THE RIGHT TO LIFE AND A RIGHT TO DIE

 The most important fundamental right of every human is the right to life; this is because without life, you cannot claim other rights. We all know that a dead man can’t ask for the fulfillment of his right to vote, to liberty, to practice his religion, have a family, express self, etc. This is why the lives of persons are sacrosanct and no one has the right or power to take another person’s life, except it is carried out in accordance with the law i.e. when the prescribed punishment for a crime is death. Section 33 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, states that:

“Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”

Now that we have established that life is important and no one has a right to take another person’s life, what about the right to take your own life, i.e. the right to die? Sometime this year, we all heard about the unfortunate story of the young doctor who took his life by jumping off the Third Mainland Bridge. Also last month a certain Mrs. Titilayo Momoh attempted to take her life, when she tried to jump off the same bridge. In the case of the doctor, he succeeded in committing suicide i.e. taking his own life, while Mrs. Titilayo Momoh wasn’t as successful . She was stopped in the process and has since been charged to court for attempted suicide.

We have to establish what pushes people to the point of making that life altering (scratch that) life-eliminating decision? What makes one come to the point where one decides that life isn’t worth living and instead chooses to just end it all? A lot of circumstances could cause that- some people find themselves in serious debt and they have convinced themselves they cannot meet their debt obligation. Their debtors are on them, houses and property seized, livelihood turned upside down, and they believe they can never get back to the position they were before; life seem so bleak and without any silver lining in sight, so they decide to end it. There are those whose hearts got broken and they somehow believe that they can never find another love like the one who was lost, so this means the prospect of moving forward on their own is bleak, then they decide to end it all (just like Romeo and Juliet). Another example, this one is a sad one- kids who are victims of bullying at school; they get frustrated to the point where they decide to take their life. We are all too aware of the challenges of being a teenager and the difficulty associated with that phase of life; this is the stage where teenagers believe the opinion of their peers carries more weight than any adult’s opinion. So when they get teased, abused or exiled from their circle of friends, they believe the world is not worth living, and in extreme cases decide to end it. There are also those who have not been fortunate on the job hunt after they must have spent years pursuing a degree. They got rejected so many times and coupled with the hardship of living in a cosmopolitan city where there is a demand on their purse, they begin to wonder if they should continue living. The list goes on, depending on the individual and his or her threshold for enduring pain, rejection, change, abuse, as well as the person’s accessibility to help when they have reached their lowest point. Another kind of suicide is the assisted suicide also known as euthanasia. This is where someone who is terminally or gravely ill elects to die after all medical intervention has proven unsuccessful. In this case a doctor administers lethal doses of some drugs to them, in order to stop their suffering forever or the doctor stops administering treatment (that is no longer working) to them so that they can die peacefully. This is after a series of evaluations have been carried out on the patient and it has been ascertained the person is in more pain being alive. This kind of suicide is legal in some countries like Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. I am of the view that euthanasia should be legalized in more countries, in order to avoid prolonging the suffering of this set of people and to relieve the family of emotional stress and expenses on the terminally ill patient.

Now one wonders why attempted suicide (obviously someone who has successfully committed suicide cannot answer to the law) is not legal. We have a right to life why don’t we have a right to die if we so wish? Some people might say don’t we all have a right to our life, to do with it as we please? Why can’t people choose not to be in this world any longer, after all we all didn’t choose to come into the world in the first place?

There has been a long-standing debate on this question, with people who are pro right to die and those against it. Some people believe that we do have a right over our own life and should be able to make that decision whether to take it or not, especially when one is dealing with a terminal illness. However in Nigeria and in so many other countries, the answer is No! You and I do not have the right to die. The state has a right to your life, literally, I say this because the law prohibits attempted suicide, assisted suicide and even inducing or counseling someone to commit suicide. What is interesting is that a person who attempts suicide has committed a misdemeanor, which attracts a one-year prison sentence upon conviction. On the other hand, someone who assists another or counsels another to commit suicide has committed a felony and is liable to life imprisonment. Well I guess the law recognizes that anyone who attempts to commits suicide is obviously troubled and should not be punished unduly for it. However, in my opinion Section 327 of the Criminal Code that criminalizes attempted suicide should be reviewed; a person who has attempted suicide ought not be punished, but must be assisted with counseling, which includes psychological evaluation; case in point is Mrs. Titilayo Momoh.

