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The Law & You: What The Constitution Says About Your Rights As A Nigerian

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for the rights of a citizen of Nigeria. These rights are fundamental and cannot be waived or trampled upon on any ground save otherwise the circumstances provided for under the same constitution.

1. Right to life

Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his/her life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which s/he has been found guilty in Nigeria. See section 33 of the 1999 Constitution

2. Right to freedom of dignity of a person

Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his/her person, no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment, no person shall he held in slavery, no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour. See section 34 of the 1999 Constitution

3.  Right to liberty

Every person shall be entitled to his/her personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty except: in execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which s/he has been found guilty. See section 41 of the 1999 Constitution

4. Right to fair hearing

The right to fair hearing is a constitutional right enshrined under section 36(1) and (4) of the 1999 CFRN. The right cannot be waived or statutorily taken away. Also, trial courts are enjoined to ensure that hearing notices are issued on parties before embarking on the trial of any matter before them. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.

However, the right to fair hearing had ab antique, that is, from old times been considered as part of the rules of natural justice. The Romans put the right in two maxims namely audi alteram partem (hear the other party); and nemo judex in causa sua (no one should be a judge in his own case).

5. Right to privacy

The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.

6. Right to free will

Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. See section 38 of the 1999 Constitution

7. Right to freedom of speech

Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

8. Right to association or peaceful gathering

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/her interests. See section 40 of the 1999 Constitution

9 Right to freedom of movement

Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit there from.

10. Right to freedom from discrimination due to race, gender, tribe, political opinion or association

A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, gender, religion or political opinion shall not by any reason be subjected to discrimination only because he/she is such a person.

11. Right to own property

Subject to the provisions of the constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. – No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law.  See section 35 of the 1999 Constitution

12. Right to vote and be voted in any election

Any Nigerian citizen is entitled to actively participate in any form of election provided that all regulations guiding electoral regulatory bodies are fulfilled.

13. Right to education

Every Nigerian is entitled to education at any institution of their choice provided that he/she meets the requirements of the institution without discrimination.

14. Right to silence

This is provided for under section 36(11) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Nigeria.

The provision provides thus:

“No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial”

What the above constitutional provision implies is to prevent an accused person from being forced by the prosecution to testify for it against himself.

It had therefore been stated that the combined effect of section 36(11) of the 1999 Constitution, section 160(a) of the Evidence Act, and sections 112 & 236(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, is that the accused person is not a competent witness for the prosecution – The Queen v. Omisade & Ors. (1964) 1 All NLR 67.

It is mandatory that an accused person must not be compelled to give evidence in a case involving himSaganuwa v. Commissioner of Police (1978) 1 LRN 45; Deduwa & Ors. v. The State (1975) 2 SC 37; and Agbachom v. The State (1970) 1 All NLR.

The right of the accused not to be compelled to testify is further fortified by the fact that where the accused failed to give evidence in his trial, the prosecution is not allowed to comment on that fact in its address – section 160(b). Thus, the provision of section 36(11) does not prohibit a trial judge from drawing any unfavourable inference against an accused having regard to the evidence adduced in the case. In Sugh v. The State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 77) 475, the accused person was charged with culpable homicide punishable under with death. In the course of the trial, the accused person did not make any statement as regards the cause of the deceased and the court commented on it in its judgment. On appeal, it was contended that the court’s comments on the accused person’s failure to make a statement as regards the cause of the deceased violated the accused person’s right to silence. The Court of Appeal further held that the right of silence means that no accused person can be compelled to give evidence at his trial.

 


Trizon Law Chambers is a commercial law firm that focuses on corporate commercial legal work.

Our scope of services are:

  1. Legal advise in business legal relations/ Corporate governance advisory services/Contract drafting resolution of commercial disputes or misunderstandings.
  2. We emphasise aiding clients to avoid taking their disputes to court and we start this from the very contracts that clients draft for their business relationships to have clauses that allow for out-of-court dispute resolution.
  3. Corporate and Business registration, tax filings, regulatory compliance and negotiations.

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Foluke Akinmoladun

Foluke Akinmoladun is the Managing Solicitor of Trizon Law Chambers. She has been a legal practitioner for 13 years and has experience in a wide range of commercial matters. She is a certified mediator, a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators(UK), holds an Advanced Diploma in Accounting from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK) and is also a tax consultant. She is a dispute resolution expert, handling commercial disputes from negotiations all the way to litigation (if need be).

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