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APPRAISAL OF THE ENFORCEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS IN NIGERIA

Project topic for Law department.

CHAPTER ONE

General Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Once upon a time in the history of mankind in a planet called earth. Life on that planet was solitary, poor, brutish, nasty and short. It was a life of the survival of the fittest. Might was right.. A period of enlightenment happened to sweep through planet earth. A group of people called the stoics were the first people to discuss their perception of the world and the role or place of Man. They claimed that human beings were masters of their own destiny.

Ancient philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato, wrote extensively on rights e.g. the contribution of Plato laid the foundation for the concept of a universal and external set of laws derived from and based on the dignity of the individual human beings. It was the Greek and Roman philosophers that first formulated natural law, that it was a universal law because it applies to everybody in the state irrespective of whether you are a citizen or not. It was superior to every positive law and embodied those principles of justice, which were apparent to the “eye of reason”.

According to Cicero, it is for universal application, unchangeable and everlasting… it is a sin to try and alter this law, nor is it allowable to try to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be free from its obligation by senate or people…And there will not be different laws at Rome or at Athens or different laws now and in the future ,but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and for all times. [1]

The concept of natural law suffered some setback in the 16th century due to the abolition of the new and emerging national states during that period. [2] It was revitalized in the 16th and 17th centuries by two factors. The first was the reformation which paved the way for religious struggle in Europe. This resulted in the demand for the natural rights of freedom of conscience and religious belief. Secondly was the doctrine of social contract. This was resorted to in order to strike a balance in the relationship between the individual and the community. In the work of John Locke, [3] before country or state existed, Man was free to do whatever he sought irrespective of others. An individual relinquished some of his rights to the community or country established and in return the individual’s rights are protected by the government.

In the 19th century, human rights became a central concern over the issue of slavery. A number of reformers such as Williams Wilberforce in Britain worked towards the abolition of slavery. The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 achieved this in the British Empire. The huge losses of life and gross abuses of human rights that took place during the First and Second World wars were a driving force behind the development of modern human rights instruments

Modern international conception of human rights as earlier stated can be traced to the aftermath of World War II and the foundation of the United Nations. [4] The United Nations was formed after the failure of the League of Nations to maintain world peace. It ushered in a new era in the promotion and protection of human rights. Article 1(3) of the United Nations Charter set out one of the purposes of the United Nations thus “Achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. [5]Determined to forestall any future repeat of the bestiality of the past, the UN, through its Economic and Social Council, established the UN Commission on Human Rights, [6] charged with submitting reports and proposal on an international bill of rights. After a long and heated debate over the nature of the proposed bill, [7] the commission in 1948 adopted a draft Declaration that, in turn, was adopted by the UN General Assembly as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). [8] It contained both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Since the inauguration of the forth republic in May 1999, after many years of military rule, cases of human rights violations have ironically been on the increase. Rights are breached with reckless abandon. Many innocent lives have been lost because of the impunity that rights are been violated and no opportunity to redress them even with the legislation of enforcement of fundamental human rights.

The rights of the citizens that are clearly spelt out in the constitution have only become a right a paper and not in practice. Fear, despondency, suspicion, and loss of confidence pervade the polity. People are losing their lives and properties to the government and terrorists. Institutions and governmental agencies which should be role models in enforcing and upholding the fundamental human rights are the ones spearheading the abuse, intimidation and atrocities.

The future seems uncertain and bleak considering the fact that it seems as if animals have more rights protection than human beings do, no one is left out in this unholy acts including lawyers who are intimidated on daily basis by security agents and personnel’s.

This work therefore seeks to highlight the fundamental human rights of the citizens and possible ways in order to enhance the protection and enforcement of such rights. If the violations and abuses are not annihilated we would return to the state of nature in which man lived before the social contract where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. [12]

1.3 Research Questions

The researcher adduced the following questions to guide the conduct of the study:

1. What are the legal frameworks for enforcing and protecting fundamental human rights in Nigeria?

2. Who are responsible for the enforcement and protection of fundamental human rights in Nigeria?

3. What are the challenges facing the enforcement and protection of fundamental human rights in Nigeria?

1.4 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of the study was to appraise the enforcement of fundamental human rights in Nigeria. The specific objectives of the study were to:

1. assess the legal frame works aimed at enforcing and protecting fundamental human rights in Nigeria.

2. identify the institutions and bodies that are responsible for the enforcement and protection of fundamental human rights in Nigeria.

3. identify the challenges facing the enforcement and protection of fundamental human rights in Nigeria

1.5 Research Methodology

The study adopts the doctrinal design. Reliance was placed on primary and secondary sourced materials. The primary sources include the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure 2009). While the secondary source materials include: textbooks written by foreign and Nigerian authors, law reports, journals articles, materials relevant to the subject matters and dictionaries.

