Human rights are inherent in human beings and are inalienable. This fact has given it a pride of place in the affairs of States in the scholar milieu. Indeed, human right is so fundamental such that they are made immutable protected and constitutionally provided for. Human rights are not earned, but its deprivation to a person constitutes a grave affront to justice. i.e. the existence of the rights is not in the constitution for the
citizen’s enjoyment but its violation constitute a cause of action as stipulated in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.31 In this chapter, we shall look at the various categories of Human rights and thereafter, submit for the recognition of environmental right as a class of Human rights also.
CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS
These are naturally known as the first generation rights. According to the free Dictionary,32 Civil and Political Rights in an abstract sense, connote justice, ethical correctness or harmony with the rules of law or the principles of morals. In concrete sense, political rights connote a power, privilege, demand or claim possessed by a particular person by virtue of law. Therefore, these rights avail individuals with freedom and tools within the society. These rights relate generally to the individuals vis-à-vis, the authority and power of the state and society in which they live.
More On Human Right
After the horrors of world war 11, a broad consensus emerged at the world wide level demanding that the individual human being be placed under the protection of the international community.
National governments could not safeguard the life and freedom of their citizens as was clearly seen in the atrocities committed specific ethnic groups. Accordingly, it became almost self evidence to entrust the new world organization with the responsibility of guaranteeing human rights on a universal scale.33 By resolution 543 (iv) of 4 February 1952, the Commission on Human Rights was directed by the United Nations General Assembly to prepare two draft treatise to wit: international covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) respectively.
The rights encapsulated in the Civil and Political rights include.
i. Right to life
ii. Right to personal liberty
iii. Freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading punishment
iv. Right to assembly and association
v. Right to freedom of expression
A discussion of the recognition and protection of above rights under Human Right by various domestic and international instruments are seen below.
i) Right to Life: - The 1999 constitution of Nigeria guarantees this right stated as follows:
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 Nigeria34
In section 33(2), the constitution further indicates the circumstances which may warrant the deprivation of right to life. However, a number of International Human Rights Instruments protects this right. The Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR) provides as follows: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of persons.”35
The ICCPR stipulates that every human being has the inherent right to life. Therefore, “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”36 The African Charter on Human and People’s Right provides that “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.37
In Nigeria, the provisions of these legal instruments have not been compiled with. In the month of October, 1990, the police killed about eighty unnamed demonstrators and bodly damaged nearly five hundred houses due to protest at Shell B.P. facility at Umuechem, Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State. The Judicial commission of inquiry set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria found no evidence of threat by this demonstrators.38.
Again, since 1993, the Ogonis had fought hard battle with Shell B.P. over compensation for oil exploitation. This had led to extra-judicial killing of hundreds of Ogoni indigenes. A notable case is the “Tribunal” that tried a well-known playwright, actor and activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others.
They were arraigned for the murder of four prominent Ogonis amidst national and international condemnation, Wiwa and the rest were sentenced to death by hanging on the 10th November, 1995. In Nigeria, right to life has been violated in spite of the provisions of the laws.
In the case of shell Petroleum Development Corporation V Chief Caiphas Enoch and 2 ors, 39 five children are alleged to have died as a result of drinking oil-contaminated water. To protect both local interest and the interest of the multi-national operators of the oil industry, the right to life of the Niger Delta people on several occasions had arbitrarily and without legal justification been deprived.
ii) Right to personal liberty:- According to the 1999 constitution, this right provides that:
Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no one shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law40
The ICCPR provides as follows:
Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law41
Other Human Rights instruments such as the UDHR and ACHPR have made it abundantly clear that deprivation of personal liberty must be in accordance with the law. S.35 (2)-(5) of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria laid out such procedures. The violation of the right to personal liberty also goes with the violation of the dignity of the person.
The right of dignity involves absence of exploitation, degradation, slavery, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. A plethora of violations of the rights exists. For instance, in June and July, 1995 at Egbema, Imo State, mobile policemen sent to safeguard installations, due to major disturbances between ELF and the community, ended up engaging in indiscriminate beatings and arresting of more than thirty persons. The police subjected these people to various degrading and inhuman treatments at the police cell.
Their crime was that they demanded for the supply of electricity to the community from AGIP Oil Company. It is to be expected that where a breach of the law has occurred, recourse should have been should had to the procedures laid down by the law in ameliorating the breach especially section 35 (2)-(5) of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.
(iii) Freedom from torture
The constitution of Nigeria provides in S.34 (1) of the 1999 constitution that every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly:
(a) No person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment
(b) No person shall be held in slavery or servitude and
(c) No person shall be required to perform forced labour or compulsory labour.
In Uzoukwu v Ezeonu42 the court of appeal defined torture to include mental harassment as well as physical brutalization, while inhuman treatment characterizes any act without feeling for the suffering of others.
Degrading treatment was also articulated as the element of lowering the societal status, character, value or position of a person while slavery is interpreted as the state of being in drudgery. In Isenalume V Joyce Emadim, 43 the Applicant a lawyer was returning from court when he was pounced upon, kicked and dragged to police station. The court held that the act of the respondents in assaulting the applicant is unlawful and a violation of S. 34 91) of the 1999 constitution.
(iv) Right to peaceful Assembly and Association: - The 1999 constitution guarantees right to peaceful assembly and association in the following terms:
Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any. Other association for the protection of his interest. 44
The UDHR provides that everyone had the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.45 The ICCPR also provide that everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with the other.
V. Under the Freedom of expression, the 1999 constitution guarantees this right thus:
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interferences.46
The ICCPR and AFCPHR guarantee this right, stressing on the fact that everyone shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinion within the law. These rights, however, have been abused severely and violated unjustifiably. eg. The movement for the survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in Delta (MOSIEND), movement for Reparation to Ogba (Olobiri) (MORETO), Chikoko movement, among others, has identical objectives i.e right to free association and to protest and express opinion on the distribution of oil wealth and restitution effected on their degraded and devastated environment. They engaged in rallies for dissemination of information.
In all their agitations, these rallies were broken up by the police and other security outfits including soldiers. The prominent members of these associations were arrested, detained brutalized eve and even killed. The consequence was imposition of curfew and ban on meetings and processions. Inspire of this restriction, the people in Niger Delta still use protests, through rallies, to draw attention to their plight.