Evaluating The Effectiveness Of Human Right Law In Nigeria

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Evaluating The Effectiveness Of Human Right Law In Nigeria


Abstract


This study aimed at examining the legal framework for the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Nigeria in relation to the existing constitutive international instruments on human rights. In this regard, the sources of information relied upon here are relevant text materials, articles in journal publication, judicial authorities, conference papers, newspapers, magazines and internet materials. However, the justification for this research is that “human rights” in Nigeria has become not only a topical issue but the language of both the oppressors and the oppressed, yet little is known of its meaning and ramification. For example the right to fair hearing is not exclusive to either the accused or the prosecution. Does fair hearing means opportunity to be heard or the inalienable right to be heard? Further the denial of economic rights of human being which is presently being experienced in Nigeria is tantamount to denial of right to life because it is this means of livelihood that keeps a man alive. This unfortunate event is quite worrisome and constituted the statement of problem of this research because consequently there is moral decadence, corruption, lack of patriotisms and insecurity in Nigeria. On this note, the finding of this research (among others) was that there existed a weak institutional infrastructure for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria. For example there is no specific law regulating the activities of non-government human rights organizations. Although it must be mentioned here that a bill to that effect is pending before the National Assembly. Finally, it was recommended that various governmental bodies in Nigeria must be strengthened and made effective by specific regulatory Act especially the National Human Rights Commission.


Chapter One


General Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

This work examines the effectiveness of Human Rights in Nigeria. The importance attached to the concept of human rights has assumed phenomenal dimension since the Second World War when it became clear that universal respect for human rights is Condicio sine qua non for world peace and process. At the local level, the malevolent dictatorship of military juntas sensitized Nigerians to their human rights and the need to defend them. This era of military dictatorship also witnessed an upsurge in the emergence of non-governmental human rights organization across the country particularly in the South.

The expression “human rights” in its widest connotation embraces those civil, political, economic, social, cultural, group, solidarity, and developmental rights which are considered indispensable to a meaningful human existence. “Right”, here is used in composite sense and not in the strict legal sense. Legal human rights are those human rights that are guaranteed by positive law (lexlata). Thus, OsitaEze defines human rights as representing demands or claims which individuals or groups make on society some of which are protected by law and have become part of ex latawhile others remain aspirations to be attained in future.

Human rights are inherent rights to be enjoyed by all human beings of the global village and not gifts to be withdrawn, withheld or granted at some one‟s whim or will. In this sense, they are said to be inalienable, imprescriptible. If they are removed from any human being, he will become less than human. They are part of the very nature of human being, and attach to all human being everywhere in all societies, but as much as do his arms and legal, Constitutions and other codes do not create human rights but declare and preserve existing rights, perhaps, this is why statutory provisions for the first generation human rights are couched in negative terms, for example, to say that no person shall be deprived of his personal liberty pre-supposes that personal liberty is an existing right.

However, the justification for this research is that “human rights” has become not only a topical issue in Nigeria but the language of both the oppressors and the oppressed. Yet little is known of its meaning and ramifications because practically human rights is not fully observed in Nigeria. This is evident in the fact of recent Nigeria has witnessed serious breaches of Human Rights such as the kidnapping, abductions, unjust killing and terrorist attacks. On this note the objective of this research is to identify reasons for the occurrence of these events in relation to the adequacy or otherwise of the provisions of the existing laws in Nigeria.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Principal statement of problem in this research is that in Nigeria there is gross and massive violation of people‟s right have led to total lost of confidence in the government by her citizenry. For example the senses of insecurity have led to individuals devising private means of protection. The consequence is total disrespect for the government.

Another related problem is the denial of economic right of human beings is tantamount to denial of right to life because it is the means of livelihood that keep a man alive, deprived a man of his right of livelihood and you shall have deprived him of his life. The consequence is moral decadence corruption, lack of patriotism and insecurity.
In Nigeria, if there is anything lacking to the implementation, protection and enforcement of international human rights laws within the local level, this research will bring it out and at the end make suggestion and recommendations in its conclusion.


1.3 Scope and Limitation of the Research

The scope of this research is confined to the following:

  1. An examination of the various constitutive international, regional and domestic legal frameworks on Human Rights.
  2. To examine whether the non-governmental human rights organizations are actually serving the interest of the down trodden in society.
  3. An examination of the adequacy of the various institutional mechanism put in place for the enforcement of Human Rights in Nigeria.
  4. To examine the factors militating against the smooth operations of the institutional mechanism put in place in Nigeria (if any).
  5. To proffer solution to the factors identified in iv above.

