By Sam Kargbo
Whether as a counsel in Court or as an advisor or as a maker of a legal document or instrument covering relationships, social or business transactions or as opinion giver in respect of laws, regulations, policies, and documents, the services of a lawyer centre on the espousal, advancement and protection of the rights of individuals or groups of individuals. Incidentally, the individual, whether a natural human being or an artificial entity, is a bundle of rights and obligations. The global community has identified and itemized in numerous multilateral instruments certain rights and freedoms that are considered to be basic and attaching to every person in the world from birth until death. Those basic rights are said to be available and apply to the individual regardless of his or her race, colour, creed, status in life or place of residence.
These universal and inalienable rights that cover the life and dignity of the human person and every aspect or endeavour of the individual are collectively called natural or human rights. This is why the job and the sphere of operation of a lawyer are boundless.
Human rights are indisputably important to the life of not just the individual but every modern democratic country. The actualization of a society whereby every person and all peoples would be entitled to and do have active, free and meaningful participation in – contribution to, and enjoyment of – civil, political, economic, social and cultural development, is largely dependent on the quality of the human rights regime of that society. It is in the realization of this that human rights have, over time, attracted a multidisciplinary approach and attention. In the process, there is a wide range of literature not only on human rights, but also on the interdependence and interrelatedness of the various heads of human rights. Such collectivized efforts have also revealed and demonstrated how one right often depends, wholly or in part, upon the realization of others. It has been stated, for instance, that the realization of the right to health may depend on the realization of the right to education or of the right to information. Such rights as the right to life, dignity, expression, thought and conscience are also said to be largely dependent on the individual’s quality of education and economic status. The right to vote, which has been identified as the pillar of democracy and political life and governance systems of modern democracies, has also come under heavy criticism because of the prevailing illiteracy of the majority of the beneficiaries of that right in Africa and many less developed countries.
The convergence of the international community on the importance of human rights has, over time, produced such important and influential multilateral documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966) and its Optional Protocol, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966). Known collectively as the International Bill of Human Rights, these four documents have been followed by more than twenty human rights conventions — treaties that become binding law in those countries that ratify and domesticate them.
In line with the membership responsibilities, each UN member state is expected to ratify and domesticate those conventions and conduct its life in conformity with the principles of those conventions. Individual countries do not, however, domesticate every aspect of those conventions. In Nigeria, the constitution identifies and guarantees certain rights under Chapter Four (Sections 33-44) that are collectively called Fundamental Rights. The rights are the right to life, right to dignity of the human person, right to personal liberty, right to a fair hearing, right to private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to the freedom of expression and the press, right to peaceful assembly and association, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination, right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria, and right to freedom from compulsory acquisition of property.
To underscore the sanctity and fundamentality of the above-listed rights, the Constitution provides, under Section 46(1), that any person who alleges that any of the provisions of Chapter Four has been – is being or likely to be – contravened in any State concerning him or her may apply to a High Court in that State for redress. The Constitution further empowers in Section 46(2) a High Court (State or Federal) to have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any application made to it concerning likely, impending or actual fundamental right breaches or violations and to make appropriate orders, writs and directions that the circumstances of each application may require.
The provision that has revolutionized fundamental rights litigation in Nigeria is Section 46(3) which empowers the Chief Justice of Nigeria to make rules for the practice and procedure of a High Court to enforce the itemized fundamental rights. In exercise of that power, Justice Indris Legbo Kutigi, GCON, who was the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, made FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES, 2009.
In a two-volume beautifully printed and bound book with the title Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009: Practice, Procedure, Forms and Precedents, Chief Ogwu J. Onoja, SAN, brought to bear his experience and expertise in annotating and simplifying Civil Procedure Rules.
Published in September 2020 by Bar and Bench Publishers in Abuja, Nigeria, the book – boasting a foreword penned by Hon. Justice Dr Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR, the Chief Justice of Nigeria – is divided into three parts, spread in two volumes. Instead of Chapters, the book has “Orders” as its respective headings. Part One covers the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, and Part Two deals with Contemporary Issues on Enforcement of Fundamental Rights. The concluding Part Three presents selected Federal and State High Court Judgments/Rulings.
Following in the tradition of his earlier works, that is, Supreme Court Rules: Practice and Procedure, 2010; Court of Appeal Rules: Practice and Procedure, 2010 and the Federal High Court Rules: Practice and Procedure, 2012, the author painstakingly takes the reader through every aspect of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rule, 2009.
The reader is presented with authoritative fast page-turning commentaries and up-to-date illuminating appellate decisions on the Preamble, and each and every order that makes up the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009.
Besides the masterfully creative structure of the book and the outstandingly professional handling of the respective orders of the rules, what makes the book a standout material, and for which lawyers and non-lawyers will be grateful to the author, is its lucid and readable communication style. The author did not fall for the temptation of writing for lawyers. He wrote in simple language as if he was addressing a jury. This, no doubt will make the book a preferred item in the libraries of Non-Governmental Organizations that are involved in the vast area of human rights.
For lawyers, nothing is as pleasing as research or practice made easy. Nothing makes life better for the lawyer or the judge than a seminal work on an issue or issues that he or she is regularly faced with. A well-researched book is as handy to a practising lawyer and judge as the calculator is to an arithmetic student. The author did not take a chance on any topic or issue on Fundamental Rights Litigation. Thankfully, he did not, in any guise, try to prove smart by brandishing distracting academic opinions. He simply laid the law and authorities as stated by the Appellate Courts.
The author further enriched his meal with authoritative commentaries on contemporary issues on Fundamental Rights Litigations. The precedents will undoubtedly be among the favourites for practising lawyers.
Of course, a reprint will address and correct the obvious typographical errors in the book.
If I were to grade the book, in consideration of the other books out there on Fundamental Rights Litigation, I would score this book A+ and advise every Lawyer to pick a copy. The author has done the job.
=== Sam Kargbo is a Lawyer, Law Teacher, Newspaper columnist and Movie Producer based in Nigeria.