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Fundamental Human Rights and International Law: A Perspective on Nigerians

Fundamental human rights are intrinsic entitlements due to every individual, irrespective of their nationality, sex, race, religion, language, or any other status.

They are basic principles that seek to preserve the dignity and worth of the human person [1]. These rights have their basis in international law and have been recognized and codified in numerous international treaties and conventions [2]. This article will explore the fundamental human rights from an international law perspective, paying particular attention to the Nigerian context.

The Origin of Fundamental Human Rights in International Law

The modern concept of human rights in international law originated after World War II, with the United Nations' adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 [1]. The UDHR was the first global enunciation of human rights and has since been ratified by nations worldwide, forming the basis of human rights law.

Subsequent to the UDHR, two key international agreements further shaped human rights law: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), collectively known as the International Bill of Human Rights [3]. These international instruments set a standard for nations to emulate in upholding and promoting human rights.


Human Rights in the Nigerian Context

Nigeria, like many other nations, has ratified several international human rights treaties and conventions. The country's commitment to upholding these rights is reflected in its constitution. Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) provides for fundamental rights, including right to life, dignity of human person, personal liberty, fair hearing, private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and the press, peaceful assembly and association, freedom of movement, and freedom from discrimination [4]. These constitutional provisions are aligned with the principles laid out in the UDHR, ICCPR, and ICESCR.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), to which Nigeria is a party, also plays a significant role in the human rights framework in Nigeria. The ACHPR provides for an extensive list of rights including individual and collective rights, duties, and peoples' rights [5]. Nigeria has domesticated this Charter through the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, giving it the force of law within Nigeria.

Challenges to Human Rights in Nigeria

Despite constitutional and legislative provisions, Nigeria grapples with numerous human rights challenges. Issues of discrimination, extrajudicial killings, torture, unlawful detention, and violations of freedom of expression and assembly are prevalent [6]. Several socio-economic factors, including poverty, corruption, lack of education, and terrorism, notably by Boko Haram in the north-east, exacerbate these human rights problems [7].

The fundamental human rights of Nigerians, as recognized by international and national laws, need to be adequately protected and enforced. While legislation and international conventions provide a basis for these rights, their effective implementation remains a challenge. Addressing these issues necessitates a comprehensive approach, including reforms in law enforcement, judiciary, and governance, as well as concerted efforts to alleviate poverty and improve education. It is through such holistic measures that the full realization of human rights in Nigeria can be achieved.


[^1^]: United Nations, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights," 1948.

[^2^]: H. J. Steiner, P. Alston, and R. Goodman, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, Oxford University Press, 2008.

[^3^]: United Nations, "International Bill of Human Rights," UN General Assembly, 1976.

[^4^]: Federal Republic of Nigeria, "Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria," 1999 (as amended).

[^5^]: African Union, "African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights," 1981.

[^6^]: Amnesty International, "Nigeria 2020," Amnesty International Report, 2020.

[^7^]: Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2021: Nigeria," 2021.


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