The Enforcement of Fundamental Rights in Nigeria

Fundamental rights are rights that are protected by the constitution from violation. While human rights are inherent to all people regardless of their personal, social or religious conditions, fundamental rights are specifically identified in a constitution as requiring a high degree of protection. They are fundamental because they are important to the dignity and liberty of individual life that they should be beyond any political process. The breach of any fundamental right will necessitate its enforcement in court. These rights however are not absolute, there are exceptions to them.

The rights are contained in Chapter IV of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) from sections 33 to 46. They include:

  1. Right to life
  2. Right to dignity of human person
  3. Right to personal liberty
  4. Right to fair hearing
  5. Right to private and family life
  6. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  7. Right to freedom of expression and the press
  8. Right to peaceful assembly and association
  9. Right to freedom of movement
  10. Right to freedom from discrimination
  11. Right to acquire and own immovable properties anywhere in Nigeria
  12. Compulsory acquisition of property
  13. Restrictions on and derogation from fundamental rights
  14. Special jurisdiction of High Court and legal aid

Enforcement of Fundamental rights

Enforcement of fundamental rights in Nigeria is governed by the Fundamental Right (Enforcement Procedures) Rules 2009. The Rules provide for the practice and procedure in the determination of fundamental right actions.

By Order 2, Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules,

any person who alleges that any of the fundamental rights provided for in the Constitution and to which he is entitled, has been, is being or is likely to be infringed may, apply to the court in the state where the infringement occurs or is likely to occur for redress”.

Thus where there is a violation or likely to be a violation of fundamental rights, the individual involved can proceed to court to seek redress of the violation or prevention of the likely violation.

As provided by the 1999 constitution the High court (state or federal) has jurisdiction over fundamental right actions but only to the extent of subject matters within the particular court’s jurisdiction.

Challenges in enforcement of fundamental rights

Generally, there are challenges in the administration of justice system in Nigeria as well as in the enforcement of fundamental right claims. One of which is ignorance or lack of knowledge and awareness by citizens of these fundamental rights. Another major challenge of enforcement of fundamental rights is the problem of poverty. Nigeria as a developing country has more than half of its citizens living in poverty and so many victims of fundamental right abuse cannot afford the cost of legal representation in court to enforce their rights. The resultant effect of these challenges is that perpetrators fundamental rights abuses mostly go unpunished.

By Adeola Oyinlade & Co.

Note: The content of this article is anticipated to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Adeola Oyinlade & Co provides help and offers advisory to both local and foreign clients on human rights enforcement in Nigeria.

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