10 December 2023 marked the 75th anniversary of one of the world’s most groundbreaking global pledges; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The document enshrines the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.
The Nigerian Constitution of 1999, as amended, guarantees the following fundamental human rights: the right to life, dignity of human person, personal liberty, fair hearing, privacy, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, freedom of expression and the press, peaceful assembly and association, freedom of movement, and freedom from discrimination.
Despite this provision guaranteeing fundamental human rights, it has been in constant violation. For instance, Human Rights Watch’s 2015 World Report states that intensified violence by Boko Haram and government corruption continues to undermine the status of human rights in Nigeria.
Corruption as a Major Limitation to Human Rights in Nigeria
Corruption, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
Nigeria has been rated one of the most corrupt countries in the world because of its high level of embezzlement of public funds, extortion, and police brutality among others.
First, the most direct effect of government corruption on ordinary Nigerians stems from human rights abuses by the police and EFCC officials. Many rights have been violated in the process of extorting money, arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention, threats, acts of violence, physical and sexual assault, torture, and even killings.
Also, ordinary Nigerians are denied equal protection under the law due to a widespread practice by government officials that favors the wealthy elite in the country. This is against the equality of all citizens entrenched in the Constitution.
These corrupt practices not only affect the citizens, they also affect the growth of the nation at large. The country has been backward since independence compared to its neighboring countries. The government has generally failed to hold accountable its officials who go contrary to the constitution.
As the world celebrates Human Rights Day, Human Rights Watch has been calling on the Nigerian government to effectively address corruption and its related abuses while ensuring that those who perpetrate these crimes are held accountable and brought to book.