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In almost every corner of the world, no issue can be as mind boggling as a discussion on human rights. While the exact scope of human rights may be in dispute, the researcher has no doubt that any discussion which has the possibility of enhancing the quality of man’s existence on earth must be related to the rights of man.

It could be correctly asserted that there has been concern for human rights since antiquity through the various stages of socio-economic formations up to the modern era. In the study of human rights, one encounters relevant legal acts, constitutions, statutes and international instruments, various terms and notions other than human rights. These include fundamental rights fundamental freedoms, civil liberties and civil rights, individual and collective human rights as well as people’s rights1. It is also relevant to mention that the activities of man’s right from birth to his death are directed by an incessant desire and search for justice and ceaseless efforts to avoid injustice.

Thus, as would be seen hereunder, the issue of human rights and National Security has become contentious question of concern. This is not unconnected with the fact that Human right claims at times directly or indirectly affect the national security of the area where the agitation is made. The two dominant players in the arena being the state and individual (citizens) often times overlook the necessity of striking a balance between protection and enforcement of Human rights and the maintenance or promotion of National Security. This failure to strike a balance at times lead to suppression of human rights to the detriment of the citizens in one hand, and inordinate claims of rights which could become a threat to National security on the other hand.

From time immemorial, the state has been placed with the task of promoting the inalienable rights of its citizens and as well as protecting and safe guarding National security. From the state of nature, when might was right to the emergence of a civilized Society and submission of absolute power to the state, man has been the cause of human rights abuses and National Insecurities. A good instance could be seen in aspect of domination and assertion of liberation from dominance as evidenced in outbreak of civil wars.

Attempt is made in defining the relevant terms “National Security” has been defined to mean freedom from fear, risk, danger, vulnerability or susceptibility. Because self – preservation or survival is regarded as the first law in nature, security logically becomes a primary consideration of any Government. It is small wonder then that Section 14 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria unambiguously prescribes that “the security and welfare of the people shall be a primary purpose of government”. Thus, conceptualized national security is a collective or public good that governments try to provide for all their citizens, regardless of the quantum of resources which individuals and communities contribute through taxation and regardless of the fortunes and performance of others who may be described as “free-riders” those who enjoy the benefits of collective goods but pay little or nothing for them.3

National security is also used in its widest sense to include not only the measures relating to the preservation of the country’s physical entity,

But also the preservation of the country’s political stability, it’s economic and national interests, and the general protection of the safety and well – being of it’s citizen. Government’s constitutional responsibility for guaranteeing the security and welfare of its people necessarily entails discharging certain obligations under municipal law and international law.

Domestically, this obligation calls for the making of laws, rules and regulations aimed at ensuring peace, order, safely of lives and property as well as good governance of the country. Internationally, government is obligated to observe international law, which protects the lives of citizens and promotes their welfare.

A comprehensive conceptualization of the notion of national security distinguishes between two contending viewpoints. One is the conventional security Doctrine which perceives national security as being associated with the protection and defence of the irreducible minimum of a states vital interests or core values such as the preservation of political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state interests or values which can only be maintained by military prowess4. That is why in classical terms, military might is considered the principal instrument for guaranteeing national security. It is pertinent to indicate that Section 217 (2) 5 deals with the “Armed Forces” of the Federation, composed of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force while the “Security Forces” or the “Security Machinery” in Nigeria other than the Armed Forces include the office of the National Security Adviser; and the Prison Service.

As is well known in performing their constitutional functions, the security agencies may incorporate or coordinate the activities of other bodies such as the Fire Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigeria Police, the State Security Service (SSS), the National Intelligence Agency, (NIA), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Custom Service (CS) etc.

6. Appeal No. CA/A/245/M/2005

  Consequently, it should be noted that the work also discusses in details how National Security overrides individual rights in protection of human right as was buttressed in the case of ALHAJI MUJAHID DOKUBO-ASARI V STATE 6. Where the learned counsel for the respondent contended that “where national security is threatened or there is the real likelihood of it being threatened, human rights or individual rights of those responsible takes second place. Human rights or individual rights must be suspended until the national security can be protected or well taken care of”.

