Being a lecture delivered by Kehinde Adegbite Esq to the students of Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Ondo State on 10th February, 2021

  1. Opening Remarks

It is my pleasure to be here today, standing before you in a hall filled with young folks, bustling with life and vitality. I must thank the management for inviting me for this interaction. While today marks my second visit to your campus, it’s the first time that I have to directly address the student community of this historic institution. I can remember that when I was here about two years ago for a similar assignment, though some students were in attendance, the programme was primarily designed for the staff members. Kindly permit me to specifically appreciate Dr (Mrs) Martina Onuegbu for her role and sacrifice in ensuring that this event comes to reality. Thanks, Madam, for all the calls, reminders and text messages! I believe your students equally appreciate you.

A little over 20 years ago, I was a university student, studying Law and something happened. A lecturer taking us Land Law had given us a continuous assessment. The lecturer instructed us that nobody must write anything again once he asked us to stop. When it was time, he told us to stand up and hold our scripts and nobody must write again but I disobeyed him. Yes, I thought he wouldn’t see me and so, as he was collecting others’ scripts, I bent down, trying to finish a concluding statement which I had written halfway before he asked us to stop writing. Unfortunately for me, he caught me. Straight away, he came for me, collected my script and tore it into pieces. Right in my face, he threw my 30 marks away just like that. Very painful! Okay, let’s not debate it that I was wrong to have written in defiance of his instruction but was he right to have torn my script?

Now, looking back, I know he was wrong but as a Law student, I didn’t know my rights, at least not to that extent then. Yes, this incident clearly flashed through my mind the moment Dr. Onuegbu suggested that I should speak to you on the topic – “Your Rights”. As a practising Lawyer and Law teacher, I have watched the Nigerian student very closely and I agree that sensitising him on the subject of “human rights” can’t be overkill. Issues of rights constantly surround their life both on campus and off-campus. Given their limited knowledge of rights, most times they are helpless and don’t even know where to turn for legal redress.

However, as I was working on the lecture, the topic was changed and “sexual harassment” was introduced into it. I believe hardly would anyone object to the need to discuss sexual harassment on our campuses at this time. So, as discussions of human rights appear more prominent in the lecture, I have also tried to cover topical issues on sexual harassment as much as practicable.

When a student behaves contrary to the school rules and regulations and he’s rusticated; when he cheats in an exam and an overzealous lecturer slaps, beats and subjects him to torture in the name of punishment; and when he’s expelled from school on account of his involvement in student/campus politics, issues of rights may arise in all these. And again, questions of rights arise in so many other ways. Take, for example, where a student is arrested simply because he can’t produce receipt of his laptop or smartphone upon being accosted by a Police officer or where a female student is openly flogged for indecent dressing or a student’s luggage is thrown out by a landlord or caretaker for failing to pay room rent that’s due – all these point to the need to have a conversation on what rights do Nigerians have especially the young people who mostly populate our institutions of higher learning.

Just as it’s important for a Nigerian student to know his or her rights, there’s a need to make it clear that rights are not absolute. As it’s often said – where one’s rights begin, another’s rights start. When you exercise your right to express your mind, another’s right to good reputation must be recognised and respected. This tells us that there are wrong notions about the subject of rights that will also need to be corrected.

  1. Definitions of Terms

Without sounding academic, some words in the title of this lecture require to be defined so that we will all be on the same page. The words are – the Nigerian student (or Nigerian students), human rights and sexual harassment.

Nigerian students: this simply refers to young persons studying in any higher institution of learning within the country. For a person to be regarded as a student of any higher institution in Nigeria, such person must have been given a letter of admission usually headed as “Provisional Offer of Admission”; his or her name must have been entered in a school’s register or database; must have been assigned with a matriculation or registration number; and must have been issued with an identity card (ID) as a physical means of identifying with a particular school which a student customarily carries with him or her anywhere. In other words, the students we are talking about here are learners in schools such as college of education, polytechnic or university. Many higher institutions in Nigeria have age limit for their admission and some don’t. For those that have, it is not out of place to hear that unless an applicant has attained 15 years of age, the applicant will not be given admission even if his or her academic performance in the entrance exam is superb. University of Ibadan, for instance, doesn’t give admission to any applicant who’s younger than 16 years. Generally speaking, Nigerian students are young persons who are mostly adolescents.

