The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2000:1221) defines rights as “the freedom and advantages that every one should be allowed to have”. Similarly, Tansey (1995:60) is of the view that” a right may be thought of not only as an authority to act possessed by an individual, but one which is possessed by all individuals (in the same situation), or by individuals within a specific legal system”. Heywood (1994:134) also defined a right as “an entitlement to act or be treated in a particular way”. Oyeneye, Oyesiku and Edewor (1994:150) however, believe that rights are citizen specific. According to them, rights are the “privileges, which the citizens of a State could enjoy by virtue^ of being citizens of that State” From these definitions, it can be inferred that rights are generally associated with individual citizens’ liberty and they take many forms; these are: natural or human, moral, legal, political and other rights.
Fundamental Rights, on the other hand, are natural or human rights of the citizens of a State, which are inalienable, and which the government has a duty to protect and guarantee. These rights are so important and basic to the individual citizen that a violation of any can lead to the seeking of redress in a court of law. These rights are normally entrenched in the constitution of a country and their enjoyment must be within the limits of the law. For instance, chapter IV sections 33-44 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution has specified these rights and their limitations as; right to life; right to dignity of human person; right to personal liberty; right to fair hearing, right to private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; rignt to freedom of expression and the press; right to peaceful assembly and association; right to freedom of movement; right to freedom from discrimination and right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. Let us look at these rights one by one
Right to Life: Section 33 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution states that Every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in executive of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
This is the most popular of all the rights. Indeed, liberal writers assert that right to life is a natural or God given and should not be interfered with, except as a result of a criminal offence of which the individual is found guilty by a court of law.
However, this section also provides that a person cannot be regarded as having been deprived of his life if he dies as a result of the use of such force as is reasonably necessary and in such circumstances as are permitted by law such as in the defence of a person or property, to effect a lawful arrest or prevent the escape of a person legally detained, and for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny,

*Right to dignity of human person: According to section 34 of the constitution:
Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly:
(a)    no person shall be subjected to torture, or to inhuman and degrading treatment;
(b)   no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and
(c)   no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
This provision respects the worth of the human person. However, the Constitution has exempted certain forms of compulsory labour as violations of the right to human dignity. Such forms of labour include labour required in consequences of the
Fundamental Rights and Duties of Nigerian Citizens
sentence or order of a court or any labour required of members of the armed forces or the Nigeria Police Force in pursuance of their duties. Similarly, compulsory national service, which forms part of the education and training of citizens of Nigeria, as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly should also not be regarded as forced labour. Thus, the National Youth Service, which all the Nigerian graduate of tertiary institutions who are first degree holders or its equivalence and are 30 years and below must undergo for one year, should not be regarded as compulsory labour.
*Right to Personal Liberty: Section 35 of the Constitution provides that:
Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save. . . in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.
This means that a person has the right to enjoy his life the way he deems fit as long as it is within the limit of the law of the land. He or she is free to move freely without restriction, detention or imprisonment. However, this right is limited by lawful arrest, detention or imprisonment by confinement ofpersons below 18 years for the purpose of their education or welfare, and confinement of persons with contagious diseases. Conferment of lunatics and drug addicts for the purpose of their care of treatment or the protection of the community also falls within this limit.
It is to be noted that this section also states that an individual lawfully arrested should not be kept in custody for a period longer than the maximum period of the imprisonment prescribed for the offence. Arrested persons should therefore, be brought before courts of law within reasonable time.
* Right to fair hearing: this right as provided in section 36 of
the Constitution states that:
In the determination of his civil right and obligations, including any questions or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by the court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
The right to fair hearing in a court of law or tribunal established by constituted authority is thus a strong element of Nigerian Citizenship. This implies the right of an individual charged with a criminal offence to fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal. Such person should be presumed to be innocent until he or she is proven guilty. He or she is entitled to be informed promptly in the language that they understand and in detail of the nature of the offence. Such individuals are also to be given adequate time and facilities to prepare for their defence as well as be allowed the privilege of appeal to a higher court against a judgment, which they consider to be unfair.
*Right to private and family life: Section 37 of the Constitution provides that:
The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.
This is a guaranteed right given to individual to marry and raise family the way they deem fit without interference from any external sources.
*Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion:
Section 38 of the Constitution states that:
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom … to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance.
This right guarantees to an individual the freedom to practice his or her religion in public or private. It also states that there should be no compulsion on any person to join any religion they do not like. On the other hand, the provisions of this section does not entitle a person to form, take part in the activity or be member of a secrete society.
*Right to freedom of expression and the Press:  This provision is stated in section 39 of the Constitution as:
Every person shall be entitled to freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
This right allows the individual to express himself freely and to establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions. However, this section does not invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts, etc. Such law imposing restrictions upon top government officials, members of the armed forces, Nigeria police Force or other government security service or agencies established by law, should also be upheld.
*Right to peaceful assembly and Association: Section 40 of the constitution provides that:
Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.
A strong pillar of democracy is the right to peaceful assembly and association. An individual is free to assemble and associate with other persons with similar interests, provided the operation is within the limit of the law of the land.
*Right to freedom of movement:  Section 41 of the constitution provides that:
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any pan thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.
However, restrictions could be imposed on the residence or movement of any person who has committed or is reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence. This is in order to prevent him or her from leaving Nigeria. The government also reserves the right to give an order for the removal of any person from Nigeria to another country to be tried or undergo imprisonment outside Nigeria in execution of the sentence of a court of law in respect of a criminal offence of which he or she has been found guilty. The removal or extradition of Nigerian citizens to face the law outside their country is however, only possible if there is reciprocal agreement betweenNigeria and such other country in relation to such matter.                                            ‘
*Right to freedom from discrimination: Section 42 of the Nigerian constitution provides that;
A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not… be subjected . , . to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, place of origin, sex, religions or political opinions, are not made subject…
This section also states that a Nigerian citizen is not to be mscruninated against merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. In essence, the constitotionhas guaranteed all Nigerian citizens the right to freedom from all forms of discrimination. However, restrictions could be made by law with respect to the appointment of any person to any office in the Nigerian government.
Right to property: this has been provided for in sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution i.e, section 43 states that:
.. .every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria
And section 44 provides that:
No movable property or any interest in an immovable properly shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such properly shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law…
These sections guarantee the Nigerian citizens the right to legitimately acquire and own private property anywhere in Nigeria. Such property includes landed property, businesses, houses, etc. These sections go further to state that no movable or any immovable property shall be taken away compulsorily by government without prompt payment of adequate compensation. Trie citizens are, however, expected to pay tax on such property. Nevertheless, while the citizens have the right to own private property, it is their responsibility to surrender such property for the purpose of any examination, investigation, or enquiry. However, all the mineral resources such as crude oil, natural gas, gold, iron ore deposits etc, belong to the federal government.


