Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 146

Citation: 2020 RLLR 146
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 2, 2020
Panel: Zonia M. Tock
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Gabriel Ukueku
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: VC0-01443
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000184-000189

REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) concerning [XXX] (the “claimant”) who is a citizen of Nigeria and is making a claim for refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act“).[1]

DETERMINATION

[2]       I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Act, for the following reasons.

ALLEGATIONS

[3]       I will briefly summarize the claimants’ allegations, which are found in his Basis of Claim (BOC) form[2]. The claimant is a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is a group striving for the independence of Biafra. The claimant considers himself a freedom fighter as he has not only become a member of IPOB but has risen in its ranks to become a member of the [XXX] team. As such, he was responsible for [XXX] about the group and its activities, as well as mobilizing Biafrans to join peaceful rallies.

[4]       In 2018, the claimant’s father was killed by Nigerian military officers after they raided his home trying to arrest the claimant. The claimant’s father tried to prevent the claimant’s arrest, which resulted in his death. Soon thereafter, the claimant travelled to Canada for a conference. While in Canada, the claimant’s nephew was killed by the Nigerian authorities. As a result, the claimant remained in Canada for seven months. However, he did not make a claim for protection because his wife and children were still in Nigeria and he wanted to ensure they were safe. In [XXX] 2019, the claimant was advised that the situation was improving, thus he returned to Nigeria.

[5]       However, in [XXX] 2019, an IPOB member alerted the claimant that the Nigerian military were on their way to his house. This allowed the claimant and his family to flee the area. The claimant’s wife and children escaped to Cameroon while the claimant travelled to Canada and made a claim for protection. While in Canada, the claimant has become part of the IPOB Calgary League and continues to support the cause.

Identity

[6]       The claimant’s identity as a national of Nigeria is stablished by the sworn statement in his BOC form and the certified copy of his Nigerian passport[3] before me.

Nexus

[7]       The claimant alleges that he will be persecuted by the Nigerian government due to his membership in IPOB. I find there is a nexus between this allegation and the Convention ground of political opinion. As such, I have considered this claim under both sections 96 and 97(1) of the Act.

Credibility

[8]       There is a presumption that sworn testimony is true unless there is sufficient reason to doubt its truthfulness. In this case, I found the claimant to be a credible witness. His testimony was heartfelt and passionate. The claimant became emotional when asked to explain why he chose to join IPOB. He testified that his parents had taught him about the injustices committed against the Biafran population during the 50s and 60s, and he also observed the continued targeting of Biafrans by the Nigerian government. The claimant testified that the Biafran community did not want to be part of Nigeria because of the way the country is being managed and because of the injustices committed against the Biafran people.

[9]       The claimant was also able to credibly explain what appeared to be inconsistencies in the evidence before me. For example, the claimant was asked why he did not make a claim for protection during the [XXX] 2018 to [XXX] 2019 period that he was in Canada. The claimant’ s father had been murdered prior to his travels to Canada and his nephew had also been murdered while the claimant was in Canada, thus it would be reasonable to expect that the claimant would make a claim for protection at that time. However, the claimant explained that during that trip, his wife and children were still in Nigeria. His top priority is their safety, thus he had to ensure he could travel back to keep them safe. I find this explanation to be credible given that once the claimant was able to secure his family’s safety in Cameroon, he made a claim for protection.

[10]     I also questioned the claimant regarding a newspaper article in evidence which indicates that the claimant and his wife were missing after a raid by the military.[4] The article is dated November 2019; however, the military raid which led to the claimant leaving Nigeria took place in [XXX] 2019. The claimant explained that there was a second raid of his home, where his belongings were destroyed by the military. This second raid took place in [XXX] 2019, and that is the one being referenced in the article. I find this explanation to be credible as the claimant mentioned a second raid of his home in his BOC form.

[11]     I have also considered the documentary evidence before me, including evidence of the claimant’s membership in IPOB Calgary,[5] his membership in IPOB in Nigeria,[6] and the continued targeting of IPOB members in Nigeria.[7]

[12]     Based on the totality of the evidence before me, I accept the claimants’ allegations as credible.

Country Conditions

[13]     I have reviewed the National Documentation Package (NDP)[8] before me and I find that Country condition information before me establishes that the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution in Nigeria.

[14]     The evidence before me is that IPOB is a separatist organization considered to be a secessionist group which argues that the people of Biafra have been politically, socio­economically and culturally marginalized in Nigeria.[9]

[15]     There are reports of extrajudicial executions, use of excessive force by military, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and evidence of peaceful gatherings being dispersed by the firing of live ammunition with little or no warning.[10]

[16]     The President’s stance on Biafran independence is described as dismissive at best, and at times hostile.[11] However, in 2017, the Nigerian military designated the IPOB as a terrorist organization; a label which has been rejected by international observers.[12] A Response to Information Request (RIR) before me indicates that following that designation, IPOB members have been targeted:

The Abia State Police Commissioner stated, subsequent to the terrorist designation and the ban on IPOB activities, that anyone caught with “Biafran materials would be arrested and prosecuted.”

The Anambra Police Commissioner, quoted by the Punch, a Nigerian news publication, indicated the ban would be enforced and anyone involved in the activities of the IPOB would be charged with terrorism, which carries a minimum sentence of twenty years and a maximum sentence of the death penalty.

Since August 2015, the security forces have killed at least 150 members and supporters of the pro-Biafran organization IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) and injured hundreds during non-violent meetings, marches and other gatherings. Hundreds were also arbitrarily arrested.[13]

[17]     Considering that the Nigerian government has labeled the IPOB as a terrorist organization and that they continue to target members of the IPOB, I find that there is more than a mere possibility that the claimant would be persecuted if he returns to Nigeria.

State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative

[18]     In this case, the agent of harm is the government. The authorities are targeting members of IPOB and have labeled them a terrorist organization. As such, it would not be reasonable to expect the claimant to turn to the state for protection.

[19]     In terms of an internal flight alternative (IFA), the government of Nigeria is in control of the entire state. Its persecutory declaration is in place in the entire territory; thus it would not be feasible for the claimant to move elsewhere in Nigeria and be safe. As such, I do not find that an IFA exists in this case.

CONCLUSION

[20]     For the reasons outlined above, I find the claimant is a Convention refugee. As such, his claim is accepted.


[1] Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27.

[2] Exhibit 2.

[3] Exhibit 1.

[4] Exhibit 4.

[5] Exhibit 4.

[6] Exhibit 7.

[7] Exhibits 4 and 5.

[8] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP), Nigeria, July 31, 2020.

[9] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.2 Response to Information Request (RIR) NGA105658.E.

[10] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.2 RIR NGA105658.E.

[11] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.2 RIR NGA105658.E.

[12] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.5 RIR NGA106308.E.

[13] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.5 RIR NGA106308.E.

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 125

Citation: 2020 RLLR 125
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: February 11, 2020
Panel: S. Williams
Counsel for the Claimant(s): A. Akinyemi
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: TB8-15998
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000048-000056

REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       These are the reasons for the decision in the claim of [XXX] who claims to be a citizen of Nigeria, and is claiming refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).[1]

[2]       In rendering these reasons, the panel has considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution,[2] and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression.[3]

ALLEGATIONS

[3]       The claimant alleges that she faces persecution at the hands of Nigerian authorities and members of Nigerian society on account of her sexual orientation as a lesbian. The claimant also alleged that she faces a risk of forced female genital mutilation (FGM) at the hands of her paternal relatives.

[4]       While the claimant has identified a fear of FGM, the panel finds that the determinative issue in this claim is the claimant’s sexual orientation. Therefore, the reasons for this decision are centered on findings about the claimant’s profile as a lesbian. The panel will not render findings surrounding the claimant’s fear of FGM.

DETERMINATION

[5]       The panel finds that the claimant is a Convention refugee as she has established a serious possibility of persecution on account of her membership in a particular social group, as a lesbian woman.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[6]       The panel finds that the claimant’s identity as a national of Nigeria is established by the claimant’s oral testimony and documents filed in evidence, including the claimant’s Nigerian Birth Certificate.[4]

Credibility

[7]       The panel finds the claimant to be a credible witness and therefore accepts what the claimant has alleged in support of her claim. When a claimant swears to the truth of certain allegations, this creates a presumption that those allegations are true unless there be reason to doubt their truthfulness.[5] The claimant testified in a straightforward manner and, there were no relevant inconsistencies in the claimant’s testimony or contradictions between testimony and the other evidence before the panel which have not been satisfactorily explained.

[8]       The claimant testified that while she was in Nigeria she came to realise her sexual orientation, that she is a lesbian, at the age of 10 or 11 years old. She stated that she initially thought something was wrong with her because all of her friends would talk about boys, yet she would think about girls. The claimant testified about the challenges she faced in Nigeria, stating that she would often try to hide herself and stay away from people that she found attractive. The claimant testified that her parents hold strong religious values and she was aware that her sexual orientation would not be accepted in her community.

[9]       The claimant stated that she eventually confided in her mother about her sexual orientation. However, at that time, the more pressing matter that was concerning the claimant’s mother was fear of forced FGM of the claimant. The claimant stated that her paternal grandmother comes from a line of traditional worshipers who carry out female genital mutilation. The claimant alleged that her paternal relatives attempted to force her to undergo FGM, with the intention of subjecting the claimant to the FGM procedure in [XXX] 2015. The claimant alleged that her mother arranged for her to flee Nigeria on [XXX] 2015 at the age [XXX] years old in order to avoid forced FGM.

[10]     The claimant moved to the United States where she resided, without legal status, in the care of her mother’s cousin, Ms. E. The claimant alleged that while in United States, she became involved in a romantic relationship with a same sex partner in [XXX] 2015. The claimant testified that she was confronted by Ms. E on [XXX] 2018, regarding the nature of her relationship with her female friend from school, at which time the claimant admitted that she was involved in a same sex relationship with this female. The claimant alleged that Ms. E became upset about her sexual orientation and told the claimant to leave her home immediately. The claimant then fled to Canada where she had family friends. The claimant arrived in Canada on [XXX] 2018.

[11]     The claimant stated that her relatives in Nigeria have become aware of her sexual orientation and her father has disowned her. The claimant stated that members of her family and community in Nigeria have vowed to kill her for bringing shame to the family name.

Failure to Claim Asylum Does Not Undermine the Claimant’s Subjective Fear

[12]     The claimant testified that she resided in United States between the period of [XXX] 2015 to [XXX] 2018 and did not claim asylum. The claimant testified that the reason she did not claim asylum upon arrival in United States is because she did not know anything about asylum. She stated that as she became older, she realized she did not have legal status in United States however she was unaware that she could speak with a lawyer to apply for legal status. The claimant testified that she never tried to claim asylum because she did not know how to do so. The claimant testified that she also experienced fear that she may not be granted legal status in the United States. She stated that these fears stemmed from her understanding of the president of the United States administrative views on immigrants at the time.

[13]     The panel has assessed whether the claimant’s failure to claim asylum in United States immediately upon entry to United States undermines the claimant’s subjective fear. Considering the claimant’s personal circumstances, including the fact that she was [XXX] years old upon arrival in united states, traveled to united states on her own, had limited education, and was allegedly fleeing a risk of gender-based violence, the panel finds that the claimant’s explanation for not claiming asylum upon entry to United States is reasonable. The panel has considered whether the claimant’s failure to claim asylum in United States when she became older undermines the claimant’s subjective fear. The claimant was born [XXX] and turned [XXX] years old in July 2018. The claimant entered Canada on [XXX] 2018. Therefore, the claimant was a minor during the entire time spent residing in United States. Considering the claimant’ s age, level of maturity, lack of parental accompaniment, and limited knowledge of the United State’s asylum claim system, the panel finds that the claimant’s explanation for failure to claim asylum, after spending approximately two and a half years in United States, is satisfactory. Therefore, the panel finds that the claimant’s failure to claim asylum in United States does not undermine the claimant’s subjective fear.

Status in United States

[14]     The claimant testified that she entered the United States illegally by use of travel documents belonging to her cousin, who is a citizen of United States. The claimant testified that she does not have any form of legal status in United States and has never applied for legal status in United States. RPD search results revealed no history of Temporary Visa Application attached to the claimant’s name. Fingerprints of the claimant submitted to the US Department of Homeland Security database resulted in a result of ‘no match’. In light of the evidence before the panel, the panel finds on a balance of probabilities that the claimant does not have legal status in United States.