Human Rights are also known as “Fundamental Human Rights”, “Rights”, “Fundamental Freedoms” or “Fundamental Rights” and therefore, each of these words/phrases may be used interchangeably. Human rights do not enjoy any universally acceptable definition. It has been variously described and defined by different persons – legal scholars, judges, lawyers, and other professionals. It will suffice, at this juncture, to reproduce some of the definitions.

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines human rights as,

“The freedoms, immunities and benefits that according to modern values (especially at an international level) all human beings should be able to claim as a matter of right in the society in which they live.”1 (Underline supplied).

Bolaji Akinyemi defined rights as,

“Rights are inherent in the nature of man. Man is born with rights. It is not a gift from a government to be given as a reward for good behaviour or withheld or withdrawn for bad behavior.”2

Yemi Akinseye-George defines human rights thus,

“Human Rights are the basic entitlements of all human beings in any society. They pertain to humans by virtue of their humanity. They are the irreducible minimum requirement for a civilised human existence in any society.”3

Kayode Eso (JSC as he then was) in Ransome Kuti & Ors. v Att. Gen. Federation, defined human rights in these words:

This is no doubt a right guaranteed to everyone including the appellants by the Constitution. But what is the nature of a Fundamental Right? It is a right which stands above the ordinary laws of the land and which in fact is antecedent to the political society itself. It is a primary condition to a civilised existence…4

The late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, in his album titled “Beasts of no Nation”, expressed his view on human rights in these lines:

Human rights na my property

So therefore, you can’t dash me my property

   Human rights na my property

      Dey wan dash us human rights.

In view of the foregoing, it is apt to conclude that human rights are inherent and natural gifts that every human being has only on account of their being human.

Sexual Harassment – this has not been specifically defined by the Nigerian law including the current bill on sexual harassment pending before the National Assembly. The bill is called the Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Bill, 2019. From section 4 of the bill which creates some offences, a definition of sexual harassment may be inferred. Sexual harassment can therefore be described as any act of soliciting for sex, having sex or making amorous advances towards a student by an educator or any person in a fiduciary relationship in an educational institution. Applicants seeking admission can as well be victims of sexual harassment.

According to the bill, other forms of sexual harassment are grabbing, hugging, kissing, rubbing, stroking, touching, pinching the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensitive parts of the body of a student; or sending by hand or courier or electronic or any other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex-related objects to a student, and whistling or winking at a student or screaming, exclaiming, joking or making sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique or stalking a student.

  1. Brief History of Human Rights

Since the arrival of the first two human beings on earth (Adam and Eve), the idea of human rights has become important and inseparably connected to human happiness, existence and survival. Human rights are seen as claims which citizens of any particular political community assert among themselves and against those who rule over them. However, it is doubtful if claims now christened as rights were known as such from the earliest times. What is known as human rights today took shape and became conceptualized over time but the values of dignified treatment, justice, fairness and equity which the concept of human rights typifies have been with man from time immemorial. Some of the earliest records of human rights values were found in the Cyrus Cylinder (539 BC), the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Rights (1628) and later in such other documents as the US Constitution (1787), the American Declaration of Independence (1776), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) and the US Bill of Rights (1791). It is worth stressing that these documents advocated such values as dignity of human person, equality of persons and fair hearing which now constitute the core ideals of modern human rights concept. As a matter of fact, they are the precursors to most of today’s human rights treaties.

The Magna Carta, for instance, was a document which King John of England was forced to sign in 1215. It was this document that recognized the right of the church to be free from the political control of the State; the right of widows who owned property to choose not to re-marry, among other rights.