A lot of us have gone through one life changing incident or the other, which might makes us question the essence of life; we might ask if life is worth living. Suicide might look like an inviting alternative to living. A person who commits suicide leaves their loved ones with grief, heartbreak, unanswered questions, dreams unfulfilled and sometimes stigma on the family. Nothing and no one is worth committing suicide over. What if the day you commit suicide, is the day that job acceptance comes through? What if the day you commit suicide is the day your own true love is meant to knock on your door? What if the day you commit suicide, that’s the day your business gets a huge contract? What about you the teenager who thinks you don’t have any friend or that you are an ugly duckling, a few years down the line, you become a star (a swan) and envy of those same friends who bullied you?

Every problem, challenge, heartbreak and pain is part of life, and will always pass; it’s never permanent, it is just a matter of time, that thing that seemed like its insurmountable will be a blip along the circle of life. All challenges make us stronger than we were before it came along. Life throws all kinds of stuff our way to help us find ways to overcome them; we also get to find out that there is always help, when we look around us. I personally believe that every human being has been placed in our life no matter how casual the encounter, to help us get to where we are destined to go in one way or the other. No one is without something to give – a smile, a wave, a compliment, a hug, a small conversation, making out time to hang out, making out time to listen, making out time to give a word of encouragement or advise, stretching your hand to help, giving your widows mite to someone in need, giving something substantial to turn someone’s life around- all of these actions make a huge difference. So let’s all make a conscious effort to make that difference in someone’s life today.

Have a blessed week and enjoy the rest of your day!

THE SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE RIGHT TO DIGNITY OF THE PERSON

Advances in information communication technology and the advent of the social media has brought about the discovery of numerous things it can achieve and its capacity to disseminate information which can reach millions of people all over the world in record time. We are now exposed to so much knowledge and information that it is a wonder how the human brain can assimilate such amount of knowledge, without exploding.

I have known and participated in social media for a couple of years, although the days of sending and receiving emails in business centers precede that. When I started my sojourn into the world of social media, it was with the excitement and caution of a child learning to walk for the first time. I was not sure of what to expect or what I would stumble upon and trust me I stumbled into a lot of stuff, from the good, to the bad and to the ugly.

These days, social media has become bigger with so many websites and blogs created and many are still being created on a daily basis, each tailored to cater for the needs of different kinds of people all over the world. Right now we have the most popular social media sites being Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkdin and recently Snap-chat and a host of other sites including online-dating sites are also available and tailored to suit the needs and fantasies of various persons.

Nigeria is not left behind in this social media trend; as a matter of fact one can comfortably say because of her population, Nigeria has the highest number of social media users in Africa. The recently concluded Big Brother Africa reality show saw millions of Nigerians interacting on social media, supporting their preferred housemates (#teamEfe #teamBisola, #Bossnation) and casting their respective votes for them. Social media has also brought good popularity to some people who otherwise would be unknown and their respective talents hidden, e.g. Toke Makinwa and a host of others including Bobrisky! 😀

On social media, people post photos, videos of themselves and other people carrying out all kinds of activities; from the normal to the outrageous. We have seen it all! Last year (2016) can easily be said to have witnessed the largest social media boom since its arrival. We all love the Internet because it has made life much easier and the world smaller than it used to be. I sometimes wonder how we survived before the Internet and social media. Funny thing is, even back then I didn’t think life was boring, as we had our own limited activities which kept us occupied i.e. ten- ten, hopscotch, hopping from house to house visiting etc.

