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MAKING NYSC FEMALE CORPS COMPLY WITH TROUSER WEARING, DESPITE OBJECTION, IS BREACH OF RIGHTS TO RELIGION

Dictum

The NYSC has been forcing their female members to dress on trousers contrary to their religious right encapsulated under section 38 of the 1999 Constitution. It must firmly assert here that these female corps members were solely and singularly trained and financed by their parents and brought up in their respective religious beliefs that some have never worn trousers in their lives. To make them comply with the compulsory trouser-wearing of all NYSC corps members is a violation of their rights to freedom of religion. In the same light, to compel school students or undergraduates or pupils to dress in a manner contrary to their religious beliefs is to violate their fundamental rights. This applies even where the institution is private or government owned.

– Uwani Musa Abba Aji, JSC. Lagos State Govt. v. Abdul Kareem (2022) – SC.910/2016

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DEROGATION FROM THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF A CITIZEN MUST BE SHOWN TO BE IN PUBLIC INTEREST

Competent authorities or Government must justify derogation from the fundamental rights of citizens by showing facts suggesting that the act or policy complained of is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. It must be shown that the derogation is in the interest of public safety, public order, public morality or public health, or that the policy or action is for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons as required by section 45 (1) (a) and (b) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

– Tijjani Abubakar, JSC. Lagos State Govt. v. Abdul Kareem (2022) – SC.910/2016

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FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT STAND ABOVE THE ORDINARY LAW OF THE LAND

I will reiterate that a fundamental right is a right guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution. It is a right which every citizen is entitled to by reason of being a human being unless when a person suffers any of the disabilities set out in the Constitution. ODOGU V. A.G. FEDERATION (2000) 2 HRLRA 82 AT 102; FAJEMIROKUN V. COMM. BANK (NIG.) LTD. (2009) 21 WRN 1. Fundamental rights stand above the ordinary laws of the land. RANSOME KUTI V. A.G. FEDERATION (1985) 2 NWLR (PT. 6) 211. These rights are so jealously guarded that no citizen can be shut out from seeking redress when his fundamental right has been allegedly breached unless he suffers any constitutional disability like when he is sentenced to flogging or hard labour by a Court of competent jurisdiction.

— U. Onyemenam, JCA. Iheme v Chief of Defence Staff (2018) – CA/J/264/2017

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TO USE THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS RULES, THE MAIN CLAIM MUST BE ENFORCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

It is also settled law that for a matter to be instituted under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979 to enforce the constitutionally guaranteed rights under Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, the enforcement of such right(s) must be the main/substantive claim before the Court – not ancillary.

— Onnoghen, CJN. Nwachukwu v Nwachukwu (2018) – SC.601/2013

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ALLEGATION OF BREACH OF RIGHT TO LIFE DOES NOT MEAN ACTUAL LOSS OF LIFE

Para. 53: “The rights to life, health and dignity are intertwined such that a violation of one can lead to the violation of the other. It follows that the enjoyment of a healthy life is dependent on the ability to afford good medical services which in turn is dependent on the financial security sufficient for maintenance of good health. Payment of pension implicates the ability of pensioners to enjoy these guarantees. The allegation of the violation of the right to life does not necessarily entail the actual loss of life or merely physical act of breathing, neither does it connote mere animal existence or continued drudgery through life. It has a wider meaning which includes right to live with human dignity, right to livelihood, right to health and many more. Consequently, the refusal to pay retirement benefits can occasion the violation of the right to health and thus a violation of the right to life. Of course the dignity of a person is implicated if due to lack of means traceable to denial of pension, the person becomes a relic of the society falling from his/her ordinary standard in life with the likelihood of becoming a beggar.”

— Boley v Liberia & Ors. (2019) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/24/19

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ARTICLE 19 – 24 AFRICAN CHARTER ARE RIGHTS OF PEOPLE RATHER THAN INDIVIDUAL

Para. 24: In Kemi Penheiro SAN V. Republic of Ghana, ECW/CCJ/JUD/11/12 (2012) (unreported), where the Applicant alleged the violation of Articles 20 and 22 of the African Charter, the Court stressed that it is opinio juris communis that the rights referred to in Articles 19-24 of the African Charter are rights of (all) “peoples” in contrast to the rights of “every individual”, “every human being”, or “every citizen” proclaimed in Article 2-17.

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FREEDOM OF CHOICE IS CONSTITUTIONAL – ONE CANNOT BE FORCED TO ASSOCIATE

Nobody can be compelled to associate with other persons against his will. Our Constitution guarantees every citizen that freedom of choice. Accordingly any purported drafting of any person into an association against his will even if by operation of customary law is in conflict with the provisions of Section 26(1) of the Constitution, 1963 and is void.

– Karibe-Whyte JSC.Agbai v. Okogbue (1991) – SC 104/1989

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