Human rights beyond unlawful arrest and detention
By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
Call for new opportunities for lawyers and human rights activists
Human rights or fundamental rights have been taken to be only effective and or relevant to a particular area of human lives. Most of the time, I have observed that Nigerians focus more on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other international human rights laws but have failed and or neglected to reason and expand these laws beyond their content as they stand as enabling laws rather than everything about the law. There are even several subsidiary legislations to those enabling laws that have not been considered and or championed to the effect by Nigerians and human rights activists such as: data protection, data processing and privacy, etc, to such extent that our understanding of human rights is limited to unlawful arrest and unlawful detention. This paper calls for an expansive and or expanded human rights considered from those subsidiary laws etc. either as statutory legislations or bye laws or regulations or instruments- both local and international. As lawyers too, one can even become an expert in any of those fields. Much more so that the world is growing beyond the old ways of doing things and the old legal system is accommodating new innovations in the system either technologically or economically among others.
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.
Furthermore, while I am of the submission with humility, that ‘Fundamental rights’ are guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution (for instance), ‘human rights’ are guaranteed under the international laws. Nevertheless, both fundamental rights and human rights are enforceable in Nigeria (for instance) using the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009. See: the Preamble to the Rules. Furthermore, it is my submission nevertheless, that human rights and fundamental rights do not mean the same thing in concept. The various concepts surrounding the nomenclature of the words ‘human rights’, ‘fundamental rights’, ‘legal/civil rights’, ‘enforceable rights’ and ‘unenforceable rights’ have been dealt with in the case of Uzoukwu v Ezeonu II (1991) 6, NWLR (pt. 200), p.708 at 760-761, where Nasir PCA thus ‘Due to the development of constitutional law in this field, distinct difference has emerged between ‘Fundamental Rights’ and ‘Human Rights’. It may be recalled that human rights were derived from and out of the wider concept of natural rights. They are rights which every civilized society must accept as belonging to each person as a human being. These were termed human rights. When the United Nations made its declaration, it was in respect of ‘Human Rights’ as it was envisaged that certain rights belong to all human beings irrespective of citizenship, race, religion and so on. This has now formed part of international law. Fundamental rights remain in the realm of domestic law. They are fundamental because they have been guaranteed by the fundamental law of the country; that is, by the Constitution. Some of the provisions are limited to the citizens while other provisions are applicable to all persons, citizens and aliens alike. This is the position in this country, in the United States, in India, and many other countries. It is a common ground that citizens and aliens alike enjoy legal rights, popularly called civil rights, some have been chosen and elevated to the level of Fundamental Rights and are protected and enforced under the Constitution. Other legal rights are themselves protected by law and many of them are justiciable. Such rights as the right to own property, the right to form clubs, the right to build houses, and so on, are legal rights which are justiciable and enforceable in the courts. There are other rights which may pertain to a person which are neither fundamental nor justiciable in the courts. These may include rights given by the Constitution as under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles under Chapter 3 of the Constitution’. Also see: the case of Odogwu v A.G. of the Federation (1999) 6 NWLR (PT. 455) P. 508 Ratio 6 and 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’. Also, to these is that there are those human rights laws contained in the Chapter II of the Constitution which have been generally made to be non-justiciable or unenforceable except under some certain exceptions.
Arising from the above laws, it is clear that human rights laws are expansive and broad but have been misunderstood and mistaken for a limited application and coverage than they are in their nature. In the technological ways, and considering the rising digital or technological advancement which does not limit human rights, lawyers have to build and equip themselves more and beyond the regularly known primary sources of human rights laws to other regulations, rules (including rules of courts where necessary and applicable) made pursuant to those primary sources of human rights laws, the bye laws (which constitute laws on their own at the local levels) States laws, etc.
Furthermore, I have observed that some of us as lawyers even count attending Discussion Series organized by either the Nigerian Bar Association’s Branch that we belong to or other persons which would benefit us (even though these programme have been organised free of charge and having dignitaries and qualified personalities in the relevant fields to discuss as speakers)! For instance, on the 23rd day of March, 2020, the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch, under the Chairmanship of Mr Folarin Aluko organised a training course on the topic ‘Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja’s Law Clinic Session on ‘Privacy, Data Protection and Domain Name Dispute Resolution’, which is just one among other such Discussion Series. What a very expository session it was! Several regulatory laws on privacy, data protection and means of resolving domain name disputes were referenced! Such as: Nigerian Data Protection Regulations (NDPR), Consumer Code of Private Licence Regulation made pursuant to the Nigerian Communications Commission, Credit Reporting Act, 2015, etc., among other human rights laws. It would be surprising that all these laws or regulations too form part of human rights laws as subsidiary legislations! One thing that used to baffle me when some lawyers attend professional programme is that some even arrive very early but they do not stay till the end of the programme! I have observed these more than often! Why?! Have you not booked the said programme on the diary for the day?! Why in hurry?! Or is it as a matter of convention or as a matter of pride or arrogance?! Except those with urgent and or exceptional need to take their leave! It is one attitude that I find that lawyers need to really change from! It only shows that that programme is not important to you or that it is a waste of your time! Even if you do not enjoy it, I would advise that at best, please just wait till the end of the programme since you have sacrificed to attend, then, complete the sacrifice by ensuring that you do not leave until the programme is over! Most of the time, when one or two participants stand to take their leave, such leave is like a pandemic virus that starts to affect a number of other participants or causes a distraction one way or the other! This is becoming our attitudes to programme even outside professional programme! These programme are even rendered to us free of charge! Then, they are just like an academic class that one would not leave until the lecturer is done teaching or lecturing!
So, from the above information, it is clear that we have to think of other areas of laws beyond the human rights unlawful arrest and detention. We have to also develop the law to cater for other ways through which the rights i.e. fundamental rights or human rights of Nigerians can be affected and or violated; those areas where there are laws but not adequate; those areas where there are no laws yet and those where there are laws but there is need for amendment to cater for new development.
Finally, it is my humble advice that if we all take these human rights laws beyond their current levels, we would have also created some other opportunities for financial succor for us as lawyers and for us as human rights activists.