Ignorance is a serious disease! Most people are suffering unnecessarily out of ignorance. No wonder the Lord declares through the Prophet Hosea, “My people perish for lack of knowledge”(Hosea 4:6). Child of God, as long as this reflection is concerned, you will not perish! However, a Latin adage says, “Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat” which means, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one.” This article will expose you to your fundamental human rights.
Incidentally, today, December 10th is Human Rights Day. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Human rights are those rights that are inalienable to the human person. They are those legal entitlements which every human being enjoys. A violation of any of these right is a violation of natural law which can lead to natural disorder and even natural disaster. According to Nelson Mandela “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” This is the most inhuman thing anyone can do.
Human Right is a universal law. It is a law that binds humanity together. According to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “We declare that human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientation.” Nigeria as a member state of the United Nations, is among the many countries across the world that recognizes and even adopted the declaration of the fundamental human rights. Chapter four of the Nigerian Constitution upholds the following human rights:
The Right to Life: The Holy Father, Pope Francis sees the right to life as the first (and most essential right) among human rights. Life is sacred. It is a fundamental gift from God. All human beings, including you, are entitled to this precious gift. Nobody has the right to destroy your life. And you are not permitted to destroy your fellow human being’s life. Abortion, murder and even Euthanasia, which some people describes as mercy killing are crimes against this fundamental right.
The Right to Dignity of Human Person: Dignity has to do with respect, self-esteem and human reverence. Every human being is entitled to respect and dignity. No human person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman treatment. With this, all forms of slavery and even hostage is abolished. The idea of police torturing people in order to get information is against this fundamental human right.
Right to Personal Liberty: Freedom is the essence of human existence. Every human being, whether rich or poor; old or young, is entitled to personal liberty. This right entails the freedom to live as one chooses without much restrictions or constraints from the government or its agencies. It also assures a person of the freedom to stay or move about at his own will, direction and time.
Right to Fair Hearing: Fair hearing is the right to express and defend oneself against all charges. Every human being is entitled to fair hearing. Nobody should be detained or imprisoned without fair hearing. Unfortunately, here in Nigeria, majority of those who are in prison are on awaiting trials. Most of them have spent years on Awaiting trial. It’s unfair! As Martin Luther King, Jr. rightly declares, “A right delayed is a right denied.”
Recently President Mohammad Buhari has ordered that those that are detained unnecessarily should be released. This is a welcomed development and am sure it will go a long way in decongesting the prison yards.
Right to Private and Family Life: Have you ever imagined a world where people’s privacy is not respected? Without privacy people can easily gain access to your room, your phone conversation and they can easily interfere with your family life. Do you know that without search warrant nobody has the right, not even the police, to search your house – else they will be infringing on your right of privacy. Even when you are arrested, you have the right to remain silence, until your lawyers appears.
Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion: As a free citizen, you are entitled to your thought and conscience. You have the right to join any religious group of your choice and you are free the practice your religion the way you want without any interference. Nobody has the right to impose his or her religion. The government has no right to restrict people from practicing their religion freely and publicly (as is the case in places like Kaduna State).
Right to Freedom of Expression at the Press: Every human person is entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions. This includes the freedom to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through various mediums, such as electronic media and published materials.
The United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the freedom of the press: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The freedom of press can be indirectly denied by the government by not granting the media the necessary license for oppression. It can also be frustrated by high cost of media air services.
Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association: Every free citizen is entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons and form or belong to any political party. This right also allows you freedom to join any trade union or any association of your choice for the protection of your interest. Nobody has the right to impose any union or association on you. However, the right to free association excludes joining secret cult or any terrorists group.
Right to Freedom of Movement: You are free to travel to any part of Nigeria and to reside in any part of this country without any hindrance or interference. With this right no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry or exit. The Arewa youth’s quite notice issued to the Igbos in the Northern part of Nigeria is a direct violation of this fundamental human right. Unnecessary declaration of curfew can hamper people’s free movement.
Right from Freedom from Discrimination: Most people don’t even know that discrimination is against people’s fundamental human right. This declaration states, Every citizen shall not be subjected to any form of discrimination, disability or deprivation by reason of his/her community, ethnic group, place of origin, circumstances of birth, sex, religion or political opinion. Unfortunately, here in Nigeria people are beginning to take discrimination as a way of life. Children of the rich can hardly mingle with children of the poor. Whenever the rich are celebrating their attendance is usually on invitation.
Discrimination is against the law of equality. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, declares “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.” Former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, declares emphatically that politics is not for the poor. No matter how intelligent, how creative and how gifted you may be, according to him, if you are not rich you have no business with politics and you nothing to offer as long as politics is concern. Is this not another form of political and even economical discrimination – against the poor?
Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property anywhere in Nigeria: The right to acquire property cannot be denied to every free citizen. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Human Right declaration states, “Every citizen of Nigeria has the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.” Apart from stolen items, with your money you are free to acquire whatever you want to acquire in any part of the country, without any restriction.
These are some of the fundamental human rights as inscribed in the Nigerian Constitution. There are so many other rights. Remember, as your right is important to you, so also other people’s right is important to them. Never infringe on anybody’s right. The essence of this reflection is not just to create awareness on some of the fundamental human rights, it is also an opportunity to affirm your dignity as a human person.
Child of God, as a law abiding citizen you are a free citizen. Nobody, not even the police or the devil has the right to intimidate you. Nobody can torture you or even abuse you without your consent. You have the right to express yourself. You should never die in silence. And you should never allow anybody to suppress you. As you enjoy your freedom and right, it shall be well with you and I wish you happy Human Rights Day!