1.6 Significance of the Study

This research work is significant at this material time because of the many challenges people are undergoing in Nigeria in the course of the enforcement of their fundamental human rights. This research work will be of immense help to the following group of individuals;

This research work will be of immense help to the researcher, as it will help him to know more about his fundamental human rights, the various legal frameworks governing the fundamental human rights, its enforcement and its limitations in Nigeria and beyond.

This research work will also be of immense benefit to the legislators in enacting laws that will guide and enhance the quick enforcement of the fundamental rights of citizens when breached.

1.7 Scope and Limitations

This research is intended to concentrate on Nigeria. It will not be restricted to any particular government agency but cover all governmental agencies established for the protection and enforcement of the fundamental human rights in Nigeria. To this end, the research will review generally the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure 2009) and other legislation on fundamental human rights and the attitude of the government towards its enforcement. The work gives a general overview of the rights of citizens enshrined in the constitution, the legal frameworks that aids in the enforcement of such rights and various challenges faced during their enforcement.

My major limitations while carrying out this research work includes but not limited to; time lapse, the death of a dear one during my research and the uncooperative nature of some of the librarians at various libraries that was visited.

1.8 Literature Review

Kayode Eso, [13] made a brief explanation on the concept of human rights and theories. To him, to understand human rights, there is need to go back to history of notable antecedents e.g. the great Britain, the Romans and the American experience. He also looked at the theories on the origin of human rights from the perspective of religion, morality, and divinity in brief. His analysis is limited, without mentioning the group of people who first developed the idea of human rights. This work elaborates on the development of human rights with critical analysis of philosophers.

Dalhatu in his book discussed fundamental rights, problems of limitation on fundamental rights, distinction between human rights and fundamental rights. In his analysis of fundamental right, the author did not contemplate the provision of Chapter II of the Constitution which is the fundamental objectives and directive principles of State policy as a fundamental right and unjusticiable. The author only gave priority to Chapter IV of the Constitution. [14]

1.9 Synopsis of Chapters

This research work is divided into five chapters.

Chapter one provides a general introduction of fundamental human rights, background of the study, it sets out the research questions, statement of the problem, aim and objectives of the study, research methodology, significance of the study, scope and limitation, literature review, synopsis of chapters and definition of terms.

Chapter two assesses the legal frameworks for the enforcement and protection of fundamental human rights in Nigeria.

Chapter three deals with the enforcement of fundamental human rights in Nigeria.

Chapter four captures the challenges to the enforcement of fundamental human rights in Nigeria.

Chapter five provides a summary of findings, recommendations and conclusion of the study.

1.10 Definition of Terms

In definitions, we must understand that every definition is as good as any other definition and every definition is as bad as any other definition.

However, for a succinct understanding of the essence of this long essay, some of the terms that we used in this long essay will be discussed under this heading.

Appraisal: A judgement of the value, performance or nature of somebody/something. To appraise means to consider or examine something/somebody and form an opinion about them or it. [20]

Challenges: This is a new or difficult task that tests somebody’s ability and skill. [21] When someone refuses to accept that someone or something is right or legal. [22]

Constitution: This is an instrument of government made by the people, establishing the structure of a country, regulating the powers and functions of government, the rights and duties of the individual and providing remedies for unconstitutional acts e.g. the 1999 Constitution as amended. [23]

Enforcement: The act of compelling compliance with a law, mandate, command, decree or agreement. [24]

Fundamental Rights: Fundamental rights according to Femi Falana are different from human rights. They are any of the rights provided for in Chapter IV of the constitution and the Africa Charter on human and People’s rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9 Laws of Nigerian 2004. [25] However, the confusion associated with the difference between “human rights” and “fundamental rights” has been removed in Nigeria. [26]

Human Rights: “Human rights” are defined as ‘the freedoms, immunities, benefits, that according to modern values especially at an international level, all human beings should be able to claim as a matter of right in the society which they live’. [27] Human Rights are the inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled to simply because he or she is a human being. [28] What makes them fundamental is that the constitution declared them to be so, and not because the rights are inherently fundamental. These fundamental rights are therefore an aspect of human rights and should be correctly seen in that light and must be properly distinguished from human rights. [29]The case of Enahoro & Ors v. Abacha & Ors [30] reveals that when these human rights are enshrined in the constitution, they are usually referred to as fundamental rights. human rights can be seen as legal rights conferred on individuals and group of individuals by law and such rights are regarded as inalienable, interdependent, inherent and indivisible because they are based on the principles of law, namely equality and non discrimination.

Issues: A point in dispute between two or more parties. Or a problem or worry that someone has with something.

Justiciable: This pertains to a case or dispute properly brought before a court of justice or capable of being disposed judicially.