As much as we love social media and all the good things it offers, we shouldn’t forget the bad and ugly things it brings as well. We have seen where some people post videos of themselves or other persons committing crimes and all sorts of abuses or atrocities against others. What most people don’t realise is that doing this sometimes constitutes a violation of the right to dignity of person(s), which is fundamental to all other rights. It can arguably be said that most human rights are derived from human dignity, as it is the core of human rights law. This is why it is a fundamental right enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution; Section 34(1) states that:

“Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and      accordingly –

(a) no person shall be subject … to inhuman or degrading treatment”

Dignity is defined as:

“An individual or group’s sense of self-respect and self-worth, physical and psychological integrity and empowerment.”

 Inhuman or degrading treatment happens when someone is treated in a way that is both humiliating and debasing, making them feel less than their worth. It is even worse when a person is debased and then photos or videos of the act splashed all over social media. When one is stripped of their dignity; which makes the core of the person’s existence, it is very difficult to get the person back to the place of self worth. This is why this is a fundamental right which international, regional and local laws recognise and places as important.

In the process of sharing information and/or getting likes or traffic to their sites, some social media sites/blogs post photos or videos that can be said to humiliate the subject of the story. It’s worse when such a person is an innocent party like a child who isn’t aware of the events at hand. One is then left to wonder if exposing a victim of abuse in a degrading way is of any use to him/her. I might also add that neither does it add to the evidence against the perpetrator. All that happens is the dignity of the person whose picture or video has been publicly displayed is violated. There have been many videos and photos of children being molested, girls being raped and assaulted, men being beaten and stripped naked for crimes they were alleged to have committed and said videos posted on social media. These do not in any way make the situation better or justify said acts. Instead it causes further trauma to the person(s) who were abused and makes our society indifferent to human dignity and respect for sanctity of the person.

We might ask why will the citizens respect human dignity when even the law enforcement agencies don’t? The same law enforcement agents who are meant to protect these rights carry out a lot of disrespectful acts against citizens. We have seen a number of cases where they strip alleged suspects and beat them up for offences committed against them, for which the law has clearly provided processes of arrest, charge and prosecution of suspects. I will answer that by saying we have the power to call the law enforcement agents and military to order, by reporting and not emulating them. As a matter of fact there have been several cases of errant officers/soldiers being disciplined for assault and battery of civilians. This means their leadership realizes it is wrong and that there are consequences for such actions. We still have a long way to go, but if we as citizens show our abhorrence for wrongs done to us, by those constitutionally mandated to protect us, rather than following them, then the leaders will think twice before doing such. This applies to every aspect of governance and not just concerning dignity of human person.

Our lives, bodies and wellbeing are important and should be treated as such. It is a different case if one willingly bares themselves; at least it was done willingly. In any case no one will put himself out there in a debased or humiliated state, unless it’s a specific cry for help. We all need to exercise control before we post anything on social media, especially when it has negative effects on the bodily integrity of another person. We need to sit back, think and ask these questions before we post stuff on social media (not exhaustive):

  1. Is this post useful or fair to the victim i.e. will this help the victim access the needed help?
  2. Is it going to get the perpetrator apprehended to face justice?
  3. Is it just to gain popularity or traffic to the blog?
  4. Will it enlighten, educate or inform the audience or is it just for entertainment?
  5. If tables were turned will you like to be the one in that picture or video?

Have a blessed week and enjoy the rest of your day!

 

NB: Article was first published on Bellanaija.com as a features article. 

Please leave your questions and comments.

IS THE ECONOMIC RECESSION A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS?

This Article was written by Mr. Kayode Majekodunmi. Kayode holds a Master of Laws Degree from the University of Notre Dame, in the United States and has been a human rights lawyer working with an NGO that deals with issues of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

For the past couple of months, the uniform cry you hear from almost everyone in the country is that times are hard. The prices of commodities have doubled from their initial prices in just a few months. Everything is affected; even eggs are not left behind in these upsurge. What is worse is that salaries have not increased to match said inflation, instead they are slashed and in some cases a lot of workers have been laid off. Policies of government seem to be making things harder and worse for Nigerians. When one thinks about it, one can’t help but wonder what our government is doing about it and when all of these will come to an end. Does the government realise that it has an obligation towards the citizenry, to make our lives easier and not difficult? Are our human rights not being trampled upon with this economic recession?

