Deprivation of the Source of livelihood of Nigerian Citizens by the Nigerian State: A Juriscope on the Constitutional Right to life under Chapter ii of the Nigerian Constitution

Everything in me thunder in revolt when one tries to reconcile the extant constitutional guarantee on human life and the trending grim statistics on the deteriorating state of Nigerains. According to WHO, the average life expectancy of Nigerians is around 53.7 years for the Men and 55.4 year for the Women. Every day ,Nigeria is said to lose about 2,300 Children under five years and 145 women of Child bearing age{see Vangaurd, January 27 2018].It follows that any Nigerian who lived beyond 55 years must be celebrated as Methusaleh,yet available statistics show that between 2008 to 2018 Nigeria’s 811 governments had spent about 131 Trillion Naira. A further brake down shows that 58.3 trillion were spent between 2015 t0 2018.A further brake down shows that 1.63 billion naira were spent every hour[ Vangaurd, January 27 2018 page 11].The spending without fruition has continued unabated till date.

We submit straight away that those whooping funds were significant enough to improve the lives of Nigerians and thus place the country’s human capital development at the topmost echelon of development matrix, yet millions of Nigerians are on life support gasping for Oxygen. Although section 33 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian as amended (Hereinafter referred to as CFRN or Constitution) guaranteed the sanctity of human life subject to the exception as provide thereof .We are aware that the entire envisage of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of the state policy as captured under chapter 11 of the Constitution which encapsulates security and welfare of the citizen as provided under [s.14(2)(b)] of the CFRN,happiness of the Citizens in control of the economy as provided under s.16(1)(b) of the CFRN],abolishment of all corrupt practices and abuse of powers as provided under s.15(3) of the CFRN amongst others ,are to remind the governments that in giving meaning to life they must go beyond their ordinary or mechanical meaning. The Supreme Court of India in Mahni Jain v. State of Kamataka [AIR 1992 Sup Ct. 1858/1864 APP 6] lucidly declared:
‘’Right to life necessarily include a means of lively hood, as well as other right that make enjoyment of right meaningful.’’

Inasmuch as the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy is non- justiciable pursuant to s.6 (6) (c) of the CFRN, in NPP v Attorney General of the Federation [2000] 16 WRN 142@160 it was held when the chapter II of the Constitution are read with other enforceable part they are enforceable. It follows that when sections 33 that deals with the right to life and chapter 11 of the Constitution are given a combine effect the inability of any government to utilize public fund for the welfare of Nigerians constitutes a deprivation of right to life. Assuming but not conceding the Chapter 11 of the Constitution are treated as non-justiciable what about African Charter on Human and People’s Rights(Enforcement and Ratification) Act 2 1983 now contained in Cap 10 Laws of the Federation,1990. Article 4 of the African Charter provided that Human being are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right. Article 24 of the African Charter provided that all people shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favorable to their development. More importantly the preamble to the session reads:
‘’That it is henceforth essential to pay particular attention to the right to development and that civil and political rights cannot be dissociated from economic,social and cultural right in their conception as well as universality and the satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights is a guarantee for the enjoyment of civil and political rights.’’

It follows economic right as it has to do with right to source of lively hood is inseparable from the right to life which is the foundation of development itself and that where the government impedes on friendly environment for citizen to realize their potential through misappropriation or enactment of unpopular policies that are inconsistent with the survival of the citizenry tantamount to deprivation of right to life. The African Charter is a deemed Act of National Assembly. Thus in Elrufai v.Senate of the National Assembly (2016) 1NWLR (Pt.1494)@page 539 Paragraphs A-C the Appeal Court (Per Tur JCA) said: “It will seem to me that the deemed Act of National Assembly (African Charter) ought to override rules and practice of courts. “African Charter was domesticated as a local legislation in 1983 now referred to under Nigerian Law as African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Enforcement and Ratification) Act 2 1983 now contained in Cap 10 Laws of the Federation, 1990.The Supreme Court in Gani Fawehinmi v Abacha [2000] 4 SCNJ 401 also validate the said Charter as a deemed Act of the National Assembly. Thus, giving it a full constitutional enforcement pursuant to its domestication under the s. 12 of the CFRN.

