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Human rights and social justice in Nigeria (March, 2019)

Fundamental human rights are the “inalienable rights of people”. These are legal entitlements enjoyed by every citizen of a country without fear of government or other fellow citizens. In every country, these rights are protected and enshrined in the National constitution- chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria explains what are considered as the rights of every Nigerian citizen and how they can be protected.

However, shreds of evidence show that despite the entrenchment of human rights in the Nigerian constitution,continuous restrictions on some aspects of citizens’ rights continue to undermine the status of human rights in the country. Over time, the civic space has been threatened. There have been cases of human right violations, ranging from the intimidation and harassment of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression, assembly and association, among others.

The Sustainable Development Goals address the importance of protecting citizens’ rights and goal 16 delineates the need to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

In line with the Istanbul principle of development effectiveness, which emphasizes the need for the “respect and promotion of human rights and social justice; CSOs are agents charged with the responsibility of bringing accountability by exposing and following up on human right violations, therefore, to assist the government in achieving goal 16 of the SDGs, CSOs must work to develop effective, accountable and transparent systems so that they can serve as a watch towards implementation.


Accordingly, “CSOs are effective as development actors when they develop and implement strategies, activities and practices that promote individual and collective human rights, including the right to development, with dignity, decent work, social justice and equity for all people”.


CSOs should be at the forefront towards ensuring the protection of these rights and the strengthening of civic space in Nigeria. Although some measures have been put in place by the government to improve the human rights situations in Nigeria, there is still room for improvement.