One set of rights that the Universal Declaration of Human rights recognises, which our government does not pay attention to are economic, social and cultural rights. These sets of rights obligates government to fulfil the rights of the citizens to health, education, housing, adequate standard of living, science and culture. Are these rights being fulfilled? How many of us enjoy the best education, healthcare, good standard of living and housing? We are all aware that to enjoy even the most basic of these, one will be left out of pocket providing them privately. How many Nigerians can afford to pay a premium to live comfortably when it is becoming challenging for some to even feed their families?

 This article is an attempt to understand if the present economic recession is a violation of human rights. Even if there is a likelihood of not getting a direct answer to the question posed above, we must not be deterred from exploring the mystery between human economic needs and human rights in a world of inequality and global economic imbalance. We can also trace the issue at stake here through the perspective of addressing recession as a human rights issue, especially considering the recession’s toll on the weakest rights-holders in the world, those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder.

 It was due to a realization that economic and social rights are an integral part of human rights, that the United Nations adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1966, which Nigeria is a party to. In the case of Nigeria, the campaign for the establishment of a welfare state was brought to the forefront when the nation witnessed an oil boom in the 1970s.

 In Nigeria, the inclusion of Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution was a manifestation of the intention of Nigeria to the ideals of Socio-Economic rights. The provisions of the Fundamental Objectives chapter of the Constitution include socio-economic rights such as the right to security and welfare, right to political participation, right to education, right to health, right to environment, right to secure adequate means of livelihood including suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled and other vulnerable people. In order to guarantee national prosperity, the state is obligated to promote a planned and balanced economic development and harness the resources of the nation.

 As good as the above provisions are, they are non-justiciable, i.e. they are not enforceable in the court. Their enforcement is at the discretion of the government. The drawback to the appropriation of these ‘dreams’ or objectives by citizens as of right is found in the provision of Section 6(6) (c) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that the judicial powers of the Court: “shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution;”

This provision of the Constitution makes the objectives non-justiciable. The Supreme Court took a giant step in giving life to this provision in the case of Attorney General of Ondo Vs. AG of the Federation and Others. Where the Supreme Court said the provisions would be enforceable if the National Assembly makes a law that breathes life to it. Based on this declaration by the Supreme Court in the instant case, the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Act gave life to fundamental principles and directive principles of state policy that the government should take steps to abolish corruption.

 How did we find ourselves in this recession? There have been different reasons attributed to how we got into the present recession. The following are some of the reasons:

  • Inability of the previous administration to save.
  • Pervasive Corruption of previous administrations.
  • Nigeria’s over-dependence on foreign products.
  • Economic policies of the present administration.
  • The delay and controversies of the 2016 budget.
  • The activities of militants and pipeline vandals.
  • The existence of wasteful and abuse-prone subsidies.
  • The different actions (or inactions) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in forestalling recession.

The irony of the present recession being experienced in Nigeria is the fact that the situation was as a result of government actions or inaction and it is affecting the people who are groaning under the strains of the dire straits of state of the economy. The economic impact of recession is felt so much by the common man and the most vulnerable in the society. Women, children and the young continue to bear the brunt of the economic downturn and there is presently nothing in sight which would indicate the government is ready to fight the telling effect of the economic hardship.

 With the entire above, one can safely say that the economic recession is a violation of the human rights of Nigerians. However, as with other socio economic rights in Nigeria, there are simply no avenues known by the law to take action against the government. One can only continue to hope and pray that the legislators will be up to the task of seeking redress by taking pragmatic steps to address the negative effects of the harsh economic condition on the masses.

The hands of the courts are tied as far as the implementation of Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy are concerned. The executive seems to be struggling with what to do to chart a course out of this maze called recession we have found ourselves. It is now left to our legislators to act. We all have the duty to push our legislators to represent us properly and make laws that will alleviate the sufferings of all Nigerians.

