10 Basic Facts That Everyone Must Know About Human Rights

If there’s any country where everybody ought to know their rights, Nigeria is number one! This is a country where law enforcement agents deliberately violate people’s rights because they know that majority of the people is ignorant. Poverty is another major factor why people, even when they know their rights, may decide not to challenge the action of anyone who violates their rights in court. They leave the violator to God as if there is no law to deal with such situations on earth.

There are a lot of people too who take delight in violating other people’s rights because of their relatively advantaged positions in society. For example, some landlords prefer to use law enforcement agents to harass a tenant who owes rents, instead of going to court to eject the tenant or at times some landlords take law into their hands by throwing the property of a owing tenant out without a court order.

Another instance of rights abuse that’s common in Nigeria is to force people to join an association. This is a clear case of human rights abuse because everybody has the right to decide whether to belong to an association or not. Nobody can be forced to belong to any union or association.

There are a lot of rights abuses going on daily in our society and that’s why it’s advisable for you to note the following points carefully:

1. Human rights are natural gifts from God to man. They are not gifts from any government; governments simply recognise the rights and provide framework to guard against their abuses. This is what the late Fela Kuti meant when he sang “Human rights na my property. So therefore, you can’t dash me my property. Human rights na my property. Dey wan dash us human rights.”

2. Only rights that are contained in the Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria can be fought for in a court of law, if they are violated either by a private person or a government official e.g. a police officer.

3. The rights that the Constitution provides for are –

    a. right to life
    b. right to dignity of human person
    c. right to personal liberty
    d. right to fair hearing
    e. right to private and family life
    f. right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
    g. right to freedom of expression and the press
    h. right to peaceful assembly and association
    i.  right to freedom of movement
    j. right to freedom from discrimination
    k. right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria
l. right to compensation in case of compulsory acquisition of private property by government.

4. Either government or individual who violates a person’s rights can be sued. Nobody or government is above being sued by anybody whose rights have been or are being or are about to be violated.

5. The Nigerian Bar Association has a standing committee on human rights that renders free legal services to poor persons who are victims of human rights abuses.

6. There are also private lawyers who render free legal services to poor or vulnerable persons. Some human rights organisations and non-governmental organisations render similar services.

7. Non-lawyers or any third party can file actions in court on behalf of victims of human rights abuses in order to redress such abuses.

8. Any person whose rights are abused can make monetary claims in court against his/her abuser.

9. Whenever any person is arrested or detained by security agencies in relation to civil matters, it is a case of rights abuse and can be challenged in a law court.

10. All the rights listed in number 3 above are for all Nigerians, whether rich or poor, employed or unemployed, children or adults, able or disabled. However, some of the rights can’t be enjoyed by non-Nigerians living in Nigeria. One of such rights is right to freedom of movement. It should be noted that there’s nothing like right to food, housing, medical care or education in Nigeria. Therefore, anybody who is in dire need of any of such necessities of life can’t sue the government to provide it.

Written By Kehinde ADEGBITE Esq

NOTE – If you desire to know what each of the rights means, go and get a copy of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and read it thoroughly.