Documentary Evidence

[15]     The claimant was asked whether she has any documentary evidence to demonstrate communications with her former same sex partner who she dated in United States. The claimant testified that she does not have any evidence of communications as she deleted the messages. The claimant testified that the reason she deleted all messages between herself and her former partner was due to the fact that she tried to be as discreet as possible. The claimant stated that her family members openly expressed disgust for any form of homosexual activity. The claimant testified that she kept her same sex relationship a secret from her relatives in United States. The panel finds the claimant’s explanation for a lack of documentary evidence to be reasonable. Considering that the claimant was residing in a familial environment that was discriminatory towards lesbian and gay individuals, the panel finds that it is reasonable that the claimant would delete evidence of communications between herself and her same sex partner.

[16]     The clamant provided support letters from her mother and cousin, including photo identification of each.[6] The letters corroborate the information provided in the claimant’s claim.

LGBTQ+ Services and Experience in Canada

[17]     The claimant testified that she is not aware of any LGBTQ+ organizations in Canada. She stated that she has never considered attending any type of LGBTQ+ services as she is not used to engaging in such programs. The claimant declared that she wants to be open about her sexuality in Canada however she finds it challenging to be completely open about her sexuality after having to be secretive about her sexual orientation for her entire life. The claimant testified that she does not use any social media apps to meet people in Canada. The claimant testified that she was involved in two same sex relationships during her adolescence and at this time she is single and not interested in entering a relationship at this time.

[18]     The panel finds the claimant to be a credible witness and accepts that the above noted events have occurred as alleged by the claimant in her oral and written testimonies. Accordingly, the panel finds that the claimant has established on a balance of probabilities that she is a lesbian woman.

Objective Basis

[19]     The panel has assessed the objective basis for the claimant’s fear of persecution in Nigeria. In making the assessment, the panel must consider the claimant’s personal circumstances and vulnerabilities, and in this regard, the panel refers to the UNHCR Handbook. Guidance from the UNHCR Handbook on Determining Refugee Status, and Canadian jurisprudence, indicates that discrimination can amount to persecution cumulatively when the following conditions are met. First, there must be a number of discriminatory acts which take place in a general atmosphere of insecurity in the country of origin. The discriminatory acts must be of such a nature that they are substantially prejudicial to the person concerned. Where the cumulative nature of discrimination results in an insecure future for the person concerned, this constitutes persecution.

[20]     The documentary evidence clearly states that same sex relationships are criminalized in Nigeria. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act enacted in January 2014, effectively renders illegal all forms of activity supporting or promoting LGBTIQ rights.[7] Federal legislation prohibits a marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of the same sex and provides penalties for the solemnisation and witnessing of same thereof.[8] A person who enters into a same sex marriage or union is liable on conviction to a term of 14 years imprisonment. Furthermore, a person who witnesses or is involved in any form of organization, club, society, or meetings surrounding same sex relationships is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years of imprisonment.

[21]     The objective evidence addresses the social stigma surrounding same sex relationships in Nigeria. Sources indicate that any sexual orientation that is not heterosexual is considered to be unnatural, demonic, and immoral in Nigeria.[9] Sources indicate that many LGBT individuals enter heterosexual relationships to “cover” for same-sex relationships. Bisexual individuals may marry members of the opposite sex due to societal pressures to marry and have children as well, and due to homophobic persecution, stigma, and in order to avoid suspicion of having a non-heterosexual orientation.[10]

[22]     In summary, the objective country condition evidence supports a conclusion that there is a clear objective basis for the claimant’ s fear of persecution on account of her sexual orientation as a lesbian. Accordingly, the panel finds that the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution.

STATE PROTECTION

[23]     States are presumed to be capable of protecting their citizens, except in situations where the country is in a state of complete breakdown. The responsibility to provide international (or surrogate) protection only becomes engaged when national or state protection is unavailable to the claimant. To rebut the presumption of state protection, a claimant must provide “clear and convincing” evidence of the state’s inability to protect its citizens. A claimant is required to approach the state for protection if protection might reasonably be forthcoming. However, a claimant is not required to risk their life seeking ineffective protection of a state, merely to demonstrate that ineffectiveness.[11]

[24]     In this case, the claimant fears persecution at the hands of Nigerian authorities and the Nigerian community because of the fact that individuals involved in same-sex relationship are criminalized and ostracized in Nigeria. As the state is the agent of persecution, the panel finds that it would be objectively unreasonable for the claimant to seek the protection of the state in light of the claimant’s particular circumstances.

INTERNAL FLIGHT ALTERNATIVE

[25]     The panel has considered whether a viable internal flight alternative exists for the claimant in Nigeria. On the evidence before the panel, the panel finds that there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Nigeria. The Federal laws of Nigeria enforce the criminalization of same sex relationships, and are applicable throughout the country. Therefore, the test fails on the first prong, and a viable internal flight alternative does not exist for the claimant in Nigeria.

DECISION

[26]     For these reasons, the panel finds that the claimant faces a risk of persecution if she returns to Nigeria. Accordingly, the panel finds [XXX] to be a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of the Immigration and refugee protection act. Therefore, the claim is accepted.


[1] Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27, as amended, sections 96, 97(1)(a) and 97(1)(b).

[2] Chairperson’s Guideline 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution: Update.

[3] Chairperson’s Guideline 9: Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression, May 1, 2017

[4] Exhibit 1, Package of Information from the Referring CBSA / IRCC

[5] (Maldonado [1980] 2.F.C. 302 (C.A.))

[6] Exhibit 4

[7] National Documentation Package, Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 6.1: Treatment of sexual minorities, including legislation, state protection, and support services; the safety of sexual minorities living in Lagos and Abuja (February 2012-October 2015). Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 13 November 2015. NGA105321.E.

[8] National Documentation Package, Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 6.4: Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013. Nigeria. 2013.

[9] National Documentation Package, Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 6.7: Information on how bisexuality is understood and perceived in Nigeria; whether bisexuality is distinguished from both male and female homosexuality (2014-June 2015). Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 9 September 2015. NGA105219.E.

[10] National Documentation Package, Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 6. 7: Information on how bisexuality is understood and perceived in Nigeria; whether bisexuality is distinguished from both male and female homosexuality (2014-June 2015). Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 9 September 2015. NGA105219.E.

[11] (Ward [1993] 2 S.C.R. 689)

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 120

Citation: 2020 RLLR 120
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: February 14, 2020
Panel: Harsimran Kaur
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Clémence Marie Camille Chevalier
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: MB8-04564
Associated RPD Number(s): MB8-04594, MB8-04612
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000007-000018

REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (the Panel) in the claims for refugee protection of [XXX] (the principal claimant), his wife [XXX] (the associated claimant), and their minor daughter [XXX] (the minor female claimant), citizens of Nigeria. They claim refugee protection in Canada pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the Act).[1]

[2]       Prior to the start of the hearing, the Panel appointed the principal claimant as the designated representative for the minor female claimant.

[3]       In reaching its decision, the Panel took into consideration the Chairperson’s Guidelines No. 4 on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender Related Persecution.[2]

ALLEGATIONS

[4]       The claimants’ detailed allegations are contained in the principal claimant’s Basis of Claim form (BOC)[3] and in the revised narrative, dated [XXX] 2020.The associated and the minor female claimant has adopted the allegations of the principal claimant.

[5]       The principal claimant fears being initiated into a cult because of a promise made by his father, to the cult members, whereby the father had nominated the principal claimant as his successor in the cult.

[6]       The principal claimant was unaware of his father’s cult membership and the promise. During his father’s burial ceremony, on the [XXX] 2010, while the principal claimant and his family were waiting for the Imam to perform the prayer, three cult members, dressed in traditional cult attire, suddenly arrived in his house and demanded to perform the burial as per their own traditions and left after singing some religious incantations and this was the first time that the principal claimant learnt of his father’ s cult association.

[7]       On the principal claimant’s wedding night, on [XXX] 2014, five cult members came to the house of the principal claimant and gave him a parcel which revealed that he has been promised by the father to the cult and that he should prepare himself for the initiation otherwise dire consequences await him.

[8]       The same cult members came back again on the naming ceremony of the minor female claimant on [XXX] 2015 and reminded the principal claimant that they hope his next child is a male child so that they could offer the male child as a sacrifice and initiate the principal claimant into the cult.

[9]       The principal claimant unequivocally told them about his disinterest in becoming a cult member and shortly thereafter, he started receiving threatening calls, which continued despite the claimants’ relocation from Ibadan to Oshogbo in Osun State.

[10] Besides the cult members, the claimant’s also fear [XXX], the current wealthy and influential family head with strong business ties, who has been strongly forcing and pressuring the claimants to perform Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on the minor female claimant as per the traditional beliefs to uphold the family dignity and honour.

[11]     [XXX] made two unsuccessful kidnapping attempts on the minor female claimant, the first being on [XXX] 2017 and the second on [XXX] 2017.

[12]     The principal and the associated claimant further allege that they are both being personally targeted by [XXX] and his henchmen because of their non-compliance with the practice of FGM.

[13]     Fearing for their lives, the claimants left Nigeria on [XXX] 2017, were in the United States (US) until [XXX} 2018 and claimed asylum upon arrival in Canada.

DETERMINATION

[14]     The Panel has considered all of the evidence and finds that the claimants have established that they face a serious possibility of persecution under section 96 of the IRPA, for the minor female claimant on the basis of her membership in a particular social group, namely girls fearing female genital mutilation (FGM) and for the principal and the associated claimant on the basis of their membership in a particular social group – family, particularly, Nigerian parents refusing to subject their daughter to FGM. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that they are all “Convention refugees” pursuant to section 96 of the Act.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[15]     The claimants’ personal and national identities as citizens of Nigeria are established, on a balance of probabilities, by their testimony and by the documentary evidence on file, including copies of their Nigerian passports.[4]

Nexus

[16]     With respect to the female minor claimant, the Panel finds that there is a link: between her fear and one of the five Convention grounds, as a member of a particular social group of women or girls fearing FGM in Nigeria. For the principal and the associated claimant, as the parents of the minor female claimant, there is a link with their membership in a particular social group, family. Accordingly, their claims have been assessed under Section 96 of the Act.

Credibility and subjective fear

[17]     Testimony provided under oath is presumed to be truthful, unless there are reasons to doubt its truthfulness.[5] In the present case, the Panel has no such reason. The Panel finds the claimants to be credible witnesses and believes, on balance of probabilities, the key allegations of their claim. Their testimony was spontaneous, straightforward, direct and internally coherent with the documentary evidence on file and there were no significant contradictions, inconsistencies or omissions between the written and oral testimony. They were both spontaneous in their answers and the Panel did not find that they tried to embellish or exaggerate their narratives.

FGM of Minor Female Claimant

[18]     The claimants testified in detail about the pressure and threats they received from the family head [XXX], to have their daughter subjected to FGM, as well as the importance of FGM to the family of principal claimant. The principal claimant credibly alleges that he comes from a family that adheres to traditional beliefs regarding performing FGM on every girl child of the family from the age two (2) and older.

[19]     The principal claimant provided a comprehensive testimony of the events as they unfolded starting from [XXX] 2016 until the claimants’ departure from Nigeria. He testified that he was invited by [XXX] for a family meeting on [XXX] 2016, and it was during this meeting, the family members offered to the principal claimant the choice of choosing a date for performing FGM on the minor female claimant and when he refused to pick a date for the circumcision, [XXX] called the principal claimant towards the end of [XXX] 2016 and told the principal claimant that [XXX] 2017, is the date fixed for the circumcision of the minor female claimant.

[20]     The principal claimant further testified that when he did not take the minor female claimant for circumcision on the fixed date, the family members namely [XXX] and [XXX], at the behest [XXX], attempted to kidnap the minor female claimant from her house on [XXX] 2017. The associated claimant credibly testified how she was slapped on her ear by [XXX] while she was trying to rescue the minor female claimant from the kidnapper and that the whole situation was defused when their neighbor, [XXX], interjected to save the minor female claimant.

[21]     The claimants’ testimony is further corroborated by the affidavit of [XXX][6], their neighbor and the Panel accords full probative value to the said document.

