I have taken observation of the rising nature of the internet and all of its surrounding developments as well as the negative effects or impacts it has created. Of recent, Nigerian National Assembly is legislating on Protection from Internet Falsehoods, Manipulations, and other Related Matters Act (still a Bill in the Senate), which is still in its embryo at the moment as a way of regulating the social media, the social media which are forms of the internet and the internet itself. I then thought of alerting the human rights activists, the members of the public to be at alert by taking quick steps in preventing abuse of human rights through the internet and for the government and the National Human Rights Commission to also be at alert in safeguarding those fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens, hence, this paper.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution and the International human rights laws have guaranteed some rights for every citizen and every person respectively. Such as: right to life, right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing, right to private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression and the press, right to peaceful assembly and association, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination, right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria, compulsory acquisition of property (i.e. its limits) and the restriction on and derogation from those fundamental rights as well as Special jurisdiction of High Court and legal aid. While those rights are specifically guaranteed under Chapter IV of the Constitution, other international human rights laws have them provided in Articles. For instance, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Provision of those human rights guaranteed under these laws are not just for fancy or camouflage rather, occasions in the past had justified their guarantee in our organic or Supreme laws for the purpose of safeguard. Victims and of course, past heroes of local and international communities had actually fought and paid with their lives and body through injuries sustained when those human rights were not guaranteed, the situation which gave rise to those rights to be guaranteed in every Constitution of every country and in international laws as a matter of importance.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court in the case of Odogwu v A.G. of the Federation (1999) 6 NWLR (PT. 455) P. 508 Ratio 6, defined fundamental human rights thus ‘A fundamental human right is a right guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution and it is a right which every person is entitled to, when he is not subject to the disabilities enumerated in the constitution to be enjoyed by virtue of being a human being. They are so basic and fundamental that they are entrenched in a particular chapter of the constitution’. Also, in the case of A.C.N. V I.N.E.C.(2013)13 NWLR (pt. 1370) 161 SC, the Supreme Court of Nigeria held thus ‘Without law and its rules regulating the enforcement and enjoyment of rights under the law, chaos will reign supreme, with every man pursuing and enjoying his real or perceived rights without regard to the rights of others, and organised society may come to an end’.
In my personal reasoning, I view that there are some provisions of the Chapter IV of the Constitution that are capable of being abused through the means of the internet, if care or caution is not applied. These sections are: Sections: 37, 38, 39, 42 and 44(1) of the Constitution. The said sections provide thus: 37. The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected. 38.—(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his 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. (2) No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or a religion not approved by his parents or guardian. (3) 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. (4) Nothing in this section shall entitle any person to form, take part in the activity or be a member of a secret society. 39.—(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and import ideas and information without interference. (2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions : Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfillment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose whatsoever.
(3) Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society— (a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematographic films ; or (b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law. 40. 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. Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition. 42.—(1) A 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— (a) be 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, circumstance of birth, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject ; or (b) 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, religious or political opinions. (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. (3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person to any office under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or a member of the Nigeria Police Force or to an office in the service of a body corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria. 44.
—(1) No movable 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 — (a) requires the prompt payment of compensation therefor; and (b) 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.’.
Finally, it might be seen as of now that there is no such impacts (negatively) on the human rights of Nigerians by the internet, nevertheless, this paper is just to call the reader and the members of the Nigerian communities to be at alert so that the negative impacts could be adequately prepared for before its pressures subsume or cause avoidable abuse of human rights without notice or before it harms a number of the citizens catching them unaware. At least, I have said mine!