1.4 Aim and Objectives of the Research

This research aims at examining the legal framework for the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Nigeria in relation to the existing constitutive international, regional and domestic instruments on human rights.

In this regard, the objectives of the research are as follows:

  1. To identify the adequacy or otherwise of the existing legal framework and institutional mechanism relating to human rights in Nigeria.
  2. To identify the challenges arising from the implementation of the law and the limitations of the institutional mechanism put in place for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria
  3. To proffer practical measures to the challenges and limitations identified in the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria in order to ensure an efficient observance in Nigeria.

1.5 Research Methodology

Analysis of reality of which the research deserves ultimately depends on the methodological preference of the research. Appropriately, here, this research work is based on doctrinal method. In this regard, the sources of data include primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources include, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, judicial authorities while secondary sources includes journals, textbooks, magazines, conference materials and newspapers


1.6 Literature Review

Of course, a topical and controversial topic of this nature cannot be successfully undertaken without recourse to authorities who have distinguished themselves in this area of research. At the heart of this methodology is established works, and many of such works have been consulted for this research work.

For instant, the following are some authors who have written on the Human Rights Treaties. Some actually wrote on the implementation of International Human Rights while others did not look into the implementation or enforcement of Human Rights Treaties. But their contributions on Human Rights will greatly enhance the content and value of this work.

Ladan, M. T., in his book highlights the understanding of the concept of human rights generally which the writer finds useful in definition of terminologies, such as: the difference between Ladan‟s work and this research is that the former was focused on international instrument on Human Rights while the latter is on the practical implementation of Human Rights in Nigeria.

Tabiu, M. in his Article discussed several practical measures needed for protection of Human Right in Nigeria which the writer also finds to be important to this Dissertation as far as implementation is concerned.

The books of Falana, F., and D. J. Harris have been found useful in the filed of International Human Rights Instrument.

The book of Dakas, D. C. J., is specifically relevant in the area of the rights, duties and implementation of the African Charter. Whereas this research is based on implementation in Nigeria.

Shaw, M. N.,9 extensively discussed the first International Human Rights Instrument that is, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

On the whole this research focus on the practical implementation of human rights in Nigeria and the factors militating against such implementation in relation to the existing legal frameworks and institutional mechanism which have not been discussed extensively by any of the authors mentioned above.


1.7 Justification of the Research

This research is absolutely imperative due to the problem of gross and massive violation of rights of peoples as enumerated under the 1999 Constitution and other international human rights treaties ratified by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

All Nigerian citizen have a right to have their legal and constitutional rights recognized and transformed in to actual judicial remedies without which these rights remain theoretical and of no value. In this regard, the justification of this research is to the effect of creating the awareness that rights guaranteed under 1999 Constitution are to be made workable and effective. This research will further expose the hidden aspects of these rights which makes it eludes an ordinary Nigerian.

The research work is also intended to benefits students studying law in various institutions, and also the general public who suffers human rights abuses, legal practitioners in the advocacy of human right, the Nigeria Police Force who are relevant stakeholders of human rights, the courts in their adjudicatory process, law enforcement agent and other relevant stakeholders(be it government or non-government al agent) will find this work handy and easily understandable material as well as to enlighten the public on how to channel their complaint whenever their rights are being violated.


Chapter Five


Summary and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

This dissertation examined the role of non-governmental organization in the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria. In doing this, the dissertation examines in chapter one, the general introduction, the arm and objectives of the research, the scope of the research, research methodology and the organisational layout. The justification for the research is that “human rights” has become not only a topical issue in Nigeria but the language of both the oppressors and the oppressed. Yet little is known of its meaning and ramifications because practically human rights is not fully observed in Nigeria.

Chapter two discusses nature and scope of international human rights treaties. The definitions of human rights treaty. Universality and cultural relation were considered, the chapter also discusses philosophical foundation of human rights, jurisprudential basis of the evolution of Human Rights in global research. And historical development of human rights, the evolution of human rights in Nigeria, the contending perspective on human rights and the institutionalization of human rights at the international, regional and domestic levels were also examined.

Chapter three analyses the implementation of selected international treaties. The, international mechanisms and regional mechanism for the implementation of human rights protection under which the Implementation of African Charter on Human and Peoples‟ Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples‟ Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples‟ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and The ECOWAS Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights were examined.

Chapter four deals with the justiciable rights in Nigeria as it entrench in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended), the enforcement mechanism under the Nigerian Constitution with Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, and also discussed the Limitation of the Application of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.