The second paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence had profound effect on the development of human rights. The paragraph is worth reproducing verbatim for its far-reaching import. It states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable (sic) rights, that among these are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.5

However, it’s paradoxical that the First and Second World Wars that recorded unforgettable loss of souls also contributed in an unprecedented manner to the internationalisation of human rights and since the end of the Second World War in particular, the subject of human rights has remained in the front burner of the global agenda. As a matter of fact, most, if not all, of the international human rights treaties today owe their origin to the unfolding events that followed the end of the Second World War. At the end of the Second World War, the United Nations was founded and its founding nations (i.e. the Allied Forces) resolved to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses during the war to account. Their resolve led to the prosecutions at Nuremburg, better known as the Nuremburg Trials and Tokyo Trials.  Subsequently, ad-hoc courts followed the large-scale human rights violations that occurred in the 1990s such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, ICTR. It was this trajectory that ultimately culminated into the creation of the first permanent international criminal court – the International Criminal Court (ICC) – which came into force in 2002.

The first international document on human rights was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; others subsequently followed. Some of the other documents bordering on the protection and promotion of human rights among nations of the world which have sprung up include:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR)
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 (ICESCR)
  • Geneva Convention, 1949
  • Convention Against Genocide, 1948
  • The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950
  • African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, 1981
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women, 1979 (CEDAW)
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989
  1. Human Rights under the Nigerian Law

In Nigeria, like many other countries especially in Africa, certain human rights are categorized as “fundamental” based on the consequences of their violation. Under the Nigerian Constitution,6 these fundamental rights are found in Chapter IV. They are regarded as fundamental because they are justiciable, meaning that, upon their violation, an individual victim can seek redress in a law court, unlike other rights provided for in the Chapter II of the same Constitution. The non-fundamental rights in the Chapter II are categorised as “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”.7 However, this is not the case in some international human rights documents. For instance, under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, all rights are seen as important and none is less required for a happy human life than another.

Although the Nigerian Constitution doesn’t specifically use the word “rights” or “human rights” to qualify the provisions of Chapter II, other human rights documents refer to them as socio-economic rights. This, therefore, explains why many writers, jurists, and legal scholars have labelled the provisions of Chapter II as rights. The International Covenant on Social, Cultural and Economic Rights is the foremost legal document on these rights.

If I pause at this stage and ask some of you to tell me your rights, I will not be surprised to hear you mention – right to food, right to housing, right to life, right to freedom of movement and so on. But you need to be attentive here because I’m going to let you know that while you’re correct to say you have right to life and right to freedom of movement, you do not have right to food or housing in Nigeria.

Right to food, right to medical care, right to minimum living wage, right to education etc. exist only under Chapter II of the Constitution but not under Chapter IV and by virtue of section 6 (6) (c) of the Constitution, no citizen can initiate a court proceeding in order to compel government to give effect to those rights which touch on your education and physical wellbeing, if the government fails to provide them. As you receive lectures in those decrepit lecture halls and sleep in your overcrowded hostels, you can’t sue the government for endangering your right to health and good wellbeing, and conducive environment.

It has been argued that as long as the provisions of Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution are not enforceable, those fundamental rights in Chapter IV are of no effect. For instance, what is right to life to an unemployed and hungry man? And what is the meaning of the so-called fundamental right to freedom of expression to a stark illiterate and uneducated man? The late Jurist, Akinola Aguda, lamenting the frustration that the non-enforceability of Chapter II foisted (and still foists) on Nigerians, said:

