Institutions Protecting and Enforcing Human Rights in Nigeria

Institutions Protecting and Enforcing Human Rights in Nigeria

There are several institutions protecting an enforcing human rights in Nigeria and they include the Judiciary, The National Human Rights Commission, The Public Complaints Commission.

The Judiciary

The main body responsible for the enforcement of human right protections in Nigeria is the Court. In doing so, the court is empowered to make rules with respect to the procedure of a High Court in hearing and determining cases of alleged breach of fundamental human rights.

The very first set of procedural rules for the enforcement of fundamental rights in Nigeria was established in 1979. This set of rules was innovative at the time as it sought to ensure a quicker and more effective method to the enforcement of fundamental rights.

However, over time, the many inadequacies of the rules such as the cumbersome and costly requirements became more apparent and there was a call for a new and improved set of enforcement rules. As such, on the 11th of November 2009, the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules (FREPR) was signed into law by the then Chief Justice of Nigeria; Justice Idris Kutigi. The FREPR 2009 is the current applicable rule on the enforcement of human rights in Nigeria.

In lgwe V Ezeonochie the appellants were members of the Federal Trans-Nkissi Residents Association. However, subsequently, some members of the Association and the Respondents formed a new and rival association, the ‘Federal Low-cost Estate Housing Resident Association’ in the same area. The Respondents had approached some of the Appellants to be members of the new association to which they refused. As a result, the respondents through the use of the police and hired Armed Men harassed, threatened and intimidated the Appellants in order to try and get their membership. As such, the Appellants instituted an action at the Anambra State High Court for the enforcement of their Fundamental Rights to freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and right to dignity of their persons.

In an application for the enforcement of human rights, it is important to first establish which court has jurisdiction over such matters. This is extremely vital in the enforcement of such rights as it is only a court of competent jurisdiction that can validly hear and determine such matters. By virtue of section 46(1), the appropriate court to hear and determine cases bordering on fundamental human rights is the high court of the state where the infringement occurred or is likely to occur.

By virtue of the FREPR, the appropriate court also includes the Federal High Court. In Zakari v IGP, the Court of Appeal held that both the Federal High Court and the High Court of a State have original jurisdiction in the enforcement of fundamental rights.

It is important to note that by virtue of the 2009 FREPR, there is no time limitation as to when an action for the breach of fundamental rights can be brought before the court. This means that an action for enforcement can be brought at any time regardless of when the alleged breach occurred and any statute which seeks to extinguish or bar the right of a person to institute such action based on the time of occurrence is invalid.

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Where the court finds that there has been an infringement of a human right, it has the power to make such orders, writs and directives it deems appropriate for the enforcement of the fundamental right. The Court may also grant specific prayers of the applicant where it deems appropriate. Examples of orders the court can make include payment of damages, a declaration, an injunction restraining further breach, an apology and grant bail or order the release of applicant where such applicant is being held in detention.

The National Human Rights Commission

The National Human Rights Commission was established by the National Human Rights Commission Act, 1958 in line with the resolution of the United Nations which directs all member states to establish Human Rights Institutions within their countries in order to protect and promote human rights.

The objectives of the Commission are to ensure the public enlightenment on human rights, create an environment which enables the protection and enforcement of human rights and ensure respect of the provisions of international treaties on human right protection. It essentially seeks to enhance the enjoyment of human rights by all individuals in the country.

The Commission is mandated to deal with all issues relating to the human rights protected by the Constitution, the African Charter, the UDHR and all other international treaties that have been ratified by Nigeria.

Furthermore, it is mandated to keep track of all human rights violations and call for the prosecution of such cases as well as assist victims of human rights abuses seek redress. The commission is also expected to conduct research and assist the government in making policies which would improve human rights protection in the country.

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The Public Complaints Commission

The Public Complaints Commission was established by the Public Complaints Commission Act 1975. The main objective of the Commission is to provide a check on the abuse of power by public officers”.

To achieve this purpose, it has the powers to investigate complaints made by members of the public concerning administrative acts carried out by public authorities and officials. The National Assembly is tasked with determining the number of Commissioners in the Commission, the number of branches that may exist in the country and is generally responsible for the activities of the Commission.

In relation to the protection of human rights, the Commissioner is to ensure that no administrative action taken by any public official violates or infringes on the fundamental rights of any person in Nigeria.

In investigating any such violation, the Commission has the power to summon any person who he is of the opinion is competent to testify on the matter before him. Failure to appear when summoned amounts to an offence under the Act.

Where the commissioner finds that there is a violation or that a crime may have been committed, he is mandated to report his findings to the appropriate authority or recommend prosecution of the offender.

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