Since 2009, an Islamist armed group known as Boko Haram has been carrying out acts of violence and terrorist attacks in parts of Northern and Central Nigeria. In their response, Nigerian security forces have also perpetrated serious human rights violations. HRDs, often caught in the middle of the conflict, are increasingly targeted by both sides, and work under great fear and insecurity. There were reports of threats and intimidation of HRDs and journalists by Boko Haram as well as of bombing of media outlets. As a consequence, many journalists have stopped reporting on the security situation in certain areas while others continue to operate under great fear of retaliation. Similarly, many lawyers taking up cases of human rights violations have closed their practices for fear of reprisals or relocated to safer areas to continue their work.
Women HRDs face serious challenges especially in certain areas of the country including the Northern states, where Sharia law is applied, the South-East and South-West, where traditional practices and customs are stronger. The work of women HRDs in those areas focuses primarily on such issues as polygamy, child marriage, inheritance and female genital mutilation. Religious groups and traditional communities often distrust organisations working on women's rights. Name calling, verbal assaults, physical attacks and sexual harassment have been reported as the main violations against WHRDs.
HRDs working on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face specific risks throughout the country and often fear for their security. The situation for LGBT rights defenders has worsened since President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act on 7 January 2014. Nigeria already considered homosexuality as a crime under the Sodomy Law, but the new Act further criminalises LGBTI people and any advocacy around the issue. The law prescribes a 10-year sentence for any person who administers, witnesses, abets or aids any form of homosexual activity. LGBTI rights organisations face increased scrutiny under the law and possible charges.