At the end of this work, the researcher would be able to say with certainty whether National Security should override the individual’s human rights and also how it affects most rights known as the fundamental rights

of a Nigerian citizen as enshrined in chapter Iv of the 1999 Constitution.


         As a preambular remark, Human Rights stricti sensu cannot be construed as Fundamental Human Rights. Human Rights have a vast applicability and are not limited to territorial borders of a state while Fundamental Rights are applicable within a particular country and is more particularistic than Human Rights.

7. Yewens V Noakes (1890) 6 Q. B. D. 530 at 532

           Thus, following the definition of Human Right in discourse, it is to be noted that there is no unanimity in the definition of human rights by both legal and political writers. According to THESIGER l.J,7 “definitions are proverbially dangerous”. This contention agrees with the Latin maxim “Omnis definitio in Lege periculosa” - which means that all definition in law are dangerous.

The idea behind such contention is premised on the fact that every definition is distilled from the perspective of learning and experience of the author.

         However, many writers and jurists had fashioned out some useful definitions, which have satisfied to an extent the search for a workable definition respecting the concept.

         Human rights are rights that belong to every human being they are attributes of a person as a human being.

         According to CRANSTON,“Human rights are something of which no one may be deprived without a great affront to justice. There are certain deeds, which should never be done, certain freedoms, which should never be done, certain freedoms that should never be invaded, something that are suppressive sacred.

         DOWRICK, defines human rights as’, “Those claims made by men, for themselves, or on behalf of other men, supported by some theory which concentrates on the humanity of man, on man as a human being, a member of human kind.

Sowrick’s thought though shrouded in ambiguity can be linked to the philosophy of natural laws, which in its time was politically motivated, in spite of its religious and ethnical colourations. The developing capitalist class of the early 19th century waged their war against feudalism on the banner of the ideas of natural law, which also centers on the humanity of man.

         According to OSITA EZE,

“Human rights represents demands or claims which individuals or groups make on society, some of which are   protected by law and have become part of Lex Lata while others remain aspirations to be attained in future10.

         Another constitutional law jurist, Sir IVOR JENNINGS saw human rights as “rights which are commonly recognized as essential for effective social life and which, being considered to be inherent in the idea of justice, should be protected…exactly what they depend upon the state of opinion and the organization of the society”.

         A learned author 11 in his book introduction to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Laws defined Human rights as “those rights, which are inherent in our nature and without which no society is viable and able to survive”.

With regards to the definition, this researcher, without trepidation, defines “Human right as standardized rights with moral and civil contents, recognized universally as appertaining to humans, necessary for an ordered civilized relations, recognized and protected by law for the betterment of the society.

         Definitions of human rights may be in exhaustive, and need not be amplified in its entirety in this work. However, this takes us to paragraph one of the preambles to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in defining Human Rights states, “…Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of members of the family is the foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

         Taking a critical look at the definitions canvassed above, certain common ingredients are palpable. One is that Human rights are quintessentially universal in nature. All human beings everywhere by virtue of being human possess them. This smacks of the fact that Human Rights standard are internationally applicable regardless of cultural or religious difference. In so saying, this researcher acts ex abundanti cautela, not ignoring the concept of “cultural relativity”. The concept of cultural relativity opines that some human rights provisions are recognized and enforced in some areas because of certain cultural peculiarities inherent therein, which has bearing to the values of that society.

         Another important factor is that Human Rights focuses on Rights and freedom of the individual with emphasis on the corresponding obligations of the states. These obligations can be active in nature, entailing an obligation to provide something or allocate resources, or passive as in where the obligation is to refrain from taking action.

         Finally, they are based on mankind’s increasing demand for a life in which the inherent and worth of each person receives equal respect and protection through some may be limited only for legitimate purposes. Our attempts so far at ascribing meaning to Human Rights takes us to another aspect of this chapter, the impact and development of Human Right..

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