Know Your Right Series (Part 3c)

Know Your Right Series (Part 3c)

Know Your Right Series (Part 3c) All Nigerians Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others. 

By Fejiro Ogheneare.

The topic for this sub-part of the Know Your Rights’ series, was adapted from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It is not an attempt to liken the state of Nigeria today to the state of affairs presented in the famous political satire. Rather, it is with the intent of highlighting an often overlooked character of the law. 

We are quick to reckon with the impartiality of the law, but in order to protect the rights of the masses the law confers on a few —the political leaders —more rights, more privileges and certain protections that it does not give to the masses.

Let us once again look at section 42 (3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. Paraphrased, it states that irrespective of what section 42 (1) provides, certain restrictions abide with respect to appointment into public offices, the Armed Forces and other government parastatals. 

What this simply means is that although there is the guarantee of the right to freedom from discrimination, it is a limited right. To protect the interests of the public, the law exempts some classes of persons from attaining certain levels of public office. This is discriminatory, but it is permitted by law because it is done in the interest of the public.

A good illustration is the forthcoming 2023 presidential elections. From amongst all the presidential candidates, have you seen an eighteen year old, or a twenty year old candidate? No! Despite the emphasis on youth participation in political governance, you cannot see a  twenty-five year old presidential aspirant. Why? Because the Constitution stipulates that the President of Nigeria must have attained the age of 40 years. It appears discriminatory on the surface but the law upholds it notwithstanding, because it is in the public’s interest that the nation’s leader is old enough to pilot its’affairs.

Another twist to this exception of the right to freedom from discrimination is that the law does not only impose restrictions, it also confers privileges and powers on some persons that are not accorded to the ordinary citizen. This is ordinarily discriminatory but it is to enable such persons carry out their duties effectively.

Several examples of this can be found in the Constitution, such as section 308 (1) which states that no person who that section refers to shall be required to appear before any court during their tenure, or be arrested or Imprisoned during that period. The technical word for this privilege is ‘Immunity’. It refers to a privilege given to some people which exempts them from certain situations or conditions. The section applies to the President of the Federation and the Vice president and though it is discriminatory, it is to help them perform their duties effectively.

In conclusion, it is important to note that all exemptions to the Right to freedom from discrimination must be to secure a greater good for the greatest number of people. Otherwise, it is a demonstration of political tyranny similar to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

This wraps it up for the Right to freedom from discrimination. I really hope you learnt something. If you did, please leave a comment. Also anticipate an article and a video on how to enforce your rights at the close of this series. Stay tuned so you don’t miss it.

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