THE IDEA OF NATURAL RIGHTS; A NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE
Being a Paper presented at
PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENTAL SEMINAR SERIES
OLABISI ONABANJO UNIVERSITY, AGO-IWOYE, OGUN STATE
ON THE 4TH SEPTEMBER, 2006 AT OGD LECTURE THEATER
OMOTOSO, SHARON ADETUTU
This paper attempts a philosophical appraisal of the idea of natural rights, issues and problems associated with human natural rights in the ancient and contemporary epoch as well as our immediate environment. As a foremost articulator of human rights in man’s history, this paper shall use John Locke as a reference point. The Lockean philosophical contribution to the issues of human rights shall be examined and related to the Nigerian situation since independence till date.
As the world history passes through a new facet of periodisation, many startling achievements have been unfolding and also on the increase are fundamental problems of philosophical importance. It is remarkable more than ever, that there are emerging fundamental problems constituting threats to the flourish of man and his world in the contemporary era. As diverse as these problems are, so enormous they are in many regards. However, of specific interest among these problems is the polemics surrounding the gross violation of human rights and essential freedom of man as experienced in contemporary times. Perhaps, a more correct perspective of Lockean understanding of natural rights has received attention of the United Nations thus modifying it into Human rights. One of the UN’s major goals under its charter is to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people, regardless of race, sex, language, or religion. It proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal” and establishes basic rights for all people and norms for the behavior of governments in many areas. In her recognition of the associated problems with violation of human rights, and her quest toward justice and peace of human rights valued world, the United Nation (UN) has a special charter on human rights and accords special priority to the recognition, observance and promotion of the ideals of human natural rights among member states. The crisis of human rights is neither culturally nor geographically limited to certain prescribed race, religion, creed or ethnic boundaries. It is a perennial problem that has long attracted the attention of social crusaders, legal luminaries, human right activists, philosophers, institutions and organizations; both local and international across the globe. At the state level, many countries of the world in their recognition of the past gross abuses of human rights in their respective states have set up commissions to look into the past cases of abuses in search of truth, reconciliation and justice. This is evident in truth commissions in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, South Africa and Uganda among others. The case is not much different with Nigeria in view of her “Justice Oputa Human Rights Commission”1. The Oputa Commission as with other commissions in other parts of the world looked into the trauma of unbridled human rights violations and abuses. This was more pronounced during the military juntas’ era. In spite of all these efforts, the problems of human rights violations keep resurging on daily increase in different parlances of contemporary era. There abounds in recent times, unlawful and prolonged detention of citizens without trials, violation of the right to work via wrongful dismissals and termination of appointments without due process. Also prominent is the issue of wrong application of torture by security agencies in order to extract information during interrogation. This situation worsens when considered within the socio-democratic context of the third world nations who are worst hit by the scourge...
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