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The Importance Of Human Rights As A General Studies Course In Higher Institutions Of Learning In Nigeria By Moses Dyege

Human rights are essential features of man, which always must be protected for a peaceful and enjoyable existence. The Nigerian state has taken very serious measures for the protections of this right which can be seen in their law and judicial decisions. Even with the above measures, the rights of many citizens have been violated for some reasons, and the perpetrators go scot free.

The unawareness or ignorance of the law is seen as a major factor why the rate of human right abuse has not reduced. Hence there is a need for the awareness of these laws. In doing so, certain steps must be taken for many Nigerians to be aware.  

The protection of human right is a very essential aspect of a peace coexistence of citizens in a state. There is high need for the rights of the people to be protected. This has in a way been achieved in Nigeria through the right legislation. This legislation has sought to allay fear of abuse of human rights in the country. However, ignorance and illiteracy have blindfolded the people from enjoying this very fundamental element of life. Hence, there is urgent need for this to be taught at all levels of education to aid reduces the high rate of human right abuse in the country.

It is expedient to say that, the law and government have done so much for the protection of human right. The ignorance and unawareness of the people has many a times been the hindrance to protection of human right.

Human right is an international concept; it is the highest desire of the international society that the human right of every human being is protected. Human right is one of their greatest priorities. This assertion can be seen in the kind of laws, treaties, conventions and practices of the international society[1].

The enforceability of human right at the international level proves to be difficult because of the sovereignty of nation. However, many nations if not all, have taken drastic measures for the protection of human rights.

Rights are those legal or moral claim to hove or get something or to behave in a way[2] Simple put that, rights are moral or legal entitlement of a person. Human rights are legal or moral entitlement accrued to a person because he is a human or a rational being. They are inherent regardless of your age, ethnic group sex, origin, location, language, religion, or any other status[3]

General studies course is a knowledge-oriented school course taught to all student in the tertiary institutions of learning irrespective of their different fields of study.

Measures Nigeria Has Taken to Protect Human Rights
It is proper to say that Nigeria has done so much regarding the protection of human rights of its citizens. The country has through every means possible, tried to promote and encourage the protection of human right

The constitution and various other legislation have left no stone unturned for the protection of human rights. It has provided for the protection of the human rights of the people. It has not stopped at providing for their rights, it went a step further in creating mechanisms for the enforcements of such rights when they are violated[4]

Human rights have been provided for in the constitution of Nigeria, which is the highest law in the land. The chapter 4 of the constitution[5] has expressly provided for the fundamental human rights of the people. In the case of kuti v. AG federation[6] the Supreme Court held that human rights rank above all other rights in the country. There has also being various enactments for the protection of human right in the country[7]

The law has left no excuse for the poor, it has gone on to create various scheme for the people who are financially incapable to enforce their fundamental human rights. This can be seen in the enactment of the legal aids act[8].

The enactments of laws for the protection of human rights in Nigeria, has not been a mere speculation as Nigerian courts have come to recognize and enforce it in numerous cases such as Bello v. AG Oyo state[9], Bello v. Ihuoma Dorcas[10], Abdulkarim v. Lagos state govt[11]etc.

The court has also stood firm for the protection of human right even in the military regime, which was characterized greatly for its abuse of the human right. There has been a record of several court cases at that time condemning such acts of the military government. This can be clearly seen in the case of Amakiri v. Iwowari[12]. The courts, in making the rules of the court have also made provisions for the protection of human rights and defense for the helpless or poor.

Reasons for Abuse of Human Rights
Irrespective of all the measures Nigeria has taken towards the protection of human rights, it can still be noticed that there are still rampart cases of human right abuse all over the country. One turns to wonder, what the causes are and a way forward.

There are various reasons why human rights have been constantly abused In Nigeria. Cultural and religious practices is one of the major reasons why human rights have been constantly violated. African cultural practices were not disregarded by the colonist and same as also been adopted and entrench in the constitution of Nigeria, however the law have subjected the various customs in a test, given that many of them are in violation of the human rights of a person.

The culture of the Igbos in shaving the hair of a widow, and making her drink the water from the corps of her dead husband to ascertain her innocence in the death of her husband is a cultural practice, but is a violation of the widows fundamental human rights encapsulated under section 34 of the constitution which is against degrading and inhuman treatment (dignity of human person).

The unequal status of persons in the society can also be a reason for the violation of human rights in Nigeria.  The capitalist system of government which Nigeria is also practicing provides for two classes of people: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In such a system, one of the classes (bourgeoisie) is economically, socially and otherwise superior to the other (proletariat). It is crystal clear that, where there is an uneven society there is bound to be oppression and high disregard for human rights.

However, with the above reasons, the law has tried to step in and make sure the barbaric customs and inequality in status does not bring about the abuse of human rights. The law has protected the lower class from oppression and the weak from the wrath of this customs.

