeria's history as well as its political, economic and social institutions.

Nigeria and Oil
The Nigerian Investment Promotions Commission lists oil companies operating in the country. Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, and oil provides 98 percent of the country's export earnings. The industry remains a source of great concern for human rights advocates. (See the section "Civil Society.")

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Sharia Law and Human Rights

Portraits of Ordinary Muslims: Nigeria
This Frontline Web site features background on Islam and Nigeria, a video clip of a Nigerian attorney who defends sharia law, and the transcript of an interview with Dr. Akbar Muhammad, an expert on African history and Islam in Africa.

The Amina Lawal Case
Amnesty International has helped organize the campaign to save the life of Amina Lawal, a 30-year-old northern Nigeria woman sentenced to death under sharia law for having a child out of wedlock. The Web site includes updates on Lawal's case and information about mounting opposition to her sentence from around the world.

Amina Lawal Escapes Death
This Associated Press story from September 26, 2003 brought relief to thousands around the world awaiting anxiously the result of Amina Lawal’s trial. An Islamic appellate court overturned her conviction on grounds of procedural error, sparing her from stoning death. But some conservative Muslims argued the sentence should have been carried out.

Amina Lawal Is Not Alone
This Amnesty International Document tells of three other cases in which three men and one woman were sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery by Sharia Courts. Amnesty International calls for help sending petitions to the Nigerian President and Minister of Justice urging an end to torture and death penalty.

Crisis Over Sharia Law
The BBC presents a series of reports about how Islamic law has provoked a deep constitutional crisis in Nigeria. Maps of Nigeria's Muslim states and a time line of key historical events in Nigerian history are included.

The Attractions of Sharia
Nigeria's sharia courts are harsh, but they are quicker and cleaner than the country's secular courts, according to The Economist. This article examines the underfunded judicial system in Nigeria. It also outlines why so many Muslims favor the Islamic legal system. (The Economist, September 7, 2002) (Registration required.)

Human Rights Watch
Read a series of reports on Nigeria. Topics include the application of sharia law in Nigeria, the conditions of people living in the country's oil-producing communities, attacks by the vigilante group in southeastern Nigeria known as the Bakassi Boys, political killings, military massacres and more.

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The Miss World Fallout

Writer's Anger Over Miss World Deaths
Isioma Daniel, the journalist whose article was blamed for causing riots over the Miss World content, says "her initial guilt soon turned to anger that fanatics would use a newspaper article as an excuse to kill." In this exclusive BBC interview, Daniel says it is likely she will have to live the rest of her life in hiding as a result of the incident. (BBC, January 18, 2003)

Beauty in Nigeria
When Nigeria's Agbani Darego was crowned Miss World in 2001, she became the first African winner in the contest's history. The victory by Darego also marked a change in the prevailing standards of beauty in the country. Writer Norimitsu Onishi reports on the influence of Western culture in Africa and the thin-is-in trend taking hold among younger Nigerian women. ("Globalization of Beauty Makes Slimness Trendy," The New York Times, October 3, 2002) (Registration required.)

What Would Mohammed Do?
Writer Laura McClure interviews Geraldine Brooks, author of Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, about the rise of what Brooks calls "the haters of beauty" behind the Miss World competition. Brooks also discusses sexuality in Islam and the widespread fear among men that women are gaining power. (, December 4, 2002)

"I Have Made History"
A profile of Nigeria's Agbani Darego, crowned Miss World 2001.

Why Is Nigerian Islam So Radical?
Look at Nigeria's unique history, explore how different the country is from the rest of West Africa and read a commentary about the riots that exploded in Kaduna over Miss World 2002. From its large population to its staggering wealth gap, Nigeria is a nation of exaggerations, reports Matt Steinglass. (The New York Times, December 1, 2002) (Registration required.)

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The Role of Women

World's Women 2000
The United Nation's report ranked Nigeria 151st on the gender-related Human Development Index among 174 countries.

Notable Women of Nigeria
The Web site, a favorite pick of, features trailblazing women, from famous writers to activists and political dissidents.

Women's Oil Protest
Read the BBC's coverage of women who occupied the Chevron oil terminal in southern Nigeria, demanding employment for their families and investment in the local community. The women succeeded in brokering a deal with the oil company. (BBC, July 16, 2002)

Niger Delta Women for Justice
This woman's group based in the Niger Delta of Nigeria -- the country's richest oil-producing region -- is dedicated to improving the personal, economic and educational status of women.