Let it be said that practical actualization of most of the fundamental rights cannot be achieved in a country like ours where millions are living below starvation level. It is only a few days ago that some Nigerian Newspapers reported that according to statistics compiled by the United Nations expert- In sure (sic) rather conservatively- that over 13 million Nigerians are living below starvation level. In circumstances of this nature, fundamental rights provision enshrined in the constitution are nothing but a meaningless jargon to all those living below or just at starvation level. A situation like ours where a few are living in unimaginable luxury and opulence whilst the vast majority are living just on or below starvation level and where multitudes are roaming the streets seeking employment which will never come is the greatest injustice of our time and it is one that no Nation has ever survived.8

Deciding on the import of section 6 (6) (c) on the provisions of Chapter II, the court, in Ugwu v. Ararume9, held thus:

An enactment is justiciable if only it can be properly pursued before a court of law or tribunal for a decision. But where a court or tribunal cannot enforce such enactment then it becomes non-justiciable (i.e. non-enforceable). This means that the Executive does not have to comply with the enactment unless and until the Legislature enacts specific laws for its enforcement. In our constitutional law we have typical examples of such enactments particularly those contained in Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, placed under the caption, ‘Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.’ These are not justiceable (sic), generally, they run subsidiary to the Fundamental Rights contained in Chapter IV of the constitution. (Underline supplied)

  1. Who can Enjoy Human Rights?

Every human being is qualified to enjoy human rights whether man, woman, children, abled or physically challenged. The enjoyment of rights is predicated on being a person and not on the basis of anyone’s gender, tribe, status or creed. Given the peculiar circumstances of women, children, and physically challenged persons in the society, some special classes of rights have been developed for them. For instance, in addition to human rights that a child enjoys, there is the Child’s Rights Act/Law which contains a collection of rights designed to meet their peculiar needs. Under the Child’s Rights Act, a child is defined as a person below 18 years of age and to that extent, a child has right to survival and development, right to name, right to leisure and recreational activities, right to parental care, protection and maintenance, and right to compulsory and universal education. Giving birth to a child and failing to take care of that child is a violation of the child’s right which may be enforced by any public spirited person. This can be used to fight cases of children who loiter the streets instead of being in school. The problem of Almajiris who are mainly out of school children more prevalent in the North can be curbed with this law but quite unfortunately, most of the Northern states have not passed the Child’s Rights Law. Similarly, the law frowns at child marriage which has been legalised in the North.

  1. What are your rights?

In Nigeria, rights that Nigerians have and can enforce in a law court, if violated are – 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, and right to compensation on compulsory acquisition of private property.

I shall now discuss each of these rights in details as they relate to your life within the campus and off-campus, taking into cognisance too, effects of the digital age on the exercise and enjoyment of your rights.

  1. Right to life (section 33)

Right to life means that everyone has right to exist and not to be killed by another person. It presupposes that nobody owns another person’s life, not even an individual owns his or her own life. It is a heinous crime to kill another person and in fact, the crime carries the highest punishment known to law which is death penalty. It is also an offence for a person to attempt suicide.

There is sanctity of human life and human life can only be taken under any of the following situations –

  • if a person is shot by a security agent while the person is resisting arrest or breaking away from lawful custody;
  • if a person is killed while attempting to kill another person or to take away another person’s property. This is regarded as self-defence or defence of property;
  • if a person commits murder, armed robbery or treason or other offences such as treason, kidnapping, terrorism or cultism where life is lost.

It is criminal for a law enforcement agent to kill anybody under the excuse of accidental discharge. In Maiyaki v. The State,[1] the court held thus, “I must however admonish here that enough is enough of the type of raw killing which the Police have timidly termed as accidental discharge.”

  1. Right to dignity of human person (section 34)

It protects the dignity of every person in that nobody can be subjected to torture or slavery. It outlaws all forms of inhuman treatment and forced labour except national service, e.g. National Youth Service Corps.

In Onwo v. Oko,[2] the court held that it’s a violation of a person’s right to dignity of human person for a woman’s hair to be shaved in fulfilment of a custom that requires such in mourning her late husband contrary to her own religious belief.

