Your Rights as a Nigerian

As a citizen of Nigeria, you have rights, privileges, duties and liabilities. These have been made provision for laws of Nigeria and there are hundred

As a citizen of Nigeria, you have rights, privileges, duties and liabilities. These have been made provision for laws of Nigeria and there are hundreds of them.

Notwithstanding some rights are fundamental and referred to as inalienable rights. These are rights the law has made specific provision for.

You can find these Fundamental Rights in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

We hope to shed more light on these key rights so that every Nigerian can better know there rights.

1. Right to Life

The most important right of every Nigerian as well as every human being is the right to life. Everyone has a right to ‘exist’ and no one be in an individual or government must intentionally deny another person of this right except when a court of law rules in favour of such execution because of a criminal offense.

Your right to life means no one can kill you except you have killed or committed a crime worthy of death and have been tried and found guilty by a competent court in Nigeria.

Exceptions to the Right to Life

Every right has exceptions. The exceptions to your right to life are:

  • If you die due to the use of reasonable force for the defence of any person from illegal violence or for the defence of property
  • If you die due to the use of reasonable force to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or
  • If you die due to the use of reasonable force to suppress a riot, insurrection or mutiny.


2. Right to Dignity

The right to dignity means every Nigerian has a right to not be tortured, treated inhumanly or degraded and no Nigerian should be held in scenarios amounting to slavery. This right means no one should be required to perform “forced labour”.

Exceptions to the Right to Dignity

“Forced labour” does not include:

  • Any labour you have to do as a result of a court sentence or order;
  • Any labour demanded of you as a member of the Armed Forces, Police Force, NYSC or national service
  • For persons who have conscientious objections to serving in the armed forces of the Federation, any labour substituted for such service;
  • Any labour that is reasonably necessary when there is any emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community; or
  • Any labour or service is a part of normal civic duties for the well-being of the community.


3. Right to Privacy

As a citizen of Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution guarantees and protects your privacy, your homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.

However, the constitution does not give details of how these are protected and if there are any exceptions. Unfortunately this right has not had much judicial review but from reading the provision it is 3 elements there are obvious:

  • Your privacy as a person protects you against illegal invasive procedures such as drug tests, blood tests etc.
  • Privacy of your home includes protection from illegal entry or harassment of your home
  • Privacy of Correspondence, Conversations and Communications protects the privacy of your mails, emails, telephones conversations, text messages and other forms of communication


4. Right to Personal Liberty or Freedom

Your right to personal liberty means you have a right to your liberty or freedom. This you cannot be denied of your liberty or freedom except is it in line with the law.

  • If you are detained in because o the law, you have the following rights:
  • You have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions until you speak to a Lawyer
  • You have the right to be notified in writing, within 24 hours, of the facts and reasons of your arrest or detention.
  • You also have a right to be brought before a court within a reasonable time. If you are not tried within 2 months (if you are in custody or not entitled to bail) and 3 months (if you are released on bail), then you shall be released either unconditionally or with the conditions that are reasonably necessary to make you appear for trial at a later date without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against you.
  • You have a right not to be detained while waiting for trial for a period longer than the maximum period of imprisonment for the crime you are accused of.

Exceptions to your right to liberty

  • When there is a court order or sentence to detain you
  • When you are legally arrested for committing an offence or to prevent you from committing an offence
  • When you are under 18 years old and are restrictions for the purpose of your education or welfare
  • When you are detained for quarantine reasons because you suffer from an infectious disease, mental illness, and drug/alcohol addiction so that you can be treated and cared for or to protect the community.
  • When you are detained for immigration/Border protection and lawful deportation or extradition


5. Right to Fair Hearing

This is the right you have that guarantees you are be entitled to “a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other legally established tribunal constituted in a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”

Your right to fair hearing means that:

  • You are presumed innocent
  • You will be publicly tried for criminal offense except in certain cases like public safety/order, welfare of child offenders etc.
  • You must have a written charge served to inform you of the detail and nature of the offense
  • You have adequate time and facilities for preparation of your defense
  • You have a right to a lawyer of your choice
  • You have a right to examine and call witnesses of your own
  • You have right to an interpreter if you do not understand the language used at the trial
  • You have access to the records of the trial proceedings
  • You cannot be guilty of a crime on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offense, and you cannot receive a penalty for any crime that is heavier than the penalty in force at the time you committed the crime.
  • You cannot be tried for a crime if you have been either convicted or acquitted for earlier or for a crime having the same ingredients as that offense excepted ordered by a superior court.
  • If you can show that you have been pardoned for a crime, you cannot be tried for that crime again.
  • If you are tried for a crime, you shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.
  • You cannot be convicted of a crime except the crime is defined and the penalty is prescribed in a written law


6.Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion

This right guarantees that you may practice and propagate your religion or belief in worship, teaching and observance. It also guarantees your right to change your religion or belief.

Your constitutional right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion prevents forceful indoctrination or brainwashing in any place of education, but no religious community or denomination is disallowed from providing religious instruction for students of that community or denomination in any place of education maintained fully by the community or denomination.

Exception to Your right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion

  • This right does not entitle you to form, be involved in the activities or become a member of a secret society.


7. Right to Freedom from Discrimination

As a Nigerian, you are not to be discriminated against because you are from another community, ethnic group, or of a different sex, place of origin, religion or political opinion, or circumstances of your birth.
You are not to receive any privilege or advantage that is not available to other Nigerians of other communities, sex, religions, ethnic groups, places of origin, political opinions or circumstances of birth.

Exception Your Right to Freedom from Discrimination

  • The appointment of someone to any office under the State or as a member of the Armed Forces/ Police Force or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly can be restricted by any law in force in Nigeria.


8. Right to Freedom of Expression

As a Nigerian, you are entitled to freely express yourself. You are free to hold opinions, receive and impart ideas and information without being interfered with. You are entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the share information, ideas and opinions:

Exceptions to Your freedom of Expression

  • It only if you are authorised by the Government after fulfilling conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly that you may own, establish or operate a TV or wireless broadcasting station.
  • You cannot violate laws created to prevent the disclosure or expression of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematographic films
  • You cannot violate laws that are validly created to impose restrictions on government officials or members of the Armed Forces/Police or other government security agencies.


9. Right to Freedom of Assembly and Association

You have a right to gather freely and associate with others and you may form or belong to any political party, trade union or other association of your choice.

Exception to your right of Assembly or Association

Your right to form or belong to a political party is subject to the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognize political parties as validly formed after every relevant criterion.


10. Right to Freedom of Movement

All Nigerian citizens are free to throughout Nigeria and to live in any part of the country. You shall not be expelled from Nigeria or prevented from entering or leaving it.

Exceptions to your right to Freedom of Movement

  • If you have committed or suspected to have committed a crime then restrictions can be on your residence or movement in order to prevent you from leaving Nigeria.
  • When you are legally extradited i.e. banished or exiled


11. Right to own Property

You as a Nigerian have the right to acquire or buy and own immovable property anywhere in the country.

Exception to Your Right to Own Property

Compulsory acquisition of property by the Government in specific circumstances and there must be prompt reasonable payment of compensation to those affected.
Laws that deal with tax, penalties for forfeiture, enemy property, temporary possession for environmental reasons many deny you right to own property in Nigeria etc.


This information is for general informational purposes only. It is NOT a substitute legal advice.

DemandSupplier does not offer legal advice. We only provide economic and related information you can profit from if you do or want to do business in Nigeria. Make sure you hire or consult a qualified lawyer in Nigeria if you require legal advice. If you need assistance in contacting a lawyer, watch out for our post on lawyers we recommend.