RIGHT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY IN NIGERIA: A FAILED REALITY
Human rights are inherent rights belonging to each and every individual world over and right to life is universally recognized as a foundational right without which other rights cannot be implemented. Nigeria is a signatory to various international/ regional instruments (protocols) that promote and protect human right, however, much is left to be desired in implementing and taking responsibility of these instruments in the face of gross violations of human rights of her citizens.
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration on Human Right states that everyone has a right to life, liberty and security.. Equally, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) Article 4, enshrines the right to life as follows, “…human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right…”
The right to life is amply provided for in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in Sec 33, which clearly states that 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 in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria. Likewise, Section 14 (2b) states that the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government. But irrespective of all the above provisions, Nigerians continue to witness cases of gross violation of human rights.
From the fore going, it can be deduced that the State has the responsibility to develop a practical framework to promote, protect and fulfill the right to life of its citizens and must be seen to take practical steps to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life and further conduct prompt, thorough and transparent investigations into any such deprivations that may have occurred, holding perpetrators accountable and providing effective remedy for the victims.
This, however, is not the case in Nigeria, where human beings are massacred with impunity and properties wasted almost on a daily basis. The African Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) estimates that over 60,000 persons were killed in Nigeria’s Middle Belt between 2001 and 2016. In the first 70 days of 2018, over 1,400 persons were killed violently across the country, an average of nearly 40 per State and the Federal Capital Territory. In parts of the North East, Boko Haram militant group continues to terrorize, killing thousands of citizens while armed bandits parading as Fulani herdsmen continue to unleash mayhem in parts of Middle Belt and South East states on innocent Nigerians going about their daily activities.
The most recent attack being the onslaught that took place at Birom in Jos, Plateau State and across other communities in four local government areas, between the 23-25th June 2018, where over hundred unarmed persons, including women and children were reported dead and more injured resulting from the attack by the armed bandits masquerading as Fulani herdsmen.
The gruesome murder of citizens in Nigeria is becoming a daily occurrence with little or no attention being given to this issue of violation of human rights by the government of the day. The latest killings of innocent citizens in Jos for whatever reason is most despicable, totally unacceptable and a wicked act by all standards and is highly condemnable. Safety of life and property is no longer guaranteed and protected. Most worrisome is the fact that a certain group of persons have taken responsibility of this heinous crime and yet they walk the streets of Nigeria free, like sacred entities. The notorious group claims it was a retaliatory attack on the community for their stolen cows, yet till date; no single herdsman has been arrested or held accountable by the security agencies in Nigeria.
It appears to be taking almost forever to bring perpetrators of these dastardly and senseless acts to justice while citizens are left defenseless.
Under the African Charter, a State can be held responsible for the killings by non- State actors if it approves supports or acquiesces in those acts or if it fails to exercise due diligence to prevent these killings in areas prone to these attacks or fails to ensure proper investigation and accountability. In the above unfortunate incident, report has it that killings lasted for hours with no resistance from security agencies who were severally alerted by villagers, thus the failure of the State or her agents to take measures to prevent, investigate suspicious deaths and killings of citizens, identify and hold accountable individuals or groups responsible for violations of the right to life of her unarmed citizens, constitutes in itself a violation by the State of the right to life.
Section 14 (2b) of 1999 Nigeria Constitution as amended, states that the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of the government. Thus government at all levels owes the people a constitutional duty to protect their lives and properties, irrespective of their ethnic, religious and political affiliations.
The above provision and other provisions enshrined in other international and regional instruments should be strictly adhered to and an end brought to endless killings of citizens under whatever guise in Nigeria, for without peace in the land, democracy or meaningful development cannot thrive. I lend my voice to that of other well meaning Nigerians to:
- Call on the Nigerian government at all levels to take decisive action now and secure the lives and properties of her citizens, bearing in mind that failure to do so constitute a violation of the human rights to her citizens and such violation remains subject to litigation.
- Demand justice for victims of violent killings across the country by unmasking the identity of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against humanity and ensuring that the identified perpetrators are punished for these crimes.
- Demand that Heads of Security Agencies and Intelligence Units be held accountable for being complacent in the face of these violations of human rights and further be relieved of their positions for lack of diligence in executing their duties.
- Demand that the provisions of the Constitution be upheld as the ground norm of the nation.
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