Every Nigerian has rights, duties, liabilities and privileges entrenched under various existing laws. However, certain rights are constitutionally guaranteed under Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, these rights are referred to as Inalienable rights.
This article seeks to educate the readers on the various fundamental human rights under Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution and its limitations if any.
- RIGHT TO LIFE (Section 33)
Every person has a right to life, however, this right can be deprived in the following circumstances:
- In the execution of a sentence of Court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
- if he dies as a result of a force reasonably used from unlawful violence or for the defence of property;
- to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or,
- to suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.
- RIGHT TO DIGNITY (Section 34)
Every individual is entitled to the dignity of his person. No person shall be subject to torture, slavery or be required to perform forced labour.
- RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIBERTY (Section 35)
Every person shall be entitled to his/her personal liberty save in the following circumstances:
- in the execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty;
- because he failed to comply with the order of a court or to secure the fulfilment of any obligation imposed upon him by law;
- to bring him before a court in execution of the order of a court or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence;
- in the case of a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years, for his education or welfare;
- in the case of persons suffering from infectious or contagious disease, persons of unsound mind, persons addicted to drugs or alcohol or vagrants, for their care or treatment or the protection of the community;
Any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice. Also, any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed within twenty-four hours (and in a language that he understands) of the facts and grounds for his arrest or detention
- RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING (Section 36)
A person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
However, a Court or such Tribunal may exclude from its proceedings persons other than the parties thereto or their legal practitioners in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, the welfare of persons who have not attained the age of eighteen years, the protection of the private lives of the parties or to such extent as it may consider necessary because of special circumstances in which publicity would be contrary to the interests of justice;
Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.
No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed.
No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.
- RIGHT TO PRIVACY AND FAMILY LIFE (Section 37)
The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.
- RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF THOUGHT CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION (Section 38)
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
However, this right does not entitle any person to form, take part in the activity or be a member of a secret society.
- RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND PRESS (Section 39)
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference
However, this right can be limited for:
- the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or
- imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law.
- RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION (Section 40)
Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.
However, it shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission concerning political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition.
- RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT (Section 41)
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom except in the following circumstances:
- imposing restrictions on the residence or movement of any person who has committed or is reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence to prevent him from leaving Nigeria;
- be tried outside Nigeria for any criminal offence; or
(ii) undergo imprisonment outside Nigeria in the execution of the sentence of a court of law in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty.
- RIGHT TO FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION
A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person –
- be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the Government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or,
- be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.
No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely because of the circumstances of his birth.
ENFORCEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS
The Fundamental Right (Enforcement Procedures) Rules 2009 made pursuant to Section 46 (3) of the constitution is the principal rule governing the practice and procedure for enforcement of Human Rights in Nigeria. The rule provides that any person who alleges that any of the fundamental rights has been or is likely to be infringed may apply to the Court for redress. The appropriate court is the High Court (State or Federal).
The 1999 Constitution makes provisions for certain constitutionally guaranteed rights under Chapter IV, however, these rights are subject to certain limitations. Hence, the Fundamental Human rights entrenched in the Constitution are not absolute.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.