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Fundamental Human Rights

Since Word War II, there has been an increasing awareness that individual rights should be safeguarded through a Bill of Rights. The Nigerian Bill of Rights for instance, which came into force in 1959 spelt out fundamental human rights in an elaborate manner.

Classification of Rights
Fundamental human rights can be divided into two broad categories namely: Rights that are free from Legislative interference except in definite circumstances like Emergency. Such rights include: the right to life, personal liberty, freedom from inhuman treatment, slavery and force labour, freedom from discrimination, right to adequate compensation for property acquired compulsory, etc. The second category includes rights that can be abridged in peace time subject to certain conditions. These include right to private and family life, freedom of conscience, expression, assembly, association and movement.

1. Right to Life:
Every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a Court of Law in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria or elsewhere.

2. Right to Dignity of Human Person:
Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly:
a. No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.
b. No person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

3. Right to Personal Liberty:
Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with the procedure permitted by law.
(a) In execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty.
(b) By reason of his failure to comply with the order of a court or in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation imposed upon him by law.
(c) For the purpose of bringing before a Court of law in execution of the order of a court or reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence, etc.

4. Right to Fair Hearing:
In the determination of his civil right and obligations by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal constituted in such a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.

5. Right to Private and Family Life:
The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversation is hereby guaranteed.

6. Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion:
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

7. Right to Freedom of Expression and Press:
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.

8. Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association:
Every person shall be entitled to peaceful assembly and association with other persons freely. The individual may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interest.

9. Right to Freedom of movement:
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to free movement without molestation. The citizen can reside in any part of Nigeria and shall not be expelled on the basis of tribe, sex, colour or religion.

10. Right to Freedom from Discrimination:
A citizen of Nigeria shall not be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or, political opinion.

11. Right to Own Property:
Every citizen has the right to own property in any part of Nigeria.

Means of Safeguarding Fundamental Human Rights
A major necessity for the guarantee of fundamental human rights is that all citizens must obey the laws of the State. Therefore in pursuit of this goal, the citizens must ensure that:

1. The law is supreme and everybody is subject to the law of the land.
2. Equality before the law. The law is no respecter of persons. Everybody irrespective of position or status in society is equal before the law.
3. All citizens of the State must pay their taxes.
4. No citizen should interfere with the rights of other citizens.
5. Any breach of the law should be reported to the law enforcement agencies promptly. This will help the police to perform their roles effectively.
6. A citizen must be prepared to appear in the law court when he is required to do so and should treat the law court with respect.
7. A citizen should be able to make constructive criticism of government activities. He is not expected to be anti-government.
8. A citizen should respect the national flag and be honest and just in all his dealings. This involves a sense of patriotism and loyalty.

Limitations of Fundamental Human Rights

1. Ignorance of the Law poses a hindrance to fundamental human rights.
2. Interference with the judiciary limits the operation of fundamental human rights.
3. Emergency situations also limit the rights of citizen. This is because the constitution is set aside at this time.
4. Interference with the rights of other citizens limits the rights of a person when caught by the law.
5. Unlawful disobedience of the government limits the rights of citizens.