Author: Margaret Ogbonnah
Under the administration of justice in Nigeria, Fundamental human rights are duly recognised as important rights, and as a result, they are entrenched in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
In the case of violations, understanding how to enforce these rights or how to file claims in court for compensatory reliefs against anyone including a government agency such as the Police is very important. This article will explain the practical and legal steps you can take to enforce your fundamental human rights in Nigeria.
Fundamental rights are the basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution of every country, which are guaranteed to all citizens. They are applied without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. Significantly, fundamental rights are enforceable by the courts, subject to certain conditions. They are also known as packs of rights that are naturally and freely bestowed on persons (both human beings and corporate beings).
It is important to state that every citizen’s right is protected by the constitution, therefore, no body or agency is a permitted to infringe upon these rights except such infringement is according to the constitution.
However, it’s not every act of violence or mistreatments that constitutes a breach of a citizen’s fundamental right, for instance: while unauthorized touch at a place of work by an employer may constitute a breach of the employee’s fundamental right, a soldier undergoing training may not be able to complain against unauthorized touch as under training there are several unauthorized touches therefore such touch during training will not constitute a breach of the soldier’s fundamental right.
Finally, it is important to state that most times, each situation resulting in an infringement of rights is different and will be resolved based on their peculiarity when taken to court.
Are There Provisions That Protect Human Rights in Nigeria?
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended1) provides for enforcement of fundamental rights. Some of the rights guaranteed in Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) 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 from discrimination
Where Should I Go for Redress If My Human Rights Are Violated?
Redress on human rights violations can be sought in the High Court within the State; Which can be the State High Court or Federal High Court.
Practical Steps In The Enforcement Of Human Rights
1. Document the Violation:
(i) To successfully pursue your case in court it is necessary to have evidence to back up your claim. You can’t just assume you have a case; you must be
able to prove it in court. Therefore, it is prudent where possible to keep detailed records of the violation, including dates, times, locations, individuals
involved, and photos or videos. This documentation will be crucial in helping you establish the breach.
2. Seek Legal Advice:
Ordinarily, it is not mandatory to retain the services of a lawyer to file a complaint in Court for human rights violation because the access to the Courts
is open to everyone, and the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules specifically provides that anyone who believes that his human rights have been or likely to be violated may approach a High Court for redress2.
However, obtaining legal advice from Lawyers is necessary and very beneficial because:
(i). Lawyers are in a good position to offer professional advice regarding the remedies available to you in such cases. This is because lawyers have good
understanding of human rights provisions enshrined in various international Human Rights Treaties, as well as those contained in the Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(ii). Lawyers have a sound knowledge of the practice and procedure adopted by the Courts to address Human Rights complaints. Without a lawyer to guide you in the process of seeking redress, your complaints may not be heard or may be dismissed for failing to comply with the procedural requirements for filing such complaints.
(iii). Lawyers are trained in the art of presenting evidence to prove cases.
(iv). Lawyers provide adequate representation within the bounds of the law.
Moreso, it is pertinent to state that each lawyer’s experience and expertise varies, and therefore, it is important to find a lawyer who is most suitable for
Finally, you can consult the Legal Aid Council at the federal and state level. They also provide guidance on the appropriate legal remedies and help you understand the best course of action based on your specific situation.
3. Engage Human Rights Organizations:
There are numerous Human Right Organizations in Nigeria and you may reach out to these human rights organizations and NGOs operating in
Nigeria, especially where there are no financial resources available to seek redress. These organizations may be able to offer support, advocacy, and legal
4. Engage with International Bodies:
If your rights violation is particularly egregious and you’re not seeing progress at the national level, you may consider reaching out to international human
rights organizations and agencies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council.
There are a few advantages for opting to seek redress for Human Rights violations in other forums such as the National Human Rights Commission
and the Public Complaints Commission. The first is that these forums adopt less formal procedure to receive and hear complaints for Human Rights
Secondly, these forums are open and accessible to all citizens who wish to file complaints for Human Rights violations.
Thirdly, unlike the Courts, these institutions are empowered to carry out investigations that border on Human Rights Violations.
5. Use of Social Media and Public Awareness:
Sharing your story on social media and with the press can help raise awareness about your situation. Public pressure can sometimes lead to faster
resolutions and accountability. However, while advocating for your rights, be mindful of your safety and security, especially if you’re dealing with powerful
entities or individuals.
What are the Possible Remedies the court can Award an Aggrieved Person?
Remedies for human rights violations are measures that aim to restore the rights and dignity of victims and prevent future abuses. Some examples of remedies for human rights violations are:
1. The Writ of Habeas Corpus: This literally means “To have body” it is used primarily to challenge the detention of any person either in official custody or in private hands to ensure that a person wrongfully detained is released forthwith.
2. Damages: Damages are monetary awards made to litigants to assuage them for the loss suffered.
3. The Order of Mandamus: Mandamus is an order which compels the performance of a public duty as a first resort where no other remedy is available.
4. The Order of Certiorari: This is a prerogative order which enables a superior tribunal to call upon an inferior tribunal to bring up the record upon which the inferior court based it’s decision.
5. Declaratory Judgments: A declaratory judgment lies at the discretion of the court. It is available to an individual who can prove that his private right
including any of the fundamental human rights has been infringed by a government, its agent or a private individual.
Finally, the process of seeking justice for human rights violations can be lengthy and challenging. It is important to stay persistent, informed, and seek legal advice to navigate the specific circumstances of your case. Additionally, the legal and human rights landscape in Nigeria may change, so it’s a good idea to stay updated on any developments in the legal system and human rights advocacy in the country.
1. Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
2. Order 11, Rule 1 of Fundamental Right Enforcement Procedure 2009.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.