Citation: 2022 RLLR 12
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: February 8, 2022
Panel: Kevin Kim
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Mary Alison Pridham
RPD Number: VC1-06001
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-01960
ATIP Pages: N/A
REASONS FOR DECISION
 This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) in the claim of XXXX XXXX XXXX as a citizen of Nigeria who is claiming refugee protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act”) .
 The panel has considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guideline 4 on Female Refugee Claimants fearing gender-related persecution, particularly when considering the possibility of an internal flight alternative.
 The following is a brief synopsis of the claimant’s allegations as set out in her Basis of Claim (BOC) form as well as her testimony. The claimant is a 30-year-old Nigerian woman who fears persecution from her mother-in-law who is a member of the XXXX XXXX.
 The claimant alleges that her mother-in-law has been targeting the claimant’s son to be initiated into the XXXX XXXX, and that her mother-in-law has been attempting to forcefully take the claimant’s son away.
 After the claimant married her husband, she moved into his family home and lived with her husband and his family, including the husband’s mother. Due to the husband’s job, he traveled frequently for months at a time across Nigeria and was often unable to be contacted as he was out of cellular service. In 2016, the claimant and her mother traveled to Canada for vacation while the claimant was pregnant with her son. In XXXX 2016, the claimant gave birth to her son in Canada.
 The claimant alleged that her relationship with her mother-in-law has always been tumultuous. On XXXX XXXX, 2018, at her family home, the claimant’s mother-in-law and her husband’s cousin insulted the claimant and pushed her, injuring the claimant’s leg. In XXXX 2018, the mother-in-law made death threats to the claimant and stated that if the claimant did not surrender her son, she would send the “area boys to attack her and kill her so that she will no longer be a problem for her”. The claimant reported this incident to the police, but the claimant alleged that the police did not act as the mother-in-law was an influential member of the XXXX XXXXwith connections to the police. Although the mother-in-law was required to report to the police, she was let go within the same day. Furthermore, the claimant alleged that the police ignored this matter and dismissed it as a domestic dispute.
 Feeling unsafe, the claimant fled to her cousin’s house with her son in XXXX on XXXX XXXX, 2018. At her cousin’s home, the claimant continued to receive threatening phone calls from her mother-in-law. The claimant changed her phone number, but she continued to receive threatening phone calls from her mother-in-law who said that she knows the claimant is hiding in XXXX and there was no point in hiding as she would eventually find her.
 On XXXX XXXX, 2018, the claimant fled to her church in Lagos where she took shelter for 24 days. Although the threatening phone calls continued, the claimant’s mother-in-law or anyone from the XXXX XXXXwas able to confront her directly. The claimant testified that she believes her mother-in-law knew the general vicinity of where she was, but not the precise location.
 The claimant fled Nigeria with her son on XXXX XXXX, 2018 and made a claim in Canada on June 12, 2018.
 The panel finds that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Act for the reasons that follow.
 The panel finds that the claimant’s personal identity and her identity as a citizen of Nigeria has been established on a balance of probabilities by a copy of her Nigerian passport.
 The panel finds that the claimant’s allegations establish a nexus to the Convention ground of particular social group as a woman experiencing domestic violence in Nigeria. Therefore, the panel will assess this claim under section 96 of the Act.
 When a claimant swears to the truth of his or her allegations, this creates a presumption that those allegations are true, unless there is reason to doubt their truthfulness. In this case, the panel has found no reason to doubt the claimant’s truthfulness. The claimant testified in a straightforward manner that was consistent with all of the other documents on the file, including her Basis of Claim form and narrative. The claimant was able to answer all questions fully and provided all details that were requested of her. There were no relevant inconsistencies in her testimony or contradictions between her testimony and the other evidence before the panel, which have not been satisfactorily explained.
 The claimant also provided documentary evidence in support of her claim. The documents form parts of Exhibit 4 and contain the following:
1. XXXX XXXXcard of XXXX XXXX, the claimant’s mother in law;
2. Medical report for the claimant dated XXXX XXXX, 2018;
3. Police report dated XXXX XXXX, 2018 in relation to the death threats made by the mother-in-law towards the claimant.
 Although the panel initially had some concerns with the legitimacy of the medical report and the police report due to formatting and grammatical mistakes identified, the panel accepts the claimant’s explanation of the mistakes to be typographical in nature and finds the documents to be genuine.
 Ultimately, in terms of the claimant’s allegations, the panel finds the following:
1. The claimant’s mother-in-law is a member of the XXXX XXXX;
2. The claimant’s mother-in-law has attacked her on XXXX XXXX, 2018 and made death threats to the claimant demanding that she surrenders her son in XXXX 2018;
3. The claimant’s mother-in-law continued to threaten her while the claimant hid at her cousin’s home as well as her church;
4. The claimant’s mother-in-law was able to find her new phone number and knew of her general vicinity while the claimant was fleeing.