[22]     The principal claimant went on to explain that out of fear they decided to relocate to Oshogbo, Osun State but on [XXX] 2017, [XXX], posing to pick the minor female claimant from her school, went to the school in an attempt to kidnap her and the situation was brought under control only when the proprietor of [XXX] School called the principal claimant, seeking his permission to allow the female minor claimant to go with [XXX]. The principal claimant further described how [XXX] was chased away by the school authorities after the principal claimant refused to give his consent allowing [XXX] to pick minor female claimant from the school. The associated claimant testified that she too got a call from the para educator of the minor female claimant, asking if the associated claimant is aware that the minor female claimant will be picked by [XXX]. The claimant’s oral testimony is keeping in line with their written testimony and is further corroborated by the letter from the proprietor of [XXX] School[7]. The Panel accords full weight to this document.

[23]     The principal claimant further testified that on [XXX] 2017, [XXX] called him and unambiguously told him that either they should bring the minor female claimant to the family or the family will eliminate them in order to perform the circumcision of the minor female claimant, thereby protecting and upholding the tradition of the family. From that time forward, the claimants realized that they would not be safe in Nigeria and they ramped up their efforts to leave the country. The principal claimant’s testimony is corroborated by the affidavit of his mother-in-law[8] and his aunt[9].

[24]     Thus, in light of the two failed kidnapping attempts of minor female claimant by [XXX] and the threatening phone call on [XXX] 2017, the Panel concludes that, on balance of probabilities, [XXX] is interested in performing FGM on the minor female claimant.

Objective basis

[25]     The principal claimant’s allegations are consistent with the objective documentary evidence on FGM in Nigeria. The documentary evidence indicates that the practice of FGM ‘continues to thrive’ and is widespread in Nigeria, such that several thousand girls and women are subjected to it, despite the passing into law of the Violence against Person’s (Prohibition) Act (VAPP)[10].

[26]     The documentary evidence states that decision to subject a girl to FGM in Nigeria is up to the girl’s parents.[11] Though the tradition varies from one ethnic tribe to another, but the evidence indicates that the involvement of family members is a common feature.

[27]     According to the said documentary evidence[12], parents are free to oppose the rituals but then it goes on to explain that refusals come with consequences such as ostracism, stigmatization, blackmailing, denial of intracultural benefits and physical abuse.

[28]     The principal claimant testified that [XXX] and other members of his family believe that if a girl is not circumcised, she will grow up to be a prostitute and will bring defame to the family and that if anything untoward happens in the family, for instance, if there is a death in the family or somebody has an accident, or someone loses a job, has a broken marriage or if somebody’s child failed an exam, the claimants will be blamed for the unfortunate events which will give [XXX] and the family an impetus to hunt down the claimants.

[29]     Thus, the Panel concludes, on balance of probabilities, that [XXX] and other family members are capable of forcing FGM on minor female claimant despite the opposition of the principal and associated claimant.

STATE PROTECTION

[30]     For the reasons below, the Panel finds that the claimants have rebutted the presumption of state protection with clear and convincing evidence that the state of Nigeria would be unable or unwilling to provide the claimants with adequate state protection.

[31]     The principal claimant was asked if he had made a police complaint about the two failed kidnapping attempts of the minor female claimant by [XXX]. He testified that making a police complaint would have yielded no results as [XXX] is a wealthy businessman, is politically well-connected and would have used the clout to get away with the complaint. The principal claimant went on to explain that considering it’s a family matter, police would have been reluctant to intervene had he complained.

[32]     The Panel finds the principal claimant’s explanation reasonable. Moreover, the objective evidence also indicates that the police response to traditional or customary matters is typically non-­interventionist. The research provides that “in practice, people cannot necessarily rely on the police” and it is the custodians of cultural or traditional rites that ultimately determine the fate of the individual”.[13]

[33]     The Violence against persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, is the federal law attempting to prohibit FGM across the whole county. The VAPP Act aims at eliminating gender-based violence in private and public life by criminalizing and setting out the punishment for acts including rape (but not spousal rape), incest, domestic violence, stalking, harmful traditional practices, and FGM. However, the VAPP Act is only in effect in the Federal Capital Territory, and as such, the remaining states must pass legislation to implement it across the country.[14] The documentary evidence further states that state governments have, to date, been slow to respond to the introduction of the VAPP Act. As of June 2018, only 13 states had adopted anti-FGM legislation.[15]

[34]     Despite the legislation, however, the documentary evidence indicates that the practice of FGM continues to thrive in Nigeria.[16] There have been no prosecutions of perpetrators of FGM in Nigeria since the passing of the legislation.[17] The documentary evidence also provides that it is extremely difficult for women and girls to obtain protection with respect to FGM, and that there is widespread community support for these practices and the traditional attitude of police help to support them.[18] Accordingly, the Panel finds that despite there being laws prohibiting FGM in Lagos and Abuja and in certain other states, these laws are not being enforced such that the claimants could reasonably expect adequate state protection from FGM in Nigeria.

[35]     Given the evidence, the Panel finds, on a balance of probabilities, that adequate protection would not be provided to the minor female claimant or to the claimants for objecting to the practice, in Nigeria.

Internal Flight Alternative (IFA)

[36]     At the hearing, the Panel identified Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Lagos as potential IFA locations (together, the “IFA locations”). However, the Panel finds that the claimants face a serious possibility of persecution throughout Nigeria. The Panel has considered the Jurisprudential Guide in the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) decision TB7-19851 but after careful consideration, the Panel does not view the circumstances of this case as an appropriate one to apply Jurisprudential guide given the far reach and influence of [XXX].

Means available for [XXX] to find claimants in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos

[37]     The principal claimant testified that [XXX] has an [XXX] business which is operated from Port Harcourt, has a wife, kids and a half-brother in Port Harcourt and that the claimants can run into them in a mall, hospital, park or any other public place and there could also be a possibility of [XXX] kids and minor female claimant attending the same school. Because of all this, it will be very easy for [XXX] to find the claimants in Port Harcourt. The principal claimant further credibly alleged that [XXX] can also use power and connections to track down the claimants in Port Harcourt.

[38]     Furthermore, the principal claimant testified that he has many family members in Abuja, with whom he can have a coincidental encounter at a bank, shopping mall or a gas station and then they can always let pass [XXX] know that claimants are in Abuja who can then kill or harm them or kidnap the minor female claimant.

[39]     The principal claimant also explained that since Lagos is close to Ibadan and he has brothers and sisters living there, it will be easy for [XXX] to track him down there. He provided the example of how after the shop of one of his brother’s got burnt, the claimants were blamed for the torching of the shop because of their refusal to comply with traditional practice of performing FGM on the minor female claimant. He went on to explain further that incidents like these can be an impetus for the extended family to disclose the claimant’s location in Lagos to [XXX] if the claimants relocate to Lagos.

[40]     Moreover, after their relocation to Oshogbo in [XXX] 2017, [XXX] was not only able to find the claimants but also attempted to kidnap the minor female claimant on [XXX] 2017.

[41]     Hence, the Panel concludes that, on balance of probabilities, [XXX] has the means to find the claimants in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.

Motivation to find the claimants

[42]     The principal claimant explained that [XXX], despite considering himself to be a guardian of traditional and family practises, has a vested interest in performing FGM of the minor female claimant since [XXX] wants to be a king and the kingmakers might use against [XXX] the fact that a girl from his own family has not been circumcised and that if he cannot make his own family adhere to their traditional beliefs and customs, [XXX] cannot be a good king.

[43]     The principal claimant’s testimony is further buttressed by the affidavit from [XXX][19], mother-in-law of the principal claimant and the affidavit of [XXX][20], aunt of the principal claimant. Both these affidavits mention the constant threats hurled at them by [XXX] because of their alleged complicity with the claimants, vis-à-vis their refusal to subject the minor female claimant to FGM.

[44]     Hence, the Panel concludes that, on balance of probabilities, [XXX] has the means and motivation to find the claimants in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.

[45]     Thus, the Panel concludes that because the agent of persecution has the means and the motivation to find the claimants anywhere in Nigeria, there is no viable IFA in Nigeria for them. Furthermore, the Panel notes the absence of state protection for traditional practices and FGM throughout Nigeria.

[46]     Accordingly, the Panel finds that the possibility of an IFA fails on the first prong.

CONCLUSION

[47]     Having considered and assessed the evidence in totality, the Panel concludes that the minor female claimant has established a serious possibility of persecution in Nigeria based on her membership in particular social group, Nigerian female fearing FGM.

[48]     The Panel also concludes that the principal and the associated claimant have established a serious possibility of persecution in Nigeria based on their membership in particular social group, namely family; in particular, Nigerian parents refusing to subject their daughter to FGM.

[49]     The Panel finds that the claimants are Convention refugees within the meaning of Section 96 of the Act.

[50]     The Panel, therefore, accepts their claims.

[51]     Since the Panel has found the claimants to be Convention Refugees within the meaning of Section 96 of the Act, the Panel does not deem it necessary to make an analysis of the fear of the principal claimant stemming from his refusal to be initiated in a traditional Yoruban cult, under section 96 and subsection 97(1) (b) of the Act.


[1] Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c, 27, as amended.

[2] Chairperson Guidelines 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution. Effective date: November 13, 1996. Guidelines issued by the Chairperson pursuant to Section 65(3) of the Immigration Act.

[3] Document 1 — Basis of Claim forms (BOC).

[4] Document 3 — Idem.

[5] Moldonado v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1980] 2 F.C. 302 (C.A.).

[6] Document 4 — Exhibit P 10: Affidavit of [XXX].

[7] Document 4 — Exhibit P-6: Letter from [XXX] School.

[8] Document 4 — Exhibit P-7: Affidavit of [XXX].

[9] Document 4 — Exhibit P-8: Affidavit of [XXX].

[10] Document 3 — National Documentation Package (NDP), Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 5.21: Response Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 25 January 2016. NGA105404.E.

[11] Document 3 – NDP, Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 5.12: Response to an information request. Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 29 October 2018. NGA106183.FE.

[12] Idem.

[13] Document 3 — NDP, Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 10.8: Response to an information equest. Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 14 November 2016. NGA105659.E.

[14] Idem.

[15] Document 3 — NDP, Nigeria, 29 November 2019, tab 5.22: Country Profile: FGM in Nigeria. 28 Too Many. October 2016.

[16] Supra, note 11.

[17] Supra, note 13.

[18] Idem.

[19] Document 4 — Exhibit P7: Affidavit from [XXX].

[20] Document 4 — Exhibit P8- Affidavit from [XXX].


Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 108

Citation: 2020 RLLR 108
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: February 21, 2020
Panel: Z. Perhan
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Benjamin Allison
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: TB9-16707
Associated RPD Number(s): TB9-16771
ATIP Number: A-2021-00945
ATIP Pages: 000168-000172

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER:    So, this is the decision for [XXX] file number TB9-16771 the principal claimant and her son [XXX] the minor claimant.

[2]       I’ve had an opportunity to consider your testimony, examined the evidence before me and I’m ready to render my decision orally. You will receive an edited … unedited transcript of the decision in the mail. Your counsel will also get a copy so if you have any questions you’re welcome to ask him.

[3]       You claim to be citizens of Nigeria claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[4]       I find that both of you are Convention refugees for the following reasons.

[5]       The allegations of your claim can be found in the Basis of Claim Form in Exhibit 2. The details were elaborated today in your testimony. In summary, you the principal claimant, fear persecution in Nigeria due to your sexual orientation as a member of a particular social group, namely because you are bisexual. You also fear persecution at the hands of your first husband whose abusive relationship you escaped when you fled Nigeria for the United States.

[6]       Your son the minor claimant fears persecution as a child of a bisexual women who will be ostracized by the community members and might face spiritual cleansing to rid him of his mother’s sins.

[7]       Based on the type of claim I’ve carefully considered Chairperson’s guidelines 9, 4, and 3. So, sexual orientation and gender identity, women refugee claimants, and child refugee claimants.

[8]       I find your identities as nationals of Nigeria have been established, on a balance of probabilities, through your testimony, through your valid Nigerian passports which were presented when you made your claim in Exhibit 1. I find no reasons to doubt the authenticity of those documents.

[9]       In terms of your general credibility I find you to be a credible witness. Principal claimant, you have testified in a straightforward manner. There were no relevant inconsistencies in your testimony or contradictions between your testimony and the other evidence before me. I also find that were no embellishments made within your testimony. Therefore, I accept what you have alleged in support of your claim including the following.