Ignorance and unawareness have or is one of the major reasons in which the abuse rate is not reducing as it supposes. Statistics have shown that many Nigerians whose rights have being abused and the perpetrators go unpunished are the ignorant while some of those people know their human rights have been violated but do not know the right procedures for the enforcement of such rights.

It is amazing to know that even graduates who are literate in our society are many at time unaware of the procedures for the enforcement of their rights. Many in their ignorance have consoled themselves with religious while others resort to blaming the government for an unjust society and the legislatures for not making laws to protect the poor.

Why Human Rights is Important
Human rights are the core existence of a human being, which without it, life will be meaningless and not worth living. The protection of human right brings about peace, unity harmony and a spirit of belonging to the low class in the society.

Human rights if well protected will bring about development and there will be less of oppression as every citizen feels he is a priority to the state and hence shall work for the development of the state.

The importance of human rights cannot be over emphasized; its importance can be seen in the various conventions and laws of the international society. The need for human beings to be allowed to be free and enjoy some basic rights, which are seen paramount to the existence of a complete and peaceful being. These rights are God given and the law seeks to recognize and protect it as it is very important to man

Importance of Human Right as a General Studies Course
It is the desire of the Nigeria that the laws made don’t remain as dead letters but is known and observed. The provisions of the constitution and various other statutes, for the protection of human right are not a mere theory. Nigerian has in its own capability done everything to make sure this is a reality. Their efforts can be seen in the numerous human right cases where the courts have awarded harsh punishment and at times exemplary damages to deter other from committing such an act. The awareness of the laws (human rights) has always been the problem.

The Nigerian state at every opportunity possible, have used the media as a medium of creating awareness of this rights. Various television, radio programs, newspaper articles and publications etc. these all is aimed at reducing or stopping the abuse of human rights in the country, but its funny many Nigerian don’t either watch or read it or take it seriously. 

The country moved a step further from media awareness to including it the educational curriculum of the primary and secondary institution in the form of civic education. Civic education has been made a compulsory subject for all Nigerian students, aimed at education and creating awareness of the basic rights of citizens. It also aids in the formation of a good citizen who will be useful to the society, but one cannot be a good citizen if he does not know what is required of a citizen. It can be clearly noticed that human rights in civic education has been taught at a surface considering the level of the learners at that stage. I don’t fault the curriculum. This is a bold step taken by the Federation, which is worth commendable, but I hope they can move a step further and do more.

It will be a great addition to Nigeria, if at the higher institutions of learning; human rights are taught in a more intense manner. It will serve as an offshoot or a continuation of civic education which is the basic. Here the capacities of the learners have increased and will be able to understand and digest fully well what will be taught at this level. This will aid Nigerian to be award of their human right, how it is protected and ways for the enforcement such right.

It is the desire of almost every Nigerian parent in the 21st century that their child be educated above the secondary school level (higher institution of learning). From the above it can be noticed that an easy and compulsory way of creating awareness is through the educational system. As everyone aspires to be educated, it will not come with ignorance of the basic laws. Through this, Nigeria will be killing two birds with a shot.

Human right as a general studies course, will aid so much in the understanding and actualization of the desire of the international society or the country in the protection of the right of every human being. The high level of abuse of human right will be reduces through such a mass and compulsory amendment scheme.

It is a desire of every country that the laws made by it, are not known by just the law makers and the lawyers but the all citizens should be aware of the laws made and obey them. This is to avoid the case of ignorantia juris non excusat est (ignorance of the law is not an excuse). The Nigerian state have taken very good steps in ensuring the awareness of the laws made. 

By including human rights as a general studies course in all higher institutions of learning, citizens will be carefully taught the basic laws, and their knowledge of the law will help them in preserving and protecting their human rights. The goal of the law will be achieved, and the existence of the law will not be a mere theory to be studied by lawyers and to be used by the literate to the disadvantage of the state.

Moses Dyege is a Law Student at the Benue State University and a volunteer writer with Lex Community NG

[1] Oxford advance learners dictionary (10th edition)

[2] Wikipedia

[3] Universal declaration of human rights 1948, The international covenant on civil and political rights 1966 etc. 

[4] The fundamental rights (enforcement procedural) rule 2009

[5] 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria

[6] Kuti v. AG federation (1985) vol 2 NWLR pt 6 page 211 @229

[7] National Human Rights Commission Act 2010

[8] Legal aids Act cap L9 Laws of the federation (2004)

[9] (1986) vol 5 NWLR pt45 828

[10]  (2016) LPELR 41285

[11] (2016) vol 15 NWLR pt1535 177

[12]  (1974) 1 RSLR 5

Lex Community
Author: Lex Community

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