Bureau of Public Service Reforms, BPSR reported in 2017 that over 108 million Nigerians are technically homeless and According to the National Bureau of Statistics report in 2018 over 113 Nigerians are poor. [see Vanguard, January 27 2018 pages 10-11).In holding tenaciously to the law we find ourselves in considerable agreement with the findings of the Supreme Court of India in Oga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corp[ALR 1968 sup. cite 18(App 7) wherein the Court averred:
‘’That an Important aspect facet of right to life is right to livelihood. If right to livelihood is not treated as part and parcel of the Constitutional right to life, the easiest way to deprive him of his right to life would be depriving his means of livelihood.’’

Bringing this authority to glare within the Nigerian Political chessboard, it is astutely clear that the pilfering of public funds that have now thrown millions of Nigerian into starvation in the mist of plenty is in conflict with the Nigerians right to life. According to Economic and Financial Crime Commission Report in 2005 more than three hundred billion dollars were looted by the officials of the Nigerian governments. A money about 3 times what was spent in Western Europe by the United States’ government in what was then known as the Marshal Plan to revamp the war-torn Europe after world war ii amount to deprivation of right to livelihood and by extension right to life. Had these whooping sums been put to productive use, it would have saved millions of Nigerians who are either dead or gasping for oxygen in China, Europe, Sahara desert, Mediterranean Sea. This fund would have gone a long way in providing requisite infrastructure that would have acted as springboard for Nigerian citizen(s) to thrive. We doubt up to one percent of the Nigerian political Leaders deserved their names to be engraved in the National pantheon in writing their political obituaries.

Section 14(1) of the CFRN under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State policy under Chapter 2 Provides as follows:
“14-(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State base on the principle of democracy and social justice.(Underlined mine)
(2)It is hereby, accordingly, declared that-(b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”(Underline mine)

For the purpose of defining the veracity of the word “state’’ as envisaged above ,the Supreme Court in AG Ondo v AG Federation [2002] 9 NWLR (Pt. 772) @222 held that the word “state” in the context of this section includes Federal, State or and Local Governments. Much as the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy is non- justiciable pursuant to s.6 (6) (c) of the CFRN. Section 13 of the CFRN under Chapter II placed a compulsory obligation on the Governor to enforce the letters of section 14(2(b) which deals with the security of the people under him. The said section reads:
‘’It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of the government, and all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapter of this Constitution.’’

Under the rule of canon of interpretations plethora of judicial authorities hold the word “shall” to be Mandatory (see ICAN v. Attorney General of the Federation [2003] 42 WRN@ page 67 AC). In NPP v Attorney General of the Federation [2000] 16 WRN 142@160 it was held when the chapter II of the Constitution are read with other enforceable part they are enforceable.

On the whole the combine effect of the above authorities cited above is tilting down to fact that until a full effect is given to chapter ii of the Constitution the constitutional right to life would remain inchoate. In all, the essence, of this write-up is not to throw sour grape at the government but to remind them that while murderers in the street are in breach of the citizen’s constitutional right to life, the governments are more in breach through uncheck meted looting-spree, and unpopular policies that debase and deprive the country’s citizens their sources of livelihood.

About the Author

Chike Henry Izuegbu, Esq. is a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He graduated Second Class Honors (Upper Division) in Law and Political Science respectively. He holds the Commendation of Nigerian International Model United Nations as the Rapporteur for Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the 2011 Convection year. As a Student Delegate he had an audience with the Swiss Government. He is presently a research consultant and a Law Practitioner with B.S Nwankwo SAN & Co. No 1 Owerri Road Nnewi. Comments on this article can be reached to him through this medium:[email protected] through 07036758285

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