Human rights are inalienable rights of man but unfortunately, they are rights that have become subjected to injustice by man to his fellow man. What this paper is aimed at is asking the person who takes away the right(s) of another as to what he has to offer in replacement of the right(s) he takes away?!
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. Provision of those human rights guaranteed under these laws are not just for fancy or camouflage rather, occasions in the past had justified their guarantee in our organic or Supreme laws for the purpose of safeguard. Victims and of course, past heroes of local and international communities had actually fought and paid with their lives and body through injuries sustained when those human rights were not guaranteed, the situation which gave rise to those rights to be guaranteed in every Constitution of every country and in international laws as a matter of importance. The judiciary has therefore been placed in the position of being the last hope of a common man where the common man can run to in order to protect his guaranteed rights from the likely harm of his fellow man. More so that the two: i.e. guaranteed human rights and the judiciary are viewed as twins that have become inseparable.
That is also why judicial independence presupposes in my humble view, the status of the judiciary to have the right to perform all judicial functions and to utilize all judicial powers as conferred on it by the Constitution without fear or favour or without interference by any person or authority or other arms of government i.e. the executive and the legislature. This is also important because, taking away independence of the judiciary is likely to amount to taking away those guaranteed rights. Furthermore, judicial independence is also a claim for separation of powers. In other words, judicial independence is synonymous with judicial separation from other arms of government. Section 6(1) of the Constitution has established courts to perform the functions of the judiciary. Furthermore, section 6(6) of the Constitution has separated the powers of the judiciary (apart from administrative functions) from the other arms of government thus ‘(6) The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section— (a) shall extend notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law ; (b) shall extend to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person; (c) shall not, except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act or omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution ; and (d) shall not as from the date when this section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law.’. Also, in section 46(1), (2) and (3) of the Constitution, the Court has been empowered to hear applications on the enforcement of fundamental rights of the citizens thus ‘46.—(1) Any person who alleges that any of the provisions of this Chapter has been, is being or is likely to be contravened in any State in relation to him may apply to a High Court for redress. (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a High Court shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any application made to it in pursuance of the provisions of this section and may make such orders, issue such writs and give such directions as it may consider appropriate for the purpose of enforcing or securing the enforcement within that State of any right to which the person who makes the application may be entitled under this Chapter. (3) The Chief Justice of Nigeria may make rules with respect to the practice and procedure of a High Court for the purposes of this section’. Also see the provisions of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009. Therefore, it is my humble view that those guaranteed rights will better be achieved where the judiciary’s independence to decide disputes and or cases independent of any political affiliations or influence, fear or favour is guaranteed, else, anything short of trust of the public in the judiciary will have a direct impact on the national progress of Nigeria. Therefore, all must guide and protect the independence of the judiciary. And a situation where individuals do things in their own ways will definitely encourage chaos and disunity very soon as everyone will have to take the laws into his own hand and be the judge of his own cause, leading to ‘jungle justice’ that is ‘fake justice’ or ‘injustice to an innocent person or victim’ or ‘justice misplaced’ ‘or justice without substantial evidence’, so to say. Therefore, all and sundry must wake up to ensure that the Nigerian Judiciary remains independent and committed to its constitutional tasks of dispensing justice with confidence and without fear or favour.
Furthermore, it is my reasoning that where all those guaranteed rights are allegedly denied or taken away, the hope left for the common man or common citizen and of course, every citizen or victim (apart from seeking administrative settlement), is to approach the court of law for either judicial interpretation or declaration of title to those or any of those rights or to seek compensation with apology as provided by section 35(6) of the Constitution thus ‘(6) Any person who is unlawfullly arrested or detained shall be entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authority or person ; and in this subsection, ”the appropriate authority or person” means an authority or person specified by law.’. So, where the court will not do manifest justice in an applicant’s case, what then will be the reasoning of a lay man or a by-stander in the society as to whether the said justice was even attempted to be done in the first place not to talk of having been done in actual sense of it?!
Court’s orders must be obeyed at all times by all persons and the other two arms of government, so as to lay a good example for the members of the public. Also, the judiciary should not be used as a political football that is played the way the player or the ruling party in power desires. It must also free itself from bribery and corruption. It must be separated from politics, as the judiciary is even there to save politics where the need arises. Every citizen of Nigeria having realised the need and importance of the judiciary towards actualizing his guaranteed human rights must rise up and champion the cause of the independence of the judiciary.
Finally, I believe that taking away those guaranteed rights of another man unlawfully is not only unjust but reproachable, even beyond what compensation and apology can restore and it is a sin against humanity and so must at all time be discouraged. The Judiciary’s independence must also be safeguarded by citizens to ensure manifest justice dispensation to avoid a situation that will lead to chaos.