Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the enforceability problemPosted: 8 July, 2016 | |
Author: Olika Daniel Godson
Student (LLB) Faculty of Law, University of Lagos
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as the “Constitution”) provides for economic, social and cultural rights in rather grand and lofty terms in form of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II of the Constitution. These rights are however denied enforceability under the Constitution as it prefers to see them as goals and objectives which the Government is to strive to attain. This denial of enforceability of these rights contained in this Chapter of the Constitution poses a major problem to human rights activism in the Country, as the specific rights contained in that Chapter of the Constitution are worthy of enforcement in this age and time. Some of those rights include; cultural, labour, economic, political, environmental and educational rights. It therefore comes, now and again, to the fore that some of these rights are not being enforced in the country. This article attempts to analyse the enforceability problem and address some strategies for enforcement.
This article is a result of field research in Lesotho conducted from 5-12 April 2014.
The Court of Appeal of Lesotho (apex court) gave a decision that will make the hearts of all human rights defenders bleed. The decision is a setback to the fight for equality and for the recognition of women’s rights as human rights.
The case in question is that of SENATE GABASHEANE MASUPHA V. THE SENIOR RESIDENT MAGISTRATE FOR SUBORDINATE COURT OF BEREA & OTHERS. (SENATE’S CASE). The judgment was delivered on 17 April 2014.
The facts of the case in brief are; the appellant is the first daughter and only legal child of the deceased chief in Lesotho. Upon her father’s death, the mother assumed the chieftainship position of the deceased. And not too long, the mother passed on and the appellant sought to inherit the chieftainship of her father which devolved to her late mother, she was denied her right. Her half-brother from another woman who her father had not legally married will be entitled to the said title, based on the fact that women are not allowed to succeed their father with regards to chieftainship matters under the customary law of the Basotho people.
The appellant angered by this discriminatory practice, challenged it at the constitutional court but did not succeed; she appealed the decision at the apex court to enforce her right to chieftainship but also had no success.
As Beth Simmons points out, three billion people survive on less than $2.50 per day. She states that if these facts are anything to go by, it is even harder to comprehend that economic rights have been codified as part of the international human rights system for the past 60 years. According to Simmons, what is even more disturbing is the fact that over 85% of states have ratified one or two treaties that recognise economic rights. In Kenya, more than 58% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. Further, more than half of the Kenyan population is poor and over 7 million Kenyans live in extreme poverty, despite Kenya having ratified the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) 41 years ago.
On 5 May 2013, the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR entered into force after receiving its tenth instrument of ratification. The purpose of the Optional Protocol is to address violations of socio-economic rights which have been loosely applied when compared to the civil and political rights. The Protocol achieves this by giving an individual locus standi before the Committee and hence asking directly whether a state violated the ICESCR. As much as there is scepticism about this Protocol, this paper wishes to submit that states, especially Kenya, should look beyond this scepticism and ratify the Protocol. This article will provide both arguments for and against ratification of the Optional Protocol.