Main challenges related to the implementation and protection of minority rights in Nigeria

By Femi Falana

INTRODUCTION: The Constitution does not recognize the rights of minorities or minority groups but the fundamental rights of every individual living in Nigeria. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights has gone further by recognizing the collective rights of the African people. Since there is equality before the law which requires that there be equal opportunities for all citizens, the concept of minority rights is inappropriate.


For the avoidance of doubt, article 42 of the Constitution and article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provide that everyone has the right to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction whatsoever. kind such as race, ethnicity, sex, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other circumstance.

So I am not going to talk about the human rights of minority groups because it is a fiction. On the contrary, I will talk about the dichotomy between the human rights of members of the bourgeoisie and the oppressed masses.

Members of the bourgeoisie

In doing so, I will demonstrate that the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all citizens are exercised by a few people who have the economic means to ensure that they are respected while the majority of citizens are perpetually victims of human rights violations. means to enforce them. We will end by asking the Nigerian people to fight for the application of the socio-economic rights enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

The origin of minority rights in Nigeria: In order to mask the ideological bias of the discourse on human rights, human rights are said to be inalienable, immutable, universally valid and applicable. This is totally misleading because human rights are the product of the collective struggles of oppressed peoples in various parts of the world. In fact, history has shown that human rights have been exploited by oppressors in different historical eras to advance their class interests. In the case of Nigeria, the imperialists neither recognized nor respected the human rights of the peoples of Africa during the slave trade and the colonial era which lasted more than five centuries despite universality and inalienability. proclaimed human rights.

But on the eve of political independence, the initially British colonial regime ensured that the right to private property and other civil and political rights were enshrined in the Independence Constitution. Contrary to the claim that basic rights were enshrined in the Nigerian constitution to protect the interests of minority groups in Nigeria, they were inscribed to protect the human rights of foreigners and the economic interests of foreign governments and businesses. As I had noted elsewhere, similar bills of rights had been enshrined in the constitutions of India, Ghana and other former British colonies which gained independence before Nigeria.

In addition to the independence constitution, the ruling class enshrined human rights in other constitutions and ratified some international human rights treaties and conventions. The rights enshrined in these instruments mainly include the right to life, the right to human dignity, the right to personal liberty, the right to a fair trial, the right to religion and conscience, the right to property. , the right to respect for private life, the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of association, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to acquire property and to live in any which part of Nigeria, the right to adequate and fair compensation when citizens’ property is acquired in the public interest. Because these human rights which are civil and political in nature cannot be exercised without economic empowerment, the majority of the Nigerian people have been denied the opportunity to enjoy them due to poverty and ignorance.

We argue that without adequate food, the rights to life and human dignity are meaningless for the vulnerable segment of the population. Likewise, the right to housing has nothing to do with people displaced and evicted from cities due to so-called urban renewal projects carried out by governments. When some people’s right to life is terminated by extrajudicial killings by the police and other law enforcement agencies, those who depend on them for their education and well-being are made vulnerable. Without access to education, the right to freedom of expression is inconsequential for millions of illiterate people. Given the widespread poverty in society, it is no longer contested that until socio-economic rights are made justiciable, the majority of citizens cannot enjoy the civil and political rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Illegal expulsion and displacement of citizens: Urban renewal has led to the forced eviction and eviction of people with reduced mobility begging for alms in state capitals. Instead of rehabilitating these beggars, state governments deported them to their home states. But such deportations targeting poor citizens who are Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional religions cannot be justified under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. More specifically, the expulsion of citizens constitutes a violation of the dignity of persons (Article 34), of personal freedom (Article 35), of freedom of movement (Article 41) and of the right of residence in any part. of Nigeria (Article 43) that the beggars involved should be rehabilitated by the state.

Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Application) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 guarantees the right of every individual to freedom of movement and residence within state borders and has prohibited the mass deportation of nationals to any African country. In Director, State Security Service v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt 595) 340, the Supreme Court of Nigeria confirmed that the right of every citizen to freedom of movement, including the right to live in any part of the country.

The right of poor citizens to live in peace is often violated by many state governments that engage in the demolition of so-called illegal structures in urban centers. While illegal structures are demolished with or without notice, mansions of the rich built without approved building plans are allowed to be regularized by state governments. In Chief Jacob Obor & Others v Federal Capital Development Control & Others (unreported proceeding no CV / 3998/2012), our law firm convinced the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to stop the planned demolition of Mpape , a large colony of the territory. Since Nigerians have a right to housing, state governments should not be allowed to engage in demolition of the homes of the poor without other accommodation.

Alternative accommodation

Although Governor El rufai reportedly ordered police to arrest members of the Arewa Youth Congress for asking all Igbo to leave the 19 northern states within 3 months, he is not allowed moral to apply the directive. After all, he engaged in the illegal demolition of homes and the displacement of millions of citizens when he was Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and now Governor of Kaduna State. In fact, after the brutality and murder of 347 members of the Shiite community, the governor ordered the demolition of the houses of IMN leaders in December 2015 without any court ruling. Even though the federal government has assured the Igbo of their safety in the north, all men and women of good will must ensure that the resignation notice is not carried out.

Illegal ban on civil society organizations: In violation of the fundamental right to freedom of association, the government has banned some voluntary companies without any legal basis. The Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello, has just announced the proscription of the Kogi State University branch of the Union of Academic Staff of Universities on the grounds that its members refused to quash industrial action to force the state government to pay back wages and compensation for nearly a year. The ban is illegal because no state government has the power to ban a union registered under the Trade Union Act.

Prior to that, Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State had allegedly banned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. This was after the state government renounced its legal obligation to prosecute the armed troops that killed 347 unarmed members of the IMN. Since Governor El Rufai’s action has not been authorized by any court, IMN members have rightly defied the illegal ban. Despite the illegality of the ban, the Nigerian police tried to enforce it by preventing members of the IMN from protesting against the illegal and contemptuous detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife.

The violent disruption of peaceful gatherings by IMN members and other law-abiding citizens is contrary to the Court of Appeal ruling in Inspector-General of Police v All Nigeria Peoples Party (2008) 12 WRN 65. In this case, the Court of Appeal upheld the fundamental right of Nigerians to call public meetings and rallies without permission from the police. But the illegal action of the Nigerian police authorities is not surprising given the illegal ban they have imposed on the Peace Corps of Nigeria. Aside from the fact that the organization is registered by the Commercial Affairs Commission under the Allied Companies and Companies Act, our law firm had obtained a perpetual injunction from the Federal High Court prohibiting the police form harassing them. members of the Peace Corps of Nigeria in any way. from the country.

Illegal killing of citizens: I recently condemned the extrajudicial execution of criminal suspects by the police, the unlawful killing of unarmed civilians, including women and children, by the armed forces and the deadly attacks on communities by violent militias and other armed bandits. To prove that the illegal killings of unarmed citizens did not begin under the current administration, I referred to the military invasions of Odi in Bayelsa State (1999), of Zaki Biam in the State of Benue (2001) and Gbaramotu in Delta State (2009) and other violent attacks against unarmed people by police and armed forces.

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