Poverty: legal and constitutional implications for human rights enforcement in Nigeria

Type Thesis or Dissertation
Title Poverty: legal and constitutional implications for human rights enforcement in Nigeria
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
URL https://biblio.ugent.be/publication/4101310/file/4101318.pdf
This work ventilates the problem of poverty in Nigeria, where over 70 percent of the
population is living below the poverty line, and the theoretical and practical implications
of this for the enforcement of the human rights of the poor, who are completely
absorbed in the daily rigours of the struggle for survival in Nigeria. For this class of
people, there is a lack of value for human life and dignity, which are the goals of
international human rights; they lack access to the basic necessities of life, such as food,
clothing, health, education, shelter, etc. They are also excluded and have no voice or
power in their communities; they are oppressed, suffer high scale injustice and their
rights are violated on a daily basis with impunity on grounds of being poor; worse still,
the poor lack effective rights of access to justice.
The above makes human rights grossly deficient for the poor, whose human rights have
been turned into mere illusions and ‘empty’ rights, with the poor having no effective
means of enjoying or protecting those rights. This work therefore examines whether
human rights with all that it promises are really relevant in the life of the poor and
whether mere constitutional provisions are sufficient to guarantee human rights in the
face of illiteracy, ignorance and economic impediments of poverty. The different rightsbased
approaches to combating the scourge of poverty on the international plane are
considered. This work also analyzes the ways by which the conditions of being poor
have robbed the poor of their rights, and in a lucid manner elucidates the many perennial
and monumental challenges confronting the poor in accessing justice, a situation which
has made it difficult for the poor to escape from the clutches of poverty.
This work firmly believes that if the poor can enjoy all their human rights without
exception, they would be empowered to take charge of their lives and be lifted out of
poverty. Towards this end, this work conceptualizes mechanisms by which the poor can
have equal and effective rights of access to justice in order to claim their rights, demand
accountability for actions or policies of government that affect their lives and bring
violators of their rights to account. In the course of devising appropriate mechanisms for
the poor, this work peruses the existing mechanism in place in Nigeria, finding it
inadequate and/or unsuitable for the poor to enforce their rights as a result of its inability
to effectively protect their rights.
This work also brings to the front burner the necessity of making social, economic and
cultural rights (hereinafter called ‘ESC rights’) justiciable in Nigeria on the basis of
interrelatedness of rights, the high level of poverty in Nigeria and in contrast to the issue
of the resource dilemma. Also, the need to legally empower the poor as a reinforcement
of their human rights is discussed. The obligations of Nigeria on international
instruments ratified or acceded to are meticulously analyzed.
The knowledge provided by this work and its findings have been articulated and set out
herein, with suggestions calling for a shift from the current practice and trends which
inhibit the enforcement of rights of the poor, to legal and institutional reforms, in order
to make human rights a reality for all in Nigeria.
This work comprises six chapters. The first deals with the introduction to this work, the
challenge of global poverty, and the meaning and measurement of poverty. It also
examines the global response to the scourge of poverty by looking at the various rightsbased
approaches to dealing with the issue of poverty and the main human rights content
of these approaches, as their nexus for consideration in this work.
The second chapter discusses the problem of poverty in Nigeria, looking at the depth
and indices of poverty in the country. The causes of poverty, especially as peculiar to
Nigeria are discussed among other matters. The chapter also looks at government efforts
to deal with the problem of poverty in Nigeria, the adequacy or otherwise of such efforts
and the implications of poverty for the rights of the poor.
The third chapter dwells on the constitutional framework for fundamental rights
enforcement in Nigeria, and examines various components of this, such as the legal
mechanism for enforcement under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Rules, and the
procedure for legal redress. The chapter also examines the challenges militating against
the enforcement of the rights of the poor. The chapter further looks at the content of the
right of access to justice under international law and the existing mechanisms designed
to ease access to justice for the poor in Nigeria.
Chapter four conceptualizes the right of equal and effective access to justice by the
poor, by carefully examining the public interest litigation model in India and proposes
this for adoption in Nigeria, to enable the poor to have effective access to justice. The
chapter also examines alternative dispute resolution as a means of providing cheap,
flexible and effective access to justice for the poor and as a means to provide choice for
the poor. This chapter further examines the content of human rights education and the
need for aggressive and sustained human rights education in Nigeria in order to raise
and develop human rights consciousness in Nigeria, which knowledge the poor can use
to empower and lift themselves out of poverty. The chapter finally examines the need
for judicial sector reforms in view of the excruciatingly slow pace of justice in Nigeria.
Chapter five deals with the interrelatedness and the indivisibility of human rights, and
justiciability of ESC rights in Nigeria. The chapter further examines the legal status of
ESC rights in Nigeria’s domestic legal order, Nigeria’s obligations under international
human rights instruments, especially on domestication and implementation of the
provisions of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights
(ICESCR). The desirability of having a more cohesive means of securing States’
obligations on international human rights instruments they are parties to at the national
level, are canvassed and discussed.
The sixth chapter contains the main contributions of this research to legal knowledge, by
way of summary of the essential contributions, some of which have been incorporated
into or alluded to in the main body of this work, reflections on this work, projection into
the future and general concluding remarks.

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