Continue reading “IS THE ECONOMIC RECESSION A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS?”

Why Human Rights?

Unless you live under a rock, you must have heard about the call for a nationwide protest march made by Tuface Idibia that has been circulating on the social media for about a week now. Tuface has requested that all Nigerians join him on February 6 2017 in a protest march tagged “Enough is Enough” against the government and its policies, which have caused recession and suffering in the country. This call is not without the attendant controversies, with many people reacting in different ways to his call. While some people think it is necessary, some others think it is not. Many Nigerians, ordinary and public figures, have expressed interest in taking part in this nationwide protest march; one of those who recently showed interest in being part of the protest march is the Governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose (that’s not surprising though). We all know that this (protest march) would not have been possible in Nigeria many years ago during the dark military era because a lot of people would have been arrested, in fact, heads would have rolled! (Is any one left wondering why we are still recycling military leaders in this country?). In all of this, I think to myself this is progress and human rights at work!

When I told a friend that I wanted to concentrate more on human rights related issues on my blog, he asked “why human rights?” I wondered to myself, “why not?” I know that most other blogs deal with entertainment, gossip, fashion, politics and many other topics, but why have I chosen to focus this blog on human rights related issues?

There are a number of reasons; some that readily come to mind are: first and foremost, this is what I am an expert in, partly because I have a Master of Laws degree in international human rights law and because I have worked in the human rights field for over a decade. Now lets go to another reason; Human rights is the core of our existence- it is the only privilege that is bestowed on us immediately we are born, the tragedy here is that most people do not know this. A lot of people do not know that government is a custodian of power that we give them and we are actually the ones with the power. We are the “right holders” and government is the “duty bearer” The government therefore has a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill our human rights; this is an obligation that it owes to us. This obligation is not a personal favour that a government bequeaths as it deems fit to a priviledged few, but an obligation that it is expected to achieve for every citizen of its country, regardless of sex, religion, beliefs, tribe and any other difference you can think of. Our government has committed itself under the Constitution and other international laws to carry out this three-fold responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill our rights and therefore can be held accountable by the people and the international community for failure to do so. This responsibility can be broken down as follows:

  • The obligation to respect means that government must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights.
  • The obligation to protect requires government to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses.
  • The obligation to fulfill means that government must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.

Has our government lived up to its responsibilities? Are our rights being respected, protected and fulfilled as Nigerians?

For many years, Nigerians have suffered and continue to suffer from corruption, insecurity, inter-communal clashes, political violence, violations of rights by security agents of the state and so many other violations and abuses. We have largely kept quiet, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of ignorance and most of the time because we are not directly affected, that is, until we actually become affected. A person without knowledge whose right is being violated will definitely be fearful because he or she is not equipped to speak up or act in defence of his/her right or seek help to protect him or herself. This is why a lot of wrongs do not get corrected and why the status quo has not changed for such a long time.

I am actually glad that we have transitioned over the years- from being silent, to grumbling within closed doors, to a bold few going out to protest and getting arrested for doing so (during the military era), to a social media awareness period that brought about protesters behind the screens of their computers, to people coming out to protest, being fully aware that they will not be arrested for exercising their rights (I believe that will be the case in this proposed up coming protest).

A nationwide protest, while it is an exercise of a fundamental right under the Constitution and under international law is and should always be welcomed. However it should aim to be peaceful, effective and results oriented. Why will thousands of people leave their homes, jobs and families on a Monday morning to go out to protest under the scorching sun and at the end of the day, they don’t achieve results? I will like to believe that organisers of this protest have a clear mandate on what they hope to achieve with the protest. A nationwide protest that does not change the status quo will be an exercise in futility.

So, how many of you are taking part in the nationwide protest?

 Toodles!

PS: Don’t forget our Human Rights Free Clinic where we answer your human rights related questions or issues that you are confused about and need clarification on. Fill our contact form and we will get back to you with the professional advise that you need.