[10]     Central issue of your claim is sexual orientation so I put a lot of weight into your testimony and documents relating to your past and current same sex partners in Nigeria and in the United States.

[11]     You testified about your first relationship and your longest relationship in Nigeria which you had to end as you fled the country in 2016. You did not escape because your sexuality was revealed, but because you had been in an abusive relationship until [XXX] 2016 with a man who physical and verbally tormented you, after the divorce you still could not escape his threats and left in [XXX] 2016 on a visitor’s visa to the United States.

[12]     There you met your second husband who started the sponsorship process so you could stay in the US permanently. However, because you were also in a same sex relationship and your husband found out he stopped the process of sponsorship in [XXX] 2017. Told your family and relatives in Nigeria about your sexuality and his unwillingness to have a bisexual wife.

[13]     After consulting with the church members in the United States you understood that you would not be able to obtain the status there. Returning to Nigeria would mean being persecuted by the community and the State for being a bisexual. So, you were advised to go to Canada and claim refugee protection here.

[14]     I did not … you did not present any supporting letters from your previous same sex partners. You lost contact with your Nigerian partner in 2016 because she was upset with you leaving her and going to the US.

[15]     Your US partner did not support your after you split from your second husband and did not want anyone in the Nigerian community in the United States to know about you two. You yourself were ashamed and still feel ashamed of who you are and not ready to share your feelings with anyone.

[16]     Your family members in Nigeria known you’re a bisexual and you also received telephone threats from your second husband’s family who told you not to come back to Nigeria. In addition, your son, if returned to Nigeria would have to probably undergo the spiritual cleansing to rid him of the mother’s sins and homosexuality.

[17]     While in Canada you have been an active church member though in Windsor participating in services regularly and volunteering in the local community centre. But even now it is hard for you to share your feelings and have a relationship with anyone. You’re still depressed about your past relationship and the consequences they had for you.

[18]     In general, I find your testimony today was credible and, on balance of probabilities, you, the principal claimant, are a bisexual woman.

[19]     As to the minor claimant I asked whether he would face any harm if he’s returned to Nigeria. You said he would not face any serious harm but would … would be separated from his mother.

[20]     During the counsel’s questioning you said that if your son gets … you also added if your son gets into the hands of the elders who know you’re bisexuality he will have to go through dangerous ritual cleansing. In addition, he will be discriminated against and ostracized as a family member of the bisexual. The harassment, as counsel indicated in his submissions, could amount to persecution and risk to boy’s life.

[21]     I find there is a link between what you fear and one of the give Convention grounds. As noted earlier the Convention ground for your claim is a particular social group. So, on a balance of probabilities, I accept that you are a bisexual woman and the minor claimant your son is a family member of the bisexual. Your claim is analyzed pursuant to Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[22]     The overall objective evidence supports your claim for Convention refugee protection based on the membership in a particular social group, namely sexual orientation as a bisexual.

[23]     National Documentation Package for Nigeria in Exhibit 3 Items 6.1, 2.1, and 6.7 indicate that same sex relationships are criminalized in Nigeria. In particular, according to the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act all forms of LGBTQ activity, supporting and promoting it are illegal in Nigeria. Anyone convicted of entering into a same sex marriage or civil union may be sentenced to 14 years in prison. Anybody aiding or assisting homosexual activities faces a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

[24]     Any sexual orientation that is not heterosexual is considered to be unnatural, demonic, and immoral in Nigeria.

[25]     The documentary evidence further indicates that family members of LGBTQ persons face treatment amounting to persecution and it’s found in Tab 6.11, 10.1 in the National Documentation Package. So, family members of sexual minorities including spouses, parents, children, and siblings face ostracism, stigmatization, embarrassment from community members, other extended family members. Family members of sexual minorities can be cut off from their community, can be insulted and assaulted by community members.

[26]     In addition and as pointed by the counsel, Nigerian police force have arrested and detained relatives of wanted person. You as a bisexual is a wanted person in Nigeria. This act is often undertaken by the police with the intent of drawing a wanted person from hiding and forcing their surrender to law enforcement authorities.

[27]     So, counsel was right. Tab 10.1 actually points out that fact that family members of wanted persons will be and can be detained with no particular reason.

[28]     The minor … according to counsel’s submissions in addition the minor claimant could be… also face a great possibility for his persecution, increased danger that could lead to chi Id abduction, him being pressured into spiritual cleansing rituals that elders would perform on him.

[29]     Overall, the objective country condition evidence supports conclusion that both of you, you and your son, have an objective basis for your claim. You as a bisexual person and the minor claimant your son as a family member of the bisexual person.

[30]     You also fear police, authorities, and Nigerian community in general as same sex relationship is criminalized across Nigeria. I find it would be objectively unreasonable for you to seek protection of the authorities in Nigeria. Adequate State protection would not be available to you as you fear the State.

[31]     With regards to possible viable internal flight alternative in Nigeria, given the laws, the Federal laws of Nigeria criminalizing same sex relationship, I find there is a serious possibility of persecution for you throughout Nigeria. Therefore, a viable internal flight alternative does not exist for you in Nigeria.

[32]     As per your son the minor claimant, I also considered IFA for him, but again in his particular circumstances it is unreasonable to relocate anywhere in Nigeria without adults. It’s simply not safe.

[33]     So, having considered all of the evidence I find there is a serious possibility that you would face persecution in Nigeria pursuant to Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[34]     I conclude that you are both Convention refugees based on your membership in a particular social group, principal claimant as a bisexual and the minor claimant as a family member of a bisexual. I therefore accept both your claims. Thank you.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 103

Citation: 2020 RLLR 103
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: January 15, 2020
Panel: Dena Hamat
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Bolanle Olusina (Sina) Ogunleye
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: TB8-31185
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-00945
ATIP Pages: 000136-000139

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: I’ve considered your testimony and the other evidence in this case and I’m ready to render my decision orally. The claimant, [XXX] is a citizen of Nigeria and claims a well-founded fear of persecution based on her sexual orientation as a lesbian. She additionally fears persecution from her relatives based on her gender, as they’re attempting to force her into prostitution. In assessing your claim, I have considered Chairperson’s Guideline 9 proceedings before the IRB involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

[2]       Interpreter: According to Section 9, right?

[3]       Member: I’ve considered the Chairperson’s Guideline 9. Do you mind actually if you-, can you do simultaneous interpretation, if you don’t mind?

[4]       Counsel: At the back

[5]       Member: So, if you can flip your microphone and just.

[6]       Counsel: Thank you. (inaudible) here you can sit. Just talking to her (inaudible)

[7]       Interpreter: Oh ok, ok, ok, ok.

[8]       Counsel: Sit beside her

[9]       Interpreter: Oh ok, ok

[10]     MEMBER: Thank you. I’ve also considered the Chairperson’s Guideline 4 on gender-related claims.

[11]     I find that you are a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[12]     The details of your claim are documented in your Basis of Claim form and were elaborated upon by you orally during the hearing.

[13]     In summary, you fear persecution in Nigeria at the hands of the government and society at large, due to your sexual orientation as a lesbian woman.

[14]     Your identity as a national of Nigeria has been established on a balance of probabilities through your passport on file at Exhibit 1.

[15]     There was an issue in that you transited through the US in [XXX] 2018 with a false US passport and there is therefore no biometric match despite this trip. There is also no objective evidence of your stay in the United States.

[16]     Nevertheless, I find that you have established that you do not have any status in the United States through your co-, spontaneous and consistent testimony.

[17]     With regard to credibility, I have found you overall to be a credible witness. You testified in a straightforward manner and there were no inconsistencies that were not reasonably explained. Given that I have found you to be a credible witness, I also accept what you have alleged in support of your claim, including the following.

[18]     You first became aware of your sexual orientation when you were growing up in Nigeria. You had two same-sex relationships in Nigeria. You were not able to express your sexual orientation freely in Nigeria. They, your relatives attempted to force you into prostitution in 2016. You were assaulted when you refused. You presented documentary evidence in support of your claim, including a medical report confirming your assault in 2016, letters of support from your ex-girlfriends in Nigeria, letters of support from your brother and mother in Nigeria, a letter of support from your previous employer in Nigeria and documentation from the 519 program and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention.

[19]     I did have some concerns about your alleged relationship in Canada, as your testimony had inconsistencies with regards to the progression of your relationship. I also had concerns about the lack of any documentation to corroborate this one year relationship.

[20]     While I do draw a negative inference from these inconsistencies and from the lack of documentation, I do find that you credibly established that you were in same-sex relationships in Nigeria. I therefore find that this concern is not determinative.

[21]     Having regard to all the evidence, the claimant established, on a balance of probabilities, her lesbian orientation.

[22]     The most recent Department of State report on human rights practices in Nigeria, at Item 2.1 indicates that, human rights issues included crimes involving violence targeting LGBTI persons and the criminalization of status in same-sex conduct based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At Items 6.11 of the NDP, the Comprehensive Immigration and Refugee report on the situation of sexual and gender minorities in Nigeria, caver the period between 2014 and 2018 indicates the following. Sources report that since Nigeria passed the SSMPA in 2014, which hads been used as a tool by authorities and society to act against sexual minorities, including to carry out human rights violations, such as torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, violations of due process rights and extortion. Sources indicate that Nigerian society generally disapproves of sexual minorities. Sources indicate that sexual minorities are generally not accepted by family members. According to sources, labels such as gay, lesbian and transgender and bi-sexual are used in Nigeria often with derision or in a derogatory manner.

[23]     Sexual minorities do not or are reluctant to openly identify as sexual minorities because it is dangerous for them, as they may face violence or be ostracized. Both les-, both, both bi-sexuality and homosexuality are viewed negatively and neither bi-sexuals nor homosexuals are accepted in Nigerian society. According to sources, sexual minorities are subject to mob attacks or violence, vigilante groups have reportedly targeted and attack sexual minorities. The documentary evidence establishes an objective basis for this claim. The same IRB report at, Item 6.11 of the NDP indicates the following. Sources indicate that police raid gatherings of sexual minorities and arrest them often. Police extorts sexual minorities when they are arrested or detained. According to sources, state protection is not available to sexual minorities in Nigeria, given that homosexual acts are illegal. The SOGIE Guidelines indicate as follows. The criminalization of the existence or behavior of individuals with diverse SOGIE, may create a climate of impunity for perpetrators of violence, and normalize acts of blackmail, sexual abuse, violence and extortion by state and non-state actors.

[24]     Based on the claimant’s personal circumstances, as well the-, as the objective country documentation, I find that adequate state protection would not be available to her in Nigeria.

[25]     The claimant has rebutted the presumption of state protection.

[26]     The Response to Information Request, at Item 6.1 of the NDP indicates that, the intolerant attitude towards homosexuals is prevalent throughout Nigeria. The SOGIE Guideline states that it is well established in law, that an IFA is not viable if an individual, with a diverse SOGIE, must conceal their SOGIE in order to live in that location.

[27]     I therefore find that you face a serious per-, possibility of persecution in Nigeria based on your, based on your sexual orientation.

[28]     In conclusion, I, I find that [XXX] faces a serious possibility of persecution in Nigeria on the basis of her sexual orientation. Therefore, she is a Convention refugee and I accept her claim.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 91

Citation: 2020 RLLR 91
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 23, 2020
Panel: Haig Basmajian
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Otto Ibii
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: MB8-11891
Associated RPD Number(s): MB8-11950, MB8-11951
ATIP Number: A-2021-00945
ATIP Pages: 000020-000026

REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       [XXX], the principal claimant, as well as her two minor children [XXX] and [XXX] are citizens of Nigeria. They are seeking refugee status pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). The principal claimant is the designated representative of her two minor children.

DETERMINATION

[2]       The Panel finds that the claimants are “Convention Refugees” under subsection 96 of the IRPA for the reasons indicated below.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[3]       The identity and nationality of the claimants have been established to the satisfaction of the Panel by taking into account the photocopy of their Nigerian passports contained in their respective files.[1]

ALLEGATIONS

[4]       The principal claimant’s Basis of Claim form (BOC), particularly her narrative and amendments, describes the details of her fear to return to Nigeria due to the violence she could face at the hands of her husband and his family, in addition to their insistence that their daughter, the claimant [XXX] be forced to a Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) performed on her. Given some of the content of this claim, which includes sensitive matters such as domestic abuse, the Panel took into consideration the Chairperson’s Guideline 4 of the Refugee Protection Division: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.[2]

[5]       The principal claimant, accompanied by her counsel, testified via videoconference during the hearing. Given some significant additions and modifications to the narrative, notably that she was the victim of domestic abuse in Nigeria the claimant was asked to explain. The claimant answered that she had provided the modifications and new evidence to her former counsel who did not file these documents to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD).

