First Generation Rights

First generation human rights were recognized by Nigeria when it signed on to international treaties like the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. They are defined as civic and political rights and are recognized in the Nigerian Constitution as justicable. But this does not mean that violations of these first generation rights are thoroughly enforced and monitored.

One interesting component of the Nigerian Constitution to note is the derogation clauses. These are constitutional limits and are circumscribed in interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality and public health. They are used to justify any violations of first generation rights made by the government or entities that represent the government. Historically, violations of the right to life, freedom of movement, dignity, political participation, religion and freedom of assembly have been noted.

Human rights have been argued to be interdependent and interrelated; therefore, violations of first generation rights also prevent the full enjoyment and realization of second generation rights and vise verse. For the purpose of focusing on first generation rights we look more in depth on some historical claims of their violations:

  • right to life-cases of unlawful killing for ritual, politically motivated murder
    -government operatives reported to have killed 50 people and burn down 100 homes in 2008
  • right to freedom of movement-claims of kidnapping since 2010 and have only gotten worse in areas like Aba Abia-State including kidnapping of children and armed robbery
    -unlawful detention of crime suspect without charging them to court (this also violates the right to…)
  • right to human dignity -torture, inhuman treatments, and extortion
    -policy in question for torturing crime suspects and using extortion tactics
  • election rigging-denying certain individuals right to participate in government elections (vote or to be voted for)
    -Nigerians cannot participate in local and state elections except in the place of their origin
  • Freedom of religion-some states teach their own religion in schools
    -security agencies have been known to restrict religious activities for security reasons
  • freedom of assembly-known to not like anti-government protest
    -In January 3, 2009, Okeagbe, Ondo state killed and wounded youths demonstrating against police extortion

Human rights violations by security forces

Issues with Human Trafficking

Second Generation Rights

Nigeria also has a history of second generation human rights issues.  The most prominent in this category include health issues, such as high levels of HIV/AIDS infection, low access to clean drinking water, and extensive lead poisoning among children.

Nigeria currently has 3.3 million people living with HIV, which represents about 3.6 percent of the total population of the country.  Life expectancy in Nigeria is negatively impacted by AIDS deaths, and currently only stands at 52 years.  Nigeria has been slow to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.  Although it was first identified in Nigeria in 1985, the Nigerian government did not address the problem until 1991.  The percentage of the population living with HIV peaked in 2001 with 5.8% affected.  Out of everyone in the world living with HIV, 10% of them reside in Nigeria.  In 2011, the Nigerian Health Minister stated, “The HIV and AIDS epidemic in Nigeria remains a public health problem of enormous magnitude that must be given priority attention”.

On a list compiled by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, Nigeria ranked third in inadequate water supply and sanitation coverage.  The issue of clean drinking water has negatively impacted other goals of the region, including achieving food security and improving health conditions. A major reason why clean drinking water is not readily available is high levels of population growth and human pollution.  The water distribution in Nigeria is very unequal, with urban areas tending to have a higher rate of drinking water than rural areas.  Some of the reasons for this unequal distribution include lack of planning data, manpower shortage and corruption among the governmental bodies that oversee the water supply.

Another major health issue in Nigeria is lead poisoning.  Human Rights Watch calls this issue, “the worst lead poisoning outbreak in modern history” and claims that inaction by the Nigerian government “is leaving thousands of children to die or face lifelong disability”.  The lead poisoning is arising from contamination at sites where artisanal gold mining operations have occurred.  This gold mining leads to lead contamination from the high levels of lead that are found in rock ore.  The government pledged about five million dollars to clean up the contaminated areas and create safer mining practices in May of 2012, but the release of the funds was delayed.  As of January 2013, the Nigerian government has released the funds and began to clean up contaminated villages.

All of these issues constitute violations of human rights documents that Nigeria has ratified. In Article 12 of the ICESCR it states, “The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for…The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene and the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases.”  The people of Nigeria have a right to better standards of hygiene that involve improved access to clean drinking water and reduced levels of lead poisoning, as well as prevention and treatment of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their country.