Sedition: This crime is defined as the act of publishing verbally or otherwise any words or document with the intention of exciting disaffection, hatred or contempt against the sovereign. These words tend to encourage people to rise or oppose a constituted authority or government.

The Press: According to Nwabueze, the press is not an institution comprising special members, it is simply a vehicle, an organ for the dissemination of ideas or opinions to the public…a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical is a business and has to be manned by workers, but its use for dissemination of ideas or opinions is open to the public at large. The protection needed is not for the workers as such but for access to the medium by any person for the dissemination of information and ideas. [31]The press must be idolized. She seeks the truth and makes sure justice is dispensed. She goes through the topsy-turvy situation to inform the society. For an “informed society is a liberal society.” The press is the chief strategist; she sets agenda for the public. She invariably, is the family, the community, and the society at large. But, should she continue to suffer when the “body of law” exists? Should not “the document” seek to protect her? Should not the “library of principles” grant her autonomy in gathering news, investigating hidden facts, interpreting the facts, interviewing sources and disseminating it to the ever-information-conscious public? The society is ultimately the loser when the press is gradually emasculated by the oppressive environment in which it operates.


[1] M. Odje, (1986), Human Rights ,Civil, Political, Social, Economic, and cultural their Place and Protection in the Future Political Order, in Nigerian Bar Journal,vol.21, August P.87

[2] Ibid pg.2

[3]O. L Ige, (1999), Human Right Made Easy (3rd Edition), Legal Research and Resource Development Centre, Lagos . P. 16

[4]H.L. Peacock, A History of Modern Europe 1889-1979 (six edition), Heinemann Educational Book, Hong Kong, p.445-458.

[5] Article 1(3) United Nations Charter.

[6]Made up of 18 representatives of different countries, with Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the then President of America as the chair person. This Commission has been dissolved and the Human Rights Council, established by GA resolution 60/251 of 15 March, 2006, is now charged with addressing human rights violations.

[7]While some representatives urged that the draft bill of rights should take the form of a declaration, that is a recommendation that would merely exert moral and political influence on member states rather than a legally binding instrument, others urged for a draft convention, containing a bill of rights that would be adopted by the General Assembly and submitted to members for ratification.

[8]On 10 Dec., 1948, with 48 states voting in favour, and 8 abstaining: Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Soviet Union with 4 East European states and one Soviet republic whose votes it controlled.

[9]O Gye-Wado, (1999), The Rule of Admissibility under the African Charter on Human and Peoples‟ Right, 3 RADIC, 742-743.

[10] Ibid

[11] O Gye-Wado, January,(1993),The African Charter ;its implementation in Nigeria-Problems and Prospects, Presented at a Workshop on the process and Human Rights in Nigeria, Jointly Organized by the CLO and the NUJ, Abuja, 27-28 P.4

[12] Thomas Hobbes [1588-1679], in his book the ‘Levithan’ cited by D. Lyold and M.D. Freeman, Introduction to Jurisprudence, 8th ed., (London: sweet& Maxwell, 2008) p. 106

[13] K. Eso, (2008),Thoughts on Human Rights and Education, Paul’s Publishing House, Oke- Ado, Ibadan

[14] M.B, Dalhatu (2008),What is Constitutional Law, Sacombuc,Zaria.

[15] N.M Jmao, (2000),Human Rights in Nigeria: Law and Practice,(Unpublished PhD Dissertation),Faculty of Law , Ahmadu Bello University ,Zaria.

[16]Jadesola A. O,(1982), Introduction to the Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1979,Sweet and Maxwell, London.

[17]P. Olumide, (1992),Introduction to Nigerian Constitution, Evans Brother, Ibadan

[18]C. Tom and G. David.etal,(1986),Human Rights From Rhetoric to reality, Basil Blackwell, Oxford ,UK

[19]T.L Mohammed,(1999),Introduction to International Humanitarian Laws, Ahmadu Bello University Press, Zaria

[20] A.S Hornby Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition (Oxford University Press), P. 59

[21]Ibid P. 230

[22] Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 6th ed. (Pearson Education Limited), P.263

[23]E.Malemi., The Nigerian Constitutional Law, 3rd ed. (Princeton Publishing Co., Ikeja, 2012), p. 2

[24] Ibid pg.608

[25] F. Falana, Fundamental Rights Enforcement in Nigeria, 2nd ed., (Lagos: Legal text, 2010) pp.7-8.

[26] Order 1 of the 2009 Fundamental Enforcement Procedure

[27] Bryan, op.cit,p.758

[28]G. Umar., Historical Rights of Women in Nigeria (Lagos: Fillers publishers, 1996)p.26

[29] Please note that these fundamental rights are no more “fundamental” than the second and third categories of human rights.

[30] (1998) 1 H.R.L.R.A. 424

[31] B.O.Nwabueze, Constitutionalism in the Emergent States, (London Hurst & Co. 1973) p.328.


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