[6]       In addition, she has recently had considerable personal issues such as a car accident and the recent surgery and hospitalization of her son following a serious cycling accident resulting in a ruptured pancreas, he was hospitalized on [XXX] 2020, and released a few days before the hearing on [XXX] 2020. Given that several documents were not submitted to corroborate these issues as well as the fact that she had just begun the preliminary process to divorce from her agent of persecution, the panel allowed the claimant the opportunity to submit these documents after the hearing. As such, several documents were submitted as evidence and the file was under reserve as of [XXX] 2020.

[7]       This additional evidence provided plausible explanations to explain some of the inconsistencies which were outlined during the hearing.

[8]       Given some of the context of the claim, including the evidence submitted before the hearing as well as Exhibits C-102 to C-106, submitted post-hearing, notably attesting the serious medical issues encountered by the claimants as well as the principles of Guideline 4, despite some contradictions and details regarding some aspects of the claims, the Panel concludes that the claimant’s fears appear to be genuine, on a balance of probabilities, as such the Panel will extend the benefit of the doubt and conclude that it is possible that she has been subject to years of violent domestic abuse as described during her testimony, in addition that her daughter could be subject to a forced FGM procedure.

[9]       Sadly, as the Panel can notice throughout the National Documentation Package (NDP) regarding Nigeria, staggering levels of violence towards women are unfortunately a frequent occurrence in that country. Notably page 30 of tab 2.1 of the NDP shows that “The law criminalizes rape, but it remained widespread. In March, UNICEF released a report noting that about one in four girls and one in ten boys were victims of sexual violence prior to their 18th birthday.”[3]

[10] Furthermore, page 34 from tab 1.4 of the NDP states that “Rape is common and widespread; societal stigma reduces the likelihood of victims reporting it or of perpetrators being prosecuted or punished.”[4]

[11]     The Panel also took into consideration some of the other elements submitted as evidence. Notably, at pages 6 to 34 from the objective country evidence submitted by the claimants in Exhibits C-3 to C-12 regarding the ongoing practise of FGM, which demonstrates that despite some efforts, it is still unfortunately widespread across Nigeria.

State Protection

[12]     Given, the above findings, the Panel must examine state protection. The leading jurisprudence, notably in Ward Canada (Attorney General) v. Ward, 1993 CanLII 105 (SCC), [1993] 2 SCR 689, teaches us that States are presumed to be capable of protecting their citizens except in situations of a complete breakdown. In addition, the presumption that a state is capable of protecting its citizens underscores the principal that international protection comes into play only when a refugee claimant has no other recourse available. To rebut the presumption of state protection claimants must provide clear and convincing evidence of the State’s inability to protect its citizens.

[13]     In the present case, the claimant tried to obtain State protection. In addition, the claimant fears the repercussions from corrupt police.

[14]     In such cases, the panel is often guided by findings contained in objective evidence in order to ascertain the plausibility of the absence of state protection.

[15]     The claimant did submit some objective evidence in Exhibits C-30 and C-31 detailing the current state of widespread violence and corruption. The Panel also found similar findings in the NDP, particularly related to the state protection apparatus, notably at exhibits 2.1 and 1.4, respectively:

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary, unlawful, or extrajudicial killings. The national police, army, and other security services sometimes used lethal and excessive force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects.”[5]

Authorities did not always hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody.”[6]

Police remained susceptible to corruption, committed human rights violations, and operated with widespread impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and torture of suspects.”

According to US DoS, the judiciary in Nigeria was affected by understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency, political interference, bribery, lacking equipment and training. As a result, the judiciary could not function adequately. Freedom House drew similar conclusions in its report for 2016.[7]

The Nigerian Police force has been criticized for corruption and human rights abuses by researchers and organizations over the years. In a recent study, the relationship between the police and the public in Nigeria was called perhaps the most troublesome in sub-Saharan Africa. Another source notes that the Nigerian Police Force is widely perceived by the public as the most corrupt violent institution in Nigeria.

In 2010 Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded that the police was not only extorting money of ordinary civilians, but also that criminal suspects with money could simply bribe the police to find their own way out. HRW also reported that at least 100 000 police officers were hired as personal guards by the wealthy, at the expense of the majority.[8]

[16]     By considering the evidence in its entirety, the Panel finds that on a balance of probabilities, an individual with the profile of the claimant and the specific circumstances of this case has rebutted the presumption of state protection.

INTERNAL FLIGHT ALTERNATIVE (IFA)

[17]     Several cities were suggested. However, by considering the profile of the principal claimant, who was abused by her husband for several years, this abuse was unfortunately not limited to her but to her son as well. In addition, her daughter fears to be forced to undergo an FGM and by taking into account the conclusion regarding state protection, finding a safe IFA is not a viable option per the Panel. Given the family link with the agent of persecution and the claimants it would be very possible that he can retrieve them and continue with his violent ways towards them. Furthermore, by considering some of the objective evidence from the NDP on page 16, from tab 1.4 as well as page 37 from tab 2.1, we see that despite its vast size and population, it is not simple or in many cases feasible to relocate, of course, depending on an individual’s profile:

“Nigeria is a large and complex country, with much internal variation, but the main divide that is brought up by Nigerians and foreign commentators alike, is the divide between the country’s south and north. This divide is based on historical, environmental, economic, cultural, linguistic, religious and political differences between these two parts.”[9]

“The country’s ethnically diverse population consisted of more than 250 groups speaking 395 different languages. Many were concentrated geographically. Three major groups– the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba– together constituted approximately one half the population. Members of all ethnic groups practised ethnic discrimination, particularly in the private sector hiring patterns and the segregation of urban neighbourhoods. A long history of tension existed among some ethnic groups.”[10]

[18]     After considering the evidence in its entirety, the Panel finds that on a balance of probabilities, an individual with the profile of the claimant and the specific circumstances of this case could not find a viable IFA in Nigeria.

CONCLUSION

[19]     For all these reasons, the Panel concludes that the claimants [XXX] and [XXX] are “Convention Refugees” and therefore accepts their refugee claims.


[1] Document 1 — Package of information from the referring Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): Copy of passports.

[2] Chairperson’s Guideline 4 of the Refugee Protection Division: Guideline issued by the Chairperson pursuant to Section 65(3) of the Immigration Act: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution. Effective date: November 13, 1996.

[3] Document 3 — National Documentation Package, Nigeria, 31 July 2020, tab 2.1: Nigeria. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2019, United States, Department of State, 11 March 2020.

[4] Document 3 — NDP, Nigeria, tab 1.4: EASO Country of Origin Information Report: Nigeria, Country Focus, European Union, European Asylum Support Office, June 2017.

[5] Supra, note 3.

[6] Supra, note 4.

[7] Ibid, page 29.

[8] Ibid, page 30.

[9] Supra, note 4.

[10] Supra, note 3.

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 86

Citation: 2020 RLLR 86
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: March 2, 2020
Panel: Sandeep Chauhan
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Alastair Clarke
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: VB9-05166
Associated RPD Number(s): VB9-05182, VB9-05188, VB9-05189
ATIP Number: A-2021-00800
ATIP Pages: 000171-000174

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the joint claims of [XXX], who is the principal claimant, her spouse, [XXX], who is the associate adult claimant, and the children [XXX] who is the minor male claimant, and [XXX], who is the minor female claimant. The principal claimant, the associate adult claimant and the minor male claimant are citizens of Niz- Nigeria. The minor female claimant is a citizen of USA. They are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and Subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]       [XXX] was appointed as the designated representative for [XXX] and [XXX] In deciding these claims, the Panel has taken into consideration the following: Guideline 3 which deals with Child Refugee Claimants, Guideline 4 that deals with Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution, and Guideline 9 which deals with Proceedings Before the Immigration and Refugee Board involving Sexual Orientation and Gender-Identity and Expression, also known as SOGIE.

Allegations

[3]       The principal claimant is bisexual and fears persecution at the hands of society and state authorities in Nigeria. The associate adult claimant fears persecution at the hands of the state authorities, the society in general and his family, due to the sexual orientation of his wife. The following is a brief synopsis of the allegations put forth by the principal claimant and the adult associate claimant in their Basis of Claim forms, in Exhibit 2.

[4]       The principal claimant started discovering about her bisexuality at the age of [XXX], in 1997. She had her first sexual experience with a female when her cousin came to stay with them in the year 2000. Their relationship continued until 2003 and was kept hidden from family and friends. She dated her first boyfriend in 2004. At this time, the principal claimant also started a relationship with a woman and dated both her boyfriend and her girlfriend at the same time. She ended both relationships in 2006, as she wanted to remain single because she thought she will not be able to find anyone who would understand and accept her bisexuality. The principal claimant fully embraced her bisexual orientation at this time. She succumbed to her mother’s pressure and got married to the associate adult claimant in [XXX] 2015. The associate adult claimant discovered the principal claimant and one of her girlfriends in a compromising position on [XXX] 2007, when he came home early from a business trip. He was furious and reported the principal claimant and her friend to the police. The principal claimant then fled to he brother’s house and told her family about her sexual orientation. The associate adult claimant eventually accepted the principal claimant’s bisexuality but informed her that the police is now looking for them. On [XXX] 2017, the principal claimant’s in-laws came to know about her bisexuality and started pressuring the associate adult claimant to divorce her. When he refused to do so, they beat him up and followed that up with a threat over the phone to the principal claimant, that she will be reported to the police for her bisexuality as it is a punishable crime in Nigeria. Fearing for their lives, the claimants reached USA on [XXX] 2018 and then travelled to Canada on [XXX] 2019; where they filed for protection. The principal claimant did not advance any allegations against USA in the claim of the minor female claimant.

Analysis

Identity

[5]       The identities of the principal claimant, the associate adult claimant and the minor male claimant, as citizens of Nigeria are established on a balance of probabilities based on the certified copies of their Nigerian passports in Exhibit 1.

[6]       The identity of the minor female claimant as a citizen of USA is established by way of the certified copy of her US passport on file.

Credibility

[7]       At an RPD hearing, the presumption before the Panel is that a claimant’s testimony is true, however, this can be rebutted in appropriate circumstances, such as inconsistencies, contradictions, omissions and undetailed testimony. However, this was not the case here. In this case, the principal claimant was straightforward and forthcoming in her testimony. There were no relevant inconsistencies or contradictions between her testimony and other evidence before the Panel. She did not appear to embellish her description of events and actions. The principal claimant provided testimony of past relationships with women in detail, as well as testimony of the circumstances and experiences which she went through when her bisexuality came out in the open. She described that she studied in an all female school and was attracted to one of her friends physically. Both of them became very close and had an intimate physical relationship. The principal claimant was able to explain how she did not feel normal and felt out of place because of her sexual orientation. When asked what that meant, she explained that she could not express herself openly for the fear of being seen as a person with low moral character. She stated that people in Nigeria view sexual minority as someone who should be punished with death. The Panel canvassed with the principal claimant why she got married, if she had decided in 2006 that she will remain single. She explained that single women in Nigeria are viewed as prostitutes and she succumbed to her mother’s pressure due to this reason. The principal claimant also stated that she, too, believes that a woman’s pride is in being in a married relationship, as this is how she was raised. She was honest in saying that she hid her bisexuality from the associate adult claimant because he was disgusted with the idea. When she was discovered by her husband in and intimate way, in [XXX] 2017, she was terrified over her marriage coming to an end, which is why she begged and pleaded with the associate adult claimant to forgive her. He has now come to accept her sexual orientation.

[8]       The associate adult claimant was also straightforward in his testimony. He was honest in stating that he was disgusted and shocked at this, discovering the principal claimant with her friend in a compromising position. Out of impulse, he went to the police station and asked the authorities to arrest the principal claimant’s friend but not her. He explained that he loves the principal claimant and accepts who she is. He believes that one is born the way they are regarding their sexual orientation and it is not an abnormality that people make it out to be. The associate adult claimant categori-, categorically stated that he accepts his wife’s bisexuality and will defend her in any way he can. This is the reason he stood,

[9]       MINOR CLAIMANT: [crying]

[10]     COUNSEL: Sorry to interrupt.