  • Right to personal liberty (section 35)

This guarantees everyone’s freedom from being imprisoned except where a person is reasonably suspected to have committed a crime or has actually committed. Where a person is arrested and detained, such person must be brought before a court of law within 48 hours but if no court is available within a radius of 40 kilometres, then the person must be taken to court within 48 hours or more.

When a person is arrested, whoever makes the arrest has a duty to inform the arrested person the reason for the arrest in writing but unfortunately in Nigeria, it’s common for Police officers to tell suspects that they will know reason for their arrest when they get to the Police station when they ought to disclose the reason even without being asked. A person arrested has right not to say anything until he or she chooses to do so and may decide to speak only in the presence of his or her lawyer.

When a person is arrested for a matter that is not criminal, it’s a violation of that person’s right to personal liberty. For example, arresting a student for indecent dressing; wearing of dreadlocks; for being in possession of an expensive phone or owing house rents are all cases of unlawful arrest which may be remedied when victims file an action in court for the enforcement of their rights.

In ACB v. Okonkwo,[3] the court condemned the practice by law enforcement agents to arrest a person in lieu of another person who is on the run.

  1. Right to fair hearing (section 36)

This means that everyone is entitled to be heard first before being judged (audi alteram partem). When a student breaches school regulations, it is behoved on the school authorities to give such student right to fair hearing before deciding his fate one way or the other. This was the right my lecturer violated when he tore my script without giving me the opportunity to defend myself before a panel of which he is not a member because nobody can be a judge in his own case (nemo judex in causua). A person cannot be an accuser, a prosecutor, and a judge at the same time.

Every person alleged of committing a crime is presumed innocent until his or her guilt is established before a competent court of law. It’s therefore a breach of this right for law enforcement agencies to parade persons accused of any crime on television or online as if they have already been tried and found guilty by a court of law.

  1. Right to private and family life (section 37)

This protects everybody’s right to privacy and family life which includes the choice to be married or not to. Few days ago, a video went viral on the internet of a hotel in Ayepe, Ogun State where the proprietor of the hotel installed a camera in his hotel rooms unknown to the lodgers. Some lodgers later found out about the cameras and they alerted the whole world about it. They made a video of their discovery and uploaded it online. It’s simply a case of breach of right to privacy.

  1. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (section 38)

Everyone has the right to form thoughts, views and subscribe to any religion of their choice and they may decide to abstain from religion, if they so wish. Nobody can be compelled to change their religion or not to change it, if they so wish.

Practices of some faith-based schools who insist that their students must practise the religion of their organisation is a violation of their right and any student who feels aggrieved may approach a court of law for redress.

  • Right to freedom of expression and the press (section 39)

Everyone has right to speak and express their thoughts but defamation may be committed if this right is not properly exercised. For example, calling or writing that a person is a prostitute without having any evidence to back it up may constitute defamation of the victim’s good reputation and may amount to a case of wrongful exercise of right to freedom of expression and the press. It is also a misuse of right when citizens peddle fake news especially where such is capable of igniting ethnic conflict or to destabilise the polity.

However, a government may also violate citizens’ right to freedom of expression and the press when it enacts a law that restricts the use of the social media or when citizens are arrested for making comments or online posts that are critical of government’s policies or actions.

  • Right to peaceful assembly and association (section 40)

Everyone has right to belong to any association of his or her choice. Nobody can be forced to be a member of any group or association. Right to belong to any association doesn’t however mean that one can be a member of a secret society or cult group.

This right also includes right to demonstrate or protest against government or school policies that are unfavourable as long as such protest is peaceful. Government often demands that citizens obtain permit before embarking on protest or demonstration but such is unconstitutional – IGP v. ANPP & 11 Ors.[4]

In University of Ilorin v. Rasheedat Adesina[5] Miss Rasheedat Adesina and some other student activists were denied their certificates on account of their involvement in protests against some policies of the school authorities. Miss Adesina filed an action in court for the enforcement of her rights and after more than a decade of legal battle, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled in her favour and ordered the university to release her certificates.

