Human Rights In Nigeria: More Of Myth Than Reality

In the period between its independence in 1960 to 1998, Nigeria had, in terms of heads of State, two elected, one appointed, one military successor and 7 [coups d’état] powers. In 1979, they moved to a presidential system in order to properly instate the right of choosing who rules them with a new constitution. This constitution guarantees fundamental human rights that are constantly in violation.

The Human Rights, Nigerian security forces are frequently alleged to carry out arbitrary arrests, torture, forced disappearances, assassinations and extrajudicial summary executions. These abuses typically occur within the context of the Nigerian government’s security operations or are directed against political and religious organizations and individuals.

The protection of citizens’ human rights is a major duty of every responsible government; therefore, any government that takes part in trampling upon or eroding human rights can best be described as an abusive government.

Human right is defined as moral principles or norms that describe a certain standard of human behavior and ensure they are regularly protected as a natural and legal right in municipal and international law. Every individual across the globe is entitled to certain human rights which their respective governments have the duty and responsibility to duly protect.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without intimidation from anyone within and outside the country, because rights are meant to be enjoyed by an individual as soon as he/she is born without distinction of any kind; such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, nationality or social origin, political or other options, property, birth or other statuses.

Nigerians, under successive military governments, were people without human rights, because these military juntas not only eroded the rights of Nigerian but also silenced us from demanding our rights, the brave Nigerians that defiled all intimidations to demand their rights and those of their people, were victimized, abused and jailed.

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Human Rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, status or any other thing. Fundamental Human Rights include; right to life, right to dignity, right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing, right to privacy, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of assembly and association, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination, and right to own property.

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The humanitarian perspective of human rights stems from the fact that human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reasons and conscience, thus they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Aside from the enforcement of human rights provisions, every man with a good conscience would not conceive the idea of doing anything inimical to the wellbeing or sensibilities of a fellow human.

How the military committed the mass human rights abuses during their reigns, would only leave one wondering if these boys in khaki had any conscience or if they had any humanity in them.

Nigeria’s transition to democracy is being applauded to have ushered in an era of improved human right conditions because the over-zealous khaki boys were sent back into the barracks and common civilians, or ‘converted civilians’ were saddle with the responsibilities of leading the nation.

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One would ask how protected is the citizens’ rights in this dispensation of democracy?  This is a big question that requires an analytical response.

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To start with, a major gain of the civilian government is that, the civil and political rights, which were substantially suspended under successive military regimes, have been re-established and are broadly respected by all, including the government.

In the country today, even though people criticize the government, agitate for their legitimate rights, seek redress from the court of law whenever they feel their rights have been infringed upon, the nation is still considered as one with a high level of human right abuses.

It is no news that the various law enforcement agencies in the country, especially the men of the Nigerian Police Force, have been engaging in abuse of people’s right by publicly assaulting them, locking them up in cells without charging them to court, extortion and grand conspiracy against suspects that refuse to ‘cooperate.’

The government officials are also very notorious for flouting court orders and acting contrary to the provisions of the constitution to the detriment of the citizens’ rights.

However, it is noteworthy to espouse that human rights are divided into different categories, ranging from personal (civil) to political, economic to social and cultural rights.

An individual’s political human right stipulates that no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdiction or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it is independent, oneself governing or under any other limitations of sovereignty. Political rights express the possibility of citizenship participation in the political activities of the society.

Political rights are the right to partake in government legitimate periodic and genuine election with universality and equality. These rights are geared towards strengthening the relationship between the citizens, society and the state. Political rights can be expressed and used individually or collectively through association. Every citizen possesses a franchise, which is the ability to vote and be voted for in an election. There is autonomy for every citizen to participate in his countries’ election without any restriction provided he has not lost his citizenry.

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Personal rights include; right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational right, and right to constitutional remedies.

Although human right is meant to be enjoyed unrestricted, it is, however, pertinent to note that, human rights can sometimes be restricted. For example, if a person breaks or violates the law or in the interest of national security, he can be deprived of his rights.

Conclusively, the government needs to prioritize the protection of every citizen’s as provided for in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Besides, every individual must respect the rights of others.

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