5.2 Findings

In view of all that have been discussed in the preceding chapters, the following finding are made:

  1. In the course of this research, it was found that there exists a weak institutional infrastructure for human rights protection in Nigeria. Effective enforcement of human rights largely depends on the domestic machineries of the national government. It is for this reason that major international human rights instruments mandate state parties to take appropriate domestic measures to ensure the realization of the rights proclaimed. Although Nigeria, in recognition of its obligation as a signatory to major human rights instruments, has established relevant institutional mechanisms such as the courts and the National Human Rights Commission for human rights protection, regrettably, the mechanism are weak, and incapable of providing strong and effective platform to meaningfully discharge their mandates.
  2. The need for multifarious strategies and approaches to protection of human rights in Nigeria was also observed in the course of the work. In order to ensure effective implementation of human rights, wide-ranging strategies and approaches are required. Indeed, there is not enforcement mechanism which can exclusively and adequately ensure optimal human rights protection. This, thus make the role of NGOs, in the promotion and protection of human rights not only exclusive but very important and crucial.
  3. Impediments to the effectiveness of human Rights NGO is also an observation in the course of the research. Without doubt, human rights NGOs in Nigeria have not been able to fill the gap created by the near absence of executive agencies in human rights promotion and protection. There are some constraints in the efforts of NGOs in Nigeria towards the protection of human rights among which is access to justice. Access to justice connotes the availability of accessible affordable, comprehensible justice system, and the dispensation of justice fairly, speedily and without fear and favour. The issue of access to justice is a significant constraint to the effectiveness of human rights in NGOs. Access to justice has been denied through the use of what has been termed “negative legal” and “access curtailing devices” such as ouster clause, Limitation Acts, protection of public officer from suits, the doctrine of state immunity and dragon of Locus Standi. The doctrine of Locus Standiconstitutes a formidable if not insurmountable impediment to human rights NGOs in Nigeria.
  4. Non favourable political environment for NGOs human rights protection activities is another observation. It is no exaggeration to say that Nigerian‟s political environment is not only non receptive, but sxphatiatingly hostile of criticisms, even constructive ones. The role of human rights NGOs often constitutes irritation to governments for obvious reasons.
  5. Financial constraint on the part of the NGOs in Nigeria was also observed. Without doubt, the human rights protection activities of the NGOs require funding for any meaningful results. Many human rights activists in Nigeria, like their counterparts across the globe, are not men and women of means and affluence such that they can finance the activities of their respective NGOs from personal donations.

5.3 Recommendations

In line with the above outlined finding, the following recommendations are made for reform:

  1. Various governmental and quasi-governmental bodies established in Nigeria should ensure human rights promotion and protection are strengthened and made efficient and effective by specific regulatory Act. The Human Rights Commission especially must be further empowered legislatively to be able to adjudicate and give binding verdicts on issues bothering on human rights violations.
  2. The Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in Nigeria must be seen as regarded for what they are –Human Rights Protectors. The National Assembly should pass an Act which give any Human Rights NGO Locus Standi in any issues that relates to violation of human rights anywhere in Nigeria such that the NGOs can institute action for human rights violation on behalf of victim(s) without the hindrance of Locus Standi.
  3. Since human rights was better protected before violations and not after, NGOs in Nigeria should be proactive in their human rights protection and promotional activities. There should be a deliberate outreach to the rural communities where structural inhibitions account for gross human rights violations than experienced in urban areas. Human rights NGOs have mostly concentrated in urban centers and they often denounce human rights violations without offering suggestions. This limits their scope and value. It is therefore suggested that human rights NGOs must offer constructive suggestions in appropriate cases on how things can be done differently. Consequently, the NGOs must designed and pursue a more pragmatic and result oriented way of advancing the cause of human rights in Nigeria. It is by doing so that the current democratic experience may not be aborted and the fortunes of human rights meaningful.
  4. As regards issue of funding, NGOs in Nigeria should strengthen their relationship with their counterparts abroad and United Nations through some of its agencies e.g. World Health Organization (WHO). Grants from these international bodies which has over the years proven their strong dedication to promotion and protection of human rights will come handy. Nothing is wrong with taking grants from governments so long as such governmental grants will not stifle the activities of the NGO.
  5. It should be stressed however that the challenge to the legitimacy, credibility and accountability of human right NGOs has the capacity to blur their vision, action and efficiency, regardless of the good intentions of their leaders, and members. It is relevant to recall that it was once reported that some human rights organizations in Nigeria because of the crisis of confidence. It is therefore imperative to chart an agenda for reform in order to boaster the value of NGOs in human rights protection in Nigeria.

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