• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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EndSARS protest: A cry for help

Buhari’s aide joins effort to release detained #ENDSARS protesters

The ENDSARS protest might have begun due to the inhumane treatment and a cry for help in Nigeria against police brutality. Still, the protest was a cry for much deeper issues in Nigeria like hunger and poverty, governance, unemployment, etc. I dare say all this results from the unjusticiability of the economic, social, and cultural rights in Nigeria.

When a matter is unjusticiable, you cannot bring an action in court concerning it. Such matters might have become statute barred, lack the necessary locus standi, etc.

The economic, social, and cultural rights, according to ESCR-Net, an International Network for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, are rights concerning the basic social and economic conditions needed to live a life of dignity and freedom; relating to work and workers’ rights, social security, health, education, food, water, housing, healthy environment, and culture.

These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is the primary international legal source of economic, social, and cultural rights. These rights are an integral part of the documents that form the body of work which you must-have in your local laws as a joint signatory of this agreement. Nigeria is a part of this agreement, and as a result have these laws in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

The rights are contained in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution, which deals with fundamental objectives and directive principles of State policy. They are listed majorly from sections 15-20 of the Constitution as political, economic, social, educational, foreign policy, and environmental objectives.

These objectives are quite lofty in what they intend to achieve. The realities that many of us want to see with the current levels of unemployment, problems with our health and education infrastructure, poverty, brutality, and housing deficit are quite ironic with the directives of state policy.

Section 15(5) states that “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”. Abuse and corrupt use of power initially sparked the protest. Citizens, especially young people, felt that the government had the duty to ensure that in enforcement, such corrupt practices and the abuse of power by the police be abolished.

As the protest continued, different issues began to arise in the demands of the protesters that could have been avoided if the provisions of section 16(2)(c)(d) for economic objectives like “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or a group and that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, a reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care, and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits, and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens”.

Some provisions of section 17 for social objectives like 17(3) that “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that all citizens, without discrimination on any group whatsoever, have the opportunity to secure adequate means of livelihood and adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment”.

Also, the provisions of section 18(1)(2)(3) for educational objectives stating that “government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels, the government shall promote science and technology and the government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy….”

As lofty as these all seem, the government cannot be made accountable in court on any of these promises that directly affect the economic, social, and cultural rights because the same constitution bars such action in section 6, where the powers of the judiciary are vested specifically in subsections(6)(c) which states that:

(6) the judicial powers vested by the foregoing provision of this section-

(c) shall not, except as otherwise provided by this section, extend to any issues or questions as to whether any act or omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial division is in conformity with the Fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy set out in section II of this constitution.

When citizens see that they cannot enjoy the benefits that they feel entitled to by their government through the appropriate channels, they are left with protesting peacefully, which is a right that is actionable and guaranteed under the constitution under the civil and political rights guaranteed in chapter IV termed the fundamental human rights.

The endsars protest cost the government millions of dollars in revenue lost besides the loss of lives and properties that are too innumerable to account for. Amending the constitution is a long process, and many might not see it as the alternative. Still, the government should seek to ultimately make it accountable to her people’s economic, social, and cultural rights.


Oluwatobiloba Grace Lawalson