[11]     MEMBER: Yeah.

[12]     COUNSEL: I’m not sure where those noises are coming from but it might be Toronto. Is it possible for you to moot, mute Toronto?

[13]     MEMBER: Yes, it could be. I will try to see if I can disconnect from Toronto. Just bear with me for a moment, please.

[14]     COUNSEL: Or, if you feel comfortable, we can just listen to the decision and, and that can just be in the background, it’s fine. We’ll, we’ll be getting a, the written copy.

[15]     MEMBER: Okay. Yeah, so let’s just continue.

[16]     COUNSEL: Thank you.

[17]     This is the reason he stood up for her against his family and clan, when they went to see his family in [XXX] 2017. He was physically assaulted and sus- and sustained injuries in that attack. The principal claimant was threatened by the associate adult claimant’s family and clan, that she will be reported by them to the police and pressured the associate adult claimant to divorce her, as she is not fit to be a wife and mother. He stated that the police continued to pursue him, as they wanted him to report his wife’s and her friend’s whereabouts because they had committed a crime and he was privy to that information. The police also inquired from his employer about him, due to which he resigned from his job in [XXX] 2018. The associate adult claimant stated that his clan continued to pressure him to divorce the principal claimant and has ostracized him. He has been threatened by his clan that they will take away the minor male claimant and raise him on their own.

[18]     The Panel canvassed with the claimants why they did not seek protection in USA. The principal claimant testified that they were afraid of being separated from their children, as that is what was happening with the refugee claimants in that country. They waited for things to improve in the US, but decided to seek protection in Canada, as the political rhetoric against immigrants and refugees was deteriorating day by day. The Panel accepts the principal claimant’s explanation as reasonable given the political scenario in the US in 2018 and 2019 with refugee families. As such, the Panel does not draw any negative inference in the claimant’s failure to seek protection in USA. Based on their straightforward and frank testimonies, the Panel finds the principal claimant and adult associate claimant to be credible witnesses and accepts their allegations to be true.

Well-Founded Fear of Persecution and Risk of Harm

[19]     The persecution that the principal claimant faces has a Nexus to one of the five Convention grounds, which is membership in a particular social group; that is her sexual orientation and, therefore, this claim is assessed under Section 96. The Panel finds that the principal claimant and associate adult claimant have established that they have a well-founded fear of persecution due to her bisexuality, which is supported by objective evidence. The documentary evidence shows a high level of societal homophobia in Nigeria, and also that same-sex relationships are illegal in that country. The country documentation is consiten- consistent with the principal claimant’s past experiences and confirms her forward-looking fear of returning to Nigeria, which is as follows. Homosexuality and bisexuality are against the law in Nigeria. The United States Department of State report on Nigeria discusses some of the relatively recent developments in that country. According to the National Documentation Package, NDP Item 2.1, the 2014 Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which is referred to as the SSMPA, effectively renders all forms of activity illegal which is supporting or promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex rights. According to the SSMPA, anyone convicted of entering into a same-sex marriage or civil union may be sentenced up to 14 years imprisonment. A Response to Information Request of the Immigration and Refugee Board, which is as per ne- NDP Item 6.1, discusses the societal treatment and perceptions of homosexuals. According to the report, LGBTQ people are treated with disdain and disregard for their fundamental human rights. LGBTQ face being ostracized from the community and being subjected to acts of violence, stigma and reproach. The Response to Information Request also discusses the discrimination faced by sexual minorities in employment, accessing housing and accessing healthcare services. According to Section 214 of the Nigeria Criminal Code Act, and this is as per NDP Item 6.2, any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years. In this case, the associate adult claimant is aware of and is fully accepting of the principal claimant’s bisexuality, and is also privy to her friend’s sexual orientation, who he found being intimate with his wife in [XXX] 2017. As such, he would be liable for persecution at the hands of the government of Nigeria, according to Section 214, especially since the police in Nigeria expects the associate adult claimant to repay the whe-, to report the whereabouts his wife and her friend, so that they can be tried under the criminal law. Therefore, the Panel finds that he faces more than a mere possibility of persecution in Nigeria, if he were to return to his country. Especially since his family has threatened to go to the police against his wife’s bisexuality and he, himself, has initiated a move to file a police report at one point, against the principal claimant and her friend. The Panel also finds that the minor male claimant faces more than a mere possibility of persecution at the hands of state and non-state actors in Nigeria, by way of his membership in a particular social group; namely the child of parents facing persecution related to a Convention ground. Based on all the evidence before it, the Panel finds that the principal claimant, the adult associate claimant, and the minor male claimant, would face a serious possibility of persecution by both state and non-state actors if they were to return to Nigeria. The Panel finds that the minor female claimant does not face any risk to life or a possibility of punishment or cruel treatment, or torture in USA.

State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative

[20]     The Panel finds that state protection would not be rea- reasonably forthcoming to the claimants as one of the agents of persecution is the state. The laws prohibiting homosexuality apply throughout the country and so do the laws that fail to protect homosexuals from discrimination and persecution. Therefore, the Panel finds that the presumption of state protection has been rebutted. The country condition documents indicate that the high level of discrimination against homosexuals exists throughout the country, as such, the Panel finds that there is no viable IFA available to the principle claimant, adult associate claimant and the minor male claimant in this case, in Nigeria.

Determination and Conclusion

[21]     The Panel finds that the principal claimant, adult associate claimant, and the minor male claimant are Convention refugees as per Section 96 of the Act, and accepts each of their claims. The Panel also finds that the minor female claimant is neither a Convention refugee, nor a person in need of protection according to the provisions of the Act, and therefore rejects her claim. And that’s the end of the decision.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 64

Citation: 2020 RLLR 64
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: February 26, 2020
Panel: Angelina Guarino
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Eric Freedman
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: MB8-01156
Associated RPD Number(s): MB8-01171, MB8-01221
ATIP Number: A-2021-00800
ATIP Pages: 000030-000037

REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       The principal claimant, [XXX], his wife, [XXX] (the female claimant), and their minor child, [XXX] (the minor claimant), are citizens of Nigeria. They are claiming refugee protection in Canada under section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

[2]       The panel appointed the principal claimant as the designated representative of his minor child, [XXX].

[3]       The wife and minor child are basing their refugee protection claims on the principal claimant’s written account in the Basis of Claim Form (BOC Form).[1]

ALLEGATIONS

[4]       The principal claimant alleges that he fears his deceased father’s third wife, named [XXX], as well as his police officer half-brother, named [XXX], born from that relationship, who threatened to kill the male claimant and go after his family after he refused to give them the major share of the inheritance from his father.

[5]       According to the will, the inheritance was to be divided equally between all the children of the male claimant’s father, and [XXX] request was very poorly received by the other heirs. Following their refusal, [XXX] threatened to kill the claimant and his brothers and sisters.

[6]       The male claimant also alleges that two of his brothers were killed after receiving death threats from [XXX]. According to the male claimant, it was [XXX] who ensured that her threats were carried out. She was questioned by the police after the death of the male claimant’s brothers because people had witnessed her uttering threats. However, the investigation quickly ended as her son [XXX], a [XXX], intervened to have her released. The male claimant alleges that [XXX] has many influential contacts among the Nigerian authorities and that he is involved in shady dealings.

[7]       Consequently, the male claimant fears that he will be the next victim of violence at the hands of [XXX] and her son owing to this conflict, especially since the issue of the inheritance has not yet been resolved and the other heirs do not want to agree to an unequal split.

DETERMINATION

[8]       The panel concludes that the refugee protection claimants are “persons in need of protection” for the reasons set out below.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[9]       The panel is satisfied as to the refugee protection claimants’ identity, which was established, on a balance of probabilities, by means of the testimony of the adult claimants and by the submission on the record of the certified true copy of their respective Nigerian passports.[2]

Analysis under paragraph 97(1)(b)

[10]     In his BOC Form and during the hearing, the principal claimant stated that he feared being mistreated or even killed because of the conflict with his father’s wife and with his half-brother [XXX], a conflict involving the estate of his deceased father. He also feared that his agents of harm could go after members of his nuclear family, as the threats targeted them as well. Refugee protection claims involving a physical risk from family members in Nigeria because of an inheritance fall under subsection 97(1) of the IRPA since there is no nexus to the Convention.[3]

[11]     It is also clear that, in relation to the claimants’ fears toward Nigeria, this refugee protection claim does not involve any danger of the claimants’ being subjected to a danger of torture within the meaning of paragraph 97(1)(a) of the IRPA.

[12]     The panel has therefore analyzed this refugee protection claim under paragraph 97(1)(b) of the IRPA, that is, whether the claimants would be personally subjected to a risk to their lives or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if they were to return to Nigeria.

Credibility

[13]     The male claimant gave frank and sincere testimony before the panel about the conflict between [XXX] his half-brother [XXX], and himself, regarding the inheritance left by his deceased father.

[14]     First, the male claimant provided detailed information about the way the inheritance was split between his father’s three wives. Subsequently, he explained the reasons that led [XXX] to insist on an unequal  split–according to her, she was his father’s favourite wife–and  stated that she had demonstrated her desire to appropriate the largest share of the inheritance by not hesitating to threaten the other heirs. The male claimant provided details on relationship dynamics within his family and the difficulty he had getting along with his half-brothers on his father’s side.

[15]     The male claimant explained how the threats had escalated over time, with the murder of his two brothers. The male claimant also described the various means he had used to try to resolve the conflict. He testified that he had asked the police to intervene following the murder of his brothers, but said that the investigation had been sabotaged by the intervention of his half-brother, the [XXX]. The male claimant also asked the other heirs to agree to [XXX] demands in order to end the conflict, but they refused. The male claimant indicated that he had finally left the inheritance under the management of a company. This implies not only that it became more difficult for [XXX] and the claimant’s half-brother to appropriate the inheritance, but also that their desire for revenge grew.

[16]     The male claimant testified that, on [XXX] 2017, he moved with his wife and child to the home of an uncle in Ogun State, as he felt that his life was in danger in Lagos. Nevertheless, he was found by men sent by [XXX] and his half-brother [XXX]. On [XXX] 2017, the claimants were informed by neighbours that some men had been asking about them, and it was because of this suspicious visit that the claimants decided to leave Nigeria for good.

[17]     The principal claimant spontaneously answered every question he was asked. His answers were consistent not only with his written account but also with the various affidavits submitted in support of his claim.[4]

[18]     In addition to his credible testimony, the principal claimant provided several pieces of evidence to corroborate his allegations. He submitted into evidence his father’s will,[5] his brothers’ death certificates[6] and posters announcing their funerals,[7] the contract stipulating that the inheritance is being managed by a management company,[8] as well as evidence that his half-brother [XXX] is a [XXX].[9] The male claimant’s attempts to obtain protection from the Nigerian authorities following the murder of his brothers are corroborated by a police report.[10]

[19]     The panel notes that the claimants arrived in the United States on [XXX] 2017. They finally left that country on [XXX] 2018. The principal claimant specified that he did not claim asylum because of the hostile climate toward asylum seekers in the United States. The panel considers this an unreasonable explanation for the failure to claim asylum. Nevertheless, as the claimants had valid status and given the duration of their stay, which lasted a few months, the panel is of the opinion that this behaviour is not determinative to undermine the credibility of the alleged facts taken as a whole.

Objective basis of the fear

[20]     The objective documentation on Nigeria reports that violence related to inheritance issues is common. Indeed, in a European Union report, the Director of the Initiative for Equal Rights in Nigeria states that this is a major problem in Nigeria and that quarrels can happen between several family members; the violence that follows can go as far as killing.[11]

State protection

[21]     Objective documentation indicates that the Nigeria Police Force is perceived as corrupt and ineffective.[12] The reports also highlight problems in the judicial system, which is reported to be short-staffed, underfunded, ineffective, subject to political intervention, corrupt, and lacking training and resources.[13]

[22]     The panel also notes that the male claimant testified that he reported some of the incidents to the police. He submitted a police report[14] into evidence and testified about the time he went to file a complaint. He explained that the police officers questioned [XXX] but that they quickly released her. The male claimant thinks that [XXX] son, [XXX], himself a [XXX], may have bribed the police. The male claimant explained that he knew about his half-brother’s illegal trafficking in cars. The half-brother told the male claimant about his activities and influence within the police when he threatened him.

