14 J.L. Pol'y & Globalization 1 (2013)

handle is hein.journals/jawpglob14 and id is 1 raw text is: 



Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization                                                       www iiste.org
ISSN 2224-3240 (Paper) ISSN 2224-3259 (Online)                                                           I
Vol.14, 2013                                                                                         U|;|[

   Human Rights Protection in Nigeria: the Past, the Present and
                        Goals for Role Actors for the Future


                                      DR. JACOB ABIODUN DADA

ABSTRACT
Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, human rights have not only acquired
global status and importance but have grown tremendously both in conception and content. While the
internationalization of human rights was energized and strengthened by a number of developments, the present
status of human rights in Nigeria is also not without any historical antecedents. This article provided a historical
development of human rights in Nigeria, starting from pre-colonial, to colonial and post-independence Nigeria. It
highlighted the scope of human rights guaranteed in each epoch and the impediments to their full realization.
The paper argued that although Nigeria is a signatory to major international human rights instruments, large-
scale human rights abuses still exist in the country and the social, economic and cultural rights have become a
neglected category of human rights in Nigeria. The paper concluded by prescribing roles which the government
and NGOs must play to ensure optimal realization of human rights in Nigeria.

INTRODUCTION
         Internationally and nationally, the need for the promotion and protection of human rights is now not
only recognized as the foundation of freedom and justice but as an integral and essential element for the
preservation of peace not only within the confines of particular states, but universally.1 It is for this reason that
human rights which include such rights as right to life, dignity of human person, personal liberty, fair-hearing
and freedom of thought, conscience and religion, have not only engaged the attention of the world community
but have, in the recent past, penetrated the international dialogue, become an active ingredient in interstate
relations and has burst the sacred bounds of national sovereignty'.
         To demonstrate their importance, the United Nations not only affirm faith in fundamental human rights,
in the dignity and worth of the human person,3 but declares as one of its purposes, the need to promote and
encourage universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race,
sex, language or religion,'4.
        From the scattered, terse, even cryptic' references to human rights in the UN Charter to the more
elaborate, definitive and authoritative burst of idealism and enthusiasm6 which the UDHR represents, the
United Nations has drafted, developed and adopted many international human rights instruments of promotional
and programmatic character, to ensure effective promotion and protection of human rights. Indeed, it is salutary
that since the historic adoption of the UDHR, human rights have become central to the work of the United
Nations which has consistently emphasized their universality; that is that, human rights are not foreign to no
country but native to all nations.7
         Just as the contemporary conception and contents of human rights have developed and grown over the
years at the global level, human rights in Nigeria have been energized and strengthened; and paradoxically,
undermined and subverted, by certain historical developments. The primary focus of this paper is to place human
rights protection in Nigeria in historical perspective. The relevance of, and rationale for this exercise are by no
means far- fetched. It is now generally acknowledged that the past co-exists with the present. History is a study
both of change and of continuity8. It helps to appreciate the past, understand the present and prepare for the
future. In discharging the objective of this paper, the first segment will be devoted to the examination of the
state of human rights in pre-colonial era while the second segment will be devoted to the examination of the
current legislative and institutional efforts aimed at protecting human rights. Hindrances to the full realization of
the global effort at promoting and protecting human rights will also be examined. The last pre-occupation of this
paper will be to design a road-map for institutions and bodies which are concerned with human rights in Nigeria.

Human Rights in Pre-Colonial Era
        It is noteworthy that the present day Nigerian society is a product of colonialism.9 Nigeria, as a nation
state, is unarguably the biggest country in African Continent and came into existence with the amalgamation of
the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 by Sir Frederick Lugard.10 Before the advent of the British
colonialists, the present day Nigeria consisted of different tribes which ruled themselves separately in
fragmentary communities without a central political union.1 These included principalities and ancient kingdoms
like Benin Empire, the powerful sultanates of Sokoto, the Emirate systems of Kano and Katsina among others.
In the West, the Obas and Chiefs ruled over their kingdoms. In the East, where there was no centralized system
of government comparable with what obtained in the West and North, governance was essentially a collective

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