“When you deprive people of their right to live in dignity, to hope for a better future, to have control over their lives, when you deprive them of that choice, then you expect them to fight for these rights.”Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan
Human Rights are so basic and important to every person that it is termed ‘Fundamental’ and being so important has occupied an entire chapter in our Constitution. Chapter IV of The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. It is therefore necessary for us all to understand and know these rights in order to better be able to exercise it.
Our Fundamental Human Rights are;
Right to Life
Right to Life Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution: This is unsurprisingly first because its importance cannot be over emphasized. Nobody shall be deprived intentionally of his right to life except as ordered by the Court as a result of the sentence of guilt for the commission of a criminal offence.
It is also permitted by law in the following circumstances;
(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.
Right to Dignity of Person
Right to Dignity of Person Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution: Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly –
(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;
(b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude; and
(c) no person shall be required to perform forced of compulsory labour.
The law recognises that as human beings, we should be treated as such and should not be subject to undignified treatment. *coughs, especially from certain people in uniform*
Right to Liberty
Right to Liberty Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution: Every Individual is entitled to his personal liberty/freedom except in cases and such restriction be done in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.
Right to Fair Hearing
Right to Fair Hearing Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution: Every Individual has the right to be heard in a Court of law in order to determine issues concerning his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority. We should understand with this that we all have the right to sue everybody, including Government, Authorities and Companies whenever we believe our rights have been infringed on in any way. This Section is so important that lack of fair hearing is a defense in a case and if proven, can result in the judgment of a Court to be set aside.
Right to Privacy
Right to Privacy Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution: The Constitution protects the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.
Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution: The Constitution recognizes our right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion including freedom to change our 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.
Right to Freedom of Expression
Right to Freedom of Expression Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution: Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. Ding ding ding! Hello Social Media : D
Right to Freedom of Assembly
Right to Freedom of Assembly Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution: Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.
Right to not be Discriminated Against
9. Right to not be Discriminated Against Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution: This Section basically says that no 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:-
– 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, religion 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, religion or political opinions.
The importance of this section in our Country cannot be overemphasized.
Right to Own Property
Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution: No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law that, among other things –
– Requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore and
– Gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the determination of his interest in the property and the amount of compensation to a court of law or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria
In understanding our Fundamental Human Rights, let us also remember that our individual rights end where another begins.
I encourage us all to get a copy of The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or visit The Streetlawyers – ‘Know Your Constitution‘ Series (which explains the contents of the 1999 Constitution) in order to better understand our rights and know how best to exercise them within the realms of the Nigerian Law.