Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Chapter IV: Fundamental Rights
#Law2Go version: ENGLISH

 SECTION 33: Right to Life (Your life belongs to you)

  • You and every human being in this world have a right to live. It is illegal to kill any person.

 SECTION 34: Right to Dignity of Human Person (You have the right to be treated with Dignity and you are nobody’s slave)

  • You should treat every human being with dignity and respect, whether you like them or not. You also deserve to be treated with dignity.
  • It is illegal for anybody to torture you or treat you as if you are not a human being.
  • It is illegal for anybody to turn you into a slave or a servant by force, or force you to work for them. But if a court orders you, or if you decide to join the military or police force, or if you are under compulsory national service like the NYSC, then you can be asked to do a thing out of your own will.

 SECTION 35: Right to Personal Liberty (You have the right to be free)

  • You are entitled to your personal freedom and liberty.
  • The only situation where your freedom or liberty can be limited is when a court gives an order to restrain you because you committed a crime or failed to obey a court order; or if you are still very young (below 18 years), or if you are suffering from an infectious disease (like Ebola virus), or if you are of unsound mind, or if you are a drug or alcohol addict then the government can limit your freedom.
  • Even when you have committed an offense or have been charged with an offense and you are awaiting trial, you should not be kept in detention for more than the maximum period of imprisonment prescribed for the offence. (For example, under the Criminal Code, the penalty for committing the offence of stealing a cow is two years, so once an accused person reaches two years in prison without concluding his or her trial, they should be released without further ado)
  • If you are arrested or detained, you can choose to remain silent or refuse to answer any question until you have consulted with a lawyer or with any person of your choice. The police or law enforcement agents cannot force you to give a statement until you have had the opportunity to consult with any person of your choice.
  • If police or any law enforcement agent arrests or detain you, they must tell you within 24 hours, in writing and in a language that you understand, as to why they have arrested or detained you.
  • Once an offense does not attract death sentence as the penalty, you should not be arrested or detained for more than a day without being taken to a court of law, except there is no court that can handle the matter within 40 kilometers. If so, you may still be detained but for a maximum of 2 days or only for a reasonable time.
  • If you are arrested or detained unlawfully, you are entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authority or officer that arrested or detained you.

SECTION 36: Right to Fair Hearing (You have a right to be heard)

  • You have a right to tell your own side of the story.
  • You are innocent until proven guilty.
  • If anyone is accusing you of committing a crime, it is their duty (and not yours) to prove that you are guilty. (Except only in exceptional cases where there is a law that provides that you must prove a particular fact).
  • During a trial, where you are charged with an offence, you are entitled to prompt and detailed information about the nature of the offence they say you have committed and they should tell you in a language that you understand. You should also be given adequate time and facilities to prepare your defense and you must be allowed to either defend yourself in person or by a lawyer of your choice.
  • You are entitled to call a witness to testify for you and you are also free to question any witness testifying against you.
  • If you don’t understand the language they are using in the trial, let them know please. They are entitled to assist you with an interpreter who will interpret to you in a language that you understand, free of charge.
  • Once a judgment is given, you or your representative is entitled to obtain copies of the judgment of the case within seven days.
  • You should NOT be convicted for an offence where the conduct constituting the offence was not prohibited as an offence at the time it took place. (g., where open grazing was not an offence in 2015 but is now an offence in 2017, a person cannot be convicted of the offence of open grazing in 2017 for an open grazing that took place in 2015)
  • You should NOT be punished with a punishment heavier than the punishment in existence as at the time you committed the offence. (g., if A committed the offence of kidnapping in 2013 and at that time the punishment was 6 years imprisonment, he should not on conviction in 2017 be sentenced to life imprisonment simply because there is a new law providing that the punishment for the offence of kidnapping is life imprisonment. The effective date is the date the offence was committed.)
  • You should NOT be tried twice for the same criminal conduct. No double jeopardy. And where you have been pardoned for a criminal offence, you cannot be tried again for that same offence.
  • If you are charged for a criminal offence, you shall NOT be forced to give evidence at your trial.
  • You shall NOT be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined in law and the penalty is also prescribed in a written law. (Offences under native law and custom are not criminal offences under the Constitution)

SECTION 37: RIGHT TO PRIVATE AND FAMILY LIFE (You have a right to your privacy)

  • You have a right to your privacy including the privacy of your home, your phones, text messages, emails, etc. They should be protected and guaranteed.