  1. Right to freedom of movement (section 41)

Every Nigerian has right to reside anywhere in Nigeria and move about too. In some respect, this right appears absolute because no Nigerian citizen can be deported from Nigeria (see Shugaba v Minister of Internal Affairs[6]) or any part of Nigeria simply because the person is not an indigene of the place.

However, during pandemics such as the COVID-19, the right may be seriously curtailed so as to control the spread of the deadly virus. In Nigeria as in many other parts of the world, the government imposed curfews and lockdowns.

  1. Right to freedom from discrimination (section 42)

Nobody can be discriminated against on account of sex, religion, tribe or circumstances of birth.

In Ukeje v. Ukeje,[7] the court held that a female child has right to inherit from her father’s estate as opposed to the practice under the Ibo’s native law and customs which does not recognise a female child’s right to inherit.

  1. Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria (section 43)

A Nigerian has right to acquire land or any other immovable property in any part of the country.

  • Right to compensation upon compulsory acquisition of private property (section 44)

If government acquires a person’s private property to be used for public purpose, then such person must be compensated while the process of acquisition must also follow the due process of law.

  1. Enforcing Your Rights in Nigeria

By virtue of section 46 (1) of the Constitution, any person whose right is breached or likely to be breached may approach a court for redress. This section provides thus:

  1. – (1) Any person who alleges that any of the provisions of this Chapter has been, is being or likely to be contravened in any State in relation to him may apply to a High Court in that State for redress.

(2) Subject to the provision of this Constitution, High Court shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any application made to it in pursuance of the provision of this section and may make such orders, issue such writs and give such directions as it may consider appropriate for the purpose of securing the enforcement within that State of any right to which the person who makes the application may be entitled under this Chapter.

Also, under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, a process known as Public Interest Litigation is allowed. By Public Interest Litigation, a third party like a neutral person or an organization can approach a court of law for redress on behalf of a victim of human rights abuse where the victim for any reason is incapable to press for his rights.

Students whose rights are violated or are being violated or about to suffer violations may approach lawyers for assistance or organisations involved in the promotion and protection of human rights. FIDA (International Federation of Women Lawyers) is one of the organisations that provide pro bono legal services for indigent persons including students.

  1. An Overview of the Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Bill, 2019

Given the background that Nigeria does not have any legislation which specifically addresses the problem of sexual harassment which is common on the campuses of higher institutions of learning in the country, the National Assembly is considering the enactment of a bill into an Act named – the Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Bill, 2019.

The Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Bill, 2019 has 27 sections and it establishes the Independent Sexual Harassment Prohibition Committee which victims of sexual harassment can report to and the committee has responsibilities to investigate and determine if the complaint is genuine or not. If found to be true, a perpetrator may be suspended, demoted or sacked. A perpetrator may also be arraigned in court for criminal prosecution.

Offences under the Bill attract a maximum of 14 years imprisonment and a minimum of 2 years.

However, the passage of the Bill has been delayed because of a number of criticisms that has trailed it. Some argue that it portrays educators in Nigeria’s higher institutions as sexual abusers which is not good for the image of the country as a whole. It is also criticised that only students can be victims, while only educators or staff of such institutions can be perpetrators. The law does not criminalise sexual harassment if committed by students against educators or sexual harassment suffered by an educator from another educator or staff.

The proposed law does not reckon with defence of consent or any claim that an educator or staff only intends to marry such student and not to harass her. So, as long as the incident of sexual harassment is between a student and an educator, the latter can’t claim that the student gives consent even if she is old enough to give consent. On the other hand, the bill allows the defence of marriage but it is only applicable where a student and an educator are already married and not for those planning to get married.