Well-Founded Fear of Persecution and Risk of Harm
 Turning to the well-founded fear of persecution, the panel accepts that the claimant has a subjective fear of returning to Nigeria. Considering the totality of the evidence, the panel finds that the claimant’s subjective fear is objectively well-founded and if she was to return, she would face a serious risk of persecution. Although the panel finds that the sphere of influence and the reach of the XXXX XXXXhas been diminishing in the recent years, as will be discussed below, the panel finds that the claimant’s fears are objectively well-founded.
 The objective evidence as set out in the National Documentation Package (NDP) confirms that the XXXX XXXXexists. According to the EASO Country of Information , the XXXXis the best-known but certainly not the only secret society in Nigeria. The XXXX XXXX is a caste of Yoruba priests who elected and controlled the Oba, the Oruba king. The XXXXhad great political and societal powers, and it used to be highly prestigious to become a member.
 The same report indicates that the XXXX XXXXhad considerable influence in Nigerian society and government in the 1990s. Only members of the XXXX XXXXcould give access to an influential or government job. However, nowadays, the influence of the XXXX XXXXis declining although not totally disappeared. The report noted that in these days, money is a greater means to access political power.
 The same report also indicates the general sphere of influence of the XXXX XXXX. It indicates that the XXXXare only influential in “Yoruba parts of Nigeria where they still have some real influence… [cities such as] Egba, Egbado, and Abeokuta parts of Nigeria (Ogun and Lagos States). Also, in some rural villages and small towns along in the borders of Ogun state with Oyo, Osun, and Ondo, they might still be able to intimidate pockets of people”. However, the report also indicates that XXXXare often members of Nigerian society’s elites working in the police, judiciary, and government institutions.
 Turning to the refusal of membership in the XXXX XXXX, the report indicates that while membership in the XXXX XXXXis primarily voluntary, social pressure and intimidation can occur, especially when the person refusing has personal knowledge of the XXXX XXXX. The report indicates that “refusal to join in such cases is very difficult”.
 The panel acknowledges that the evidence regarding the capacity and influence of the XXXX XXXXis mixed. The evidence appears to indicate that the XXXX XXXXis a well-known secret society that wielded considerable power in the 1990s but has been declining in the recent years. However, the panel finds that the claimant’s fears are well-founded as the persecution she has experienced, such as the beatings and death threats from her mother-in-law, has been localized in Lagos and Ogun states, where the objective evidence indicates the XXXX XXXX still has a considerable amount of influence.
 Based on the claimant’s testimony regarding the sustained periods of domestic abuse suffered by the hands of her mother-in-law and other relatives, and due to the claimant’s personal knowledge of the XXXX XXXXresulting from living in the same household as her mother-in-law, the panel finds that the claimant would face a serious risk of persecution should she return to Nigeria. Therefore, the panel finds that the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution.
 There is limited country conditions documents that directly reflect whether state agencies would protect individuals from the XXXX XXXX. According to the United States Department of State report , the government in Nigeria lacked effective mechanisms and sufficient political will to investigate and punish most security force abuse and corruption. Police remained susceptible to corruption, committed human rights violations, and operated with widespread impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and torture of suspects. This document raises serious concerns about the efficacy of state protection agencies in Nigeria.
 The claimant also testified that she went to the police regarding the death threat her mother-in-law made in XXXX 2018. Although the police report provided by the claimant indicates that the mother-in-law was invited for an investigation, she was released on the same day and no further investigations were actioned by the police. The claimant testified that she was only let off with a warning, and the claimant believes that this is because of her influence in the XXXX XXXX.
 Further, as mentioned earlier, some members of the XXXX XXXXare connected to or are members of the Nigerian elite, such as the police, judiciary, or politicians. The evidence indicates that some of the XXXX XXXXappears to be above the law. When the panel reviews the totality of the evidence, the limitations of the police and in general in Nigeria and the links between the XXXXand Nigerian authorities, the panel finds that there is clear and convincing evidence that state protection would not be reasonably forthcoming to the claimant. As such, the panel finds that there is no operationally effective state protection for the claimant in Nigeria.
Internal Flight Alternative
 The final issue is whether the claimant has a viable internal flight alternative (IFA) in Nigeria. In order to determine whether an IFA exists, the panel must assess whether there is any location in Nigeria in which claimants would not face a serious possibility of persecution and whether it would be reasonable to expect them to move there. At the outset of the hearing, the panel proposed Abuja as a possible IFA. The panel finds that the claimant does not have a viable IFA because the panel finds that given the claimant’s profile as a woman who would mostly travel and live alone without her husband, it would be unreasonable for the claimant to relocate within Nigeria.
