Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Opinion

Mainstreaming Human Rights In The Law-Making Process (2) By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

Mainstreaming Human Rights In The Law-Making Process (2) By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

SOME PRACTICAL MEASURES TO MAINSTREAM HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE LAW-MAKING PROCESS

1. DEALING WITH LEGISLATOR-ELECTORATE APATHY

The starting point of any genuine move at mainstreaming human rights in the legislative process must begin right from the source of legislative authority. The fountainhead from which any meaningful endeavour at mainstreaming human rights in the legislative process may flow is the electorate, constituting the masses at the grassroots. Power resides in the people, at least under section 14 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. This power they donate through the ballots in elections. They elect their representatives to represent their interests in government. However, there is no gainsaying the unfortunate fact that no sooner are certain lawmakers elected into office than they put as much distance as possible between themselves and those who elected them. The only time they get in touch with the members of their Senatorial Districts or Constituencies is during electioneering seasons! This is unacceptable. Whatever transpired within the service years remains completely out of reach to the people. How then can the felt needs of the people be appreciated? How can their pulse be felt when there is a great chasm fixed between them and their leaders? If the needs of the people are not even felt or appreciated how will their human rights be mainstreamed by lawmakers? There is an indivisible wedlock between the basic needs of the people and their Human Rights. What then providence has joined together, let no lawmaker put asunder!

Organic law-making begins right from the embryo of the electorates’ interests. A good law is an articulation of the welfare and interest of the greatest number of people for good. Lawmakers must take it upon themselves to ensure frequent periodic robust engagement with the people who elected them in the first place. They may do this through organizing periodic accountability town hall meetings where the people will feel free to engage with them; through dialogues, debates, referendums, symposiums, etc. It is from such contacts that the quintessential legislator gleans his raw human data based purely on the organic substance of real human rights, needs and interests. It is only then that the ideal lawmaker can serve as a channel to mainstream human rights in the law-making process through sponsorship of Bills which directly address and cure issues of the Human Rights of the people.

2. EXTENSIVE TRAINING AND RETRAINING OF LAWMAKERS

Law-making is systematic, having its own science and art. It is even more sophisticated today in a world that is fast becoming a global village and in which global best practices with technology-driven competence have become the drive-train of modern civilization. It is recommended that lawmakers devote ample time to unlearning, learning and relearning about their legislative calling, especially on the global best practices in the area of human rights. A situation where a lawmaker has little or no idea about the tenets of the complexities of law-making and has no interest in continuing education, he or she is incapacitated to achieve the vision of mainstreaming human rights in the law-making process.

3. ACTING ON AND LEGISLATING JUDICIAL DECISIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Another very rich database of raw tools for mainstreaming human rights in the process of lawmaking is the legislation of sound decisions of superior courts of record on human rights. Over the years, a lot of grey matter has gone into judicial interpretation birthing laudable decisions on human rights. Activist and progressive judges and justices have come up with landmark cases and pronouncements which tend to redefine certain critical aspects of the Constitution particularly Chapter 4 and our juris corpus in general. It is suggested that such worthy judicial pronouncements should be collated, carefully studied, and transmuted to bills with a view to freezing the contents thereof into permanent legislation.

4. CHAMPIONING CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS TO MAKE CHAPTER TWO OF THE CONSTITUTION JUSTICIABLE

Chapter 2 of the Constitution which is on the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policies actually embodies in detail the substratum of fundamental rights that are basic necessities of life and social amenities which in effect are the essence of human rights. Consequent of such constitutional review, human rights legislations, statutes or Acts which shall be designed to capture and address such objectives as the economic, food security, social, educational, environmental, cultural, media, etc objectives contained in Sections 13 to 22 of the Constitution with a view to making the provisions of such resultant legislation enforceable by citizens shall be abundantly made.

5. ESTABLISHMENT OF A SUPERIOR SPECIAL COURT OF RECORD WITH EXCLUSIVE HUMAN RIGHTS JURISDICTION

It is proposed that as part of mainstreaming human rights by legislative processes, the National Assembly should alter the Constitution and subsequently enact an Act creating a superior court with exclusive human rights jurisdiction much like the National Industrial Court vis a vis matters of industrial relations. This will help to reduce corruption and waste. When you make the provision of roads, healthcare, security, education and other critical infrastructure a matter of personal discretion for the leaders in power, money in their hands will end up as security votes for which there is no account or record. But where these life-saving measures are made compulsory and enforceable, every leader will sit up and become performance-driven.

6. INCULCATION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS TEST FOR ALL BILLS PASSED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

By this innovation, it is proposed that a rule to be known as the Doctrine of Human Rights Test be made part and parcel of the Rules guiding the passage of bills into laws in the law-making process of the National Assembly. By that litmus test, any bill which derogates from the provisions of Chapters 2 and 4 of the Constitution must not be allowed to fly past the First Reading. That test shall be strictly passed for any bill to make it to passage as a statute.

7. REVIEW OF EXTANT STATUTES

As part of ways to mainstream human rights in the lawmaking process, members of the National Assembly are to expedite action on review of extent statutes and Acts with a view to expunging those provisions which have fallen out of sync with the current trends in human rights.

8. DEPLOYING DILIGENT DISCHARGE OF OVERSIGHT FUNCTIONS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

There are many institutions and state actors that have a direct impact on human rights and their promotion, enforcement or encroachment, the primary one of which is the Nigeria Police Force, followed by other law enforcement and security agencies. The budget of the police is subject to the approval of lawmakers, whose responsibility invests in them the power to hold the Nigeria Police Force accountable. The number of citizens in police detention and other custodial centres is mind-boggling. To arrest this ugly trend, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act has made it mandatory for Magistrates to lead delegations to police stations and other places of detention to ascertain the condition of inmates. Can lawmakers for instance request detailed data from the police on compliance with this law? This is to avoid cases of unlawful arrests and detentions and to ensure that no citizen is kept in custody beyond the period specified by the Constitution. It will also reveal the number of citizens in police custody as well their welfare, conditions of health, education and the status of their cases. The Nigerian Correctional Service is another agency that lawmakers can focus on. The enforcement of the rights of suspects awaiting trial, those undergoing trial and those who have been convicted should attract legislative scrutiny. This should then be extended to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigerian Customs Service and indeed the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, all of which have been conferred with statutory powers of arrest and detention of citizens.
A more worrisome development is the emergence of various vigilante and local security outfits such as Amotekun Corps, Hisbah, Eastern Security Network, etc. Whereas it is desirable that we embrace community police with all its manifest benefits, it is also important, if not more crucial, that there is a prescribed mode of operation by way of legislation. We cannot in the name of security expose citizens to arbitrariness resulting from a lack of statutory structures. Such legislation must conform with the Constitution, specify the nature of powers granted and how they are to be exercised and also define the relationship between these security outfits and the citizens so that those who are saddled with the responsibility of preserving the lives and property of citizens are not the ones endangering them.

CONCLUSION

No time in the history of our nation has it become critically indispensable to mainstream and protect human rights in all areas of our national life, across the three organs of government as today. It is no news anymore that human rights, particularly human life and dignity are at their lowest ebb. This timely legislative intervention by way of mainstreaming human rights in the law-making process is a wholesome curative measure to this malady plaguing human rights. We hope that lip service will not be paid to the suggestions and recommendations made in this presentation but rather robust actions would be taken to implement them for the desired results.

Gatekeepers News is not liable for opinions expressed in this article, they’re strictly the writer’s

You May Also Like