  1. Conclusion

The rights contained in Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution are a collection of “privileges” that only the educated and well-to-do Nigerians enjoy while majority of Nigerians including students don’t even know their rights and when they do, they lack the economic wherewithal to enforce them or leave everything to the hands of God because they face bigger challenges of what to eat, what to wear or where to lay their heads. It is for these reasons that the unhealthy demarcation constructed between Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy also has to be demolished. Some countries have already charted this course. Supreme Courts in India and South Africa have creatively brought such rights as contained in the Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution into the realm of enforceable rights in their respective countries. Nigeria should follow suit. Rights become much more meaningful when socio-economic rights are no longer mere objectives which governments may aspire to but tangible rights which can be enforced, if governments fail to provide conditions for their enjoyment.

Again, Nigerians cannot afford to be docile, especially the youths. Enjoyment of human rights in any society has never come into being without the people rising against tyranny and wanton disrespect for the rights of the governed by those in position of authority. If the educated members of our society will not voice out their dissent against reckless abandon of constitutional responsibilities by those in power and fold their arms when the rights of the defenceless and underprivileged members of the society are being violated, the full realization of the so-called fundamental rights will remain a mirage, while those “privileges” enshrined in the Chapter II of the Constitution will never graduate to the level of enforceable rights by the suffering masses of this country. Unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, misgovernance, official corruption, diseases and governmental insensitivity thrive in this country because the youths and the educated class of this generation have refused to toe the path once charted by the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Gani Fawehinmi, Wole Soyinka, Bala Usman, Ayodele Awojobi, Olu Onagoruwa, Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana, among others, during the youthful stage of their lives.

In the light of recent exposures of sex scandals in our higher institutions, the need for specific legislation on sexual harassment cannot be overemphasised. It was Professor Richard Akindele of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife who was first exposed for demanding sex from his female student. After him, many others have been exposed including the famous BBC documentary on sex for grades. Therefore, the proposed law on sexual harassment on our campuses is desirable but identifiable shortcomings in it need to be first addressed before it is passed. There is no point enacting a law that will only be mighty on paper but weak on implementation on account of its unrealistic provisions. There is no doubt that sexual harassment in Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning is a serious menace that we can’t afford to close our eyes to, yet it must be addressed appropriately.

1 Bryan A. G., (ed.) Black’s Law Dictionary, (9th Edition, West Publishing Co., 2009) 809.

2 Bolaji Akinyemi, “Your Rights, My Rights, Human Rights”, being the 2nd Lam Adesina Lecture for Peace and Good Governance, delivered in Ibadan on 23rd November, 2000.

3 Yemi Akinyeye-George, Improving Judicial Protection of Human Rights in Nigeria

4 Ransome Kuti & Ors. v Att. Gen. Federation (1985) 5 NWLR Pt. 10, 211 at 229-230.

5 The American Declaration of Independence, 1776.

6 The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

7 Ibid.,CFRN, 1999.

8 Akinola Aguda, “Judicial Attitude to the Interpretation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979” in I. Ademola Yakubu (Ed.)., Legal Thoughts- Essays in Honour of Professor Babatunde Oloyede Iluyomade

9 (2007) 6 SC Pt.1, 88.

[1] (200) 15 NWLR Pt. 173, 220.

[2] (1996) 6 NWLR Pt. 456, 587.

[3] (1997) 1 NWLR Pt. 480, 195.

[4] (2008) CHR 131.

[5] Unreported – SC. 166/2009. See also, Lawyer Online, University of Ilorin v Rasheedat Adesina, https://cases.lawyersonline.ng/university-of-ilorin-v-rasheedat-adesina/ (accessed on 09 February, 2021).

[6] (1981) 1 NCLR 22.

[7] (2014) 11 NWLR Pt. 1418, 384.

Dr. Ayodele Oni has released new books – “Understanding Petroleum (Oil & Gas) Transactions and the Nigerian Market” and “the Nigerian Electricity Market: Understanding the Transactional Legal and Policy Issues”. It is available in case (hard) cover and limp (soft) cover. For more information, or to book your copies, contact: +2348052362430 ( WhatsApp only); Oni@bloomfield-law.com

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