Respect for Human Rights

According to the United Nations Human Rights, office of the commissioner, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic region, colour, religion, language or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible”.

In the Federal Republic of Nigeria, these rights are enshrined under Chapter Four (IV) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (As Amended). The provisions of the constitution are supreme with the ultimate goal of protecting and catering for its citizenry, protecting the weak from the strong, the poor from the rich; to treat each other equally, and with respect irrespective of status in the society.

For these rights to be adequately protected, the instrumentality of the law is brought to reality through the machinery of government put in place. In the Nigerian scenario, democracy is the order of the day: Government for, of, and by the people. In this system of government, the rights of citizens are not enforced by force, but in accordance with the provisions of the law.

Sadly, if one is to rate Nigeria’s approach to respect of human right on a scale of 1-10, with one being the lowest, and 10 being the highest, our beloved country will score below 5. This is so because the instrumentality of the law is not totally complied with by government agencies in accordance with the principle of separation of powers and rule of law.

In a democracy properly so called, citizens ought to act within the bounds of human decency and acceptable norms, while the government is obligated to protect these rights through its machineries, i,e the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary.

Fathers should not beat up children to injury, or sexually abuse the girl child, step mothers should not burn the fingers of step daughters as punishment, quack doctors should not send Nigerians to their early graves, and officers in uniform should not intimidate or exploit citizens without facing the law.

In order to achieve the feat of respect for human rights in Nigeria, the legal profession ought to stand guard against impunity in our country. The Nigerian Bar Association ought to be the voice of the voiceless, reminding both the government and the governed of their duties, responsibilities, and obligations towards the provisions of the constitution.

Most Nigerians are not aware of their constitutional rights, or how to enforce same for breach by government agencies through appropriate means to seek redress. There is need for social re-orientation, and education of the populace on fundamental rights, and respect for same.

While discussing this topic with a non-lawyer, Mr. Tochukwu Daniel, he asked ‘Is the legal profession really acting the capacity, voice of the voiceless? The Nigerian government and its officials would function effectively if the judiciary and security agencies do their job in accordance with the law’.

The declining confidence of the public can be salvaged when all hands are on deck to ensure that things are done properly. Nigerians ought to understand that where the rights of one man ends, another begins; the man, woman, girl, boy next door is a human like thee, and deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Animalistic behaviours against one another, killing fellow compatriots without recourse to the law, are a clear violation of the intent of the Nigerian constitution.

The government of the day has a major role to play in the quest for respect of human rights, its citizens must be able to feel protected by the actions of its machinery, the government ought to provide a safe haven for all irrespective of religion, tribe or colour, its security agencies must apprehend offenders and convict those found guilty in accordance with the law, the courts ought to give fair judgment to all cases irrespective of bias, and sentiments.

Collectively, we must see each other as one, treat one another with respect; what you do not want done to thee or thy children, restrain from doing same to your neighbours. Those with rifles in their possessions should use same in accordance with the law. Let the citizens feel safe and comfortable in their home country, not the other way around.

God speed!

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