All humans are born equal regardless of place of birth. People should be treated with dignity. Some do not know the main human rights guaranteed by the constitution of the country in which they live.
Many Nigerians are poor and cannot afford the services of a lawyer. Some are often harassed and intimidated by law enforcement agents. The law enforcement agents are trained to protect the people. But instead, they subjugate them.
Nigerians should be educated to know their rights. The economic reality in the country is a hindrance to this. Not everybody can purchase the newspaper or do this on a regular basis, or buy radio and battery, and there is limited electric power supply.
Some people are not satisfied when they share equal opportunities with others. All such people also need education.
The rights of Nigerians are enshrined in the nation’s constitution. These include the following:
- right to life;
- right to dignity;
- right to personal liberty;
- right to fair hearing;
- right to privacy;
- right to freedom of thought,
- conscience and religion;
- right to freedom of expression;
- right to freedom of assembly and association;
- right to freedom of movement;
- right to freedom from discrimination.
A person should consult a lawyer to know how and where these rights apply and where they don’t.
Many Nigerians suffer from political oppression. Social amenities are denied in some cases because many people from a particular region did not vote for the ruling political party or its candidate.
Citizens feel helpless and do not know where to seek redress. Many fear reprisal from those in authority if they air their views.
Human rights activists have been known to suffer for taking a stand against government decision. This was especially the case during military regime but has continued since the military hand- over.
By the way, many civilian presidents since the last military hand-over are former soldiers. It seems that before civilian rights can be fully guaranteed in Nigeria, human rights activists should be as determined as their military counter-parts. They should be prepared to pay the supreme sacrifice.
To accomplish this, the world’s known human rights organizations can come to the rescue. They include:
ü Amnesty International;
ü Global Rights;
ü Human Right Watch;
ü International Federation for Human Rights;
ü UN Watch;
ü Human Rights Foundation;
ü Protection International.
Some common human rights abuses in Nigeria include: Harassment and use of force on civilians by members of the police and army; wife beating at home; physical violence on children; use of violence on apprentices; physical violence on school children.
Other abuses include use of law enforcement agents against minority ethnic groups; failure by government to resolve regional conflicts by peaceful means; opening fire by law enforcement agents on civilians and the so-called jungle justice.
For the most part, victims of injustice bear their ordeal without complaining which encourages the perpetrators. Sometimes, victims are literates, yet they are hesitant to make issue with their situations.
Human rights organizations in Nigeria should include governmental and non-governmental institutions, partisan or non-partisan. Each can have a role to play.
Membership should include people of all works of life, for example lawyers, accountants, bankers, contractors, artisans, labourers, every Nigerian who shows interest – these are the people to be defended and protected and can make substantial contribution to human rights process.
A human rights institution in Nigeria can facilitate freedom of thought and expression, due process and equal treatment under the law.
Since many Nigerians are poor, a human rights institution can see to it that free legal assistance is provided where necessary.
Nigerians, whether they live in towns or villages, need education about their rights and the provisions of the law that can be utilised to enhance their welfare.
Nigerians should be trained to expect accountability and transparency from people in office. Also, they should be trained to know and defend their constitutional rights when these are threatened by fellow citizens.
The news media in Nigeria are often coerced to dance to the tune of the ruling political regime.
They have been accused of indiscriminately spreading sensitive information without due regard to the social effect these will have on the populace.
Government owned radio stations are geared towards praising the ruling political regime. The prevailing trend hampers objective criticism.
Corruption is high within the Nigerian Police Force. Their abuses include extortion. The police take advantage of the people by putting blocks across the road which require a fee to be paid in order to pass for no legal reason.
Indeed many Nigerians do not know or understand many of the rules which they violate and because the officers are too eager to accept bribes, people pay them instead of being subjected to the rigours of the law.
There is need for equal treatment by the police. The wealthy pay for their own security and also expect the police to turn a blind eye when they engage in illegal activity.
Human rights institutions should be balanced in pursuing democracy and other ideologies of some of the technologically developed countries.
There is need for environmental protection for people to enjoy living.
Nigeria has unequivocally condemned homosexual and lesbian living and this irked some of the officers of the developed countries.
However, are these acts not unnatural?
Are not unusual diseases contacted and spread by those who indulge in these acts?
What about noise pollution? Nigerians need to be protected from all these tendencies.
Other areas a human rights institution can look into include child marriage, use of children for hawking, child labour, rights of women in Nigeria, etc.
The need to ensure the rights of Nigerians is diversified. Through proper education and empowerment a lot can be achieved.
Ephraim Elombah is a Civil Engineer and public affairs analyst based n Nnewi, Anambra State.