On the 15th July, 2022, the Nigerian Bar Association Human Rights Institute held a Human Rights Summit on the State of Human Rights in Nigeria with the theme ‘Human Rights & Insecurity: Assessing the future of governance and Sustainable Livelihood in Nigeria’. Fortunately, I was present at the event and even I was the first contributor among the participants among the audience. At the event, I had enquired from the organisers as to the reason why an important theme touching on human rights and insecurity in Nigeria has been discussed without the Chief Justice of Nigeria or His Lordship’s representative(s) and or the Chief Judges of various States and or their representatives being present and or invited?!
Disappointingly to me, I got no answer to this important question from the organisers! In fact, those executive, legislative and judicial State actors were not present and it seemed that they were not invited by the organisers! With due respect, in my humble view, the theme would have touched lives to the highest effect had the State actors who are concerned with human rights and security were present! Permit me to deal with a recommendation to avoid distraction in this my article. In a subsequent event such as this on human rights and insecurity, a day (and even a Friday) is not feasible if the organisers mean a serious business! Some of us (as activists) do not appreciate a ‘talk without action’ as we wish that whatever that has been discussed is put to strict and pro-active action!
I therefore humbly advise the Human Rights Institute and the National NBA to take note of this recommendation for subsequent planning! Now, introductorily, and in line with my current slogan ‘Hear my voice! Hear me out!’, there have been several allegations of human rights violation and insecurity in Nigeria, and rising daily! It is therefore, a clear fact that there is no more what can be called ‘security’ in the real sense on the land, sea and the air! The homes are being deserted by their occupants and those still in their various residences are under tension of imminent attacks on them by some suspected terrorists! Citizens are becoming homeless and internally displaced! Security architectures are being compromised with some few insiders becoming informant and or members of some of the suspecting terrorists terrorizing the nation, perhaps a result of a corrupt recruitment into the public security service of the federation! Kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, internet/cyber fraud affecting the hard-earned property of citizens, and all other heinous offences are becoming the trend of the day!
A victim of today was indeed a safe person of yesterday and no one knows who is the next victim! In as much as we pray to God Almighty for security, peace and unity, the human rights violation cases in Nigeria and the insecurity experienced by citizens can only be a scenario of a ‘failed government’! For instance, when a citizen is kidnapped, some of the victim’s fundamental rights such as: right to his personal liberty; freedom of association, fair hearing, freedom of movement, right to family and private life, property (such as: money (which many times run into millions of naira) paid as ransom and property sold to secure the ransom), even life, etc.! While section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution-, has made security and welfare of the people as primary purpose of government, the current government of Nigeria with due respect and very regrettably, has failed in these primary purposes hence, the question this paper raises, as to ‘WHO IS TO BE BLAMED’ FOR THE HIGH LEVEL OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION AND DEADLY INSECURITY IN NIGERIA?! This article is aimed at providing answer to this important question, hence, this topic. That is why I wish my voice to be echoed and heard by the Nigerian government, the citizens and the international human rights community, as well as other appropriate authorities for a lasting solution to these decadence!
As stated above, in as much as we pray to God Almighty for security, peace and unity, the human rights violation cases in Nigeria and the insecurity experienced by citizens can only be a scenario of a ‘failed government’! While section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution has made ‘security’ and ‘welfare’ of the people as primary purpose of government, the current government with due respect, has failed in these primary purposes hence, the question this paper raises, as to ‘WHO IS TO BE BLAMED’ FOR THE HIGH LEVEL OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION AND DEADLY INSECURITY IN NIGERIA?! Therefore, it is clear from the above discussion, that the government is to be blamed for every violation of any citizen’s fundamental rights and whatever insecurity such as: kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, cyber-fraud, etc., that any citizen might have suffered because the government has failed in its primary purposes. While I also humbly submit that in the circumstance of section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution, human rights safeguard of the citizens is form of ‘welfare’ which is a primary purpose of government as either Federal, State or Local Government.
Furthermore, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Adopted in Nairobi June 27, 1981 Entered into Force October 21, 1986, in Part I which provides for ‘Rights and Duties’. Article 1 provides thus ‘The Member States of the Organization of African Unity parties to the present Charter shall recognize the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in this Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.’ (underlining is mine for emphasis). Article 4 also provides thus ‘Article 4 ‘Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.’. Also, Article 5 ‘Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman of degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.’. Article 6 ‘Every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained.’. Also, see Articles: 10, 11 and 12 of the African Charters. A summary of the above submissions is to the effect that the Nigerian government has failed the citizens in ensuring and safeguarding the primary purposes of security and welfare of the citizens, hence, the Nigerian government must be held ‘accountable’ and is ‘blameworthy’ for whatever the citizens suffer in these regards!
Therefore, I humbly submit and recommend that our Nigerian courts (as the last hope of the common man- i.e. the citizens) should always hold the Nigerian government accountable and blameworthy for every Nigerian’s life lost to insecurity, property destroyed to insecurity and lack of poor welfare of any citizen! It is worse to recall the event that even justice’s of the courts have one way or the other been victims of kidnapping! Also, whatever amount of money any victim of kidnapping and other forms of insecurity has expended as ransom should be recoverable from the Nigerian government either by the victim or his family! These are to hold the Nigerian government ‘accountable’ for its primary purposes and to put the government on its toes to always perform its responsibilities!
The issue of ‘non-justiciable’ of suit likely to be raised by the government against the suit is not a defence to the Applicant’s claims! More so, the ‘security’ and ‘welfare’ have been provided for in the African Charter as international obligations upon the Nigerian government by virtue of Article 1 of the Charter, which is recognized as a binding international law by the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, having the force of the Constitution as the Constitution itself and some judicial precedents of Nigerian courts. For instance, in the case of Abia State University, Uturu v Anyaibe (1996) 3 NWLR (pt. 439) 646 at 661, per Katsina-Alu, JCA (as he then was) held that the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules made pursuant to the Constitution, have the force of law as the Constitution itself; and overrides the provisions of any other enactment to the contrary. In which case, such a provision has equal force of law as the Constitution itself. Furthermore, I humbly submit that fundamental rights suits are sui generis (i.e. of their own Rules and Procedures). See the case of: Enukeme v Mazi (2015)17 NWLR (1488)411 C.A. at page 434 paras. A-C.
To this extent, I humbly recommend that the NBA and human rights lawyers should always liaise with victims of human rights violation, victims of kidnapping, victims of jungle justice, etc., on legal aid to the victims and or their families against the Nigerian government either in Nigerian courts or the ECOWAS Court for damages among other reliefs (the challenge to judgments of the ECOWAS Court which is not appealable to any other court is that there is no realistic enforcement procedure for judgments of ECOWAS in Nigeria). I therefore humbly recommend further that, having regard to the provisions of Article 1 of the African Charter (supra) for emphasis, which provides thus ‘The Member States of the Organization of African Unity parties to the present Charter shall recognize the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in this Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.’ (underlining is mine for emphasis). By this emphasis in Article 1 of the African Charter (supra) as follows ‘… and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them’, I humbly recommend that the Nigerian National Assembly is duty-bound to repeal and or amend the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, 2004 (which is long over-due for a repeal) to inculcate the enforcement of the judgements of the ECOWAS Court, in the interest of justice!
Finally, therefore, the Nigeria government (with due respect) has failed the citizens in ensuring and safeguarding the primary purposes of security and welfare (including safeguard of human rights) of the citizens, hence, the Nigerian government must be held ‘accountable’ and is ‘blameworthy’ for whatever the citizens suffer in these regards!