Human beings enjoy some rights irrespective of citizenship, race, religion etc without fear of the government. These are rights earned because Man/Woman is a human. These rights are necessary for man/woman’s existence and for participation in a complex society
These rights are fundamental because they have been guaranteed by the fundamental law of the country; that is, by the Constitution.
In this article, we have highlighted the top Fundamental human Rights under Chapter IV of the Constitution every Nigerian should know.
- The Right to Life
Every person has a right to life and no one shall be intentionally deprived of his life. However, the Constitution provides exceptions where the violation of this Right is acceptable:
(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.
The activity of the terror group, Boko Haram, involving the rootless attacks and murder of civilians is a clear example of the fundamental right to life.
- The Right to Dignity of Human Person
Every person is entitled to respect of his/her dignity. No person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman treatment, be held in slavery or servitude or be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
- Right to Personal Liberty
Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of this right except in special circumstances and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.
Right to personal liberty is one of the most important of all rights with a wider scope that covers other rights such as the right to movement, rights to assemble and associate. This is a right where everyone, whether you are a Nigerian or a foreigner, cannot be subjected to any arrest, imprisonment, and any other physical coercion in any manner that does not have legal justification.
Right to Personal liberty denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraints, but the right to contact, to have an occupation, to acquire knowledge, to marry, have a home, children, to worship, enjoy and have privileges recognized at law for the happiness of free men.
Before this right can be deprived, certain situations must be complied with as specified in the constitution and authorized by the law such as the power to arrest a person based on the order of a court or when it is reasonably necessary to prevent a person from committing a crime. A person can also be deprived of this right upon reasonable suspicion of committing an offence.
- Right to Fair Hearing
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees a person the right to fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law in the determination of his/her civil rights and obligations including a question or determination by or against any government or authority. The Constitution also provides that the court or tribunal shall be constituted in a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality in determining the said civil rights and obligations.
The law goes on to provide that civil proceedings of the court or tribunal shall be held in public and where a person is charged with a criminal offence, he/she shall, unless the charge is withdrawn, also be entitled to fair hearing in public within a reasonable time by the court or tribunal and be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The Right to Fair Hearing is the cornerstone of justice.
- Right to Private and Family Life
This guarantees and protects the right to the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications. This right goes with the saying that “a man’s home is his castle”.
It guarantees that security agencies should not tap one’s phone lines or subject one’s house to unwarranted searches or seizure of one’s property.
However, there have been instances of violation of this right, particularly cases of police entering people’s homes in the course of an arrest of a suspected criminal or investigation of criminal matters without obtaining the proper search warrants.
- Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
The Constitution provides for secularity in Nigeria, guaranteeing the peoples entitlement to religious freedom including the freedom to change religion or belief and manifest and propagate one’s religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
The law also provides:
- No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in any religious ceremony relating to a religion not his own.
- No religious community or denomination shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for pupils of that community or denomination in any place of education maintained wholly by that community or denomination.
- Nothing in the provision of the Constitution shall entitle any person to form, take part in the activity or be a member of secret society.
- Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
Freedom of expression and the press is fundamental to the development of a civilized society.
- Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association
Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons and form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interest.
However, to hold a peaceful assembly, one must obtain the appropriate permit. The law on public meetings, the Public Order Act, vests the power to regulate public meetings, processions and rallies in any part of Nigeria by the governors of the respective states of the Federation. By virtue of the Act, the police cannot issue a license or permit any meeting or rally without the consent of the governor of the state. They also have no power to cancel any such public meeting or rally without the governor’s consent.
- Right to Freedom of Movement
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry or exit.
The Constitution provides exceptions for the violation of this right:
Any law or ruling imposing restrictions on the residence or movement of any person who has committed a criminal offence in order to prevent him from leaving the country.
Any law or court ruling providing for the removal of any person from Nigeria to be tried outside Nigeria or to undergo imprisonment outside Nigeria for a criminal offence, in execution of the sentence of a court of law in respect to a criminal offence he has been found guilty of, provided that there is a reciprocal agreement between Nigeria and the other country.
Another exception to this right is the environmental sanitation laws which restrict the movement of people before a certain time during the weekly environmental sanitation exercises.
Apart from the above exceptions, any restriction on the movement of a person, such as kidnapping, is a violation of that person’s right.
- Right to Freedom from Discrimination
Every citizen shall not be subjected to any form of discrimination, disability or deprivation by reason of to his/her community, ethnic group, place of origin, circumstances of birth, sex, religion or political opinion.
- Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property anywhere in Nigeria
Every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
These rights are to protect individual interests and should not be used to violate other’s rights.