For over a 107 years (1913 –till date), the Nigerian Constitution has been a working document, which outlines the basic structure of Government and also focuses on the rights of individual Nigerian Citizens. these fundamental rights is easily understandable language. It is your hope that understanding your rights will not only be useful to you as an individual but will also help you hold your leaders accountable.
The present Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, came into effect in 1999 and Chapter IV deals exclusively with the rights of every citizen of Nigeria which are explained in detail below-
Right To Life-
The Constitution guarantees the right to life of every Nigerian Citizen except where such a citizen has been sentenced to death by a Court of Law or where Law enforcement agents are defending the life/property of another citizen, or seeking to prevent escape of persons in lawful detention, or in the course of suppressing a riot.
Right To Dignity Of Human Person-
This right expressly prohibits torture, inhuman or degrading treatment of any Nigerian Citizen and also forbids any Nigerian Citizen from being held in slavery or forced labor.
Right To Personal Liberty–
The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the personal liberty of citizens, and no person shall be deprived of this liberty unless in special circumstances, this section also provides for citizens right to remain silent or avoid answering questions of law enforcement officers until consultation with a lawyer. It further provides that anybody arrested must be notified in writing of the offence and should be brought to court within a maximum period of 48 hours. In a case where a citizen is unlawfully detained, such a person shall be entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authority or person.
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Right To Fair Hearing-
This provision guarantees fair hearing to all citizens before an impartial Court of law and goes further to provide that such proceedings must be held in public. Any Citizen accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
This right guarantees the following:
- Presumption of innocence
- Public trial for criminal offence (except in certain circumstances – public safety/order, welfare of child offenders etc.)
- Written charge informing the individual of the detail and nature of the offence
- Adequate time and facilities for preparation of his/her defense
- Right to a legal practitioner of his/her choice
- Right to examine witnesses and call witnesses of his/her own
- Right to interpreter if he/she cannot understand the language used at the trial
- Access to the records of the trial proceedings
- A person can’t be found guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed
- No person can be tried for a criminal offence if he/she has been previously either convicted or acquitted for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence unless upon the order of a superior court.
- No person who shows that he has been pardoned for a criminal offence shall again be tried for that offence.
- No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.
- No person shall be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty is prescribed in a written law
Right To Private And Family Life–
This section guarantees and protects the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations, and telegraphic communications.
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Right To Freedom Of Thought, Conscience, And Religion –
Every Nigerian Citizen is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief. The Constitution further guarantees a citizens’ rights to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. It is also important to note that this section forbids places of education from teaching or forcing students to observe religious ceremonies not in consonance with their religion. This section expressly forbids membership of a secret society.
Right To Freedom Of Expression And The Press–
Every Nigerian is entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and is entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions:
- Only persons authorized by the Government upon fulfilling conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly may own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station.
- Laws validly created for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films
- Laws validly created for the purpose of imposing restrictions on Government official or members of the Armed Forces/Police or other government security agencies.
Right To Peaceful Assembly And Association–
Every Nigerian Citizen is entitled to assemble freely and associate with other people. This in effect allows citizens become members of political parties, trade unions or any other lawful association.
Right To Freedom Of Movement–
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part of it, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry or exit from it.
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Restrictions on the residence or movement of persons who have committed or reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence in order to prevent the person from leaving Nigeria.
Right To Freedom From Discrimination In The Grounds Of Origin, Circumstance Of Birth, Sex, Religion Or Political Opinion-
This provision expressly forbids discrimination against a bonafide citizen of Nigeria on account of his/her ethnic group, place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or political opinion.
Right To Property & Compensation For Compulsorily Acquired-
Subject to certain exceptions, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. This section also guarantees the right to compensation for any property compulsorily acquired by the Government.
Where any of the above rights is in breach, the citizen is at liberty to approach a law court to enforce his/her rights. There are also other rights in the Constitution which are dependent on the availability of State resources, they include the right to:
- Free and compulsory education
- Adequate health care, gainful employment
- Shelter, food etc