Aug 5, 2019

Judicial Protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria created a bifurcation of human rights. On one hand is the Fundamental Human Rights of every citizen of Nigeria entrenched in Chapter four of the constitution. On the other hand, the Constitution also made provision for Economic, Social and Cultural rights (Ecosoc) entrenched in chapter two of the constitution.
These rights include the right to employment, housing and shelter, health, food, water, safe environment and education. (Section 16-20). Ecosoc rights reflect the higher aspirations of human beings for their quality of life. These are provided in chapter two of the Constitution and are also called “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”. These rights are non justiciable as expressly provided under the constitution.(Section 6(6)(c))
However, one of the various ways these rights can be enforced is to apply the provisions of the African Charter of Human and People’s Right. Nigeria has since domesticated this treaty and by virtue of that, these rights are justiciable and enforceable in Nigeria.
Another way these rights can be made enforceable is through the court. Judicial protection was accorded to these rights in the case of Archishop Okogie v A. G of Lagos State and subsequently A.G Ondo v A.G Federation, A.G Lagos v A.G Federation. The court in these cases held that the Federal and State Government have legislative powers over some matters spelt out in chapter two and thus have constitutional powers to make them enforceable. This has been seen to be a good step in the right direction.
It has been said that where there is a wrong, there should be a remedy. Such remedy should be made available where there has been a breach of any of the Ecosoc rights.
The question that easily comes to mind is, how can Economic, Social and Cultural rights be strengthened through litigation?
The various issues and challenges of judicial enforcement of Ecosoc rights in Nigeria and the way forward would be discussed at the Plenary Session of the NBA Annual General Conference scheduled to hold on;
Date: Wednesday, 28th August 2019
Time:  9.00 – 10.30
Venue: Pats-Ocholonu Hall, Tent 2
Moderator: Osai Ojigho (Country Director, Amnesty International)
Panelists:   Dr. Dorcas Odunaike
                  Eno Akpan