[23]     For all these reasons, the panel is of the opinion that the male claimant has established, through clear and convincing evidence, that he would not have access to adequate state protection.

Internal flight alternative

[24]     The panel considered the Jurisprudential Guide dealing with the various internal flight alternatives in major cities in southern and central Nigeria for claimants fleeing non-state actors.[15] Having considered the profile of the male claimant’s agents of harm, the analysis in the Guide is not applicable in this case.

[25]     The panel questioned the male claimant about the possibility of relocating to Port Harcourt in order to escape [XXX] and his half-brother [XXX]. Asked to explain why [XXX] and his half-brother would want to find him in the proposed IFA, the male claimant stated that they are motivated by their desire for revenge as well as by the fact that the male claimant is the last male heir standing in the way of management of the inheritance passing into the hands of his half-brother [XXX]. Asked about the ability of [XXX] and his half-brother to find him in Port Harcourt, the male claimant answered that, regardless of where he went in Nigeria, his agents of harm would be able to find him because of his half-brother’s duties as a [XXX] and his access to personal information banks. The male claimant’s agents of harm found him when he moved to his uncle’s home with his family, which demonstrates a strong and sustained interest in him. The principal claimant added that his agents of harm are capable of committing very violent acts, as they have demonstrated with the murder of his brothers.

[26]     The panel takes note of the male claimant’s testimony regarding the means at the disposal of his agents of harm. The panel has also taken into account their potential interest in finding the claimant with a view to eliminating him from the line of inheritance and taking revenge on him for standing in the way of their demands as well as for having filed a complaint with the police against [XXX] regarding the murder of his brothers.

[27]     Consequently, the panel is of the opinion that, on a balance of probabilities, the claimants face a risk to their lives or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment throughout Nigeria.

[28]     In light of the above and taking all the evidence into account, the panel is of the opinion that the claimants have established that, should they return to Nigeria, they would be personally subjected to a risk to their lives or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment within the meaning of subsection 97(1) of the IRPA.

CONCLUSION

[29]     For all these reasons, the panel concludes that the refugee protection claimants are “persons in need of protection” and allows their refugee protection claim under paragraph 97(1)(b) of the IRPA.


[1] Document 1 — Basis of Claim Form.

[2] Document 1 — Information package provided by the Canada Border Services Agency and/or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, formerly Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

[3] Njeru v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) (F.C., No. IMM-2258-09), Russell, December 16, 2009, 2009 FC 1281; Kang, Hardip Kaur v. MC.I. (F.C., No. IMM-775-05), Martineau, August 18, 2005, 2005 FC 1128.

[4] Document 4 — P-20 to P-23.

[5] Document 4 — P-13.

[6] Document 4 — P-15 and P-18.

[7] Document 4 — P-14.

[8] Document 4 — P-23.

[9] Document 5 — P-24: Nigerian [XXX] ID card for [XXX].

[10] Document 4 — P-16 and P-17.

[11] Document 3 — National Documentation Package on Nigeria, November 29, 2019; Tab 1.3: European Union, European Asylum Support Office, August 2017, EASO COI Meeting Report: Nigeria.

[12] Document 3, Tab 1.4: European Union, European Asylum Support Office, June 2017, EASO Country of Origin Information Report: Nigeria. Country Focus.
Document 3, Tab 16.2: United Kingdom, Home Office, 2016, Country Information and Guidance. Nigeria: Background information, including actors of protection and internal relocation. Version 2.0.

[13] Document 3, Tab 1.4: European Union, European Asylum Support Office, June 2017, EASO Country of Origin Information Report: Nigeria. Country Focus, p. 29.

[14] Supra footnote 10.

[15] Jurisprudential Guide, decision TB7-19851, May 17, 2018.

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2019 RLLR 138

Citation: 2019 RLLR 138
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: September 11, 2019
Panel: D. McKeown
Counsel for the Claimant(s): M. Mary Akhbari
Country: Nigeria 
RPD Number: TB8-26572
ATIP Number: A-2021-00256
ATIP Pages: 0000117-000120


DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: I’ve considered the testimony and evidence and I’m now prepared to render a decision.

[2]       The claimant is [XXX]. He seeks refugee protection against Nigeria pursuant to Sections 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[3]       For the following reasons the panel finds the claimant is a Convention refugee and this claim is accepted.

[4]       COUNSEL: Just relax. Like sit back and chill out. Okay.

[5]       MEMBER: Should I … should I do the rest in writing perhaps?

[6]       COUNSEL: No, you can read it.

[7]       MEMBER: I’m … I’m just going to keep talking from here.

[8]       This claim was based on the following allegations. The claimant is bisexual. He left Nigeria in [XXX] 2017 when pressure from the community and his family became too much to bear any longer regarding his sexual orientation.

[9]       The claimant arrived in the United States on [XXX], 2017 and thereafter arrived in Canada on [XXX], 2018. The claimant signed his Basis of Claim on September 21st, 2018.

[10]     The panel took into consideration the Chairperson’s guidelines on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression when considering the process of this hearing and … and assessing the facts of this case.

[11]     The identity of the claimant was established on the basis of his Nigerian passport. The original of which was seized by the Minister.

[12]     The panel’s only significant concern in this claim was his failure to seek protection in the United States. The claimant was an educated and successful businessman. His friends in the United States knew about his sexual orientation. Instead of seeking legal means to remain in the understood he colluded with his friends to engage in a fake marriage of convenience so that he could immigrate there.

[13]     The claimant also explained that he feared the American Government and president who is not welcoming of refugees.

[14]     The panel does not accept these explanations. The United States is a democratic country which upholds the rule of law. They are Convention signatory and maintain a functioning asylum determination system.

[15]     It is simply not credible that the claimant took no steps to secure his own safety and protection in the United States until just before his visa was set to expire. The claimant’s failure to seek protection in the United States does undermine his allegations of subjective fear and the credibility of this claim. Having said that, this concern being the only significant concern in this claim the panel is prepared to give the claimant the benefit of the doubt.

[16]     The claimant is entitled to the presumption that he has been truthful unless there is reason to believe otherwise. While this failure to claim is concerning, the panel cannot say that it undermines the credibility of this claim in its entirety.

[17]     In all of the respects the panel found that the claimant was credible. The claimant spoke about his relationships in Nigeria, both with men and his wife. He spoke about how he lived and how he managed to keep his sexuality hidden from the community.

[18]     The claimant answered difficult questions posed by the panel. And where the panel had concerns about the narrative, those concerns were answered with reasonable and plausible explanations. There were no inconsistencies or embellishments.

[19]     The panel found the claimant’s testimony was compelling and the claimant was amply … the claim was amply supported by objective documentation including extensive proof that this ordeal has taken a severe toll on the claimant’s mental health.

[20]     These supporting aspects of the claim were not outweighed by his failure to claim in the United States.

[21]     The National Documentation Package for Nigeria supports this claim. The panel has access to reliable sources such as the US DOS report and the UK Home Office report. Each of which are clear about the consequences of same sex relationships in Nigeria. Punishments can include vigilante justice and 14 years in prison, for example.

[22]     Whereas the State is the agent of persecution, the claimant has rebutted the presumption that State protection would be adequate or forthcoming.

[23]     Likewise, there is no location in Nigeria the claimant could go where he would not face a serious possibility of persecution.

[24]     For all these reasons the panel finds this claim is credible. The claimant’s fear is well-founded. The claimant faces a serious possibility of persecution in Nigeria on account of his membership in a particular social group being a bisexual person.

[25]     The claimant is a Convention refugee and this claim is accepted.

[26]     Thank you very much.

[27]     COUNSEL: Thank you.

[28]     MEMBER: Thank you both very much. Thank you, sir, for being here and I know that this was difficult for you. Go home and get some sleep.

[29]     CLAIMANT: Thank you so much.

[30]     MEMBER: Thank you very much. Everyone have a good afternoon.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2019 RLLR 38

Citation: 2019 RLLR 38
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 10, 2019
Panel: Isis van Loon
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: VB9-00362
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000217-000225


— DECISION

[1]       PRESIDING MEMBER: [XXX], the principal claimant, and [XXX], the minor claimant, seek refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I maintain the designation of [XXX] as the representative for the minor claimant pursuant to subsection 167(2) of the Act in Rule 20 of the Refugee Protection Division Rules. These claims were joined according to Rule 55 of the Refugee Protection Division Rules. When rendering my Reasons, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.

ALLEGATIONS

[2]       The principal claimant alleges that if she returns to Nigeria she will be forced to marry her brother-in-law, who has sexually assaulted her a number of times. The brother-in-law will also take her son and force him to undergo rituals. As well, the claimants are at risk from Fulani herdsmen, who burned down their village in [XXX] 2016, which forced the claimant to live with her missing husband’s family in their village.

[3]       I find that the claimant has established she faces a serious risk of persecution on a Convention ground in Nigeria. My reasons are as follows. I also find the minor claimant faces a serious risk of persecution on a Convention ground.

IDENTITY

[4]       The claimants’ identities and citizenship as nationals of Nigeria was established by the principal claimant’s testimony and supporting documentation filed, including certified true copies of their passports in Exhibit 1.

CREDIBILITY

[5]       The principal claimant testified in a straightforward manner with no inconsistencies in her testimony or contradictions between her testimony and the other evidence before me. I found her to be a credible witness and, therefore, have accepted as generally true the facts that she alleged in support of her claim. Unless I specifically note in my analysis, as I said, I found her generally credible and the minor claimant did not testify.

[6]       The principal claimant provided the following relevant and probative documents in Exhibit 4. There was a Nigerian Police report from [XXX], 2015, reporting her missing husband; a medical report from [XXX], 2017, after a sexual assault, and numerous affidavits from friends and family, all attesting to the treatment by the principal claimant’s brother-in-law, as well as her subsequent actions.  I found those documents were relevant and served to corroborate the principal claimant’s core allegations, in terms of nexus, I found the persecution the principal claimant faces has a nexus to the Convention ground of membership in a particular social group, as a woman at risk of sexual violence and forced marriage. With the minor claimant, there’s a nexus to that of a child at risk of literal abuse.

[7]       In order to be considered a Convention refugee, a claimant has to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution, including subjective fear and objective basis for that fear. Based on the testimony, supporting documents and country condition documents, I found the claimants do have a well-founded fear of persecution for the following reasons.

[8]       In terms of subjective fear, the principal claimant initially attempted to resist the forcible advances of her brother-in-law, [XXX]. After a sexual assault by [XXX] on [XXX], 2017, she escaped with the minor claimant to [XXX]. [XXX] located her there within a week, continued to threaten her. With the assistance of her friend, she made arrangements to leave as quickly as possible and did so when they had sufficient funds, arriving in the USA on [XXX], 2017.

[9]       Fearing Trump policies against refugees, she decided to come to Canada, which she did [XXX] of 2017, and claimed asylum. Based on her actions and the timing thereof, as well as her credible testimony, I found the claimants have adduced sufficient credible evidence to establish a subjective fear of persecution in Nigeria.

[10]     The principal claimant testified about the series of events that started with the disappearance of her husband on [XXX], 2015. She reported this to the police and checked in with them, but no progress on the investigation had occurred. When the Fulani burnt her home on [XXX], 2016, she fled to her husband’s village to stay with her in-laws there. In [XXX] of 2016, her brother-in-law [XXX] sexually assaulted her. On [XXX], 2017, the family had a meeting where they decided that tradition should be followed or bad things would happen in their village and to them and this meant that the principal claimant would have to marry her brother-in-law [XXX] as they believed by that time that her husband was deceased.

[11]     She refused to follow this tradition and fled after [XXX] sexually assaulted her with a weapon on [XXX], 2017. Sam located the claimants in [XXX] about a week later and threatened them again that they needed to undergo the ritual and the principal claimant needed to marry him. She testified about the specific ritual that was to be undergone by both her and her son, where they were to be cut and marked in various areas and have cow’s blood and other things rubbed into these during an event that would take about three days.

