In Nigerian history, there have been some reported cases of human rights violation which had occurred in the past. Today, some of these similar breaches have come to be experienced. Only God Almighty could tell what happens tomorrow and how human rights will be respected by all and sundry. This paper aims at recalling some of these cases of human rights violation that had occurred in the past and those happening today as a parameter for determining and or curbing any of those violations from transplanting into the future.
Human rights have been said to be inviolable and inalienable rights of man, even God Almighty has by nature conferred some basic human rights on man, such as right to life, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of liberty, right to the dignity of human person, right to freedom of association, right to conscience and religion, among others. Under the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution-, some of these rights have been codified in Chapter IV of the Constitution and are referred to as the ‘Fundamental Rights’. Some human rights have been termed ‘socio-economic rights’ and have been codified in Chapter II of the Constitution which are generally (except in some certain exceptions) unenforceable or non-justiciable in our courts. The international laws on human rights have gone to recognize the importance of human rights by, first of all, having agreed as a treaty of member States or as a contract under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Also, there are International Socio-Economic Rights which in my humble view, become binding on Nigeria (notwithstanding the Chapter II of the Constitution) by virtue of Nigeria signing same into law, which then makes same to become part of Nigerian laws.
Those rights provided under Chapter IV of the Constitution are as follows: 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 is 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.
The checks that this paper is making and of course, the questions that this paper is asking are: how were human rights yesterday?! While I was growing up, I heard about the assassination of the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Dele Giwa? What has happened in his case and how far about the investigation on those who denied him his right to life? How are our law enforcement agencies handling the criminal case file? I understand that up till this day, no justice has been obtained for him and his family.
There were reports online that between 1999 and 2012, there were about 100 high profile political killings in Nigeria. They are still all under investigation and not one has been resolved. Just as I had inquired above that ‘Who killed Dele Giwa?!’. Like other killings in Nigeria, we may never know! Also, in another report, in 2018, Nigeria was said to have been ranked 13 out of 14 countries in the 2018 Global Impunity Index released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), making it the sixth time that Nigeria is featured on the index since 2008 that CPJ began to compile the list. There were cases of some journalists too who were killed and were denied their right to life without them or their family members securing justice among them were: 1. Bayo Ohu. He was said to be 45 years of age and an Assistant News Editor to The Guardian News Paper. He was reported to have been shot dead by unidentified assailants as he answered a knock at the front door of his house in Lagos on September 2009. The six assailants were reported to have taken his laptop and cell phone away, according to the journalist’s relatives and local news reports. 2. Enenche Akogwu. 3. Fidelis Ikwuebe. 4. Nathan S. Dabak. 5. Sunday Gyang Bwede. 6. Okezie Amaruben. 7. Sam Nimfa-Jan. 8. Samson Boyi. 9. Tunde Oladepo. 10. Zakariya Isa, among others. There were other Nigerians that have been assaulted and unlawfully tortured, including journalists and activists, thereby denying them their right to personal dignity. I should, however, be quick to say that though the Nigeria Police Force and other Security Agencies of Government have been trying their efforts in resolving criminalities in the Nigerian societies, however, some of these miscreants have devised some techniques to get away with their heinous crimes without being noticed. People’s support with the law enforcement agencies will also go a long way in the investigation and discovery of these hiding suspected criminals.
Today, killings have outgrown into insurgencies and killing by unsuspected gunmen or suspected herdsmen as reports have said, thereby killing thousands of innocent citizens and residents as well as travellers. Kidnapping for ransom and final killing of their hostage has become a profitable occupation to some miscreants. Political killings with brutality have desisted and or resisted pressures as a political woman, for instance, was burnt alive in the 2019 Kogi State Governorship Election. Also, just of recent in January 2020, one Abdul Fatahi Yusuf popularly as ‘Oko-Oloyun’, a trado-medical practitioner was assassinated somewhere on his way. Some lawyers have been detained and even tortured by some law enforcement agencies for representing their clients in their course of professional duties. Furthermore, today has experienced: disobedience to court orders by government, use of ex parte powers to remove a public officer from office, arbitrary arrest and detention in custody by some law enforcement agencies of government, discrimination on politics; religion; race; origin; ethnic or tribe, terrorism, denial of right to freedom of expression, media practitioners in partisan politics, jungle justice, etc. These are few among those violations of human rights that have been experienced today. All these happened in our lawful civil society!
Having said all the above, the questions that this paper is inquiring about are: how will tomorrow be if these and much more unmentioned are those cases of human rights situation yesterday and today?! What type of human rights are we expecting tomorrow? Will there be any human rights tomorrow? Will tomorrow not become like yesterday?! It is my belief and recommendation nevertheless, that the laws that we have of today can serve us well if we implement them. Respect for rule of law and orders made by courts will help. Corruption should be eradicated (because if there is corruption among us, we will not trust ourselves and if there is corruption in the judicial system, the executive will not obey its orders as well as others.
Finally, I humbly appeal to the government not to relent in checkmating and curtailing all criminalities that aim at denying innocent Nigerians their human rights. Nigerians too should continue to work together with the law enforcement agencies in order to assist in curbing crimes and criminalities. There should be continuous training on human rights for all government’s security agencies so that they can understand the need for respect for human rights of any suspect. Also, all the above recommendations should be considered for necessary practice.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria! God bless Nigerian citizens! God bless Nigerian leadership!