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Human Rights under the Nigerian Constitution






It may be apt to presume that every average Nigerian atleast has a clue about the concept of Human Rights. This is why, it is often heard from people making claims such as – it is my Right! I’ve my Right and some will even put it to you straight that you are trampling on their fundamental Rights, it is an affront to their Rights, and you violate their Human Rights and so many other claims and declarations as the case may be.

 However, the questions that keep boiling each time the concept of Human Rights is put forward to the legal tables for discussion are;  

Does it mean, every claim made by Citizens in Nigeria under the umbrella of Rights stands as arights they are entitled to?
Are all these claims legally and judicially recognized such that their enforcement can be sought in all Rights and for its enforcement and protection by institutions?
What is the scope of Human Rights?
What are Human Rights?
Who is entitled for these rights?

This work seeks amongst other things attempt to provide answers to the above highlighted mind blowing questions about the concept of Human Rights.

Human Rights are those Rights which no one may be deprived of without an affront to justice. They are referred to as freedom, which should never be denied, and Rights which are sacred to human.

The most pragmatic definition this work would adopt will be the one proffered by the basic law as, HumanRights are those Rights that have been legislated upon and provided for in a statute which the court will enforce in a state.

The above definition as provided by the law shows thatfor one to claim that he has a Right, such Right so claimed must have been legislated upon and should not just be a mere expression of what it ought to be. In this line, the law further confirms that such right can be denied when necessary.

Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides for Rights available to citizens and can be enforced within the court system as seen under Section 46 of the saidConstitution. This is because the rightsare deemed as Fundamental, hence, the name Fundamental Rights and by this very fact, the law seems to have open a gate of our courts for consideration of matters bordering on this topical issue.

However, it is noted that those rights as provided in chapter 2 which are fundamental objectives and directive principles of State Policy are generally taken not to be within the ambit of Rights to be enforceable by law.

It is observed that by the same Constitution, where one indicate a peculiar interest in the said rights, he mustprove so by providing other sections of the law to claim that Right.

It appears from the preceding position that under the Nigerian justice system, two qualifications of rights exists. That is the justiciable (rights under Chapter 4) and nonjusticiable (rights under Chapter 2).  

Thedichotomy between justiciable and nonjusticiable Rights has received judicial blessings as well. Thus, inthe case of Uzouku V. Ezeonu, it was stated that it is only the Rights within the purview of Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution that fall under the jurisdiction of the court to enforce. All the Rights in Chapter 2 are not within the ambit of the Court to enforce except provided for elsewhere aside chapter two in the Constitution or Legislated into Law by the National Assembly. See the case of Olaniyi V. Aroyehumwhere the Supreme Court held that chieftaincy is not a matter within fundamental Rights provisions, as there is no such right to be a Chief.


Gathering from the foregoing, it suffices to state that the concept of Human Rights is beyond the claims of right to life, freedom of expression etc”. It goes on to touch on the question of what scope of the rights that is available to citizens, and in what circumstances these rights can be taken away from the citizens as provided in s. 45 of the Constitution.



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