One cardinal Principle of our past and present Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1960, 1963, 1979 and the extant 1999 Constitution as Amended) constitution is the provision of Fundamental Human rights.
Human rights are natural, inherent or innate rights every person is born with and they are universal and everlasting. Human rights are what make a person a human being.
Fundamental rights predates and existed before the constitution, they were not created by the Constitution but are provided in the Constitution to give them Constitutional force and protection.
Fundamental human rights are guaranteed and protected under chapter four of the 1999 Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Accordingly;
Section 33 provides for right to life;
Section 34 provides for right to dignity of human person;
Section 35 provides for right to personal Liberty;
Section 36 provides for right to fair hearing;
Section 37 provides for right to private and family life;
Section 38 provides for right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
Section 39 provides for right to freedom of expression and the press;
Section 40 provides for right to peaceful assembly and association;
Section 41 provides for right to freedom of movement;
Section 42 provides for right to freedom from discrimination;
Section 43 provides for right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria; section 44 Provides for compulsory acquisition of property;
Section 45 provides for restriction on and derogation from fundamental right;
Section 46 provides for jurisdiction of high court and legal aid respectively.
Fundamental rights provisions are binding on government, all authorities and persons. Accordingly Section 1(1) of the 1999 Constitution provides:
“This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria”
Furthermore, so important and sacrosanct are human rights that they are now recognized under international Law. They are guaranteed and protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Magna carter Act, the English Bill of Rights amongst others.
Fundamental rights have been given judicial authority and upheld be the courts in a plethora of cases in Nigeria. In the celebrated case of Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu(1986)1 NWLR pt 18,l.621 SC,in dismissing the appellant’s application the Supreme Court held inter alia, that no one is entitled to take possession of premises by a strong hand or a multitude of people.
However, although human rights are fundamental, on certain exceptional grounds provided by the Constitution, there might be derogation or restrictions of fundamental human rights, for instance in the preservation of society in times of emergency or war. Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution provides exceptions where fundamental rights may be restricted. These are in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, for the purposes of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.
In conclusion, Fundamental human rights are the foundation of justice because without human rights there can be no justice. Human rights cannot be ousted by Law.
Samuel Irusota is a writer, poet and Law Student of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma in Edo State.
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