Women Foundation Nigeria
Founded by three Nigerian women representing diverse political parties, this group is trying to encourage women's activism in Nigeria on all fronts--personal, political and global.

Domestic, Regional and International Protection of Nigerian Women Against Discrimination: Constraints and Possibilities
This article by Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome explores how structural inequalities are created in society, and how these structures affect the role of women in modern-day Nigeria. The article is written for an academic audience, but explores specific issues such as abortion, division of labor, and the rights of women in marriage and family. (African Studies Quarterly)

Nigerian Women Target Gender Violence
This article from the Africa Recovery unit of the United Nations covers efforts by advocacy and human rights groups to combat violence against women in Nigeria.

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Civil Society

Civil Society and the Ultimate Question
This commentary by Nigerian political editor Jide Ajani looks at the state of civil strife in Nigeria. (Vanguard, October 1, 2000)

Corruption in Nigeria
Yemi Akinseye-George, senior lecturer of international law at the University of Ibadan, examines the destructive role of corruption and bribery in Nigeria. He also addresses the problems and prospects for a new anticorruption law passed in 2000.

Operation "419"
The problem of fraud, called "419" in Nigeria for the section in the country's penal code that deals with fraud, has affected Americans and people in other countries. The U.S. Secret Service's Financial Crimes Division is teaming up with Nigerian law enforcement to crack down on the fraud schemes.

This Web site deals with the issue of "419" fraud in a humorous way, with an archive of various examples of letters sent by scam artists. These letters frequently claim that the writer is a bureaucrat or a banker offering recipients the financial deal of a lifetime. The site also includes a scam self-check test.

Media Rights Agenda
Registered under Nigerian law and granted observer status with the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, this organization is lobbying for the introduction of freedom-of-information legislation in Nigeria. At pivotal points in Nigeria's transition to democracy, the Media Rights Agenda also has monitored media coverage in the country. The Web site includes its past reports.

Price of Oil
Human Rights Watch reports on corporate responsibility and human rights violations in Nigeria's oil-producing communities.

The Story of Ken Saro-Wiwa
The PBS series The New Americans revisits the story of Ken Saro-Wiwa, writer and activist from the Ogoni ethnic tribe of southern Nigeria. After gaining international attention for his stand against Shell Oil and other companies drilling in the Niger Delta, Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of the Ogoni tribe were tried for murder and sentenced to death, despite evidence of their innocence. Read a brief biography of Saro-Wiwa and samples of his writings. Also included are interviews with prodemocracy Nigerian leaders and the story of Saro-Wiwa's sister, who now lives in Chicago.

Journalists Against AIDS
This site features policy documents, research reports, studies and news relevant to the HIV/AIDS situation in Nigeria. Other features include an online survey and statistics on HIV/AIDS in the 16 countries of West Africa as well as archives of the Nigeria-AIDS eForum, an e-mail/Web-based discussion forum for policy makers, activists, journalists and people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Nigeria Project
The Nigeria Project is an educational partnership between Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan., and three peer universities, including Bayero University, Ahmadu Bello University and the University of Maiduguri. The project aims to strengthen civic institutions and public libraries in order to support development of a civil society.

Environmental Rights Action
This Nigerian-based environmental justice organization primarily focuses on concerns about the Niger Delta.

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Media Resources

The Guardian
This independent daily newspaper, based in Lagos, is among the country's most influential publications.

The Vanguard
Also a widely-read Nigerian newspaper based in Lagos, the Vanguard has a liberal slant.

The independent news daily in Lagos was at the center of the Miss World controversy after one of its writers, Isioma Daniel, wrote that Prophet Mohammed probably would have wanted to marry pageant contestants.

An independent newsweekly with commentary and analysis about Nigeria, world politics, business, economics, science, technology, culture and society.

New Nigerian
This is a government-owned newspaper published in Kaduna.

Weekly Trust
This is a conservative, Muslim-oriented newsweekly published in Kaduna.

The Anchor
This newspaper advocates for social change.

Daily Trust
This is a daily newspaper based in Abuja.

This leading provider of African news and information worldwide posts more than 700 new stories daily written by its own award-winning reporters and provided by more than 100 African media organizations. AllAfrica's coverage includes regional coverage of West Africa.

Voice of Nigeria
This radio program, with studios in Lagos and Abuja, is aimed at listeners outside of Nigeria. A schedule of broadcast times and a list of frequencies around the world are provided.

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