Concise Paper on the Universality of Human Right and the Nigerian Experience (2016).

Owing to the flagrant abuse of human dignity and fundamental rights 'including the Jewish holocaust', the nations of the world, especially, the nation's that fought and suffered most from the effects of the world wars(1914-1918 & 1939-1945) decided and were resolute to make long lasting peace, accord themselves equal respect and maintain cordiality.

Hence, the establishment of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) in 1945; and the further establishment/enactment of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights(UNDHR), in 1948.

Before the passage of the UNDHR, an 18 member committee was set up, headed by Eleanor ,the widow of the then USA president, Donald T. Roosevelt.
The committee was charged with drafting and fashioning out the bill and to submit the report to the General Assembly for enactment.

However, the performance of the committee was impeded by disputes and disagreements from countries with diverse socio-poliltical, economic and concept of 'Right' views.
For example, the Chinese wanted the philosophy of Confucius to be included in the document, the Catholics wanted the teachings of Thomas Acquinas to be included, the Soviets wanted the philosophy of Karl Marx to be included, the Americans wanted the American Bill if rights to be included. This various views brought about disparity and mired the drafting of the Human rights Document, which was to be the first document introducing the universality of the concept of Human rights (as being inherent in man).

After much deliberations, 30 articles(including right to life, dignity, liberty, etc) were finally agreed upon by the committee and sent to the General Assembly for enactment and it was enacted in 10th June, 1948. (this document became a benchmark/standard for the concept and enforceability of human rights in nations and will further lead to the development and enactment of the international covenant of civil and political rights and international covenant of of social economic and cultural right.
However, it's not surprising that countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, etc abstained from the process. These countries, since time immemorial till present, are known for their flagrant abuse of human rights and most especially the right of women.

Standing on the above established facts, it's mind-boggling that the same Saudi Arabia were made Chair of the UN centre of Human Rights, sometime ago.
During this period, notwithstanding international condemnation and plea's, the Arab Kingdom carried out public be headings of accused persons, amongst other savage acts of abuse of Human rights.
Such is the height of hypocrisy. The act alone was an insult and an affront to the sanctity and concept of Human Right.

In Nigeria, the concept and development of human rights has been impeded by arbitrary laws, autocratic regimes and corruption in the Judiciary. In Ransome-Kuti V. AG Federation, the plaintiff was utterly beaten by the military and security agents and his properties damaged/burnt. In an action to enforce his fundamental human right, the court inter alia stated the following, 'an action cannot be instituted against the state and cannot be liable in torts' and the rights enshrined in the African Charter cannot be enforced'.
In a nut-shell, the plaintiff couldn't recover their loss from the court against the Federal Government.

Military regimes are usually accused of not recognising and enforcing human rights, due to their suspension of parts of the constitution and enactment of decrees which ousts the jurisdiction of courts.
Hence, subjecting citizens to undue trial and execution at special/military tribunals/panels were due process of natural rights are not accorded. This was the primary cause of the execution of Ken-Saro-Wiwa and others during Abacha's regime, despite a pending appeal at the African Court system.

Notwithstanding the above, civilian regimes too are to be blamed for the inadequate recognition and enforcement of human rights in Nigeria.

A good example is the inclusion of Section 6 (6) (c) in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides impliedly that the Rights entrenched in chapter two (fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, also called socio-economic & cultural rights) shall not be enforced in Nigeria. These rights include, right to education, right to right to shelter, right to employment, right to food, right to medical an d health facilities, right to electricity, and so forth.
The Civilian regimes since 1999, has always sought shelter under the above provisions whenever a case regarding enforcement to right to education or electrucity, etc has been brought before the court.
This is, notwithstanding that Nigeria is party to and has ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right which has placed the socio-economic and cultural rights at the same pedestal with the civil and political rights.
This has brought about disparity between the Constitution and the African Charter which is an international treaty, as to enforceability of the socio-economic and cultural rights under the African Charter
This was the bone of contention in the case of Fawehinmi V. Abacha, where the Supreme Court held that, although Nigeria had ratified and reenacted the African Charter as a domestic law, the provision of the constitution (section 6 (6)(c)) still reigns supreme over the charter. Hence, only the civil and political rights in chapter 4 of the Constitution and in the African charter are enforceable in Nigerian courts.

The dubious provision of section 6(6)(c) has immensely impeded the development of human rights in Nigeria and has further reduced drastically, the full enjoyment of our civil and political rights, for these two groups of rights are inter-related and one cannot exercised fully without the recognition of the other.
The Nigerian Executive has always stated that they do not have the economic and financial capacity to afford the recognition of individual socio-economic and cultural rights in Nigeria.
But the question is, when shall Nigeria ever have that economic capacity. And who decides when they have reached.
During the oil boom of the 1970's, Nigeria made huge money but blew it all in FESTAC '77 and consequently suffered a recession.
To Nigerian Executives, they rather spend money on frivolous and irrelevant things than invest in individual empowerment.

Unfortunately, the economy has been going down a very precipitous slope by the day. The Buhari regime has made sure of that. So when shall Nigeria consider itself economically capable to recognise all the Rights necessary for perfect living. South Africa, has made provisions which recognises the enforcement of socio-economic and cultural rights, no matter how little, at least it's a step in the right direction.
But Nigeria, the Giant of Africa, has failed to positively address the issue. A Nation riddled with cowardly and selfish leaders at every cadre of governance.
It is therefore, not surprising that the recommendations of the Oputa Panel, i.e; 'Human Rights Violations Investigations Commissions' has been keeping confidential and has not been implemented since over 15 years.

In conclusion, the concept, development and enjoyment of human rights will continue to be bleak and gloomy, so far as the provisions of section 6(6)(c) is still entrenched in the Constitution.
Development, in all ramifications would be effected by the amendment/repeal of that section; to recognise and encourage individual empowerment.




Law and Development | Transitional Justice. Staff Attorney, Connected Development [CODE].

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Charles E. Uche Esq.

Charles E. Uche Esq.

Law and Development | Transitional Justice. Staff Attorney, Connected Development [CODE].

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