SECTION 38: RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION (Live your life in freedom)

  • You have a right to think WHATEVER you want to think
  • You have a right to practice and observe your religion by yourself or with other people through worship and teaching. You are also free to change your religion if you like. Nobody should force you to join their religion. Nobody should force you to leave your religion. It is also not by force to have a religion. The law does not permit you to be a member of a secret society.

SECTION 39: RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE PRESS (Talk your own)

  • You have the right to have an opinion.
  • You have a right to talk.
  • You have the right to express yourself and share your ideas with other people without any interference.
  • Once you get license from the government, you can own and establish your own TV station, Radio station and even newspaper.
  • You have the right to open and maintain your own social media account on any social media platform you like.
  • It is NOT a breach of this right where there is a law that is reasonably justifiable to prevent you from disclosing information that you received in confidence, or restricts you from disclosing some information because of your job as a public servant, lawyer, doctor or by order of court.

 

SECTION 40: RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION (You have the right to associate with others)

  • You are free to gather and associate with other people.
  • You have the right to form and join any association to protect your interest; or any trade union of your choice. You also have the right NOT to join an association. You have a right to leave the association whenever you want.
  • You have the right to form and join any political party of your choice but the political party must be registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

 

SECTION 41: RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT (You have the right to move freely)

  • Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria.
  • Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to reside in any part of Nigeria he or she likes. Whether it is in the North or South or East or West, you have the right to travel and live anywhere in the country.
  • As long as you are a Nigerian citizen, no one should chase you away from Nigeria; or refuse you from going out of Nigeria; or refuse you from coming into Nigeria, except you committed a crime in Nigeria and may want to escape to another country; or where Nigeria has agreed with another country that if you commit a crime in their country, you cannot hide in Nigeria. Nigeria will submit you to them for trial or punishment.

SECTION 42: RIGHT TO FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION (You have the same rights in the eyes of the law as everybody else)

  • Nobody has a right to treat you differently from others because you belong to a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion, political opinion or because of the circumstance of how you were born.

SECTION 43: RIGHT TO ACQUIRE AND OWN IMMOVABLE PROPERTY ANYWHERE IN NIGERIA (You have the right to buy land or property anywhere in Nigeria)

  • Every citizen of Nigeria has the right to acquire and own property anywhere in Nigeria. A Hausa man can own a house in Onitsha, an Igbo woman can own a plaza in Lagos, a Yoruba man can own a farm in Jigawa.

 

SECTION 44: COMPULSORY ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY (You have a right to be compensated)

  • If for any reason the government wants to take your land, they must pay you compensation quickly and you have the right to go to court if you are not happy with it.
  • All minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under, or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters of Nigeria belongs to the government of the Federation.

 

SECTION 45: RESTRICTION ON AND DEROGATION FROM FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (The government can restrict your rights only in certain circumstances)

  • The right to private and family life (section 37); right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (section 38); the right to freedom of expression and the press (section 39); the right to peaceful assembly and association (section 40) and the right to freedom of movement (section 41) can only be restricted by a law that is reasonably justified in the interest of public defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.
  • During period of emergencies, (a period of emergency means period during which the President of Nigeria will declare that Nigeria is in a state of emergency perhaps due to war), the right to personal liberty (section 35) can, subject to an Act of the National Assembly, be limited if there are reasonably justifiable reasons for dealing with the emergency. The right to life (section 33) can never be excused except only in respect of death resulting from acts of war; and the right in section 36 (8) prohibiting conviction for an offence that at time of conduct was not a crime and punishment heavier than existed at time of commission of the offence shall not be derogated from no matter the circumstances.

 

SECTION 46: SPECIAL JURISDICTION OF HIGH COURT AND LEGAL AID (You have the right to get justice)

  • If you believe that any of your rights from section 33 to 46 (Chapter IV) of this constitution has been contravened, is being contravened or will be contravened, you should apply to the High Court close to you for solution.
  • The National Assembly shall make provisions for your financial assistance If you don’t have money and cannot afford the services of a lawyer.
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