As the State is expected to protect the right of the citizens, the citizens also owe the State certain responsibilities and duties. Chapter 1 section 24 of the Nigeria 1999 Constitution has specified these duties as follows:
a)       Abiding by the constitution, respecting the national symbols and legitimate authorities
Citizens are expected to demonstrate their loyalty to the nation by obeying the laws of the land and respecting the nation’s ideals, institutions and symbols. For instance, the national flag is to be hoisted in all public and private institutions owned by Nigeria and Nigerians within and outside Nigeria. While the national anthem and the pledge are to be sung at every public function and in all primary and secondary schools.
b) Enhancing the power, prestige and good name of Nigeria, defending the country and rendering national service.
It is the duty of a citizen to assist in enhancing the power; prestige and good name of Nigeria. The citizen is also required to defend and render national services faithfully when called upon to do so.
(c)       Living in harmony and respecting the dignify, rights and legitimate interest of other citizens
All citizens, regardless of cultural, religious, or ethnic affiliations, are expected to live in peace and harmony with one another and also respect the dignity, interests andi the rights of others.
(d) Making positive   and   useful  contribution   to   the advancement, progress and well being of the community.
A citizen is required to demonstrate a sense of belonging and the spirit of togetherness by being loyal to the community where he or she resides. Such a citizen should show loyalty by making positive and useful contribution to the progress and well being of the community.
(e)       Rendering assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order.
In addition to obeying the laws, a citizen is expected to aid law enforcement agents in checking crime and exposing all criminal activities known to him or her.
(f)        Declaring income honestly to appropriate and lawful agencies and paying tax promptly.
An aspect of good conduct on the part of every citizen is the honest declaration of income to the appropriate authority whenever requested to do so. In addition, a good citizen should always be ready to pay his or her tax as and when due.
The survival of any society is predicated on teamwork on the part of all its citizens. Two sets of actors are involved here. On the one hand, are the group of citizens who represent the government and who are vested with the power to protect the rights of citizens. On the other hand, there are the rest of the citizens, who are expected to perform their duties to the government and the State. It is only when these two sets of actors awaken to their respective responsibilities and perform them adequately and continuously without fail that a strong united and virile nation can be built.
Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999); Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Federal Government Press, Lagos.
i Heywood, A. (1994): Political Ideas and Concepts: An Introduction.
The Macmillan Press Limited.
Longman (2000): Dictionary of Contemporary English     (New
Edition). Longman.
j &Oyeneye, O. Y. et al (1994):   Nigerian Culture and Citizenship Education, (eds). MAOKUS Lagos.
Tansey, S. D. (2000): Politics:  The Basics.  (Second Edition) ROUTLEDGE London and New York.

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