First prong – Means and motivations of mother-in-law and XXXX XXXX
 Turning to whether the claimant’s mother-in-law or the XXXX XXXXas a whole would have the means and the motivation to find the claimant in Abuja, the panel finds that they would not. The evidence about the XXXX XXXX seems to indicate that although they were powerful and well-known in the past, their capacity and their influence has been diminishing in the recent years. Furthermore, the sphere of influence of the XXXX XXXXappears to be localized in the Ogun and Lagos states which is in the southwest region of Nigeria. This sphere of influence does not include Abuja, which is in central Nigeria.
 The claimant testified that she ran away to her cousin’s home in XXXX and to her church in Lagos, where the objective evidence appears to indicate that the XXXX XXXXstill has a considerable amount of influence. Although the claimant’s mother-in-law was able to find the claimant’s new phone number, she was never able to precisely locate the claimant at the claimant’s church or her cousin’s home despite the fact that these locations are within the XXXX XXXXarea of influence.
 The panel notes that the claimant’s church and her mother in law’s home are both located in Lagos, and that the claimant remained hidden in her church for 24 days prior to leaving Nigeria. However, despite being so close geographically, the claimant’s mother-in-law was not able to precisely locate the claimant. The panel therefore finds that the XXXX XXXXlacks the means to locate an individual, even within their reported sphere of influence. Therefore, the panel finds that the claimant’s mother-in-law or the XXXX XXXXwould have the means to locate the claimant in Abuja.
 Turning to the motivations of the agents of persecution, the panel finds that the claimant’s mother-in-law or the XXXX XXXXas a whole still has the motivation to locate the claimant. The claimant testified that ever since coming to Canada, the claimant never had any direct contact with her mother-in-law or any other members of the XXXX XXXX. The claimant also did not mention any threats made to her family or friends from the XXXX XXXX. The panel therefore finds that the agents of persecution in this specific case lacks the motivation to locate the claimant because of the lack of measures taken by the claimant’s mother-in-law or the XXXX XXXX.
 As such, the panel finds that there is no serious possibility that the claimant’s mother-in-law or the XXXX XXXXas a whole would locate the claimant in Abuja.
Second prong – Reasonableness test, jeopardy to life or safety
 Considering the totality of the evidence, the panel finds that the claimant would face jeopardy to her life or safety should she relocate to Abuja. In coming to this conclusion, the panel has considered the claimant’s profile as a woman traveling with a young son whose husband is largely absent due to his work obligations.
 The claimant wrote in her narrative and also testified that although she and her husband is still married and on good terms, there are times when she is left to support herself alone for extended periods of time. The claimant testified that she was not able to contact her husband to tell him about the attack on XXXX XXXX, 2018 and the threats in XXXX 2018 because he was out of cellular service, and that she was only able to contact him after she arrived in Canada. When asked if this kind of occurrence is common with her husband, the claimant testified that it is does happen from time to time and she has learned to deal with issues herself.
 The documentary evidence is clear that women in Nigeria are subject to stereotypical beliefs and cultural norms that significantly restrict a woman’s ability to participate in free and equal individuals.
 The US Department of State report in the NDP indicates that women in Nigeria are subjected to considerable economic discrimination and that the culturally implemented restrictions on women prevent women from finding jobs in numerous industries. In a report at tab 5.1 , women are frequently restricted to work in the informal sectors, which carries a high level of uncertainty, a high risk of employment, lower wages, and in some cases an outright dangerous work environment.
 Both the US Department of State report and the report at tab 5.1 indicates that it is commonplace for employers to request sexual favours from women in exchange for employment. Sexual violence is endemic both in the household and in the community at large.
 At tab 5.9 , a report about female headed households, indicates that it is very difficult, or even potentially impossible, for women to live independently as a single woman, to relocate without a support network, and that it is “very difficult for women heads of households” to survive in any place in Nigeria. Potential landlords suspect single women as working as prostitutes or may demand sexual favours for a place to live. The panel finds that there is a serious risk that the claimant could be left unemployed and homeless.
 Should the claimant relocate to Abuja, she would be relocating without any family support and with only limited support from her husband, whose employment requires him to travel throughout Nigeria. Considering all of the circumstances, including the current situation in Nigeria as well as the claimant’s personal circumstances, the panel finds that the claimant would face a serious risk of persecution should she relocate to Abuja as a single woman trying to establish her own household. Therefore, the panel finds that the claimant does not have a viable IFA in Nigeria.
 In conclusion, for the reasons above, the panel finds that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Act and the Refugee Protection Division acPSGcepts her claim.
(signed) Kevin Kim
February 8, 2022