Human Rights that can Never be Restricted Even in War, Pandemic or State of Emergency. Daily Law Tips (Tip 539) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)
There are several rights in Nigeria; animal rights, civil rights, human rights and students rights, etc. Human rights are special free rights owned by human beings for just being human. Human rights are natural and human beings cannot exist without them. Some human rights are very fundamental and have been classified so. Fundamental human rights are enshrined (engraved) into the Constitution of Nigeria, making it hard (in some cases impossible) for them to be restricted, suspended, amended, altered or violated except as clearly provided in constitution.
Law makers are like programmers, coding and designing programs with a mind to avoid and provide for lapses and futuristic gaps. The Constitution of Nigeria makes few exceptional situations where fundamental human rights can be restricted. So, restriction/suspension of fundamental human rights can only be done in line with the constitution of Nigeria, by the constitutionally appointed person, for the constitutionally recognized reasons and through the constitutional procedures. Anything short of this, is not a lawful restriction rather a violation of fundamental human rights. Every violation of human rights can be compensated by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The fundamental human rights contained in the constitution of Nigeria are: Right to Life, Right to Dignity of Human Person, Right to Personal Liberty, Right to Fair Hearing, Right to Private and Family Life, Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press, Rights to Peacful Assembly and Association, Right to Freedom of Movement, Right to Freedom from Discrimination and then, Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property anywhere in Nigeria.
By the Constitution of Nigeria, fundamental human rights can be restricted only in two situations. They are;
1.) Where there is a federal or state law restricting fundamental human rights but is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public good, public health or public safety. This situation/option can only restrict the following six (6) fundamental human rights; Right to Private and Family Life, Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press, Rights to Peacfull Assembly and Association, Right to Freedom of Movement and Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property anywhere in Nigeria.
2.) Where the President of Nigeria makes a proclamation of state of emergency across Nigeria or for some specific states, subject to subsequent approval of such proclamation by the National Assembly. This situation/option can limit only the below eight (8) fundamental human rights: Rights to Life, Right to Personal Liberty, Right to Private and Family Life, Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press, Rights to Peacfull Assembly and Association, Right to Freedom of Movement and Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property anywhere in Nigeria.
Above all, by the constitution of Nigeria, there are three (3) specific fundamental human rights that cannot and will never be restricted, suspended, limited or suppressed by any law, Act, regulation, executive orders, Presidential directives/proclamation, person, court, government, institution, organization or security agency in or outside Nigeria. Even during wars, periods of state of emergencies, natural disasters, natural calamities, pandemics and public health crisis, the four specific fundamental human rights cannot be restricted. The rights are: Right to Dignity of Human Persons, Right to Freedom from Discrimination and under the Right to Fair Hearing is the Right not to held guilty of a non-existing offence or to be imposed heavier penalties contrary to law. These fundamental human rights are expressly exempted or omitted from the restriction on and derogation from fundamental human rights in the constitution.
The writer is not unaware of COVID-19 pandemic and governments interventions to end it. The security and welfare of the good people of Nigeria are the primary purpose of government, however government must be lawful and law abiding in achieving such purpose. It is advised that constitutional procedures and statutory processes should be engaged at all times to avoid causing more problems in attempting to solve one. We must conquer COVID-19 without violating fundamental human rights of Nigerians. Stay at Home and Stay Healthy.
1. Sections 14, 20, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 305, 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
2. The Supreme Court decisions in the case of ADEGBENRO v. AG OF THE FEDERATION & ORS (1962) LPELR-25118(SC)
3. The Supreme Court decision in the case of WILLIAMS v. MAJEKODUNMI (No.2)(1962) LPELR-25044(SC)
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