The popular Latin maxim. Ubi jus Ibi remedium recognized by the common law translates as follows, “once there is a right, there must be a remedy”. For instance, in spite of the serious threat to life by oil pollution, there is only one reported case in Nigeria which the right to life or the threat of it as provided by 1999 constitution has been invoked as a cause of action31 Nigeria is not a party to the optional protocol to the international covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 which enables individuals or groups to bring petitions against their home governments for violations of any of the provisions of the covenant.
More Details on Environmental rights
Environmental rights: Furthermore, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights is confined to promotional actives and making recommendation to the Assembly of Heads of states. It seems therefore that the salvation of the victim’s environmental degradation in African will continue to lie in the hands of the domestic courts. On the other hand, those rights which fall under the Fundamental Objective and Directive Principles of State Policy are not directly enforceable as S.6(6) (C) of the Nigerian Constitution expressly provides that:
“The Judicial Powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of the section shall not, except as otherwise provided by this constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any law or judicial decision is in conformity with the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter 11 of the constitution.”
Environmental rights: When enforcement, is normally discussed, it is in the sense of something being given the face of law or a right being capable of vindication by legal remedies. A literal interpretation of the above provision will give the impression that the rights under this chapter are not legally enforceable.
It should be noted that different levels of recognition have been given to environmental right even though included in the constitution. At times they are included as “Fundamental Rights” and at other times as “State Objectives”. In Africa, at least thirty five (35) countries have constitutional provisions ensuring the right to a healthy environment.32 Other countries of the world have advanced the concept of environmental policy into constitutionally protected fundamental rights.
Environmental rights: More than fifty (50) countries have explicitly recognized the right to a clean and healthy environment in their constitution and Nigeria should tow this line. In Malawi, the right to environment is also constitutionally guaranteed; section 13 of its constitution states that:
“The State shall actively promote the welfare and development of the people of Malawi by progressively adopting and implementing policies and legislation aimed at achieving the following goals – (a) to manage the environment responsibly in order to (i) prevent the degradation of the environment; (ii) provide healthy living and working environment for the people of Malawi; (iii) accord full recognition tot eh rights of future generation by means of environmental protection and the sustainable development of natural resources; and (iv) conserve and enhance the biological diversification of Malawi. 33
The Ugandan Constitution also enshrines the right to environment. Article 39 states that “every Ugandan has a right to a clean and healthy environment.” Despite the positive developments from other jurisdiction, the 1999 constitution merely provided for fundamental objective of State Policy of the Nigerian nation.34 It is therefore clear that the provision of S.20 of the constitution is not an environmental right but a mere objective of the state which the government has a discretion to fulfill because of its non-justifiability