[12]     She also spoke of [XXX] (phonetic), a woman from her husband’s village that she knew. She met her after she got married and a similar type of thing happened. Her husband went missing at the hands of the Boko Haram or the Fulani herdsmen and, according to tradition, the people would force the woman to marry the husband’s brother. This woman, however, [XXX], she refused and she was killed when she refused to marry the brother by the brother. This was in 2014 and apparently she knew that [XXX] had gone to the police and the police said that they couldn’t do anything and said it was just a family matter. In effect, the country documentation confirms that these traditional things are often treated as a family-related incident and the police tend not to get involved. The country documentation evidence also confirms that sexual violence against women is common and that ritual activities continue. Based on all the evidence before me, I found the claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution if the were to return to Nigeria and be found by [XXX].

[13]     In terms of state protection, except in situations where a state is in complete breakdown, states must be presumed capable of protecting their citizens. I found, however, that adequate state protection would not be reasonably forthcoming in this particular case. The principal claimant described how she had not reported the sexual assaults by [XXX] as she was afraid the same thing would happen to her as happened to Nagosi and she described how [XXX] actually threatened to kill her if she did report to police.

[14]     There are a number of laws that exist to protect women against violence and these have been strengthened by the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act in 2016. However, they are not effectively implemented in practice and are quite variable. There is no comprehensive law for combatting violence against women and, as a result, victims and survivors had little or no recourse to justice, according to the NDP 2.1. Police response is often poor and despite the existence of some laws, the persecution rates for domestic violence are low. It’s uncommon for cases to reach persecution. The burden of proof is on the victim according to NDP 5.3. Additionally, there are few shelters and restraining orders provide minimal, if any, protection in practice.

[15]     In a Response to Information Request from the IRB, a doctoral candidate states about victims of ritual practices that to his knowledge the police response is not recognized and institutionalized. He further stated that based on his direct observation and research experience over five years in Southern Nigeria, that Nigerian police officers tend to be discriminatory in their treatment of victims of ritual practices, particularly for women, and that this attitude is formed by customary norms and the subjugation of women in most Southern Nigerian societies.

[16]     The same source added that a lack of trust in the police also inhibits the reporting of ritual practices, especially by women. Furthermore, according to this source, police officers are themselves often a part of the culture in which ritual practices take place and they can have difficulty recognizing whether ritual practices are criminal or not and they weigh the evidence also against the religion rights and intent of the ritual practices.

[17]     Similarly, another source noted that because Nigerian police officers themselves come from communities where different rituals apply, they have to respect the culture and traditions and they’re reluctant to provide protection to someone who is refusing to undergo a ritual. So I find that in terms of both the sexual violence and the traditional and ritual aspects of this that state protection would not be adequate nor reasonably forthcoming for the claimants in this case and, therefore, the presumption of state protection is rebutted.

[18]     At the beginning of the hearing, I proposed several cities as internal flight alternatives, Benin City, Port Harcourt or Abuja. The principal claimant testified that there are family members of her in-laws in both Port Harcourt and Abuja, so I primarily focused from then on, on Benin City. An internal flight alternative arises when a claimant, who otherwise meets all the elements of the definition of a person in need or protection or as a Convention refugee in their home area of the country, nevertheless is not in need of protection because they would live safely elsewhere in that country.

[19]     There is a legal test, which has two prove to be satisfied that the claimants would not face a serious possibility of persecution in the part of the country in which I found an IFA exists and conditions in the part of the country considered to be an IFA must be such that it would not be unreasonable, in all the circumstances, including those particular to the claimants, for them to seek refuge there.

[20]     If either prong of the internal flight alternative test fails, then there is no viable internal flight alternative. I’ve started, in fact, with the second prong about whether or not the proposed IFAs are reasonable. At the beginning of the hearing I proposed, as I said, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Benin City, but primarily focused on Benin City. Having found the claimants face a serious possibility of persecution from the agent of harm, I have turned to the second prong of the IFA test, the test used in Canadian refugee jurisprudence, to assess whether a claimant could travel to and remain in a safer area of their countries, whether it would be unduly harsh to expect the claimant to do so. There’s a very high threshold for this unreasonableness test. It requires nothing less than the existence of conditions which would jeopardize the life and safety of a claimant in travelling to or relocating to a safe area and it requires actual and concrete evidence of such conditions.

[21]     I’ve considered whether it would be reasonable to expect the claimants to travel to and relocate in any of the proposed IFAs. An IFA has to be realistically accessible. If a claimant would encounter physical danger travelling there, if they would encounter persecution while en route or they would otherwise be barred from travelling to an area then an IFA location would not be viable. However, the Nigerian Constitution provides for the right to travel within Nigeria. The country condition documents show that Nigerians, including women, can and do move freely throughout most of the country, including the IFA proposed cities.

[22]     With respect to the burden of proof, the Court of Appeal in Rasaratnam (phonetic) has held that once an IFA is raised, the onus is on the claimant to show that they don’t have one. The burden, as I said, is fairly high in order to show that an IFA is unreasonable. In fact, the Federal Court of Appeal stated that to show an IFA is unreasonable requires nothing less than the existence of conditions jeopardizing the life and safety of a claimant in relocating to that place.

[23]     The Chairperson identified the Refugee Appeal Division decision for TB7-19851 as a jurisprudential guide. I’ve considered this guide and the decision of the Refugee Appeal Division in which the jurisprudential guide in question is based analyzes the viability of an internal flight location within Nigeria for single women. That concludes more broadly than internal relocation and Nigeria is generally considered to be viable for refugee claimants fearing non-state actors. In this case, the RAD decision established there are several large multilingual, multi-ethnic cities in South and Central Nigeria which include the IFAs mentioned, where persons fleeing non-state actors may be safely able to establish themselves, depending upon their particular circumstances.

[24]     There’s a non-exhaustive list of factors that may be considered in determining whether the conditions in an IFA render it objectively unreasonable for the claimant. These factors are travel, transportation, language, education, employment, accommodation, healthcare, culture, (indiscernible) and religion. Additionally, the Chairperson’s Gender Guidelines specifically instruct decision makers to consider whether and how these factors affect women in the IFA.

[25]     The cm before me is both a single woman and the mother of a young son, so she’s a single mother, unlike the single woman who had no children in the jurisprudential guide case. The principal claimant has some post secondary education, but in this case her work experience is quite limited. She worked partly while as a student and then on her husband’s farm after she was married. So she does have some experience in farming.

[26]     The principal claimant testified, and the country documents support this, there are real difficulties for women in obtaining employment and housing and that this is exacerbated when a woman does not have family assistance and support. Family can help members to find housing, as well as work. In Nigeria, women need adult male members of family or other males to provide references and sign for them, particularly with respect to housing. Usually this is done by male family members.  The claimant herself stated that if she had family in the IFA she could rely upon them to care for her son, if she was able to find work, and that she would need to support herself and her son. Her family has to date refused to support her and, in fact, advised her to follow the traditional practices that her brother-in-law has been demanding.

[27]     She initially fled to [XXX] to stay with her sister, but her sister turned her out. So her family has told her to follow traditional practices, marry [XXX] and undergo the ritual that will ensure her husband’s ghost did not return to haunt the family. I’m satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that these claimants have no family support in Nigeria and this will negatively impact their ability to find housing and employment, as well as assisting with childcare.

[28]     According to the jurisprudential guide, unemployment is generally high in Nigeria and work can be difficult to find. There are more female-headed households in the south than in the north and it is generally easier for women to obtain work in the south than in the north but, quite frankly, this is not saying a lot and it certainly doesn’t say that it is easy for women to find work. The J.G. says that where a claimant has achieved post secondary education or has meaningful work experience, they may be in a better position of securing employment than the average Nigerian.

[29]     This claimant does have some post secondary education, but her Nigerian work experience is limited to farming and some past office work that she did as a student. Additionally, she has a young child, the minor claimant, in her care, and without family or contacts, she would have to find a way to ensure safe childcare while she worked if she was able to find work. She has no connections in the IFAs. She speaks a different dialect from the locals and she would face great difficulty in finding employment, which is sometimes based on indigeneship or family connections. The J.G. states that in order for a single woman to get a reasonable job in — they were talking about Port Harcourt or Ibadan in that case, or presumably other large cities, she would need to have the help of someone influential or rich and also that it is easier for single women with high education and high social status to use this status to give them access to people who are in power who could assist her to find work. I’m satisfied that the principal claimant, as a single mother, albeit with some degree of education, but with limited work experience and with no high status standing and, therefore, no connections that that would bring, she would face extreme difficulty in finding work.

[30]     The NDP 5.9 shows that it can be difficult for women to find housing, in part due to the cost and in part if they do not have male assistance. While the north of the country is once again even worse, the south is still very difficult for women. In particular, the ability to find gainful employment, according to NDP 13.1, is a key factor in finding housing. I’ve already discussed my views on the difficulty this claimant faces in finding employment and I am satisfied that without work she would have great difficulty in supporting herself and her son in terms of housing, as well as food and other necessary item and the Nigerian state has little to no social supports available to assist her.

[31]     The claimant stated the indigeneship would be a factor, making it difficult to relocate. The documents show that this is less of an issue in large cities, such as Benin City. However, there are difficulties for those who are not indigenes. The EASO states that indigenicity facilitates settling in a given area.  However, it does not constitute a requirement. This document notes that non-indigenes, such as the claimants, without familial connections or financial means, may find relocation more difficult. The claimant also testified that language would be an issue as she does not speak local dialects. While she does speak some English and, in fact, testified occasionally in English during the hearing, I am still cognizant that despite English being an official language of Nigeria, her inability to speak the local dialects would also put her at a disadvantage among those who do not speak English and who might potentially assist her with housing or employment.

[32]     The claimant also testified that single mothers are frequently discriminated against and seen as sexually available, which leads them to experience high levels of sexual violence and sexual harassment. She said this was both through work and potentially with landlords. The country documents show that women in general and single women or women heading households do indeed experience high levels of this mistreatment, particularly when there are no family members, most likely male family members, to protect them. I accept as a single mother that the claimant would be more vulnerable to gender-based mistreatment than would a woman who was supported with or by a adult male and family.

[33]     In terms of religion, the country evidence shows that Christianity is widespread in Nigeria, particularly in the south, and thus I don’t find religion, in itself, to be a barrier to relocation. A recent Response to Information Request said that sometimes religious communities can assist in the process of resettlement in some of the similar cities to Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja. While religious community may, in fact, be helpful despite the principal claimant’s belief that it would be largely limited to the occasional donation of food, I’m not satisfied that we can rely on religious assistance to be sufficient to overcome the more serious impediments to the claimants in resettling that I have already mentioned with respect to lack of family support, housing and extreme difficulties in obtaining employment.

[34]     Finally, I further note that the principal claimant testified of having an anxiety attack which necessitated a 911 intervention here in Canada. Her demeanour during the hearing clearly demonstrated emotional fragility and she broke down several times during the hearing, necessitating time to compose herself in order to continue. Her emotional state is supported by a psychological assessment in which she was diagnosed with [XXX] and [XXX] in [XXX] of 2029. That’s Exhibit 4, pages 35 to 40. She has attended counselling as a psychologist recommended, based on their assessment and she said that she plans to continue.

[35]     Based on the psychologist’s findings, they concluded that, based on her trauma-related conditions with which they diagnosed her, it would impair her recovery if she had to return to Nigeria where she is convinced that [XXX] would find and harm her and the minor claimant. There are facilities for both basic medical and mental healthcare according to NDP 1.9. The country condition documents though show that Nigerians have to pay for healthcare, as well as education, and that access can be difficult for this reason. For a single mother with many impediments to finding access to money such as employment, I’m satisfied that she would face significant difficulties in accessing mental healthcare if she wished to continue treatment in Nigeria as well.

[36]     The claimant testified there would be difficulties with education for her child and that she would be unable to pay fees if she was not employed as the country condition document I’ve just referenced shows that education comes with costs and concerns that the minor claimant would be negatively impacted with respect to his basic education.  Having considered the conditions in the internal flight alternatives, particularly Benin City, and all the circumstances of this case, including those particular to the claimants, I find that the claimants have established on a balance of probabilities that it would be objectively unreasonable or result in undue hardship as those terms are understood in Canadian refugee law for them to seek refuge in the proposed IFAs of Benin City, Port Harcourt or Abuja.

[37]     Based on the totality of the evidence, I’ve concluded the claimants are Convention refugees and accordingly, I have accepted their claims.

— DECISION CONCLUDED