14 December 2009

Nigeria: With New Fundamental Rights Rules, Locus Standi No Longer Required

Lagos — An NGO, Access to Justice, has described the new Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 as providing a much needed platform for advancing the struggle for justice and human rights in Nigeria as well as the social and economic development of the country.

They new rules provide that court shall encourage and welcome public interest litigations in the human rights field and that no human rights case may be dismissed or struck out for want of locus standi.

The vexed issue of Locus Standi had hitherto been responsible for getting ordinarily meritorious public interest cases struck out, to the chagrin of many public spirited individuals who had sued government on various public interest issues.

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Legbo Kutigi recently signed into law the new Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 to replace the old rules of 1979.

They came into effect on December 1.

Formulated to meet existing human rights challenges in Nigeria in line with United Nations' (UN) world theme of non-discrimination, the new Rules, Access to Justice noted, reflect Nigeria's determination to ensure universality and non-selectivity in its advancement of human rights.

Describing the rules as 'groundbreaking for its embodiment of some far-reaching theoretical and conceptual elements, which should improve the protection of citizens' rights', the NGO pointed out that the new rules provide justice-centred procedures for remedying the infringement of civil rights and liberties.

Mr. Joseph Otteh, Executive Director of Access to Justice, said, the emergence of the rules was a huge relief for the struggle to overcome many of the difficulties arising from the flawed manner the old rules were enforced which in many cases defeated the core objectives of the old rules.

Otteh commended the Chief Justice of Nigeria for signing the new rules into law, adding that signing could not have been better timed for the country as a member state of the UN.

The rules coincide with the historical period marking the celebration of the world's human rights day. Formulated to meet existing human rights challenges, and in line with the UN world theme of non-discrimination, they reflect Nigeria's determination to ensure universality and non-selectivity in its advancement of human rights, said Ottey.

The 2009 Fundamental Rights Rules were the outcome of sustained advocacy efforts of the Nigerian Bar Association and Access to Justice since 2007 to reform procedures for the remediation of civil rights violations.

Highlights include elimination of all inordinate delays and technicalities which had previously hampered the enforcement of the fundamental rights of litigants; the assertion of the priority and precedence of all human rights cases in court; simplification of the enforcement procedure of human rights cases for litigants; removal of duplicate procedures; increased and unlimited access to courts of law for litigants seeking to enforce their rights and the assurance of a prompt and expeditious dispensation of justice in human rights cases.

Notably, they broaden the meaning and scope of the phrase "fundamental rights" to cover both the rights enshrined in Chapter IV of the Constitution as well as those of the African Charter.

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